Let’s talk about Merino. It’s the natural fabric that we're all obsessed with... and for good reason! But why? What is it about Merino?
Merino wool comes from merino sheep, which can mainly be found in the mountainous regions of Australia and New Zealand. Here, during the summer months temperatures can reach in the region of 35ºC, plummetting to -10ºC in winter. Merino wool fibres have highly complex physical and chemical compositions that have evolved to protect sheep from such temperature extremes and it is this that lends it so well as a performance fabric.
The complex chemical and physical structure of a Merino wool fibre is what allows it to have so many natural benefits
Merino wool is an active fibre designed by nature to maintain a stable body temperature for the sheep, despite the changing conditions they may be subjected to. This is managed by a process called ‘heat of sorption’ which is about the gain or release of heat, determined by the relative external humidity / moisture content of the fibre.
In the winter, Merino wool absorbs moisture from the atmosphere, causing the release of heat via a natural chemical process, which warms the sheep. At the same time, the natural crimp of the Merino wool fibres traps this heat in air pockets, which acts as natural insulation by keeping the warm air next to the skin. This layer of non-moving air is the best possible form of insulation!
In the summer during hot weather, the wool releases moisture and in doing so absorbs heat from the sheep. The natural crimp of the Merino wool fibres trap cool air in air pockets, keeping the sheep cool despite the hot summer conditions.
The result of using Merino wool fabric in winter cycling clothing… An ideal temperature is achieved, the cyclist remains warm even in incredibly cold conditions.
One form of human thermo regulation is perspiration, where the body produces sweat in order to cool itself down. During activity, the process of perspiration is more or less effective depending on the clothes we wear.
The chemical composition of Merino fibres make them hydrophobic but also hydrophilic. This means the wool is able to attract moisture from the skin before it turns to sweat and transfer it to the surface of the fabric to be evaporated. The fibres are able to absorb around 30% of their weight in water without feeling damp.
The result of using Merino wool fabric in winter cycling clothing… An incredibly breathable garment, which means reduced dampness and the cyclist is prevented from chilling.
Wool can be uncomfortably scratchy, so how is it then that Merino products are so soft? When it comes to that cosy, luxurious feeling of a fabric against your skin, it is all about fibre diameter and elasticity. Merino fibres are fine (in varying degrees) and bendy, so much so that they do not irritate the skin and therefore feel very soft and comfortable to touch.
For our winter Merino products, we have sourced wool from specifically bred Merino sheep in Australia. At 16.5 microns, the wool fibres are incredibly fine (an average human hair is about 70 microns).
The result of using (incredibly fine) Merino wool fabric in winter cycling clothing… garments that are very soft and comfortable to touch, with zero scratchiness.
Resistance to odour
As previously mentioned, one of the body’s natural cooling systems is perspiration, which if left long enough can lead to bacterial growth and body odour. Merino wool has a strong resistance to odour for several reasons. Firstly, wool fibres contain lanolin (from Latin: lāna 'wool', and oleum ‘oil') which has natural antimicrobial properties. Secondly, wool fibres are able to absorb and trap odour molecules. Also, the moisture management capabilities of wool make it more of a dry environment, which is not the condition bacteria require in order to thrive.
The result of using Merino wool fabric in winter cycling clothing… Garments are mostly odour free and require less frequent washing in order to remain so.
Elasticity and durability
We only use high quality fabrics to make our clothing because it gives us and our customers confidence in that the product will feel great when worn and that it's been built to last. Merino performs excellently in both of those areas, naturally!
The complex chemical and physical composition of Merino fibres gives the wool considerable extension and spring-like properites. This means it's highly flexible and can be well used, time and time again, without the fibres breaking.
The result of using Merino wool fabric in winter cycling clothing… Garments are highly flexible for freedom of movement and can be well used, time and time again, without becoming damaged.
Last, but by no means least!
The natural properties of Merino wool also mean that it is a sustainable, renewable, biodegradable and recycleable fabric.
Explore our range of winter performance Merino products:
Merino Bib Shorts
Merino Base Layer
Designed to keep you warm, dry and comfortabe, even when the temperature plummets to -5ºC. Thanks to nature!
1, 2 and 3: Getty Images
4, 5 and 6: Sean Hardy Photography
7 and 8: Benedict Campbell Photography