The Embers Merino Wing Zip Base Layer is a looker. Available in a variety of colours, it's the wing design that really catches the eye. It's soft, warm and comfortable too.
Embers Merino produce products of a similar quality and functionality to perhaps better known manufacturers such as Icebreaker and Smartwool, but to my mind, their bold graphics and jewel box colours, coupled with their very reasonable prices make them well worth looking at. Plus, they are a British company.
Made from Merino wool sourced from New Zealand (where the best quality Merino all comes from), this top is built to last and yet it's incredibly soft next to the skin, part of what elevates Merino above any other type of wool. At just 205g this top is a base layer which can happily be used as part of a layering system. Or, as the weather gets warmer, it's well suited to being worn with a gilet or alone as a jersey type top when you can really, ahem, spread your wings.
The fit is sleek without being super tight for its size, and there's plenty of length in the body and sleeves. Offset seams mean a rucksack or the like isn't going to make it rub if you're a commuter using it for the work run.
I found it to be extremely comfortable on the bike, keeping my temperature good and stable, no matter how hard I was working. Merino doesn't wick moisture quite as quickly as some synthetics, and it's worth bearing that in mind when using it as a baselayer under a synthetic outer, but it's great at heat management and staying warm even when a sudden cloud burst hits.
It also breathes really well, helping to avoid overheating and sweating in the first place. The zip neck was really great for allowing a bit of extra ventilation as well. The lack of any pockets was not a problem as wearing it with a gilet meant access to pockets was available there. A small zipped pocket somewhere on the side might have made it even more useful for those rare stand alone occasions.
One of the best things I have found using Embers Merino is its endurance. I've had and abused a similar top over some 10 years and although the funky fish pattern on one sleeve has faded and peeled slightly (not much) the top itself is still resolutely going strong and it still doesn't have any hint of an aroma, unlike synthetics of a similar vintage.
In my book, £55 is a bargain for a top that will just keep on being useful all year round for a very long number of years.
Bargain for a good-looking and seriously long lasting performance product, from a British company.
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Make and model: Embers Merino Wing Zip Baselayer
Size tested: Medium - Blue
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?
Aimed at walkers, runners, cyclists and snowsports enthusiasts- anybody active really
Made from New Zealand merino wool
Spot on for any outdoor activity
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
100% New Zealand 195 merino wool (195g per square metre, 18.5 micron)
25cm YKK front zip
Machine Wash 30 in non-bio detergent
Beautiful quality merino, high quality zip.
Superbly breathable, kept the body a steady temperature and felt soft next to the skin.
Not going anywhere in a hurry provided it's washed correctly and not overburdened with antiperspirant residue (bicarb does work well with merino)
Great weight for its warmth and comfort
Extremely comfortable, both next to skin and in terms of its keeping the body at a good temperature throughout a ride
A bargain for a top notch merino top, with pleasing design elements and that will last for years
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Performed very well.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Versatility (can be used for all sorts of activities), longevity, comfort, looks, quality, value
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Nothing. A tiny zipped pocket for a key somewhere would have been nice but not a deal-breaker
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes, very much
Would you consider buying the product? Definitely
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes.
Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?
A versatile and high quality top that will last for years and really delivers on style and comfort.
Age: 42 Height: 1.65m Weight: 73kg
I usually ride: Boardman Hybrid Fi My best bike is: Specialized Ruby Elite
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, sportives, general fitness riding, mtb,
Lara has been riding bikes for longer than she'd care to admit, and writing about them nearly as long. Since 2009 she has been working as part of the road.cc review team whilst championing women's cycling on the side, most notably via two years as editor of the, sadly now defunct, UK's first and only women's cycling mag, erm, Women's Cycling.
Believing fervently that cycling will save the world, she wishes that more people would just ride a bike and be pleasant to each other.
She will ride anything with two wheels, occasionally likes to go fast, definitely likes to go far and is always up for a bit of exploring somewhere new and exciting.