In a world of technical fabrics and aerodynamic marginal gains, is there still a place for wool jerseys? Slovakian brand Isadore Apparel, founded by ex-pro rider Martin Velits, certainly maintains there is. Staff rider Tim Wiggins has been testing it out…
Early season riding always presents a challenge for kit selection. One minute it could be a hazy March morning, with humidity levels that will dampen every surface; the next, it could clear to leave wall-to-wall sunshine, and double-digit temperatures.
It is this diversity in weather conditions encountered in spring, which has meant that technical fabrics like Windstopper, NanoFlex and NoRain have largely composed my early season riding kit to date; shielding me from the elements.
However, the new range of early season kit from Isadore, looks like it could buck that trend…
My 'Early Season' Isadore Apparel cycle kit
- Isadore Shield Long Sleeve Jersey
- Isadore Merino Base Layer
- Isadore Shield Bib Shorts
- Isadore Leg Warmers
- Isadore Socks
The Isadore Shield Long Sleeve Jersey and Merino Long Sleeve Base Layer
As you take the Isadore Shield Long Sleeve Jersey out of its intricate packaging, you'll probably feel a little like you're unboxing a tailored cashmere cardigan…
Perhaps to an extent you are. Except, that this is a merino wool jersey, rather than cashmere. It is also a performance level piece of apparel for bike riding, rather than smart evening wear.
The Shield Jersey is made of a 44 percent merino wool mix. Merino is a unique natural fibre, which has finer strands than normal sheep's wool; making it softer, more breathable, and more form fitting. Yet, merino wool retains some of the great properties of natural wool: including the ability to remain insulating even when wet; as well as a better resistance to bacteria/odour build-up than synthetic fabrics. Merino, is a natural technical fabric.
The Isadore Shield jersey takes the plush wool fabric as an insulating base, then adds to it.
On the shoulders, collar and upper chest, you get a quilted weather-resistant layer; providing added insulation and protection from wind-chill, where you need it most. On the elbows of the jersey, there are similar patches of material; to provide extra protection for these exposed joints.
The fit of the Isadore Shield Jersey is 'close-cut', without being overly tight or restrictive. This is a jersey designed for long early season miles, rather than flat-out performance.
The high-cut collar and long arms help to keep out the wind, whilst the good length drop on the rear hem helps to keep your lower back covered.
Out on the road, the Isadore Shield jersey is impressive. I was initially sceptical about the ability of a fabric like merino to really 'shield' you like modern Windstopper materials; however, it seems to work.
In fog and light drizzle, the wool allows moisture to sit on its outer surface, without being absorbed too much. Because it is wool though, it still remains warm, even when it does get damp.
The significant further benefit of merino, is that it is super-breathable. So when the drizzle subsides, the fabric dries quickly, and any perspiration build-up from within is allowed to escape.
The weatherproof panelling on the Isadore Shield Jersey also helps its functionality; providing notably more 'shielding' for your vulnerable upper torso.
Practicalities are well considered as well, with three good sized rear pockets and one water-resistant zippered pocket.
Finally, the jersey is washing well, too - something that is always a bit of a concern with merino wool. There is no sign of shrinking, or of the fabric losing its elasticity; this is testament to the quality of the wool used.
Overall, the Isadore Shield Long Sleeve Jersey takes an age-old material, and makes it as effective as today's highly-technical man-made materials. It is warm when you need warmth; breathable and form-fitting; protective in the right places; and yet, stylish enough that you could wear it on a casual ride to a Monaco café.
For the best results from this jersey, and to get the most of the natural material, it is advisable to combine it with a quality Merino wool base layer, like the Isadore Merino Long Sleeve Base Layer.
Isadore Thermo Roubaix Bib Shorts
With your torso well protected, you can consider how to provide similar comfort for your lower limbs. The Isadore Thermo Roubaix Bib Shorts are a great partner to the Shield Jersey.
The Thermo Bib Shorts use a Roubaix Lycra fabric, with a super soft fleece-brushed backing to keep the warmth in. A DuPont Teflon coating on the outer of the shorts then provides a water and weather resistant layer, which shrugs off showers and wind-chill effectively.
The bibs are higher cut than most summer shorts, to provide extra insulation around your core; whilst the legs are longer than most, for extra coverage. The added protection is notable - I've used these in pretty persistent drizzle, and they've kept my thighs warm, and firing on all cylinders.
The seat-pad in the shorts is a top-level choice from Italian brand TMF. I've used this in a number of other shorts and tights before, and have found it reliable and comfortable for 6-8 hour rides.
Partner the Isadore Thermo Roubaix Bib Shorts with a pair of their extremely comfortable and stretchy leg warmers, and you get a protective layer for your vulnerable knee joints on cold morning starts.
Early season riding can be a beautiful and refreshing change, after the dark and cold days of winter. However, without the right kit it can be uncomfortable.
The early season kit from Isadore is impressively versatile and comfortable. From damp and cold starts, to the welcomed warmth of the mid-day sun; the Isadore Shield Jersey and Thermo Roubaix Bib Shorts keep you at a consistently comfortable temperature.
It seems that merino wool really is a natural wonder-fabric.