Review: Icebreaker LS Commute zip. Merino supreme.

Style and bike commute substance.

First, let’s deal with the misnomer: the Commute LS Zip name is rife with linguistic limitation. This beautiful and versatile jacket is such a terrific all-around performer that it merits a wider handle. We might call it the Universal or the Daily Lifejacket or the Amazing 24/7 Sheep-Tastic Experience.

While the Commute is designed to bring you from point A to B in warmth and style, that’s a short journey compared to how far this jacket really goes. It is has become part of my default Fall wardrobe: jeans, Icebreaker Commute zip, running shoes.

Sheep 101

Let’s start with the wooly beast. It you know Icebreaker, then it’s not news that they essentially pioneered merino wool in technical sportswear. While the Commute isn’t overly thick, it warms you far more than the thickness would suggest. That ability is what makes this wool so intriguing: it doesn’t itch like old school wool and doesn’t stink or feel cold and clammy like synthetics.

You can innovate in a textile lab or with the gift that already exists living at 8000 feet in the mountains of New Zealand. These sheep provide a soft fleece with exceptional thermo-regulation properties. Part of the appeal of the Commute is that since it’s mid-weight, there’s true seasonal flexibility — it will work for cool Summer evenings, chilly Fall mornings and — with a rain or wind shell, will take you into Winter. (The Icebreaker site does an excellent job on the whys of wool.)

Two pocket, full front zip.

Working Wool

Two things in particular make this Icebreaker a wise choice for the commute: the fashion and the olfactory. This jacket is designed not just for getting to work, but for wearing once you arrive. That’s a major advantage over technical synthetics that demand you change at final destination.

The Commute looks good enough to go directly from the bike to the meeting room without stopping. The cut is athletic which means it’s fitted but loose enough to look casual.  The black or dark grey color, the soft, expensive-looking fabric and tailored collar make for a stylish entry. The blend is 98% merino with a dash of 2% lycra to dial in fit and shape. Things like the red stitching and cuff detailing bring subtle style cues. (The only giveaway this is geared for bikes is the elastic gripper band at the back of the waist and the dropped tail.)

Fitted gripper waist.

Think, don’t stink

Now, point two –what stinks about the Commute? Other than some crazy drivers, nothing. Once in the office, you’ll find that to your co-workers great satisfaction, you don’t reek. It’s another “social” property of merino wool — it’s work-friendly. In our experience, you might go weeks before there’s even an olfactory hint you’ve been riding 40 minutes to work every day. (As verification, we’ve been wearing an Icebreaker base layer on our November training rides and have yet to wash it. It’s almost shocking compared to a synthetic fabric.)

As a final note on bike style, we also offer this true story:  in the space of one week, the president of Capo cycling apparel and the PR head for Pearl Izumi both complimented me on the Commute and asked who made it. That’s a nice justification for the $175 price tag — you’re getting far more than a commuter jacket in this deal.

Hunting for negatives. In the interests of objectivity, we feel duty bound to uncover a flaw of some sort. Not a simple task. Could the Commute be ever so slightly thicker? Maybe, but then you limit layer options and weather versatility. Hardcore commuters might find there’s not enough reflective material or wish for jersey-style back pockets for more gear. That’s all we can come up with.

Side pocket destails

Closing statement

At this point, a summation hardly seems necessary except to say that as usual, we wore our Icebreaker Commute on our bike journey from home to coffee shop office. It has simply become an on and off-the-bike, anywhere and anytime, life-encompassing mandatory.

Icebreaker Commute Zip $175

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