If hearing the word ‘wool’ conjures images of thick, scratchy sweaters in questionable colors and patterns, it’s time to update your mental image. Today’s wool mountain bike tops are more akin to stylish pajamas, ranging from loose and flowy to more fitted cuts, and everything in between.
All of the riding shirts we tested this spring feature a blend of wool and at least one other material — generally nylon. Wool is known to wick sweat and keep the wearer cool, while also offering anti-stink properties as an added bonus.
The Giro Venture is a favorite of ours. The look is simple, with minor functional bits, like a breast and hip pocket for a small snack, or credit card, and the subtle styling makes it easy to fit in anywhere from a casual XC ride to easygoing park laps. The Venture comes in six colors and sizes S-XXL. Our testers found that it fit true to size, and was quite comfortable, with its Polyester/Merino blend. There’s a bit of a tailored feel to the shirt, but it still fits on the loose side. The Venture is an easy choice for anyone who wants a quality Merino shirt with a bit of function to it that’ll work anywhere.
- MSRP: $70
- Men’s: Available at evo (sale) and Backcountry.
- Women’s: Available at evo (sale) and Backcountry.
Kitsbow makes the Lory for a reasonable-considering-it’s-a-boutique-brand-and-merino price. This long sleeve shirt is only available in a women’s cut and it’s another quality springtime or autumn choice. The Lory is available in sizes XS-XL, and in six different colors. It is again on the casual side, and skirts being a feature-heavy piece; it’s a quality Merino long sleeve that will work in chillier weather, or as a base layer under a rain jacket or windbreaker. Since Kitsbow makes their clothing in response to each individual order, the lead time may take longer than other brands, but consumers should find a long-lasting, quality piece performance gear.
MSRP: $125. Available at Kitsbow.
Mons Royale adds a nice looking option to the pile of wool jerseys available with the Tarn Freeride Raglan 3/4. Mons Royale says that the jersey is made for anything from park riding to freeride adventures, and it’ll fit just fine on a lunch ride. Merino Shift is the proprietary name for their mix of 52% Merino, 35% recycled polyester, and 13% nylon, which gives it a soft but sturdy feel, while not being all that different from any other Merino blend we’ve seen. The Tarn feels light, and will work on both spring, summer, and fall rides, when the weather is on the warmer side.
Again, there aren’t many fancy features to speak of, aside from a small lens wipe on the inside. It looks and feels great, and should easily hold up for a long while.
- MSRP: $100
- Men’s: Available at (sale) Competitive Cyclist and evo.
- Women’s: Available at (sale) Competitive Cyclist and evo.
Norrona makes a few similar shirts, with subtle differences between them. The Fjora is an $80, lightweight short sleeve, made from a blend of wool, recycled polyester, and un-recycled polyester. The Fjora shirt has a slim fit and a slight drop tail. Norrona makes this in sizes S-XL. This is really a basic, but quality, short sleeve riding shirt with no added functionality. What makes it special then? The comfort, fit, quality, and of course its Merino properties.
The colors may not be too exciting to consumers on this short sleeve – they are mostly earth-toned with a splash of neon, but they aren’t hard to get along with, considering the overall comfort of this shirt.
- MSRP: $80
- Men’s: Available at (sale) Backcountry and Moosejaw.
- Women’s: Available at (sale) Backcountry and (sale) Competitive Cyclist.
This simple and largely stinkless Apex Merino Tech T is a fantastic edition for your on and off the bike wardrobe. With Merino fibers ringspun around nylon, the shirt has a lot of stretchiness built in to move with your body. Two unique features include a dropped tail to cover your lumbar in an aggressive riding position and flatlock stitched side panels that reduce the areas where backpack straps can chafe your skin. The breathable material feels good on 70-80° rides and impressively doubles as a warming base layer for cooler days. Like cotton, this tee does collect dark sweat spots on warm days, but unlike the plant-based fiber, this Merino/nylon mix dries quickly. The women’s cut comes in six sizes and four colors, while the men’s is cut in five sizes and four colors.
The fit in my size small measures accurately with the brand’s size chart, leaving just enough excess material for air to pass through as it dries sweat. The fabric does shrink slightly in the wash but it will return to the original cut with a slight stretch before pulling it over your head.
Smartwool is more so known for their premium athletic socks, but they have hit their first MTB jersey out of the bike park. The Merino Sport 150 3/4 features three-quarter length sleeves and has a loose, but not baggy fit. The cut extends for more coverage in the rear, and it’s made from a mix of more than half Merino and Polyester. Like most of the other jerseys in here, the Smartwool shirt prioritizes form over function. There is a small hip pocket, and it’s a quality jersey that feels and looks great to wear and it also fights stink. Really, how many of us need a jersey to do anything beyond feeling good and looking somewhat presentable? Smartwool makes this in three different colors and sizes S-XXL. They also have a short sleeve version for $70.
- MSRP: $80
- Men’s: Available at Amazon and Competitive Cyclist.
- Women’s: Short sleeve version available at Amazon.
The Sweet Protection Hunter Merino short sleeve jersey is constructed of an 87% wool / 13% polyamide material in a pretty basic and familiar t-shirt style, albeit with a slightly elongated tail. There aren’t any pockets, or zippers, or even a lens wipe which serves to keep the price lower than any other in this test. I ordered a size medium based on the online size chart and found the jersey has a relatively loose fit. With fairly thin material and a sleeve length that’s on the short side compared to other jerseys I’ve tested this season, this should be a good choice for wearing all summer long. Overall the material feels light and soft.
Sweet Protection suggests laying the jersey flat to dry rather than tossing in the dryer after washing. As you might’ve guessed from the photo, I’m guilty of tossing mine in the dryer with everything else, and while not recommended, the jersey has (generally) kept its shape. Available in sizes S-XL and in four colors including ‘moss,’ pictured.
- MSRP: $69.95
- Men’s: Available at Backcountry and Amazon.
- Women’s: Available at Backcountry and Amazon.
Velocio products are akin to other premium brands like Kitsbow and Rapha and aren’t going to be the first brand that comes to mind if you’re on a limited budget. That said, most of the Velocio mountain bike product that we tested a few years ago when that line was new is still in great shape, so it’s built to last.
The Trail Merino Long Sleeve is a new addition this year, and comes in sizes XS through XXXXL. That might be the widest range of sizing we have seen on a mountain bike jersey yet, though Kitsbow has announced they are expanding their size range as well. The medium we received feels true to the tester’s size and has a slim fit. The long-sleeve is made from a merino/nylon blend and there are panels on the shoulders and below the elbows for abrasion resistance where you might be wearing a pack or throwin’ bows with trailside vegetation. It can feel a little warm, so springtime and likely autumn feel like the perfect seasons for the shirt, especially since this one is black.