When you pull on this Road Rags Smithfield jersey you realise that the merino wool this relatively new British company Road Rags use for this garment is a little bit more special than what a lot of the other merino labelled togs out there use.
This top really does show off the luxurious qualities of the magic wool. It is very soft to the touch, with a springy, bouncy feel. Road Rags merino uses the very fine fibres of the wool (18.9 microns compared to approx 100 microns which is about average for a human hair) which makes the woven material the most comfortable, non irritating thing you could put next to your skin.
Regardless of its softness, the wool doesn't bobble and it is remarkable robust when it comes to getting it washed, just bung it in with all the other kit on a 40 degree wash and it doesn't crease so won't require an iron too.
Merino really is the wonder stuff of natural fabrics with all its qualities lending themselves perfectly to cycling; it wicks sweat and dries quickly, it keeps you warm but without cooking you in hot weather and as an added bonus it doesn't pong after one ride. If I could afford it I would have all of my undergarments made of merino.
This jersey is a little different than most others out there, it has been thoughtfully designed to keep the chill - caused from the cold air that channels up your sleeves and the draft that blows down your neck - out. It has a roll neck that can be pulled up over the face like a balaclava, with a similar effect to wearing a snood and the sleeves are about 6 inches longer with a hole for your thumb to poke through (if you want).
The long sleeve can be tucked in under your gloves and with your thumb poked through, helps to keep it in place and stop riding up your arm. I found it a little uncomfortable riding with my thumb in the hole as it was beginning to cut of the circulation to my thumbs! I was probably being a wuss but I preferred not to stick my thumbs in.
The fit of the jersey is slim and figure hugging and the raglan sleeves give it good form around your shoulders and along with the natural elastic ability of the material it doesn't restrict your movement what so ever. The merino fibres are like tiny coiled springs that stretch with the movement of your body then return to their original shape. Size wise, get what you would wear for a T-shirt. Unusually, for a cycling top, it hasn't any pockets so if you are wearing it as an outerlayer along with your Lycra bottoms you will need a pouch to stash your business in.
The dark grey colour is very slimming which helps it look less like you are wearing something borrowed from your younger sibling or that has shrunk in the wash. It works both as an under layer or as your main jersey.
Style wise, roll necks have been trying to make a come back recently so you aren't going to get laughed out of the pub for wearing this, although the only celebrities I can think of who famously wore them are Steve Jobs and Val Doonican. My reservation on the aesthetic of the garment was having the Road Rags logo embroidered on the front. I think the top is identifiable enough without the need for such a badge or I would prefer if it was maybe the same colour as the wool rather than contrasting, to make it more subtle - but that is just my personal opinion.
Wearing the Smithfield gives you instant comfort which you only truly appreciate when you are not wearing it. It is like getting used to having central heating then reverting back to a stove, you get very familiar with the luxury of being warm. This gives you a problem though, you need another one!
Luckily it dries fast out of the wash and because it doesn't harbour nasty smells it can be worn quite safely for a couple of rides.. A perforated weave under the armpits help moderate the climate under your arms to further alleviate. This product has been tested over winter in very cold weather and has been of great comfort - keeping your neck warm really does make a difference especially when you stop for a break whilst out for a ride. It make be a little too warm for sunny days, I can imagine the neck collar acting like a chimney and my glasses being permanently misted up from the steam bellowing out from my body furnace!
At £115 it isn't cheap but this quality of merino wool doesn't come cheap and for something manufactured in the UK in such small numbers it is actually a pretty decent price if you can afford it. An item like this is incredibly versatile and can pretty much be worn for most of the year in this country. Great for winter rides or summer night rides and early commutes.
Superb merino jersey keeping you warm in the cold and cool in the heat my only minor gripe is the logo on the chest, but that's me…
road.cc test report
Make and model: Road Rags Smithfield
Size tested: Medium
Aimed to keep the chill off cyclists. Offers all the benefits of merino and the Long cuffs and neck collar stop the wind from biting you.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
18.9 micron merino wool, with 7% bilarex mix to add a little stretch, manufactured in a seamless nature so no rubbing seams. The underarms perforated for temperature control.
Excellent construction, excellent quality of material.
Maximises all the performance attributes of merino. Double thick collar and sleeves and back make sure you have a comfort zone to be comfortable in. Perforated weave under the armpits help moderate the climate under your arms.
It can be washed at 40% without any apparent harm. I am a man and it goes in the wash with everything else. Perfect.
Thicker than most of the merino base layers, about the same as a T-shirt.
A roll neck might not be to everyone's taste but ooooh, the cosy-ness of it when the cold tries to bite your neck like a frozen vampire is priceless.
Quality merino, British manufacturing and small, limited quantities = high prices
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It is amazing how much heat gets lost from around your neck. It may perform a little too well in hotter climates and be a touch on the warm side.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The quality of the wool and the comfort it gives.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
I wasn't keen on the embroidered logo on the front and I didn't get on with poking my thumbs through the cuff holes. Very minor/pathetic niggles.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes, and I still am.
Would you consider buying the product? I definitely would if it didn't have the logo on the chest or it was more subtly.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Most definitely.
Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?
It is like putting on a comfort blanket. If you're not bothered about the logo it's a 9
About the tester
Age: 40 Height: 179 Weight: 79
I usually ride: Bike that I am testing at the time My best bike is: Condor Pista fixed. Kinesis Convert 2 geared work horse, Look KG241 skinny whippet
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed, bare back