Sunday, May 5, 2013

What I wear while pedaling: Icebreaker merino wool

Over the years, I've collected quite a few Icebreaker pieces.  While not cheap, they are durable and really versatile, and always made of high quality merino wool. Merino wool, in my opinion, is the perfect fabric for cycling.  It is soft and comfortable (not itchy in the least!) it wicks moisture well, breathes well, and performs well when wet.  It doesn't get stinky the way synthetics do, so you can ride in it and then go straight to the office, bar, dinner party, grocery store, etc, without having to change out of your cycling gear. Simple!

While there are many companies making merino clothes, I value Icebreaker's strong environmental, manufacturing and animal welfare ethics. They have a very transparent supply chain - you can even trace your garment's "baacode" (ha ha!) back to the farm in New Zealand from which its wool originated.

This sheep looks like it has a pretty fantastic life, don't you think? 

Here are some of my favorite Icebreaker pieces:

Breeze Skirt 

I bought this skirt for a recent travel adventure, but I find myself wearing it several times a week in my normal day to day life because it is so very comfortable.  It has pockets (yay!) and an elastic waistband that can be cinched up or let out. The waistband can be worn normally or folded down, depending on your desired length. In either position, it is a great length for cycling, as it hits just over the knee (lower than in this picture) and bike shorts work great underneath it.

I basically lived in this skirt over the weekend- I rode my bike in it, I gardened in it, then I wore it to dinner with friends.  It is still not dirty.

This is part of Icebreaker's "travel & lifestyle" line, which is great because I don't always want the clothes I wear for active activities to look like "active wear."

Pisa Dress

This is another piece in  the "lifestyle & travel line.  It is fantastic for riding bikes.  It has a built in shelf bra, which provides some support and keeps me comfortable.  The style is versatile, and it is a perfect length to wear over cycling shorts.  I've worn it on many occasions and in many seasons. In colder weather, it is very cozy over tights and under a sweater, and it keeps the wind chill off of my legs while on the bike. In the summertime, it's the perfect cycling dress on its own. Here's a short sampling of places and occasions I've worn this dress:

- On a bachelorette bike tour of brew pubs

- For drinks at the Hotel Nacional in Havana

- In the back yard while wrenching on bikes and drinking beer (black doesn't show bike grease, yay!)

I don't think Icebreaker is making the Pisa anymore, but they have other equally lovely and practical dresses available.

The Tech Top (half zip)

This is my go-to shirt for all things athletic when the weather's chilly.  It's quite a bit heavier than the skirt and dress, so I'm always perfectly toasty when I'm wearing it. I especially love it for mountain biking road biking, skiing, hiking and travel.  I don't wear it exclusively for chilly weather, though- below I'm wearing it in a tropical setting after a great day on the water. 

The black version is actually my second Tech Top.  I also have this great red and orange version, which is 10 years old.  All the seams have finally given out, which is probably related to the fact that it is a Small and I am now a Large.  I can't bring myself to throw it away- it's been moved to the fabric bin, where hopefully it will inspire an appropriate repurposing.

Chakra Half Zip: 

This is a bit lighter fabric than the tech top, so it is great when you need just a little extra warmth.  I wear it over a t shirt or tank top for athletic and outdoor stuff.  I probably wouldn't have purchased this, as it is not terribly different than the Tech Top, but it was a hand me down from my mom (thanks mom!).  

Bodyfit 200 Tank Top:

For the last 10 years, I have worn this tank top as a base layer under my bike jersey (especially for cyclocross and mountain bike races) and also as a base layer during ski season.  It keeps me in the perfect body temperature range basically all the time. The only time I don't wear it as a base layer is when I'm wearing the short sleeve version, which was a hand me down from my best buddy Joey (thanks Joey!).  It is getting a little worn out, but at 10 years old, it is doing a fantastic job fulfilling its duties as a reliable base layer.

The only downside to Icebreaker is the price.  I understand that good design, durability and high manufacturing standards don't come cheap, and when I think about how long this stuff lasts, most of it is clearly a good value. That being said, my budget can't often support a splurge on full price items.  Luckily, many Icebreaker items can be found at online discounters (check out the deals at Sierra Trading Post and Department of Goods in particular). 

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