As you might have noticed, I’m a sucker for a nice bit of cycling kit. Strangely though, not everyone shares my belief that it’s possible to look good in bike-wear. Maybe it’s an acquired taste?
Having said that, even I am liable to squirm with embarrassment if I find myself having to mingle in civilised company wearing tight shorts and a race cut jersey whilst tottering around on the cleats of my cycling shoes. Off the bike, cycling kit doesn’t always work too well.
There are times when you need a piece of kit that will perform well when you’re pedalling hard and sweating, but then transform you into a suave and slick man-about-town when you hop off the bike and straight back into civilian life. It’s a difficult trick to pull off.
That’s where people like Road Rags come into their own; a British company, proud of their ‘Made in Britain’ label, and makers of what they describe as “clothing for the urban cyclist”. I got the chance to test their Smithfield jersey recently and was looking forward to finding out where the balance lies between practical and stylish.
First thing to say is that this jersey is clearly made from top quality merino wool. That much is obvious straight from the box; it’s fine, silky smooth, and lightweight.
Wearing this jersey as a warm layer on a Sunday morning ride recently where the temperature hovered around the freezing point, I couldn’t believe just how warm it was for such a light and fine piece of kit. I’d almost added an extra layer to be on the safe side, but I needn’t have worried. With a thin base layer underneath and a wind-proof jacket on top my upper body stayed noticeably warm whilst my legs and feet slowly froze.
It also gives every sign of offering the odour control that merino wool is known for, and after consciously wearing it unwashed for three rides it still seemed perfectly fresh. I must admit, when I first started wearing merino wool I was slightly bemused by this phrase ‘odour control’ being used as a selling point; I guess I took the view that you ride your bike wearing a piece of kit, it gets a bit pongy, and you chuck it in the wash. But good merino really does work.
You peel your kit off post ride and find that that it’s dealt with any sweat you might have worked up. Not that you would want to leave a luxury item like this Road Rags jersey lying on the bedroom floor post-ride but if you do, you find that a couple of days later you’d probably have no qualms about straightening it out and popping it on again. I’ve been reliably informed by friends that a good merino top will still retain it’s freshness after a continuous week of use.
Just to be clear, I’m not necessarily recommending this.
So the jersey performed well, and the fit was nice and snug too; my standard size large hugged the body without being restrictive, and without drawing attention to the fact that this is cycling kit. In other words, if you wore it in the pub or out and about town it just looks like a smart top.
Road Rags have combined this performance and sensible fit with some really nice stylistic and practical touches. Personally, I love the way the cuffs roll right down to create optional thumb loops; it’s a cosy way to keep the sleeves where you want them as you ride, and will keep a bit of chill off your hands too if need be. The other stand-out feature is the roll-neck collar. Rolled down it does a good job of keeping the neck warm and comfy on a chilly ride, but in freezing conditions you have the option of rolling it right up to cover chin and mouth too.
This is not naturally performance orientated cycling wear but, in cold weather, when most of us are prepared to sacrifice a bit of raciness in favour of warmth and comfort, I would have no qualms about wearing this as a really good warm insulating layer. On occasion it would work as a top layer too if weather conditions permitted, and taking into account the fact that a merino jersey is not designed to repel wind and rain.
This jersey really earns it’s keep on these days when your bike ride is going to be interspersed with mixing with the general non-cycling population. If you don’t want to find yourself – off the bike – looking too obviously like a cyclist, then this might just be the jersey for you.
Visit the website: Road Rags