Merino Magic

Our porn sites (oops…bike blogs) keep referencing merino wool clothing. In theory, it is super-soft, keeps you cool when the weather is hot yet warm when the weather is cold. What? Sounds like marketing propaganda! Still, we’d read it often enough that we had to check it out for ourselves. If it lives up to all the hype, we want us some of that!

On a recent trip to the Bay Area, we made a detour to the Icebreaker store. There are three companies known for their wool sporting clothes: Icebreaker, Ibex, and SmartWool. Ibex’s closest outlet store is in Washington, but we got lucky with Icebreaker. They’re in San Jose, near enough to our Bay Area destination to make it worth the detour.

And they were having a really good sale! The salesperson was attentive and knew her product line. So we went a little crazy.

We walked out with a heavy bag and a much lighter wallet. Then we put the clothes to the test. We rode late that afternoon and late the next morning, over 50 miles between the two rides. Julie wore base layer pants and a long-sleeved base-layer shirt with cycling shorts and jersey over the top. Mark just wore his regular cycling shorts and short-sleeved jersey.

The verdict? It really is as good as everybody says it is! Magical Merino Wool!

The Bay Area is much cooler and windier than Sacramento. And hillier. This resulted in a heating/cooling cycle up and over every hill that we’re just not used to! (The cycling, too, was tough for us Sacramento softies!) It even misted on us this morning. But the wool worked as advertised.

It kept Julie warm as she raced downhill or stopped, yet kept her cool as she built up heat climbing the hills. Strange. She felt warm, and she could tell she was a bit damp from the sweat, but did not feel at all clammy or uncomfortable. On both the ascents and the descents, she could feel her sweat evaporating, cooling her off as advertised. She never felt too hot or too cold, but Goldilocks’ ‘just right.’

And don’t you hate that sticky, clammy, salty feeling after you cool off but before you get a chance to shower? We’ve been dreading that for our tour. How will we be able to stand ourselves for days on end without a shower? You know what? No clammy feeling when Julie peeled her wool off at the end of the day. We may be able to go weeks without showering! (JK!)

Julie does have a few minor negative comments. First, the wool is surprisingly soft, but don’t expect brushed silk. Second, Icebreaker’s bottoms, especially, are not cut with the cyclist in mind. She ended up with men’s 200-weight bottoms because the women’s rode way too low when bent over the saddle. The men’s are still a tiny bit short in the legs for cycling, but at least she didn’t suffer ‘plumbers butt.’ Third, thank god she could try things on and didn’t just order things online. She was a different size in nearly everything she bought!

Only time will tell if Icebreaker’s woolies are tough enough to withstand the rigors of cycle touring, but as for their heating/cooling and anti-clamminess qualities, they rock!