Merlin's Core Long Sleeve Cycle Jersey is intended for early season and autumn riding, and for me at least it hits the spot just nicely. Available in timeless black, blue or red, it's a snug rather than second skin fit, which is extremely flattering to those lumpy bits we're all secretly self-conscious about, yet still compatible with winter-weight baselayers.
Core is the brand's entry-level in-house clothing range, aimed at 'new riders, leisure riders and commuters', whereas the Sport and Elite ranges offer racier cuts and more sophisticated fabrics.
Typical of this price point, we're talking 100 per cent polyester but a very tactile blend, accentuated by the thin-pile fleece lining. Sizing is impressive, literally feeling bespoke for my 181cm, 70kg frame – even the sleeves – and it's worth noting I'm much broader across the shoulders than these measurements would imply. (And in case you're wondering, it's not me in the pictures.)
The sleeves feature fitted cuffs to keep chills from being scooped inside, while silicone grippers at the hem ensure excellent tenure, even against super-slippery sparkly bib longs.
Round the back Merlin has gone the traditional three open pocket terrace, with subtle but very effective reflective detailing. By contemporary standards these are relatively shallow and we're coming to expect a zippered side stash for coins and other valuables, so I was mildly disappointed by its omission. That said, they comfortably swallow a micro jacket, bananas, energy bars, keys and a smaller smartphone.
Paired with higher-end synthetic and merino baselayers, the tog weight and wicking have been surprisingly effective throughout a very chilly March. I'm fond of thermal types, especially in single figures, but these can lead to clamminess under sustained effort, especially on spirited commutes with messenger bags/rucksacks in tow. The Merlin has kept me genuinely temperate on days of 3-12°C and the full-length zipper allows relatively easy regulation of airflow, although the tag proved trickier than some when wearing thick winter weight gloves.
I've got away with neck tubes/buffs when icy blasts have suddenly struck on 25-mile loops but a wind/water repelling micro jacket is a must for longer hauls, or if wet stuff is factored into the equation. Without a shell I was quite damp within 10 minutes of a sharp shower, and though I was almost dry again within 20, I was running the cold gauntlet.
Very minor personal niggles aside, the Core represents fantastic value for money and does everything I would want of an early/end of season jersey.
Nicely tailored and well-executed training jersey at a seriously appealing price
road.cc test report
Make and model: Merlin Core Long Sleeved Cycling Jersey
Size tested: Large, 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?
Merlin says: "An ideal layer to have throughout autumn and into spring. A warm and wicking long sleeve jersey with a super comfy brushed fleece inner. Helps you to keep the chills away without overheating or being too bulky.
"Available in goes-with-everything black, bright-and-bold red or sedate-yet-stylish dark blue."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
* Technical wicking and warm polyester fabric.
* Full length zip.
* Fitted cuffs.
* Elasticated waist with silicon gripper.
* Three classic rear pockets.
* Shaped arms and dropped tail for perfect on-bike fit.
* Reflective logos and rear pocket detailing.
Well made and nicely tailored.
Seems to wear and wash well.
Snug, yet forgiving of our imperfections/insecurities.
About right for an early/late season jersey.
Great cut and fit, and seems to wick more efficiently than other bargain jerseys.
Seriously good value for money.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Simple tried and tested polyester construction means it can be popped in with the regular wash load, comes up clean and dries quickly.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Overall, this is one of those budget garments that fits the design brief handsomely in every way. Thin enough for autumn, warm enough for the early season thanks to a thin pile fleece, the sturdy polyester offers decent protection while wicking rider-generated heat very efficiently between 3 and 12°C. Fit and detailing, save perhaps for a zippered valuables pocket, puts some polyester training tops with much loftier price tags to shame.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Fit, detailing, colour and performance.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Nothing, though being picky, a zippered pocket would be nice.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Definitely
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
A superbly executed, wallet-friendly jersey that sets a new standard for budget training attire. There are some limitations in terms of wicking speed where polyesters are concerned and though performance isn't necessarily better than those twice the asking price, it is very close – hence my overall score.
About the tester
I usually ride: Rough stuff tourer based around 4130 Univega mountain bike frameset My best bike is: 1955 Holdsworth Road Path and several others including cross & traditional road
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking
Shaun Audane is a freelance writer/product tester with over twenty-eight years riding experience, the last twelve (120,000 miles) spent putting bikes and kit through their paces for a variety of publications. Previous generations of his family worked at manufacturing's sharp end, thus Shaun can weld, has a sound understanding of frame building practice and a preference for steel or titanium framesets.
Citing Richard Ballantine and an Au pair as his earliest cycling influences, he is presently writing a cycling book with particular focus upon women, families and disabled audiences (Having been a registered care manager and coached children at Herne Hill Velodrome in earlier careers)