Wool is back! We’ve been testing a long-sleeve wool jersey from Soigneur Cycling Jerseys over the past few months, finding it comfortable, well-fitting, and stylish. How does it compare with similar products made from newer materials? Read on to find out.
Until 30 years ago, wool was the material of choice for cycling jerseys. It was perfect for cycling as an all-purpose material. Wool stayed quite cool in the warmest conditions and warm in wet and cold conditions. It was only let down by more intensive care requirements and the slightly improved capabilities of newer, specialised fabrics introduced in the ’80s.
Wool has again surged in popularity over the past few years for a few reasons. With the resurgence of fixed gear bicycles, steel, and retro events such as L’Eroica, related kit is now also in high demand. Wool is also a great material for the mixed conditions of the UK; the same jersey that keeps you cool in a burst of sunshine insulates you when clouds and rain take over. We were eager to test Soigneur’s offering in the mixed conditions of a British winter to see how they matched up with winter gear made from “less-established” materials.
Soigneur is a unique wool jersey purveyor. Based in New Zealand, they use 100% Merino Wool from New Zealand. Merino is the perfect wool for a cycling jersey for its anti-bacterial qualities, it’s wicking capabilities which keep the wearer warm when the jersey is soaked and dry in the heat, and a very soft-to-the-skin touch. Soigneur also offers an unlimited number of jersey options including a standard stock of short sleeve, long sleeve, and jacket models. These offerings evoke the past with rider and event themed presentations. Dedicated cycling enthusiasts can buy well-designed kit harking back to riders from the past, including Merckx, Van Impe, and Simpson, with their reputation, trade team, or national colors built into the jersey design. They are, stated simply, awesome.
Soigneur also offer semi-custom and full-custom, knitted-in (rather than embroidered) designs for a small increase in price, allowing teams to build their own custom riding and presentation kits. The company ships worldwide with completed designs arriving in less than a month; all very impressive!
We chose a Coppi-themed, long sleeve jersey in black with a gold panel and black lettering; a really cool nod to cycling history. The rear pocket has the number 51 in red and white knitted in.
I was immediately impressed when I pulled the jersey out of the box. The fabric is light, stretchy, and soft. The jersey didn’t demonstrate any of the itchiness that plagues some other wool jerseys made of coarser materials. The long-sleeve model was also impeccably manufactured; I couldn’t find an errant thread or a misplaced panel. The jersey really was perfect. A very unique and well-constructed design, but how was it out and about?
I took the Coppi jersey to San Francisco to test its mettle in varied conditions. As Mark Twain famously said “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco”. Although it didn’t rain during the trip, temperatures varied from -2 degrees celsius to 22 degrees celsius during our three week stay.
Wandering around town, I never felt overheated or uncomfortable while dashing in and out of shops for last minute Christmas shopping. The jersey’s lightweight, stretchy fabric also made it comfortable to wear for extended periods; despite a form-fitting design, I never felt constricted or uncomfortable. The jersey also received a fair amount of compliments around design and the Coppi theme. Definitely a winning piece of casual wear.
If it was good around town, it was excellent on the bike. With just a thin fabric undershirt, I stayed warm riding around San Francisco, across the bridge, and into the headlands. The jersey was impermeable to the wind whistling by as I crossed the Golden Gate bridge and withstood the cold air sitting in the Marin County foothills as I approached Mt. Tamalpias. Climbing into the hills, unzipping for some of the more sun-drenched climbs, the jersey never felt uncomfortable in the heat.
Although I’d a gillet in the back, jersey pocket for the descent back from Tamalpias, Ididn’t have to put it on despite temperatures dropping into the low teens on the way down.
I was extremely impressed by the Soigneur jersey in just about every way. Fit and finish are unmatched, capacity in mixed winter conditions is excellent, and so far it also seems tough. Any buyer will just need to ensure they follow the washing instructions, or risk having a much smaller jersey than they started with!
At a price of around £105 or $160, plus freight charges of about £8 or $13 dependent on exchange rates, we strongly recommend checking the Soigneur jerseys out.