Review: Road Rags Smithfield Merino Jersey
I've developed a love affair with merino wool; it's incredibly breathable, it stays warm even when it gets damp, and it doesn't smell! What more could you want from a material; certainly I haven't found a synthetic fibre that comes close to it.
Road Rags is a London based brand that produces a small but beautifully designed and thought-out range of merino products for male and female cyclists. The products are made to be versatile cycling tops, that will provide incredible comfort both in the saddle and sat at the café at the end of a long ride.
Winter may be coming to an end, but there is still a definite nip in the air, and the beauty of merino wool is its versatility in so many climates; it will keep you warm in the cold air, but when it starts to heat up the breathability will come into its own. The Smithfield is Road Rag's perfect springtime cycling top; over the last few weeks I've been enjoying its quality and comfort on my spring rides, and thought I would share my thoughts on it.
First of all, I have to mention the packaging that the Smithfield arrived in. If you are thinking of sending one of the Road Rags products as a gift, don't worry about wrapping! The beautiful black box was laced in a glittering ribbon and the top itself was shrouded in a deep purple tissue paper. Without a doubt this is the nicest product packaging that I have seen, and it goes a long way to setting a great impression.
Right, onto the top itself...
Delicately picking up the Smithfield from its wrapping and slipping it on, you feel that the merino wool that has been used by Road Rags for this top is something a bit different from the norm; it is softer, warmer and feels lighter. Indeed it is a bit special; a finer grade than you find in many merino products, this wool has more fibres per inch, and is resultantly a significantly higher quality. Not only does this mean that you will be kept warmer, by a softer feeling garment, but it has the added advantage of coping admirably with the rigours of the 30'C machine wash and with constant hours of use.
The styling of the Smithfield is perhaps best described as retro-classic. Its raglan sleeves, turtle neck collar and slim close-fitting cut definitely have a unique look, and a great one at that. Those features are there for a reason though; that high collar whilst increasingly fashionable, is also an incredibly effective neck warmer come buff. The raglan sleeves can be rolled down and tucked inside a pair of gloves, with thumb loops to stop them slipping up; this is a sure-fire way of keeping the warm blood flowing to your extremities. Then the close fitting cut will mean that warmth you are generating from your hard work is kept close to your skin.
The Smithfield is an incredibly versatile top; I've worn it as a base layer and on its own. As a base layer it is beautifully warm, and even on the coldest mornings it has kept my core temperature toasty. As a jersey it is great option as spring time warms up; keeping you cool and comfortable, features like the perforated under-arms mean that temperature regulation is successfully managed. It should be noted that there are no rear pockets on the Smithfield, so if you are wearing it as a jersey you'll need a saddle bag or cut-down bottle to store your kit in, but that is a minor quibble.
The Smithfield really is a pleasure to wear; providing hours and hours of comfort and warmth. You'll find it is a top that you never want to take off, which is handy as merino has that great property of not smelling like synthetics, and when you do come to put it in the machine it comes out almost dry. I'm looking forward to many many more miles of beautiful temperature regulation and feel.
At £115 many may turn their nose up at the price, but as with most things you get what you pay for; the quality and durability of the Smithfield means it will be around for a long time, and won't wrinkle up and die like cheaper merino products. The bottom line is that if you can afford to splash out on it, it's a no-brainer.
Overall, the Smithfield is a fantastic Autumn/Winter/Spring top; in fact I dare say that I could be wearing this on chilly summer mornings on touring trips. It's incredibly versatile, and provides unparalleled comfort and warmth levels. Go merino and you'll never go back.