Howies' Classic Vail Merino tee is made from merino wool and it's a good, casual option if you're likely to spend the day both on and off the bike.
There's nothing bikey about the cut of this shirt – Howies don't market it as cycle-specific. It's a pretty standard T-shirt shape, albeit fairly slim through the body – which is useful because it doesn't flap around too much when you're riding.
The real value for two-wheeled types is the fact that it's made from 100% MAPP merino wool (see below for an explanation of MAPP). As you'll doubtless know, merino wool wicks moisture away from your body to keep you feeling comfortable when a cotton T-shirt would just get sticky and never quite dry out.
The other major bonus of merino wool is that it's naturally antibacterial. Synthetic fabrics might shift sweat well but they'll often harbour bacteria and soon start to smell evil. That can be bad news for you, and even worse news for people sitting nearby.
With merino, you don't need an immediate change of clothing after riding a couple of miles. I'm not saying you'll want to do a hard interval session in this shirt and then sit around in it for the rest of the day, but it feels and smells fine after short rides. That means it's handy if you want to head into town for a bit of shopping, for example, or if you head along the towpath for an evening beer... you know, times when you want a little bit of performance but don't want to look like you've just finished a 100-mile epic.
The Classic Vail Merino Tee is available in cyan (blue), flame (yellow/orange) and Kermit (as in 'The Frog'; green) as well as this vintage red. Each colour comes in a plain version without the Howies logo for £45.
Casual merino wool T-shirt that comes into its own on days when you spend time both on and off the bike.
road.cc test report
Make and model: Howies Classic Vail Merino tee
Size tested: Red
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?
Howies say, "Short sleeved Merino wool t-shirt, printed with our Classic logo.
Made from the highest quality MAPP accredited Merino from New Zealand.
Perfect for sport and for after; the Vail wicks moisture, regulates body temperature and it's antibacterial properties keep it smelling fresh.
MAPP is an accreditation scheme where farmers commit to protecting the biodiversity of their land, as well as guaranteeing the welfare of their animals
190g MAPP Merino wool | Made in Fiji"
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
MAPP say, "Merino fibres have a complex structure with a hydrophilic (water holding) interior, known as the cortex and a hydrophobic (water repelling) exterior, known as the cuticle.
"MAPP fabric will absorb perspiration without making you feel damp and uncomfortable, with the added benefit of being naturally shower repellent.
"MAPP Merino fibre buffers the body's microclimate in changing conditions, maintaining comfort. As it absorbs moisture, from a cool, damp environment, the fibres release a small but perceptible amount of heat.
"This heat is known as 'heat of sorption' and is generated via a natural chemical reaction that occurs when the water vapour binds to the chemical structure of the Merino fibre. This acts to prevent the chilling. It is the original 'intelligent' fibre!"
Merino wool is perfect for a casual style shirt that you're likely to wear both on the bike and off it because it deals with sweat well and doesn't easily get smelly.
This is 100% merino wool - there's no synthetic outer layer to add extra durability. There are no pockets so it doesn't get pulled out of shape like some pure wool cycling jerseys do when you carry a lot of baggage.
The merino wool is super-fine. It doesn't feel at all prickly even after several washes.
Merino wool is never especially cheap. You'll do well to get a merino T for under £30 (unless you find something discounted on the internet). 40-odd quid isn't at all unusual.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
You know what you're getting here: it's a basic T-shirt made from merino and it performs accordingly.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The comfort and the fact that you can wear it when you get off the bike without it smelling nasty.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Hmmm, there's nothing to particularly dislike. There are no cycle-specific features - but that's not necessarily a bad thing because you're likely to wear it off the bike too.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? Yes.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes.
About the tester
Age: 41 Height: 190cm Weight: 75kg
I usually ride: My best bike is:
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: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding,
Mat has worked for loads of bike magazines over the past 20 years, and been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. He's been road.cc technical editor for seven years, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a youthful 45-year-old Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a past winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer.