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Review: Icebreaker’s excellent merino wool baselayers & wind-proof commuter jacket

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Icebreaker Blast merino wool commuter jacket review

Although the ice on our deck suggests otherwise, the fact that the sunshine is now peeking through our windows when it’s time to get up means the harshest part of winter is just about past, leading to the cool, wet early days of spring. For that, Icebreaker has some fantastic New Zealand merino wool pieces ready to tackle the rides and commutes. And, really, just about any other outdoor activity.

Over the past couple months I tested the Blast zip jacket, the Relay and Spring long-sleeve baselayer tees and the Flexi Chute, a soft, scarf-like neck gaiter that pulls up over the chin or nose as the weather dictates. All of them have lived up to the comfort and durability I’ve found in other Icebreaker items I’ve tested. If you’re looking for technical yet simple gear that’s versatile, check out the details below…

Icebreaker Blast merino wool commuter jacket review

The Blast fuses a water-resistant polyester outer with 100% wool inner, sandwiching a polyuyrethane layer to block the wind. I’m 6’2″ and tested the XL, which fit comfortably loose for commuting but would be a bit baggy for road riding. Their website models are wearing a smaller size for a more form-fitting, slip-streaming application.

Icebreaker Blast merino wool commuter jacket review

Judging from the arm length on the XL, going with a smaller size might mean slightly too-short sleeves for the riding position. At least for us tall folks. So, it seems more appropriate for a commuter/casual or even mountain biking piece.

Icebreaker Blast merino wool commuter jacket review

The back plackets helps vent heat, while the tall neck helps retain it and prevent cold air from sneaking inside. The drop tail falls over the butt about half way, enough to keep spray from getting to your shirt. Small reflective hits between the shoulders and on the left shoulder add a bit of visibility.

Icebreaker Blast merino wool commuter jacket review

The zip hand warmer pockets have a mesh liner and a massive opening. The insides are equally hungry, swallowing up a Redbox DVD very easily…or a magazine.

Icebreaker Blast merino wool commuter jacket review

Inside, the tops are open, creating a double pocket that wouldn’t have any trouble hiding an iPad Mini. The chest pocket is about the right size for a smartphone (no phablets, sorry) and has a headphone port.

For a windproof, rain resistant cycling jacket, it’s among the softest of soft shells and is very comfortable. I liked the tall neck and large pockets i particular, and the style gets the thumbs up from Sweetie, too. Normal retail is $275, but the Blast is on sale (40%) as of this post.

The blue base layer is their Sprint Long Sleeve Crew, one of the two base layers tested. More on that in a second…

Icebreaker merino wool Flexi-Chute scarf neck gaiter

Keeping the wind and cold from leaking between the Blast and the base layers is the Flexi Chute, a $25-$30 accessory that’s worth every penny. It’s a simple neck gaiter that’s oversized (a half size is also available), leaving a lot of folds to fill in the space against your skin, or enough fabric to pull all the way over your nose while still staying tucked in. The material is their Cool-Lite blend of wool (65%), Tencel and Nylon, so it’s thin enough to breathe through but still kept my face warm.

I wore it on road rides and commutes into the high 20ºs and it worked perfectly. It even held its own on the slopes through dense flurries, all the while staying surprisingly dry considering the amount of humidity being exhaled through it. If your on-bike fashion sense skews less toward silk scarves and more towards wool sleeves, this is one piece you’ll definitely want in your three season arsenal.

Icebreaker merino wool long sleeve base layers review

In addition to the blue Sprint crew, this ivory Relay crew makes for a great first layer. The difference is the weight of the material – the Sprint is their 200 weight, and the Relay is 150 weight. They’re a blend of 96% wool and either Lycra (Sprint) or elastane (Relay). I tested an XL in these, also, and probably would have been better off with a large to make them more form fitting, something I prefer for base layers to ensure a non-bunching fit under mid- and outer layers.

Icebreaker merino wool long sleeve base layers review

Both have elongated sleeves with thumb loops, and both use raglan sleeves for easy movement in any activity. I used them for running, cycling and just generally screwing around. The Relay is pretty thin, like a well-loved T-shirt, while the Sprint has a bit more substance. Neither are as thick as the Wool-X base layer I reviewed, but they’re plenty under a good winter jersey into the 30ºs when used with the Flexi Chute. That also spreads out their use across more seasons.

Icebreaker merino wool long sleeve base layers review

I’m a little sad to see the disappearance of their cycling jerseys and shorts from their website. There’s a chance it’s just a seasonal shift, but our rep it looks like they’ve been discontinued. Fortunately, many of their active pieces work great on the bike, so my love affair with Icebreaker continues. All of the pieces tested here make great cycling pieces without being cycling specific, helping them pull double or triple duty for active folks. It’s not cheap, but I’ve had some pieces for a few years and they hold up great.

Icebreaker.com

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Sylvain
Sylvain
9 years ago

Icebreaker are the ultimate cyclocross Clothing. Warm,performant, durable And They smell always good

mudrock
9 years ago

One thing any jacket or top needs to work in the cycling position is long sleeves. I’m tempted by the Blast but the sleeves or too short. the sleeves on the Relay also look too short, especially as they provide thumb loops. For base layers, Patagonia is a good option because they design most of their technical pieces to work for climbers.

dailygrind
dailygrind
9 years ago

Commuting in a dark colour like that – you have got to be kidding – it matches asphalt perfectly!

michigankr
michigankr
9 years ago

When do we get to see a review of the Van Dessel you’re leaning on?

Kristi Benedict
Admin
9 years ago
Reply to  michigankr

michigankr, it will be introduced today.

gringo
gringo
9 years ago

Whats that weird helmet all about?

michigankr
michigankr
9 years ago

Thank you!

phella
phella
9 years ago

What’s the disc cyclocross bike with the red tape? Looks cool.

Riccardo
Riccardo
9 years ago
Kristi Benedict
Admin
9 years ago

Gringo, it’s a Limar Velov freeride helmet, we’ll have a review soon!

Tim in Michigan
9 years ago

$245 for a jacket? Right…

pile-on
pile-on
9 years ago

I wish Tyler would smile.

Chris
Chris
9 years ago

This company needs to make some bib tights w/chamois, and put some effort and time in to perfecting it, and trusting its long term market value. I’d buy a 260 bib tight w/chamois immediately without question if they produced one.

Chris
Chris
9 years ago

No wind proofing. Just as much merino as possible without compromising durability. I want a full merino base for cycling now dammit!!! lol

Sylvain
Sylvain
9 years ago

Two year ago Icebreaker have full cycling line whit first quality of chamoi. Very durable I still have Jersey and bib and they look good after two full seson of cyclocross racing.

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