Review: Icebreaker Cadence jersey. Wool, yeah.

Icebreaker. Wild wool for cyclists.

Sheep laugh at us.

Here we are, top of the food chain, with our brain tumor-causing cell phones, genetically modified food and most of all, our petro-chemical based cycling gear.

What’s a right thinking, hard pedaling cyclist to do?

The sheep and Icebreaker have a compelling answer. Superfine, hyper efficient, merino wool from the mountains of New Zealand. It’s not rayon, nylon or polyester and it doesn’t have the loudest buzz or wildest patent. The brilliance is in the absence.

Cadence jersey. In black, red and light blue.

The story of the Cadence jersey begins with the animal because this isn’t run-of-the-mill mutton. The fibers are significantly finer and softer – which brings all kinds of powerful wicking, warming and cooling properties. This is wool on the shearing edge of high performance.

The Cadence jersey looks and feels lightweight with an athletic cut that’s fast and flattering. There’s also a pleasing cling and give to the fabric — it wraps but never constricts. This isn’t a hippy company making shapeless organic clothes for hanging out at the yurt. The Cadence matches up well with your carbon rig.

In a comparison with synthetics, merino wool has plenty of arguments in favor. It will insulate better when wet, keeping you warmer on the Spring and Fall days you get preciptated all over. (Patagonia even uses wool to line the inside of their wetsuits.)

We asked Icebreaker product guru Greg Foster the number one quality of merino wool. “The temperature regulation is pretty amazing,” said Foster. Our own test rides in Northern California more than confirmed that.

While synthetics are terrific at drying fast, they also tend to reek fast. We couldn’t help but notice the lack of “aroma” on our Cadence jersey after several long rides. Icebreaker torture tested pre-production garments in the Race Across America. According to Foster, each rider had three Jerseys. and they didn’t do laundry till they hit Kansas.

Small big things: both zippers (front and back pocket) slide easily. A narrow center pocket that keeps a pump settled in place. Lack of billboard logos all over the place — sheep don’t really do the screaming look-at-me routine.

Merino

There are product benefits and then perhaps the larger planet ones. Icebreaker CEO Jeremy Moon poses the question this way: “When you’re in nature, does it make more sense to wrap yourself in nature, or in plastic?” The Cadence jersey is both athletic garment and ethical stance. That’s not an indictment of synthetics, simply a highly attractive alternative.

There’s a thrilling ooh-ahh when you buy new cycling gear. With Icebreaker, there’s also the inspiration from supporting a company with a long list of do-good initiatives from animal rights to manufacturing to the environment. Those things might make you feel a little lighter on the bike.

And then, yeah, there’s the Baacode — because sheep do have a sense of humor. Our Cadence jersey came with a numbered tag that allowed us to trace the wool back to the source. Out of 120 sheep stations in New Zealand, our fibers hail from Irishman, Middlehurst, Walter Peak and Glenmore.

Sheep locator.

Sheep, it seems, are back in vogue, the new ‘It” animal, a cyclist’s best friend. “There’s an interesting waking up that’s happening. We’ve been sold this idea about synthetics,” said Foster. “Now people are returning to the natural fabrics.”

In all, we’re impressed with the Icebreaker Cadence jersey. Yes, we’re slaves to the latest, coolest, patent-crazy technical synthetic garments. We’re not changing that even if our gear does off-gas. Now however, we have a stylish and high performance option that doesn’t run on oil.

And the sheep might stop laughing.

Icebreaker

Cadence Jersey $130

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