“Wool with Sex Appeal” says the venerable New Your Times of Icebreaker’s Bodyfit line. What the Times left out is that the sexy wool makes an amazing base-layer for cyclists.
The benefits of wool versus a more synthetic base-layer are so compelling that honestly, we don’t know why anybody argues the point — and Icebreaker merino wool is best in class on the bike.
Pick up the Anatomica long sleeve base-layer ($85) and you’ve got luxury/technical grade merino wool from New Zealand. It’s not only comfortable but highly breathable, prefect for regulating your body temp and unlike the stinky synthetics, it defies odor. (You could easily wear it three times before washing if you simply hate laundry)
As a final point, merino wool is a natural fiber so it looks terrific with the rest of your normal, everyday wardrobe. Cycling apparel is so expensive these days that we gravitate toward pieces that can do double or triple duty. An Icebreaker Bodyfit base-layer will look as good with an unbuttoned flannel shirt or a Kühl jacket as it does under a Capo or Pearl Izumi jersey. That’s tougher to pull off with an often shiny and therefore mismatched synthetic.
Worth nothing here that this is the ultralight version of merino — Icebreaker rates this for year-round wear. That also jacks up the versatility of this garment. (To honor the semantics, Icebreaker calls this “underwear” on the box but it’s base-layer all the way.)
Now, don’t get us wrong –we love cool, technical, synthetic cycling apparel (and own plenty of it) but for the base-layer next to our skin, we prefer a less petroleum-based solution. It’s your call — sheep’s wool or science lab fabric. Not to sound like a crazed evangelist but there are over 4 million pores on your skin so you want to minimize absorption of things like Methylene bisphenyl-4. (Just for grins, check out synthetic fiber allergies.)
The great thing about Icebreaker is they make three levels of warmth for their merino — going from 150 to 200 to 260, with increasing ability to keep you comfortable on a cold Winter ride. Last year we gave high marks to the 200 weight Icebreaker GT base layer and this season we thought we’d test out the lighter 150 iteration.
The verdict: fabulous.
Marketing execs get pretty clever in claiming high levels of moisture transfer for various exotic fabrics but in our view, it’s difficult to beat Icebreaker merino. And one of the beauties of merino is that even when it’s damp or wet, it still insulates while synthetics go clammy and cold. (We hate climbing while clammy.) Merino is what you want to be wearing when it suddenly rains, the wind comes up and temperature plummets.
We also love the comfort factors of the Icebreaker bodyfit. Thanks to the 4% lycra (see, you get a tiny dose of synthetic!) the fit is anatomically flattering and the wool also keeps its shape better. If the weather promises colder conditions, we’ll go with the 200 weight merino but Winter here in NorCal makes the lighter 150 weight a nice option. The short zip gives you an extra measure of temp regulation when your engine begins to overheat because you ride so damn fast.
Now one benefit of synthetics is they never seem to age. They might stink but they continue to appear almost brand new. In our experience with four different Icebreaker merino wool garments, they’re durable, well-constructed and look dandy a year down the road. In fact, we’ve worn our black Icebreaker Commute jacket every week for two years straight — it has faded a bit but continues to be our go-to jacket. We use the delicate cold-cold cycle, hang to dry and life is good. We should also mention dry time on the lightweight 150 is super fast.
Bonus points: in the modern era, any company without an ethical stance and do-good orientation looks mercenary and crude. Spend some time on the Icebreaker website and you’ll read about how they treat the sheep, the land and work the supply chain to be as progressive as possible.
We also value any commercial enterprise with a sense of humor which brings us to Icebreaker’s sheep version of the barcode — a baacode. A fun way to trace the merino in your garment all the way back to the source.
So if you’re in need of a versatile, lightweight base layer, we’d consider the “sex appeal” of the Icebreaker Anatomic BodyFit merino wool. Sex appeal in this case meaning you’ve got your thermoregulation dialed and a snazzy fashion option to boot.