When I came across the Wabi Woolens range of cycling kit, the concept of “wabi sabi” was a new one on me – it’s a particular Japanese approach to aesthetics which is tricky to define.
As Harth Huffman of Wabi Woolens explains: “It includes the beauty of things that are modest, humble and unconventional. The characteristics of wabi sabi include details that are simple, fresh and unpretentious, while incorporating a sense of rustic beauty.”
Wabi Woolens cycling kit takes this approach as something of a guiding principle. As you’d expect, they are all about the wool – merino, to be specific, long agreed to be effective for all kinds of cycling.
There are lots of seriously impressive technical materials out there, but I’ve always liked wool in colder conditions. And colder conditions are exactly what this Winter Weight Jersey is all about.
Size wise, Wabi are unusual in that they offer ‘tall’ versions of their jerseys; so, for example, their size Large comes in standard or tall.
I found Wabi owner Harth Huffman to be super-helpful with this. He was so keen to get my sizing right that he had me measure myself and e-mail across the details; a process which was well worth it, as the jersey fits beautifully.
It’s slim, and racier than I expected from a winter jersey, but the cut prevents any feeling of restriction. In the riding position it’s snug but doesn’t pull too tight anywhere; around the shoulders, back, and neck, it just fits.
The wool really feels like wool, if you know what I mean?
This might not be to everyone’s taste but if you want wool, you get it; not a mix, or a blend, but wool.
The pre-washing ‘felts’ it to some degree so the knit feels close and protective, and adds a decent level of wind protection. It’s not a true windproof, but it keeps a fair bit of breeze out. It also does a really good job of trapping body heat and keeping you warm.
I have worn it down to 5 or 6 degrees Celcius with a single long sleeved thermal layer underneath, and in almost freezing conditions with an extra windproof over the top, with no problems. Because of the weight and heft of it it has some of the warmth of a jacket, whilst keeping the flexibility and movement of a jersey.
It also works on milder winter days – perhaps with just a short sleeved layer underneath – meaning you can ride fairly light.
Style wise, it’s on the understated side of understated.
Following the wabi sabi aesthetic the words “simple”, “unpretentious”, and “rustic” would certainly apply to this jersey. There are no overt design flourishes, and it features fairly traditional cuffs, collar, and standard rear pockets – with an extra zip pocket for valuables.
Every aspect of Wabi Woolens has the feel of honesty and integrity, from the website and the thoughtfully written wool care instruction in the package, to the personal contact and service, and the obvious quality of the product.
It might not catch the eye from a distance but close up it reveals what it’s all about.
If you like to cycle wearing wool this is an understated, practical, sure-to-be long lasting piece of kit, to reach for year after year.