Road Rags Suffolk Track Top and Shoreditch Jersey Review
Road Rags Suffolk Track Top and Shoreditch Jersey Review
Something a little different from your performance orientated merino cycling wear, the Road Rags Suffolk and Shoreditch jerseys are aimed at a more leisurely market.
The Road Rags Suffolk Track Top is a seamless merino wool jersey with a full zip. The Shoreditch Jersey is a short-sleeved seamless merino jersey with an offset 1/4 zip. These jerseys are part of my exploration into clothing that is suitable for Urban Cycling and would look just as good on the bike as off the bike, without looking like a cyclist to anyone but those in the know.
Road Rags has an excellent range of clothing. At the core of the range are their merino wool layers. I’ve been very lucky to be testing two of their merino tops – this Suffolk Track Top and the short-sleeved Shoreditch Jersey – as well as their range topping waterproof 531cc Ventile Jacket. Please see my separate review on the Ventile Jacket as it’s a really good item.
Road Rags created a line of cycling wear that is not only remarkably stylish and comfortable, but also breathable, odour-resistant, and environmentally sustainable. All of their range is “crafted in the British Isles”. They also cater very well for female cyclists with their collection.
Merino wool is an important part of these jerseys. The Merino Wool they use is bought from Italy, and then manufactured into a seamless jersey in the Midlands. The wool is 18.9 microns thick and that classifies it well into the ‘fine’ wool category. Merino is the softest type of wool you can buy. When you think of wool, you might think of thick woollen sweaters of days gone by; I had a particular vision of an old cricket jumper which was very itchy on bare skin. Be assured that the fine merino wool in this jersey is lovely and soft and even my sensitive, eczema afflicted skin had no problems with it.
Merino wool has some great properties that make it, and these jerseys, perfect for cycling. It’s lightweight and breathable so you don’t sweat as much. The material has its own elasticity so it looks good on you, doesn’t stretch over time, and doesn’t crease. It’s well known that wool keeps you warm, but it also keeps you cool. If you do sweat, the merino will draw the sweat away from your body, and even damp wool is a better insulator than damp lycra. The lanolin in the wool prevents odour causing bacteria, and also helps the garment resist stains and dust. Wool also acts as a natural UV barrier to stop the sun damaging your skin.
Technically wool has water-resistant properties though I didn’t test this because I had Road Rags waterproof Ventile jacket to take care of the rain, but, on the subject of wet, the top did a good job of soaking up sweat and keeping it away from my skin. The extracted moisture sits on the outside of the top like it would on a quality base layer. It also dried really easily, certainly as quickly as lycra does. I didn’t notice a smell, and I didn’t notice anybody turning their noses up so I can only assume that the natural odour control does a good job.
The seamless construction on the Road Rags items means that there’s nothing extra to cause irritation. The whole garment is just soft and gentle on your skin.
The Suffolk Track Top looks great. Obviously wool doesn’t take screen printing, so you won’t get your team sponsors on it, but the moss green colour is understated and classic and goes with pretty much anything in my wardrobe. It’s also a bit of a break from my mostly black winter-commuting-training wardrobe.
The detailing that flows down the spine is a nice touch and I find that people do remark about the top because they can tell it is a bit special. (My wife and kids love it too because it’s so nice to cuddle up to). The extended tail is double thickness and stops your back getting exposed in a riding position. The long sleeves have a thumb hole to stop them riding up when you lean forward on your bike. I generally fold the cuffs up because it hasn’t really been that cold, but it’s nice to have that extra bit of coverage to fall back on if the day turns chilly.
There are no pockets in this top. If you’re urban cycling you’ll need a bag or panniers to put your stuff in – I’ve had my eye on the Ortlieb Urban Line of bags for just this type of thing. I either wore the Shoreditch jersey underneath and used the pockets on that, or I took my larger saddlebag and just put everything in there or my jeans pockets. The type of cycling this top is meant for isn’t quite as minimalist as going out training or racing might be, so don’t judge it on its lack of pockets.
