Biking in a Wool Shirt: Icebreaker’s Chase Crewe

10 08 2009

I know there are a million gear review sites out there, and I don’t intend on turning this blog into one of them. But sometimes I come across products that aren’t the average fare that seem worth sharing. Here’s the first official Bacon Betty gear review.

Yesterday was a beautiful August day – by Maryland standards – moderately humid and about 85 degrees. So, I was a little reluctant to wear a merino wool performance tee for the long ride we had planned. I’m super sensitive to scratchy stuff next to my skin and clothing that clings because it’s walking the fine line between drapey and snug. (Shut up, you know it bugs you too!)

I was lucky enough to take home an Icebreaker Chase Crewe from this summer’s Outdoor Retailer. The company was part of a media event that I attended and I got to hear the story behind the products and the benefits of using merino wool as a performance fabric. Merino wool, as many are familiar with, is the magic behind several popular brands on the market – it’s what makes Smartwool my favorite sock brand.

In my professional life as the owner of a graphic design firm, I focus on telling my clients’ brand stories to attract loyal customers, so I was particularly interested in hearing about how Icebreaker sources their wool from New Zealand. Each garment has a “Baacode” on its tag which the owner can use to trace the impact of the pieces they purchase, from environmental to manufacturing to animal welfare.  The fiber in my shirt came from farms in Glen Orkney and Stonehenge, both on South Island, NZ.

Performance-wise the lightweight (180) shirt wicked sweat (there’s always plenty of that) better than my synthetic shirts and dried quickly. I was a little worried about the red color bleeding onto my skin when it got soaked, but no color ran.

Icebreaker SS Chase Crewe in Salsa

Icebreaker SS Chase Crewe in Salsa (image courtesy Icebreaker)

There’s a zipper pocket on the right hip, with an eyelet to run a headphone cable through, that would comfortably hold an iPod shuffle or other small mp3 player. I definitely wouldn’t put my heavier iPhone in it, though, as the fabric stretches.

The seams are nice and flat and the fabric wasn’t itchy at all and didn’t creep up my back under my hydration pack (big plus over synthetic shirts).

There are a few reflective bits in the design, but the garment is “designed for high performance mountain sports” and my use only happens during daylight.

At $64.99, the purchase price is a little prohibitive, but I’d definitely recommend trying out this top for summer mountain biking. I also plan on using this for running as the summer cools down and for an early/late season base layer for snowboarding.

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