Q: Why do people keep saying wool shirts are better than synthetic ones? Are they just grumpy old men who think it was all better when it was just fields of sheep?
Esther Polly, Crimple Beck
A: We're not just bleating on trying to pull the wool over y'ewe'r eyes, wool really does have some advantages over synthetics. The most obvious one is the whiff factor, as synthetic fibres tend to have a rougher texture with more pockets for bacteria to collect in.
While most thermals will really stink after one ride, and never really smell sweet ever again, we've ridden for several days in wool without getting properly fetid. Wool also maintains its thermal properties when wet, and the slightly itchy feel adds a bit of friction warmth once you start moving too.
The downsides are that even the best woolly tops do itch slightly, which you'll either not notice or which will drive you mad. They also takes ages to dry compared to a synthetic, tending to suck moisture up rather than wick it through and exhale it into outer layers. It's also more expensive and delicate than synthetic tops.
Of course their warmer fibres are so desirable in summer either, but if it's proper parky outside or we're trying to boost morale in the middle of the night on a 24hr race lap, we'll always reach for a woolly warmer rather than a chemically created wonder fabric.