Icebreaker produces technical outdoor apparel featuring New Zealand merino wool as their material of choice. Until recently, the company has mostly focused on producing base layers, coats, and socks for backpackers and adventurers but all of that is about to change! This year Icebreaker is releasing a complete line of cycling-specific clothing featuring their signature merino wool, and I was lucky enough to score the Roto Short Sleeve Half Zip jersey to review… even before it was available to the general public!

The Material: Merino Wool

Merino wool actually comes from the merino sheep that dwell in the high mountains of New Zealand. As Icebreaker’s website claims, “Our merino fibre was created by nature to protect the animal in the harsh environment of New Zealand’s Southern Alps. If the fibre didn’t work, the animal would die. We can’t design a better fibre, so we’ve turned nature’s merino into a clothing system for humans.”

Icebreaker also claims that one merino fiber breathes as well as the entire garment. How that is possible, I’m not entirely sure, but I’ll let the comfort and performance of the garment speak for itself.

The Jersey

The Roto jersey itself features a half zip for temperature control, a zippered pocket in back for stowing small items quickly, and mesh panels under the arms for increased ventilation and cooling. There is a little Lycra blended in with the merino to help it fit snugly and dry quickly.

Icebreaker Jersey

On the Trail

The first thing I thought when I pulled the SS Roto on was, “This may be the most comfortable thing I have worn…. ever!” I’m dead serious: this merino wool makes you feel like straight up royalty! It’s soft, light, and not at all scratchy like some pieces of clothing made out of traditional wool tend to be.

Also, the Roto jersey is devoid of any obnoxious elastic bands around the bottom or the sleeves. I’ve never understood what the purpose of having elastic in those spots is, as for a mountain biking jersey it seems quite pointless… and uncomfortable. My elastic-bottom jerseys always seem to ride up while I’m out there killing it, and constantly pulling my jersey down totally detracts from my hardcore factor. But with the Roto, this is not an issue!

Despite the lack of elastic bands, the jersey fits snugly enough to perform well yet loose enough to be comfortable – but not too loose. During actual mountain biking, these factors pay off in a jersey that rides well and feels so good that you simply begin to ignore it. In my opinion, that’s what makes a good mountain bike jersey!

Mountain Biking

One final note: odor. Icebreaker’s website claims that merino helps minimize body odor. I’ve noticed 2 things in relation to this:

  1. After several long, sweaty rides, my jersey smells a little musty, but not nearly as rank as a polyester jersey usually smells. In my experience, after 1 or 2 rides a polyester jersey will begin to reek, even before you pull it on. Not that that stops me from wearing the same one for a full week in a row…
  2. When I was sweating heavily in the Roto out on the trail, I noticed that I had a peculiar odor about me. It wasn’t a bad odor per se, but it wasn’t really a good odor either… it was simply unique. I’ve switched back and forth between this new jersey and one of my old ones, and I can verify that no, the smell wasn’t me, it was definitely the jersey. I don’t think this detracts from it one bit, I just thought it was a curious item to note. I have yet to see if this odor will continue after I machine wash it a couple of times. I’ll be sure to keep you posted.

The Bottom Line

Icebreaker’s SS Roto Half Zip jersey is the most comfortable mountain bike jersey I have ever worn! It’s comfortable, functional, and I think the color is pretty killer as well. However, this quality comes at a price: $100, to be exact. While I know that I personally could never afford full retail price for this at the moment, this price point actually falls roughly in the middle of the range for other cycling clothing lines like Pearl iZumi.

But if you’ve got the cash and are looking for a comfortable, stylish jersey that is anything but normal, I highly recommend the SS Roto from Icebreaker!

Thanks to Icebreaker for providing this jersey for review.

# Comments

  • trek7k

    Looks like a nice jersey and not quite as bulky as some other wool jerseys I’ve seen. Wool jerseys are definitely comfortable – almost like wearing pajamas on the trail. The lycra blend seems like a nice touch so it doesn’t LOOK like you’re wearing baggy pajamas when things start heating up.

    What temperature range would you say the Roto works best for?

  • dgaddis

    Merino is nice. I just got my first merino jersey recently, a long sleeve, and I REALLY like it. Now that winter is mostly over there will probably be lots of good deals on long sleeve merino jerseys soon.

  • Goo

    @trek7k, I think optimal temperature is probably pretty subjective, but I’ll take a stab at it. Personally, I like to roll with a sleeveless jersey once the temps get much past the mid 70’s or so, so I would probably not where anything with sleeves after that temp, so the Roto would be out too.

    It’s definitely a tad warmer than a full-on polyester jersey, and I found it very comfortable into the low 60’s and even the 50’s. But again, that could just be due to personal tolerance levels. Other people’s might be greater on either end of the spectrum, or less.

    @dgaddis, I’ll have to look into that!

  • seenvic

    Merino wool beats polyester (plastic) hands down for a jersey material.

    Steep n cheap often blows out merino products made by several companies. Merino is usually $100+ for a jersey, but the last one I bought was $50 via Steep and Cheap (might have been chainlove, not sure).

    And you can laugh at the folks who don’t wear wool because it is “itchy”. Just agree with them and let them wear the plastic stuff.

  • XCTolen

    I’ve been mtn. biking with Icebreaker shirts (long and short sleeves) almost exclusively for the last two years. HIGHLY recommend them! Very true, they do feel like a 2nd skin. No itching or chaffing even with the Camelbak. They’re fantastic as a baselayer or by themselves regulating temperature to keep you warm or cold. I especially recommend the 150 ulatralite in the summer. I live in Tulsa, OK with 100+ temps and ridiculous humidity and it still managed to wick away sweat and dry better than anything else. The price is steep and I’ve grit my teeth everytime I’ve bought any Icebreaker, but everytime its been worth it. I’ve punished mine and they wear amazingly well – no pilling or staining. They even look great with some cool jeans for a night on the town. I can also totally attest to the “No stink” quality after several rides. Goo, I have noticed a subtle distinct odor when they’re brand new. I think its just the natural smell of the wool before its been washed. It does lose that smell completely after 2 or 3 washes. Can’t wait to try out their cycling specific wear.

  • Goo

    @seenvic, I’m officially a convert!

    @XCTolen, Thanks for the info on the odor. Good to know! I was checking out some of the tech t’s on their website, and I really want to buy one or two for running and/or chilling, but they are a bit on the pricey side. Your glowing review makes me what one even more…

  • muttonmark

    If anyone wants to try one out, go to moosejaw.com. They have Icebreaker LS and SS Merino Crews for pretty good price. I wear these when riding in fall here in Michigan, and it keeps me at the perfect temp. Plus, they are extremely comfortable.

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