After numerous requests from their core contingent, wool outdoor clothing specialists Icebreaker are now delving into the cycling apparel market.
There's a limited range of gear to start – two pairs of shorts and four jerseys for men, and a pair of shorts and six jerseys for women – all made with the company's New Zealand-sourced merino wool. As an ultimate testament to accountability, a unique code specific to each garment can even be used to trace the material back to an individual sheep.
According to Icebreaker, their near-100-percent merino blends don't retain odor, are comfortable in a wide range of temperature and weather conditions, are itch-free for the vast majority of users, and even machine washable in most cases (but as usual with wool, it's best to avoid the dryer). Jerseys use a 97/3 merino/Lycra blend while shorts use a stretchier 84/10/6 merino/nylon/spandex blend. Styling is decidedly subdued and understated, with mostly single-color schemes for the jerseys and all-black shorts.
Styling on Icebreaker's new GT Bike jerseys is decidedly subdued
The half-zip SS Cadence and full-zip SS Circuit jerseys use traditional cuts (read: somewhere in between ultratight 'Euro' and more loose-fitting 'American' style) and siliconized lower hems to help keep them in place. Both jerseys look to have a fair bit of Rapha DNA in their genes, with single color-contrast accent stripes and a similar pocket arrangement, with a slightly narrower center pocket (that's thankfully still big enough for a lightweight jacket), angled outer pocket and a ringed zipper pull on the single security pocket.
The mountain-bike-specific SS Roto jersey is offered in both crewneck and half-zip styles, both with single zippered rear side pockets designed for use with hydration packs and looser, more casual cuts. Women get their choice of three half-zip jerseys: the understated Halo sleeveless or short-sleeved jersey, and the more graphics-intensive SS Rhythm top, all with female-specific cuts that feature narrower waists and flared hems to keep them from riding up while on the bike.
All of Icebreaker's shorts use an 84/10/6 merino/nylon/spandex blend to lend a little more stretch plus multi-thickness, multi-density pads provided by Cytech. Men will get their choice of standard or bib shorts while women will have to settle with just regular shorts for now – but women's bibs are already undergoing testing.
Men's shorts are available in standard or bib varieties - women's shorts are bib-free for now
We've only just begun road testing of our sample gear but first impressions are mostly promising. The materials used are soft and comfortable in a way that only natural fibers are, and the jersey is proving to be especially cozy, with a slim, refined fit that's neither skin-tight nor overly loose. Breathability is excellent, too, and as promised, so far there's no odor to report (and yes, we've intentionally gone multiple days without washing). The outer pockets are easily accessible while on the road, though we'd prefer the center pocket to be opened up a bit more to keep the weight of bigger and bulkier items centered on the back.
We're a little more mixed on the shorts, though. While comfortable, the wool blend material is definitely on the thick side, even as compared to fully synthetic thermafleece shorts. Conditions have been mostly mild during our test rides and we're worried how these will perform when the temperatures start to soar. We've also suggested to Icebreaker that they tighten up the pattern across the hips, as the fit definitely isn't as sleek as on synthetic shorts, to the point where they start to sag a bit (we've only been able to ride the standard shorts so far – bibs are on the way) and unfortunately leave the otherwise impressive Cytech chamois to shift around more than it should.
Icebreaker's women's range will include six jerseys and a pair of shorts, all with female-specific cuts
Niggles aside, Icebreaker's new GT Bike range is worth a look, particularly if you prefer natural over synthetic fabrics. Look for a review once we log more saddle time. US/UK pricing is as follows:
- Men's SS Cadence jersey: US$130/£89.95
- Men's SS Circuit jersey: $140/£99.95
- Men's SS Roto Crewe: $90 (not available in UK)
- Men's SS Roto Zip: $100 (not available in UK)
- Men's Cadence short: $160/£129.95
- Men's Circuit bib short: $200/£149.95
- Women's Halo sleeveless jersey: $110/£79.95
- Women's SS Halo jersey: $130/£89.95
- Women's SS Rhythm jersey: $130/£89.95
- Women's SS Grace Crewe: $90 (not available in UK)
- Women's SS Grace Half-Zip: $100 (not available in UK)
- Women's Halo short: $160/£129.95