The Shoreditch Jersey also looks great and comes in either charcoal or pebble. The one I have is charcoal which means it works fine over my black bibshorts as well as with my jeans. There’s a bit more detailing on the Shoreditch. As well as a decorative line running down the right hand side of the front and back with the Road Rags logo on the chest, there’s a slightly off centred ribbed panel on the chest and between your shoulder blades. Again, it draws people to it.
The off centre zip is a nice touch and I think it looks better than a centred zip, both open and closed. The aerated under arm sections are also a lot more obvious on the Shoreditch, they’re designed to allow more air to circulate.
I had been using the Shoreditch under the Suffolk Track Top, but more recently I’ve been wearing the Shoreditch on my commute as a direct replacement for a summer jersey. I wore arm warmers as I would have with lycra, but didn’t feel the need to bother with a gilet as I would on early mornings with my lycra kit.
Although the Shoreditch felt a little short at the front, because of the natural hang of the material it doesn’t ride up or bunch up like a tight lycra jersey tends to. I wonder if it feels short because I’m used to feeling the grip of my lycra jerseys in a certain place.
With only two pockets at the back I feel a bit cheated over the normal three my lycra jerseys have. I wasn’t that happy putting my mini pump in the pocket because it’s not held as tightly as it would be on my other jerseys, and it does slightly ruin the look. The buttons on the pocket seem to prevent too much movement though, and it stayed in my pocket on my fairly long commute. (I tend to have my pump attached to my frame on the commute anyway as it means I’m less likely to forget it when I leave the house at 4am!) The pockets also coped fine with a phone and wallet in; they didn’t pull the jersey too much and were in no danger at all of dropping out.
The Suffolk Track Top is a great piece of kit for layering over your jersey when there’s still a chill in the air but it’s not quite able to fold into a jersey pocket. This isn’t a big problem because it breathes well and unless you are doing big mileage or pushing hard then you won’t suddenly overheat.
That’s not really what this top is all about though. For wearing on shorter bike rides like commuting or when you’re using your bike as transport rather than to escape real life, it’s perfect. I’ve been wearing it quite a lot around the house, on days out with the kids and evenings out with my friends whether there is any cycling involved or not. The cut and design make this a jersey (or my wife refers to it as a cardigan) that’s suitable to wear on the bike but you can wear it anywhere and not be laughed at.
You could argue that I could buy a merino ‘cardigan’ from anywhere and then wear it on the bike, and I could. I’ve checked and for something of similar quality, but without the extra touches that make it more suitable for using on the bike, you’d be paying about the same price anyway. You might argue that this is too much to pay for an item of clothing, but it’s all a matter of perception and it does depend on how much use you’ll get out of it.
As I mentioned, I’ve been wearing it lots, so for me the price would be justified over something like a Rapha or Castelli winter jersey that I would only wear on the bike. As this is good quality merino it should provide many years of service too, so you can consider it a long term investment. I get issued with a uniform at work, but even in quite a formal office the Suffolk top wouldn’t look out of place over a shirt and tie.
The Shoreditch Jersey should come into its own now the weather is warming up. The extra UV protection will come in handy, and the warming and cooling properties of the merino will mean it should be pretty comfortable whatever the weather does. The Shoreditch can directly replace a lycra jersey. With your regular base layer or one of Road Rag’s merino base layers, and perhaps some arm warmers, it should work from early spring until well into autumn. Again you could say it’s a lot of money to spend on a jersey, but again you can wear this off the bike too.
As well as making a great base layer in colder weather, the Shoreditch is better than a t-shirt, it looks smart and it will keep you comfortable in a wider range of temperatures. That Summer barbeque won’t have you feeling like you need a sweater once the sun goes in if you’re wearing a merino jersey. Talking of barbeques, did I mention also that wool has natural fire resistant properties too?
One of the great things I’ve noticed about these merino items is the way they fit. I can see them being more complimentary for the slightly ‘less skinny’ rider. Lycra isn’t very forgiving, you can try wearing dark colours and gaudy designs but everyone can see that you’ve been eating too many pies. Merino hangs nicely, it isn’t skin tight and it does hide your shape a bit better than the lycra. For the perfect accompaniment to the merino jerseys, see my review on the RoadRags 531cc Ventile Jacket.
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