Review of Three Wool Cycling Jerseys: Ibex, Icebreaker and Swobo
Swobo. I heard good things about these and they were on clearance. The entire line is now discontinued, which means that you can find these jerseys on sale at various online outlet stores. The colour of mine is "tree mud."
Medium-lenght polo-style short sleeves.
The wool is on the thick side. It is much softer than vintage wools, but similarly bulky. This makes the Swobo jersey not the most flattering on female bodies - especially in the tummy and upper arm areas. It is cut with practicality in mind.
The back of the Swobo is long and features two very deep pockets, each large enough to fit things like a camera, wallet, phone, sandwich or apple.
I wore this jersey frequently during our stay on Cape Cod last September, and it is especially good for cooler weather and for cycling in the wind with occasional rain. A durable and practical jersey, but not the most flattering or lightweight fabric.
After the Swobo, I purchased this GT jersey by Icebreaker. I wanted a lighter-weight alternative for warmer weather, and was also hoping for a more flattering fit. The Icebreaker is great on both accounts. This is a "multi-sport" model and I bought the previous season's version, on clearance from an online reseller (forgot which one). The current production model is styled a little differently, but it's same general idea.
The wool fabric is almost gauze-thin and 4% lycra, which makes it stretchy. The result is supremely flattering.
This might be hard to see, but there are panels made of a perforated fabric that run along the back and sides of the jersey. These provide great ventilation and contribute to the flattering styling. The back is quite long, and the stretchiness keeps it from riding up.
Mock turtleneck collar, reflective zipper, perforated panel under the chest, and elongated short sleeves that can be pushed up or pulled down.
The one flaw of the Icebreaker jersey is the pocket. Because it is not a cycling-specific garment per se, the pocket is on the side. This works so-so in a leaned forward position, but is not ideal because whatever you put in it will add more weight to one part of your body than the other and will pull forward. If you're carrying just a credit card, bills, or folded-up directions then it does not matter, but heavier things like keys or a phone may pull uncomfortably on a bike with dropbars.
I wore the Icebreaker jersey a lot at the end of last summer, and am starting to wear it again now that it's getting warmer. With all the perforated vents and the long zipper, it keeps me extremely cool.
My latest wool jersey is from Ibex, received as part of an equal-value trade directly from the manufacturer. Last summer I bought a pair of Ibex wool cycling knickers (shown in all the pictures here) and I love them so much that I was happy to get anything else Ibex makes. The Indie Mountain jersey did not disappoint. It is flattering and lightweight, and while Icebreaker achieves its flattering look via adding lycra for stretch, Ibex does it via careful tailoring.
The elaborate multi-panel construction is almost architectural. It cinches the jersey at the waist, expands it over the chest, and drapes it over the tummy in a way that hides the treacherous folds that can form there.
The elegant Mandarin collar makes the jersey look almost dressy.
The short sleeves are finished so that they are loose around the upper arm, as opposed to cutting into it. This is more flattering than typical cycling jersey sleeve designs, especially for those of us who do not have upper arms of steel.
The one thing I could do without on the Ibex jersey is the cherry blossom/ crane rendering. It's just too girly for me, and I also think that it makes what is otherwise a subtle Asian theme way too explicit. This jersey is beautifully styled; it didn't need cranes and flowers.
The rear pocket is on the small side, but fits my smaller camera and zips up, so no complaints. Overall, this is a versatile jersey good for both warmer and cooler weather, and I've been wearing it more than my other two since I began cycling this season. (Ibex: Could you make just some plain versions without the drawings, please?)
The three jerseys described here are very different from one another, and I think either could be a good choice depending on the cyclist's needs. Several serious local cyclists I know swear by the Swobo jerseys, but I am not in love with the bulkiness. Icebreaker's performance range is paper-thin, flattering, and offers excellent temperature control - but consider a cycling-specific design instead of multi-sport if you don't like the side pocket, and notice that some of the models are made with a touch of lycra. With its impressive tailoring and soft, thin 100% wool fabric, Ibex would be my perfect jersey - were it not for that drawing on the back. Hopefully this was a useful comparison, and I'd love to hear which wool cycling jerseys you've tried and what you thought - especially the ladies, as there seem to be far fewer choices for us in that regard.