Review: Ibex Shak merino wool vest
Here’s my ideal day in the Ibex Shak vest ($130). It’s a slightly breezy Spring morning, not bitter cold but medium chilly and I’m riding my road bike into work through Sausalito, California, over the Golden Gate bridge and into San Francisco. The temp is about 45 degrees, maybe less, maybe a tad more.
The black merino Shak gives me a timeless roadie vibe and the fit is perfect — no gaps around the shoulder, a nice long cut down the back so I’m fully covered instead of the usual minimalist tech vest I might have chosen. I layer it over a light gray long sleeve mid-weight merino jersey (my go-to Ibex Giro). The combo is a nice, stylish match for my black bib shorts and matte black Calfee Manta.
Over the bridge I go with a spectacular view of the entire bay area and into work. I switch out of my cycling clothes and into jeans, adidas and cotton work shirt. Then I put the Shak back on because it looks great with the shirt and makes me look more athletic in CubicleLand.
Around three o’clock, I stroll a few blocks to a cool coffee shop with outdoor seating and settle in with a latte and note once again the wide versatility of the vest — can’t really pull this trick off with a Castelli technical vest — the merino wool puts me square in the SF work culture — casually hip, always ready for action but not trying too hard or screaming to make a statement.
At the end of the day, I take a 5 minute ride to the ferry that will take me 40 minutes across the bay where I jump off and ride 15 minutes home. The Shak vest is exactly what I need to sit outside in the back of the boat, taking in the view with a plastic glass of house Merlot they sell on the boat. I’m warm, I’m well-dressed, all is right with the world.
Now putting aside the obnoxious revelry over my perfect commute day, that pretty much sums up the wide benefits and versatility of the Ibex Shak vest. You have the flexility to go from bike to work apparel, you look like you ride without shouting lycra roadie, you tap the rich history of wool in cycling, you congratulate yourself for wisely spending money on a piece of cycling apparel that does double and triple duty.
Now, a few observations and further thoughts on the Ibex Shak vest. I would rate this as mid-weight merino wool. This is not a bulky vest so it feels ideal for Spring and Fall. It would work for cold winter days if you went three layers — base, long sleeve jersey, vest — but that might be pushing things. Depends on how well your own internal heater works.
The Shak is a well-constructed garment in terms of seams, sewing, zipper and details. This is 100% Merino wool from New Zealand — for more on the Ibex wool story, click here. I’ve owned my Ibex Giro jersey for two years and it still looks pretty new so I expect the Shak will also hold up well over time.
The zip pocket over the left chest is ample and there’s a mesh liner inside. Plenty of room for keys, cards, a phone, whatever.
At least in my case, the collar was the absolute perfect height — enough to seal the neck off from wind and cold but not so high it irritates me. That’s much appreciated.
Ultimately, what draws me to the Shak is what draws me to all Merino wool cycling apparel: the versatility. This is an on and off-bike vest. It’s for the ride up the mountain and the ride to the coffee shop afterwards. It moves from play to work and back to play effortlessly.
Now those morph-skills come at a price of $130. A Pearl Izumi technical vest costs $90 and a race-ready, full-on Castelli vest can go as high as $160 so it’s a question of priorities and functionality. I’m guessing we all wouldn’t mind having two vest options depending on what kind of ride and weather and what we’re doing afterwards.
If I wanted to set up some defining categories for this vest it would be roadies who like a more classic, casual look, adventure and gravel riders, mountain bikers, the single-speed fixie crowd, the e-bike commuter. The downside is that it’s not the hyper-lightweight technical vest that weights zero and packs down small in your jersey pocket.
That’s not the way the Shak wants to roll. It has bigger plans for the rest of the day.
Could layer well — make that note. Could go colder than 40-maybe 35