Wool provides so many advantages when it comes to retaining optimal body temperatures. That's pretty important in cycling and definitely offers some performance and comfort advantages. So ... why isn't it more popular?
Recall the vintage images of tours, where wool was the choice of jersey fabric. They'd be wearing their woollen sponsored kit in sleet and rain, cycling through the Dolomites in below freezing temperatures. Plenty has changed now. There are so many synthetic fabrics designed to mimic the positive characteristics of wool. But when you look at what wool does so remarkably and naturally, you start to wonder if we threw the baby out with the bath water.
Wool must be one of the most underrated natural products when it comes to sport use. Luckily there are a few brands who appreciate what wool has to offer the serious cyclist. Lets then look at what wool apparel can offer you, and how you can, in kind, look after it.
From Wilier Treistina road racing Archives
Quality wool product lasts very well when looked after. But when it comes to general consumerism disposable fashion has taken the limelight. The answer to why wool isn't seen more when it comes to cycling apparel? Quite simple, it comes at a price.
Cyclists are not immune to general consumer behaviours and if you're a member of public cycling forums you'll know a majority are inspired by price. This is especially true when it comes to the cycling apparel market, which is saturated with choice. But if you're also a cyclist in the know, you're likely aware the best things cost initially and then you'll be paid back with better standards.
From glasses, to shoes, to a decent helmet, a higher price will more often represent quality stand out features, be it longevity, better fit, technical fabrics or materials. Wool is one of those quality materials where, parred with worthy brands, production doesn't take short cuts. Just a few items will build a solid kit foundation offering your the very best winter motivation.
Wool has numerous advantages over cotton or synthetics. From socks to base layers to jerseys and gloves, even the wool blends have very good reason to stand out. We'd definitely suggest, at the minimum, wool socks be an essential part of your winter wardrobe. Lets get stuck in to what exactly wool socks give to your cycling experience.
Wool or wool blend socks and glove liners are quite a game changer for those who suffer from cold feet, toes and fingers. It can take years to realise what to do to stave off chilblains, Raynaud's or chilled extremities. If you're new to riding, consider yourself in luck that you found the following reasoning for why you should be wearing wool in the cold months. To note, we also recommend wearing Booties over wool socks because, as we're about to read, wool breathes and dries quickly. This means you avoid sweaty feet to importantly, stay warm and dry
Lets get stuck into the cycling benefits of this incredible but neglected natural fibre.
The best features of wool :
Unlike cotton or most synthetics, wool is a remarkable insulator. If you suffer from chilblains or reynauds wool can keep the cold at bay.
Wool effectively absorbs moisture in abundance — much more than cotton or synthetics. Don't be alarmed because you'll find that wool takes on a third of its weight in moisture before it begins to remotely feel wet. Why? Because at that point, as a natural fibre, it also starts to dry.
Wool retains insulating characteristics, even when wet. That means if your feet get wet, or you ride in the rain, your feet will remain warm. This is especially true if you're wearing a shoe with small or closed vents.
Wool dries significantly faster than either cotton or most synthetics. This drying is in effect what we call wicking. Wicking is necessary for cyclist to remain warm in winter. Wool is an excellent natural wicking material. So, even if you pedal through a stream you'll be dried in less time than other materials.
Wool fibres have natural anti-bacterial properties. This best secret? Wool is odor resistant and more to the point doesn't require obsessive washing with every use... though with socks you may wish to rethink that last point.
In effect we'd highly recommend wool socks to protect your feet, like the ones we chose by Velocio. We've a range of different colours to ensure you can match your kit even in winter. We also have woollen glove liners by Castelli. Best news is that they're sports specific, so the blend is designed to accentuate the wicking properties.
Take a look at our woollen favourites here. If you're worried about looking after your woollen favourites, we leave you with a few tips after years of experience cycling in the worlds best apparel.
Cleaning, maintaining and Storing Wool
- Wool doesn't require washing as regularly as other fabrics. When only used for a light ride, it may be you can air your woollen apparel to wear the next day.
- It's recommended to wash wool apparel on a wool setting (usually gentle action on cold). If your washing machine does not have a wool cycle, use the cold water wash or wash cycle for delicates.
- Using a neutral mild detergent is preferable. We don't recommend fabric softener on any apparel as it can destroy wicking and/or water proofing properties.
- It is recommended that garments are dried flat after washing. However, over the years we've dried socks on the line with no negative consequence.
- Ok, so this isn't a wash instruction but it is a care recommendation. When it comes to socks, keep your toe nails maintained - that means trimmed and filed. Why? Because holes in socks are often created by rubbing toenails.
- Along the lines of the tip number 5... Wash woollens in care bags so to prevent snagging of the weave. This will save your garments from pulls, holes or runs.
- Maintenance - Darning wool isnt as hard as you think. But if finding a needle and thread isn't your idea of fun, visit your local dry cleaner or alterations specialists to employ their skills
- Keep the silverfish and moths at bay. Clean woollen apparel to be stored between seasons. Pace them in sealed plastic bags. Add camphor, mothballs or pest strips to deter pests.