Every now and then I encounter a product so well done, so dialed in conception and execution that I end up at a loss for words. It’s as if the reviewer in me comes up against a massive existential, “Well yeah.” Were I French, then I’d be thinking, “Mais oui.” And while I’m not French, I mention that phrase because it goes “duh” one better, because the literal translation of mais oui is “but yes.” It’s an “of course” of a different feather.
Which is what brings me to the Wabi Woolens Sport Series Merino long-sleeve jersey. Merino wool is one of those phrases that when sighted on a hang tag makes most riders I know go, “ooh.” It conveys such a level of quality and comfort it’s as if those two words alone should command a 40 percent upcharge. Unfortunately, most Merino items I encounter ought to include the term alleged as an honorific. The difference between the very softest Merino items I own (typified by my Swobo base layer) to the coarsest (as exemplified by a pair of off-brand socks that really deserve a liner between me and them) can only be measured in orders of magnitude. It’s a bit like noting that the Ferrari 458 and Ford Focus are both cars. I mean, yes, but….
The Wabi Woolens jersey is arguably the best example of the Merino wool jersey I’ve ever worn. I’l note that it lacks the visual presentation of the old-school jerseys that enjoy that vaguely furry look found in women’s Cashmere sweaters, which is a little perceptual detail I really love, but for that one negligible exception, everything else about this jersey is what you want from a long-sleeve jersey.
I’m going to try not to belabor the point. The Merino is softer than baby bunnies. Wear a base layer with this jersey and the UN will write a resolution banning you from international travel for crimes against sheep. A common problem with Merino jerseys is stretch; I’ve loaded the pockets up on this thing for a three-hour ride and have yet to discover the tail of the jersey getting caught on my saddle. And they aren’t small pockets.
Wabi Woolens is based in Portland (Oregon, of course, not Maine) and like most products from Portland companies I encounter, there is a deep vein of practical running through this jersey. There’s a fourth, zippered pocket for a house key or other important (but small) item. The rear hem of the jersey is lined with a gripper to keep it positioned at the small of your back. And while some folks may prefer a full zipper, they use a high-quality 12-inch zipper which gives adequate ventilation. The cuffs and collar get a touch of added Lycra to help them retain their, but other than that, this is 100-percent Merino wool.
One of the traditional trouble points for long-sleeve jerseys—and jackets, for that matter—is sleeve length. Over the years most of the long-sleeve jerseys I’ve worn have had the dubious distinction of being equipped with sleeves that were too long by an inch or more. This thing is spot-on, at least for my arms. Lest you think I’m part T. Rex, I should mention that I buy my shirts off the rack.
My red jersey is less stop sign in color than brick, so it doesn’t completely agree with the color in this photo. I’ll admit that I’m not normally one to wear a completely plain jersey; I’m usually in my RKP or some other team-style kit, but there are times when a really plain-looking jersey and a pair of black bibs really suits my mood. And for those days, this jersey is perfect.
The jersey I wore goes for $175 (the short sleeve is $160) and while that’s a fair amount of money for a jersey, here’s another detail that I think help justifies it: I wore this jersey in weather as cool as 50 degrees and as warm as 75 degrees (that was an unexpected development that day), but I stayed comfortable throughout. So when evaluating the price, maybe the question to ask yourself is what versatility is worth.
Simply put, this is why people buy Merino wool jerseys.