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Good scores are more common than bad, because fortunately good products are more common than bad.
The Triban Long-Sleeved Merino Wool Bike Touring Jersey from French sports giant Decathlon represents incredible value for money, harnessing all the qualities of the famous fine sheepswool and looking chic both on and off the bike.
Packing for a multi-day cycle tour focuses the mind like nothing else. The knowledge that you have to lug everything with you up all the hills forces you to think very carefully about every single item. Do you really need that pair of pants or can you 'go commando' in the evening? Should you wear flip-flops? Saw the handle off your toothbrush?
A single, reliable, super-versatile jersey that with some canny layering can be worn every day in all conditions takes out a lot of cycling kit-related guesswork. One that can all do that and double up as a pub jumper is priceless. The Triban merino jersey is one of those.
The simple, solid burgundy colour with subtle black trim (also available in navy blue with orange trim) disguises what is a sophisticated and feature-packed construction: the 49% merino/51% acrylic main fabric is stitched into panels separated by breathable zones down the centre of the back and under the arms. Here a mesh fabric is deployed. The quilted shoulders incorporate an extra layer of fabric for windproofing, since merino on its own is not windproof.
The photos show the locations of the reflective strips – always good to have and these ones didn't crack or peel after the first wash.
There are the three standard pockets at the rear plus an extra side one to the left.
A large single mesh pocket covers them, providing extra carrying capacity if a rain jacket needs to be stowed on the fly.
There's also a two-in-one zipped breast pocket that I found useful for sticking the Garmin in while juggling the rest of the luggage at the end of each day.
Based on our medium sample, the sizing is accurate. The fit is relaxed, as you'd expect for touring, but although great for standing upright with hands by your sides it doesn't work quite as well in the cycling position, with the sleeves riding up slightly (my arms are slightly longer than the model's in the photos) especially with a close-fitting gilet pulling them up into the armpits.
The collar has a decent height and when zipped up fully is comfortable against the neck thanks to a well placed 'zip garage'.
Although there's a silicone gripper at the rear, it's not enough to stop the jersey sagging when the pockets are loaded, something that wouldn't be an issue if the back was cut slightly shorter.
At 10 or 11°C with a summer-weight baselayer underneath, the Triban performed faultlessly. The merino traps enough heat to keep you warm for slower riding, but for potentially sweaty hill slogs heat escapes easily through the breathable fibre itself as well as through the mesh zones.
Talking of sweat, the Triban didn't get at all whiffy in three very big days of Welsh riding. A fresh baselayer each morning – touring best practice – absorbed odours and the merino stayed impressively pong free.
Merino is not waterproof so a good rain shell is essential at the first drop of the wet stuff. Our Welsh tour featured biblical rainstorms throughout the first day, so the Triban operated underneath an Assos Equipe RS for much of that. My only criticism was that once the Triban's cuffs got wet – and the Assos jacket's raw-cut rather than elasticated cuffs must surely take some of the blame for this – they took a very long time to dry out.
In the pub that evening they were still wet, but my touring companions' verdict was that the Triban was otherwise so good for the price that this – along with any other minor criticism – was looking a gift horse in the mouth.
The Triban at £49.99 offers astounding value for money. It is firmly in Rapha territory in style, and stands its ground in terms of features and performance, and smashes it on price: the Rapha Classic Long Sleeve II is now £125 (£120 when we reviewed it in 2017).
The Morvelo Merino Pimento is even more expensive at £130. I can't imagine you'll find a merino long-sleeve jersey with this level of performance for less.
For a multi-day tour when you need one jersey to rule them all – including in the pub in the evening – the Triban is it
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Triban Long-Sleeved Merino Wool Bike Touring Jersey
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product is for
Decathlon says: "We've designed this jacket for your long rides or for rides lasting a few days in cool weather. Keep your body at the right temperature with this comfortable merino jersey. The mesh back pocket helps increase the storage capacity."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
The main fabric is made up of 49% wool, 30% polyester and 21% acrylic. The Triban jersey is machine washable at 30° but cannot be tumble dried or dry cleaned. For 'stock advice', Triban recommends keeping it folded in your wardrobe (rather than hanging on a coat hanger). It comes with a two-year guarantee.
The Triban is made in China and the complicated stitching is very well executed.
For touring in autumn or spring this jersey ticks all the boxes. On a typical dry autumn day the merino is warm enough to be worn directly over a baselayer. Underneath a rain shell it insulates well. And crucially for a multi-day tour it doesn't get smelly.
I can't comment on long-term durability yet, but in the short term it has emerged from a three-day tour and subsequent wash cycle looking as good as new.
The size medium fitted well in a relaxed, touring kind of way when I was standing up straight with my arms by my sides. However, in the bike position the sleeves were a little short, especially with a gilet over the top that fitted closely under the arms. I would also have liked a slightly shorter rear to compensate for the inevitable sag when merino pockets are loaded up.
Overall sizing is about right.
This is not a lightweight technical softshell, nor does it try to be.
Soft and very comfortable with just a short-sleeved baselayer underneath, which was my default dry-weather touring setup.
My touring companions were very impressed by the Triban and thought virtually any criticism – such as that the cuffs took a long time to dry out – was unjustified given the price.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Probably because the jersey is only 49% merino it didn't shrink in the wash, keeping its size, shape and stretchiness perfectly. The reflective elements, which are often the first casualty of a machine wash, have not cracked or come unstuck either.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Decathlon describes it as a 'road cycling bike touring jersey'. For a traditional autumn or spring credit card tour as opposed to a bikepacking adventure it is excellent. Merino can't be beaten for its temperature-regulating properties and at this time of year all you need is a baselayer underneath and to have a packable rain shell at the ready since merino is not waterproof.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
If you're travelling light and don't want to take a separate 'civvy' garment it's understated enough to be worn in the pub in the evening. A true touring secret weapon.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The sleeves were a little short and the body a little long on me, but on someone with shorter arms and a longer body that might not be an issue.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
The price is very competitive. Other brands struggle to bring similar jerseys in under £100. The Lusso Merino Long Sleeve Jersey is £99, while the Morvelo Merino Pimento Jersey is £130.
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 overall score
It's very, very cheap for a merino jersey – even if it is 49% merino – which made me suspicious at first, but it does come with a two-year guarantee as proof that it's not throwaway fast fashion, and having used it as my sole jersey on a three-day cycle tour I am convinced it is worth a 9, just dropping a mark because I felt the fit could be more cycling-specific.
About the tester
I usually ride: Racer Rosa custom alu My best bike is: Colnago Master Olympic
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, touring, club rides, sportives, school run on a tandem