British brand Vulpine has long been an exponent of merino wool. Here it's used a 100 per cent pure merino wool woven into a 180g fabric to make a relatively lightweight long-sleeve jersey. Called the Long Sleeve Merino Alpine Jersey, its name suggests it's designed as a winter warmer for snowy rides. It's not really a heavy deep-winter knit, but it works really well as a layer on colder days, and on its own for warmer autumn/spring rides. It's super-comfortable and has the usual nice detailing that Vulpine is known for.
What we've got here is basically a long-sleeved version of a jersey that Caven reviewed a couple of years ago. Lots of manufacturers use merino wool nowadays, but the majority blend it with other fibres, so this jersey is unusual in being made from pure wool. Vulpine makes no bones about why this is: it reckon it's more comfortable than any blend, and on the evidence here I'd have to say it's right.
I've used high-end merino blend gear from the likes of Giro, Rapha and Ashmei and none of it was as soft as this fabric. So it's full marks for comfort. It's certainly not a thick jersey, but for the weight it offers a decent level of warmth when worn under a jacket – more than you'd get from an equivalent weight manmade fibre, that's for sure. Unlike some modern winter jerseys, there's not a whole lot of wind or rain protection, so you'll need other layers for those sorts of days.
As you might expect, it's not skintight racewear – this is more of a casual jersey. The medium was a comfortable fit on me and per the size chart I could probably get into a small. Sleeve length is ample, with loose, relaxed cuffs which were sometimes a touch draughty and would occasionally move up my forearm if I was going quickly. I'd favour an elasticated cuff to quell this tendency, but this wasn't a major complaint.
There's a full YKK camlock zip with the trademark Vulpine leather pull, in a contrasting grey colour, and at the top is a little merino flap to stop the zip irritating your throat.
With the same goal in mind, Vulpine doesn't use sewn-in labels in its jerseys – the washing info and so on is printed inside the back. Like with the printing on some labels, I'm not sure it'll still be there and legible after 20 washes, but you'll hopefully have committed the essential details to memory by then. Merino is widely reckoned to take longer to get stinky than manmade fibres, and I found I could easily wear it for several days without arousing complaints.
Around the back, the pockets are carried over almost untouched from the short-sleeve version. So there is a tall and relatively narrow pocket on each side, with a shorter, wider zipped pocket in the middle. The left-hand pocket has a button closure, for a touch of style. It also works well to keep a mini pump in place. If I wasn't carrying a pump, I generally just left the button undone; it's possible to open it one-handed while riding, but obviously a bit more fiddly than not having to undo it.
Vulpine is at pains to point out that the stretchiness of the merino means the pockets don't particularly like being loaded too heavily. If you stuff them full to the brim with inner tubes and jelly babies then you'll probably end up sitting on them sooner or later. I had no such issues putting the sort of essentials I usually carry to and from work in there: phone, wallet, keys and so on. Vulpine has sewn tape around the pockets on the inside of the jersey to reinforce them as best as possible and it worked just fine for my carrying needs.
Above the centre pocket is a strip of reflective tape, stitched in place, together with a light loop, suitable for bunging a rear flasher on if you come out of the pub to discover that it's got dark while you were in there. I like it. Further down, the back drops for a classic cycling cut, with a tacky silicone gripper strip inside the bottom hem. Given that the jersey isn't super-tight, it does a decent job of keeping it in place against your shorts.
The yellow colour is pretty nice – brightening up the ever greyer autumn days – but if yellow isn't your thing, there are charcoal grey and petrol blue alternatives. Branding is discreet and classy, as we've come to expect from Vulpine.
There's really a lot to like here – the Alpine jersey is extremely comfortable and I really enjoyed wearing it both on its own and underneath other layers when it was colder or wetter. True, other brands have been making major steps in producing more weather-resistant jerseys, but Vulpine has stuck to what it's good at: using high quality materials and a dash of style to make a lovely jersey. Now I just have to get it back off my wife (and yes there is a women's version available).
Long-sleeved merino loveliness; super-comfortable and with neat details
road.cc test report
Make and model: Vulpine Long Sleeve Merino Alpine Jersey
Size tested: Medium, Yellow
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Vulpine says: "A temperature regulating and odour-resistant jersey for all day riding in chilly temperatures
"The Alpine combines the finest pure merino wool with a full length YKK zip to create a versatile jersey with classic styling, perfect for any ride whether it's a pootle in the park or an Alpine assault, with all the temperature changes that entails. Nothing is as comfortable as pure merino wool. We don't use a blend. That makes for incredible odour resistance (one Trans-America rider notched up 32 days!), unrivalled softness and temperature regulation. Perfect for Spring and Autumn on its own, or as a base under a jacket in Winter."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
100% 180g merino wool
Very nicely made from supersoft pure merino – stitching is super-neat. The usual quota of nice Vulpine details including the leather zip pull and clever pockets.
Works really well on its own or as a mid-layer on colder days.
No suggestion of any areas of concern and it's pleasingly bobble-free after a few goes through the washing.
Pure merino should feel good and this does. It's warmer than I expected given that it's relatively thin. Flat-lock seams help to avoid any irritation.
This is about what decent quality merino costs from the posh brands. Is it a stone-cold bargain? No. Can you buy merino cheaper? Yes. Buy it if you want, go to Aldi if you want a £15 jersey. It really is up to you. (And it's currently discounted to £79.)
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Really good on its own for warmer autumnal/spring days or as a layer for when it's colder. Low bulk and a decent fit mean that it's easy to accommodate under fitted outer layers, and I found it gave a surprising amount of warmth given how lightweight it is.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
High-quality merino – it's what you'd expect at this price and Vulpine doesn't disappoint. I like that you can machine wash it. Good cut and nice detailing, too.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Not a lot, really.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
Vulpine has used really high-quality materials and the results are great – this is a joy to wear.
About the tester
I usually ride: Commuter - something with disc brakes, drop bars and a rack My best bike is: Rose X-Lite CRS
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking
Jez spends his days making robots that drive cars but is happiest when on two wheels. His roots are in mountain biking but he spends more time nowadays on the road, occasionally racing but more often just riding.