merino

Late last night I finally arrived in Calgary, Canada after a series of flights that made my wife and I feel like we were competing on The Amazing Race.  Flight delays, negotiating with travel agents, running from terminal to terminal, etc.  The ONE saving grace in all of this was my merino wool t-shirt that I bought just before I left.  I usually sweat like a pig (especially during air travel) and I always need to bring a couple shirts in my carry-on bag for long trips.  I’ve been hearing my mates go on and an about merino wool about its and it’s amazing anti-stink and thermal qualities.

Most merino wool clothing isn’t the most stylish of threads, and being the stylish guy that I am I resisted for quite a while before finally dipping my feet into a subtle t-shirt.  Let me tell you, this was the best $50 I’ve spent in a long time.  My bags have not arrived yet and now after 50 hours of not changing my clothes, my shirt still smells like roses!  You can even ask my wife.  I guess I could throw it in the wash, but I’m gonna see how far I can push this.

I broadcast a quick Tweet on Twitter about marino wool to see if anyone uses it for cycling.  I was astounded by such a massive response on this Tweet.  Here’s are a few of the heaps of Tweetbacks I received:

psychogard@cyclingtips Lille Skien use merino team jerseys and are happy: http://tinyurl.com/mt7ckxabout

bicyclism@cyclingtips Merino wool is superb for cycling.That’s what we wore in the good old days; now rediscovered as the old becomes the hot new new

da_nor@cyclingtips my winter suit has alot of merino and lycra in it made in NZ by Groundeffect they are a great base layer

baxterelax@cyclingtips YES, I bought a ‘icebreaker’22o Merino Wool Jersey about 1 year ago and would NEVER go back to other materials

ColRed@cyclingtips love the lamb – and I’m stinker of a hairy riding man. But that Lamb she neva stink bad.

parawolf@cyclingtips also, defeet woolenator socks, and Pearl Izumi wool socks – awesome

parawolf@cyclingtips just bought a bunch including jersey from @labgear www.lab-gear.com – Australian made to order

kevinr@cyclingtips  Swobo, Smartwool, Ibex, Icebreaker. Don’t leave home without it.

cyclesque@cyclingtips I’m going all wool Wade – it doesn’t smell, u can wear it 4 days on end, it’s really comfy – Icebreaker is what I’m wearing

Mark__Grant@cyclingtips Sheep have been wearing it year round for centuries. All conditions

bgcooper@cyclingtips I have a Rapha merino sleeveless base layer. It’s excellent. I’d like to get more

lungbuster@cyclingtips using Icebreaker socks during winter rides.

nicodonnell@cyclingtips I love my merino wool gear … especially my favourite jersey http://bit.ly/8Qg7habout

johnbarton@cyclingtips I cycle and hike and rockclimb in wool all the time, i think it’s the best stuff out there

ecscoach@cyclingtips yeah sure do! When I started in the sport wool was all there was, so got to know it’s value.

tobyshingleton@cyclingtips yep.. its simply awesome! I have a few vests for winter, Icebreaker underlayer. Been using merino stuff for a while love it.

So what is this wonder material?

Doing my investigative Google research around the web, it turns out merino wool is made from a breed of mountain sheep in New Zealand that grows fine, long hair to insulate against cold and wet winters.   It has some amazing thermal properties because each individual merino fiber breathes as well does as the fabric.  It lets your body release moisture vapor so you don’t feel clammy.  In warm weather or during high aerobic activity, sweat is pulled from the body into the fabric, dispersed and metabolized as moisture vapor, effectively cooling by evaporation.   When moisture is absorbed from the cold air, the merino fibers release the heat through a process called “heat of sorption” (read more on how this works here).

Merino wool’s only real drawback is its high price.  However, as cyclists we’re quite used to paying whatever it takes for high quality product.  This is one of those things that I’m beginning to believe is worth it.

Here are some cycling clothing manufacturers who have merino wool products:

Swobo makes some funky warmers

Smartwool – all sorts of nifty merino wool baselayer and socks

Ibex – lots of goodies

Icebreaker – baselayers, casual and performance apparel.

DeFeet – great socks and warmers

Rapha – I wish I was in the targeted income bracket to try some of this Rapha stuff out.  All sorts of merino wool kit (they call it Sportswool) made by Rapha.

I really didn’t understand what all the hype was about wool until now.  I was always a polypropylene type of guy.  Merino jerseys and base layers…here I come!  I’ll let you how it works out.