The 7Mesh Desperado Merino Henley is a good looking cycling top that can pass, in polite company, for a normal T-shirt. While the loose fit is comfortable on its own, the fabric is noticeably scratchy and slow drying once you put anything over the top – and it's expensive.
7Mesh doesn't actually say whether this a baselayer or a jersey – it just calls it a 'short sleeve'. Nevertheless, the company must assume you'll layer over it during the 'overnighters' and 'multi-day adventures' it says it's for. But the bottom line is: it's not very comfortable when you do.
That's not because of the overlocked seams or general quality of the construction, as those are good. It's not because of the cut or the sizing either, as both are just right – wear this on its own and it's a comfortable loose fit.
I found the neck a bit wide and low, but you may like that, and certainly the plastic poppers that secure it (or not, if you like that Simon Cowell look) are light, simple and comfortable.
The issue is purely the fabric, which is 47 per cent merino, the rest polyester. The fine lines you can see are not just patterning, but thick and thin ridges you can actually feel. Strangely, the material is noticeably softer on the outside than the inside.
To be clear, I never suffered any chafing or even meaningful discomfort from it, but about an hour into any ride I would become aware of it. It just doesn't feel good.
And neither does the dampness. Possibly the Desperado would dry acceptably if worn alone on a warm day, while having it hang loose would cause less itchiness – I can't say, as warm days are clearly fake news – but then again, its performance after washing doesn't suggest anything special.
It gets noticeably wet and stays that way while riding, and leaves the washing machine soggier than the rest of my kit. It takes far longer to dry out, too, which isn't great for overnighters or multi-day adventures – hung up overnight, it's regularly still damp with sweat the next day.
On the upside, it's pretty resistant to picking up smells from any of this, which is always good, and the range of subtle greys and greens suit the style very well.
At £70, the Desperado is something of a stick-up given its performance. The Rapha Merino Baselayer (which David tested in 2018) has a similar look (though a much tighter fit) and is very comfortable for £60. The Ashmei Men's Short Sleeve Baselayer is also quite T-shirty, though again slim, also very comfortable, and £65 (though not currently on Ashmei's site, only the long sleeve for £78), while Howies' Men's Classic Merino Baselayer is super-casual looking and £55 – though long sleeved.
Overall, the Desperado Merino Henley is a well-made, good looking tee that could serve you well on mild, mellow rides with cafe stops. Performance and comfort are below par for anything more taxing, though, while the price is markedly premium.
Stylish and well made casual tee, but the scratchy and slow-drying fabric can get annoying under layers
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road.cc test report
Make and model: 7Mesh Desperado Merino Henley
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product is for
7Mesh says: "Made with a smooth merino wool fabric and a smart, snap-close collar, the Desperado sports a refined, articulated fit that's as understated as its everyday après-bike style."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
53% polyester, 47% Merino Wool Knit
An articulated pattern that works both on and off the bike
Merino wool/polyester blend, stays warm but has a dry feel
It's a comfortable loose fit, though I found the neck a little large.
More expensive than other T-shirty baselayers we've tested; performance is disappointing for £70.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
No issues, though it's slow to dry.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It's best on its own – under layers the scratchy, slow-drying fabric becomes noticeable on long rides.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Scratchy and slow-drying fabric; low neck.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It's up at the top end of the range. The Rapha Brevet Baselayer has a similar look (though a much tighter fit) and is very comfortable for £60. The Ashmei Men's Short Sleeve Baselayer is also quite T-shirty (though again slim), also very comfortable, and £65, while Howies' long sleeve Men's Classic Merino Baselayer is super-casual looking and £55.
Did you enjoy using the product? Not enormously.
Would you consider buying the product? No
Would you recommend the product to a friend? No
Use this box to explain your overall score
This is a well-made and good looking short-sleeve tee, and should be comfortable worn alone on warmer days when the fabric can both sit lightly on your skin and easily air-dry. To get a higher score it would need far greater versatility, especially considering the price, but the fabric is neither soft nor quick-drying enough to work well beneath other layers. Overall performance is consequently average.
About the tester
I usually ride: Vitus Zenium SL VR Disc My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: general fitness riding, mtb,