Regular readers of the Retrogrouch know how much I enjoy a classic wool jersey. For the last couple of months or so I've had the pleasure to wear the Wabi Woolens Winter Weight jersey for some of my morning commuting. Made in the American cycling mecca of Portland, Oregon, Wabi Woolens are a great choice for winter cycling - and with different knits and styles available, would be a good year-round choice as well.
Wabi Woolens was started in 2008 by Harth Huffman, who coincidentally (just like myself) is also a full-time English teacher. Huffman set out to create top-quality American-made wool clothing for cycling and other outdoor activities. The company now offers their Winter Weight long sleeve jersey, with or without rear pockets (without pockets, it is called their "Adventure" jersey, and would be good for things like X-country skiing), and the Sport Series, which is made from the same merino wool but in a lighter weight, available in either short or long sleeve.
One thing about the Winter Weight jersey is that it is not meant to be machine washable. The jersey is cut/designed to be a little larger/longer out of the package to allow for a small amount of shrinkage, and the amount of shrinkage can be controlled by the washing method. The company recommends that the first wash be done in the machine (I used the delicate cycle, then laid it flat to dry), which will shrink it about 2 inches in length. That initial wash also makes the knit a little "denser" which adds to its resistance to wintery weather. After that, it is recommended that it only be hand washed and laid flat to dry. According to Wabi Woolens, the Sport Series jerseys are treated to be machine washable (though to be safe, I'd probably still use only the delicate cycle and lay flat to dry).
I'm a fairly thin guy, and I found the overall cut to be a nice one, giving a fairly close-to-the-body fit which I appreciate. The company recommends going up a size for someone with a broader build. It's worth mentioning that even though the fit is a trim, athletic cut, it's not restrictive in any way, and will "relax" a little with wearing. I found that the length was more than adequate, and even with the initial shrinking, the sleeves were still long enough - and I have fairly long arms. The length in the body is probably a little longer than I need. If the body were to shrink another inch or two without also shortening the arms, I'd be in heaven. But on the bike, the extra body length does help to keep one's bum warm, and there's no danger whatsoever of it riding up and leaving the lower back exposed.
I am really pleased with the construction of the jersey. The wool, just as advertised, is nice and thick, very soft to the feel, and the stitching and quality are all top-rate. Like any classic cycling jersey, it has 3 pockets in back, and one has an additional zippered pocket-within-a-pocket that is perfect for carrying a cell phone.
Colors and styling are quite traditional. Most are single-color only, without stripes, contrast panels, or other embellishments, though there is a version of the Sport Series jersey that has a 2-color chevron design that looks pretty classy. On the whole, the Wabi Woolens jerseys are about function - not flash. Prices range from $160 for short sleeve jerseys, up to $175 for the long sleeved Winter Weight. That's right in line with other wool jerseys I've seen, and considering the made-in-America provenance and the fact that they are made to last for years, I think they are a great buy. The jerseys can be purchased directly from the Wabi Woolens website.