Wool and commuting
Talk to me about wool. Doesn’t have to specifically be for commuting.
I’m starting to amass a collection of wool items to make into my commuting gear, I feel like my coworkers would appreciate me not hanging up stinky clothing (I share a small workspace with two others).
My first foray into wool (other than socks) has been a set of Ibex bib knickers that fit really goofy. The chamois and the rest of the nether-region is chunky as hell, it’s like sitting on a cardboard box. Maybe it’ll loosen up over time?
What else do I need? I’d like a pair of shorts, but wouldn’t do Ibex again if it’s as chunky as the knickers. Or maybe get the padded merino boxers from Rapha and wear non-cycling-specific shorts?
Also, baselayers? Anyone try the Endura Baa Baa sleeveless baselayer? Icebreaker has some as well, but they’re heavier (200 gm/m^2 vs 150 gm/m^2 on the Endura stuff). Heavier may be more durable too though…
i’ve got 3 wool t-shirts that i wear to work most days, and you can’t beat the stuff. mostly because it does all the magic of polyester but smells like you just put it on. i also have a few base layer shirts and pants, and a thicker jacket that is the only thing i wear under my windbreaker down to about 25.
yeah, wool’s great. can’t beat wool.
I’ve had generally good luck with some of the less expensive brands. Minus33 makes some decent stuff, and I owned a Canari SS shirt (not jersey) that last three years (and was worn nearly every day I commuted).
I also have several Ibex shirts, two of which are lightweight baselayers. I like them a lot, though after two years, they are beginning to fall apart.
I’ve not experimented with cycling-specific shorts (I generally don’t wear padded shorts unless I know I’m going to sweat a lot–typically on the ride home). I’ve yet to pony up for a pair or two of wool knickers (the British variety), as I typically stick with my Patagucci capilene boxers.
A friend of mine has the ibex knickers and he has mentioned their awkward design when I asked him why his chamois looked to be halfway up his back and not between his legs.
Thankfully wool is readily available on discount at a number of places. REi-outlet, sierra trading post, etc. I have a small collection of icebreaker, smartwool and ibex.
Lastly, while wool does not retain smells like other fabrics, sweaty or otherwise wet wool has a distinct odor.
I have a pair of Ibex shorts. No issue with the chamois. Oddest part of them is their length. They come up very high above the waist and the legs stop a couple inches above the knee. Other than that they are fine, I don’t feel strongly about them either way and they have given way to my non-wool alternatives since the weather has warmed up.
I have some smartwool and PI wool socks too. All very comfortable but I’m partial to the PI’s.
Interesting to hear about the Ibexes, since I was considering those. Is the chamois real leather chamois or is it the synthetic pad? And if synthetic is it the thick gel type padding?
Guess I’d better see some in real life rather than ordering away.
I have used padded under-shorts type bike shorts, with any normal shorts that I feel like wearing, and have been very happy with that setup.
The chamois is synthetic as far as I can tell, and it’s very thick and rigid. I’ve only worn them once though.
RE socks: I have some Smartwool cycling socks (actually 8 pairs) that I wear daily, they’re all worn through within 18 months which I find to be quite disappointing. The only PI socks I own are thermal socks so I use them a lot less often.
I’m a huge icebreaker fan, to the point that it’s the only new, non-underwear clothing I buy. I’m saving now for a sports bra form them, but I’m waiting for a free shipping sale. They usually happen around christmas.
I’ve had similar experiences with SmartWool socks. Tekko and Darn Tuff socks have been good to me recently.
Also worth noting: I’ve found Patagonia wool socks at Marshall’s before (and those are solid), as well as some nice Marmot layering pieces.
Smartwool makes awesome knickers. They are a blend with the wool part on the inside. The padding is nice, not too thick or thin, with a thin layer of wool fabric over top. Perfect for touring.
I also really like their baselayers — mine have held up after years of use all winter.
Consider silk, as well. Men’s warehouse and some of the cheaper department stores often have silk shirts or sweaters.
Not quite as good at wicking as wool, but close. Bbetter than wool at not smelling – and wool is pretty darn good. (pun acknowledged, but unintentional)
Some silk shirts and sweaters are good for “business casual.” There are some silk short-sleeved party shirts.
No itch. Less than smart wool.
Cruise around in your silk shirt, and dark blue banker’s suit and you are seriously sporting some commuting style.
Yeah, silk can be good too. I think I’ve mentioned previously that I was gifted several sets of silk baselayers, and though you have to be careful when washing them, they do work quite well.
I will second darn tough socks. made in vermont and lifetime guaranteed.
I don’t know about silk.
I tried some liner gloves from Thermasilk and I was pretty unimpressed. Pulling both items out of the washer, the silk gloves absorbed more water than a cotton item would, and the wool ones are always barely heavier than they are fully dry.
REI has their own REI brand merino wool socks that last longer than Smartwool socks. And you get a discount if you buy 3 or something.
Maybe I’m wearing a different smartwool sock, but the ones I’ve got, I’ve had for something like 10 years. They are hiking socks of some sort, I think, and are rather thick and toasty (wicked warm in the summer, but still great), but they’re my favorite socks.
SockGuy and Defeet make good general-use wool cycling socks… you’ve probably seen some with various custom logos on them (including ones from my employer). They last a long time, and are good in summer as well as winter. Sometimes in fall or spring I layer two or more if I’ve run out of clean medium-thick woolies.
Smartwool’s ultra-thick ones are great for the coldest days, but I rather baby mine, washing them on delicate with Woolite and air-drying. The Hunting System ones are sweet — thin wool blend socks on the inside, and sweater-socks on the outside.
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