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The 7Mesh Ashlu Merino Jersey is a superbly flexible piece of clothing that can keep you warm on chilly spring mornings, and comfortable through warmer summer days, thanks to a long front zip and UV protection. It comes with a hugely versatile selection of floating rear pockets that can carry all the kit you need for a morning's club run. But there’s no getting away from it, ethically sourced merino wool is expensive.
“Wool when wet is warm!” I can still remember the booming voice of our history teacher, who doubled as the school's Outdoor Pursuits instructor. We were heading to Dartmoor for a weekend expedition and needed to pack the right kit. In the 1980s, that meant a trip to the local Army Surplus store or raiding your dad's wardrobe for cord trousers, checked shirts and old knitted jumpers.
Natural fibres are definitely back in fashion and merino is one of the best materials you can put next to your skin, whether you're climbing, hiking or getting out on your bike. It comes with a great tick list of advantages: it's super-comfortable, performs brilliantly in a range of temperatures and (unlike man-made fibres) you can wear it for days without it starting to smell.
Prepare to be blinded by science... According to Woolmark experts (a shadowy international group, if ever there was one), wool can absorb up to 35% of its own weight so it keeps your skin drier and discourages the build-up of malodorous bacteria. And because of its unique structure, it can also lock away smells and keep bacteria at bay. You can read up more on merino here...
I gave this top its first run out on a 300km ride that saw us heading over the Cotswolds in sleet and icy rain. It was the kind of day when you can register the look of pity and bemusement on the faces of drivers as they tear past, sending torrents of standing water in your direction.
On a long day in the saddle, I like to have something under the straps of my bib shorts in case I need to strip off for a trip to the loo (too much information?). So I put the Ashlu right next to my skin under a short-sleeved club jersey and lightweight raincoat. And within an hour or two of hard pedalling, this top had already soaked out. But – true to the words of my old history teacher – wool really does keep you warm when wet. So I stayed surprisingly comfortable all day, even though this top was at times wringing wet.
The sun did break through later in the day, and I took off my waterproof, rolled up sleeves of the Ashlu and pulled the full-length zip as far as I could through the layers of clothing. That sent an icy blast of air all the way to my belly button and kept me pedalling at a comfortable temperature, until we were hit with another bout of sleet and the layers went back on.
I've got two quibbles with this top that I need to get out of the way. Firstly: I'm no fan of the colour. The company calls it cinnamon, but it reminds me of a fawn roll neck I was forced to wear in the 70s. If I was given a choice, I'd opt for the rather striking Bottle Blue. Secondly: when you roll the sleeves down again, they do feel rather baggy. Wool can stretch out of shape and I'd like to see sufficient elastic here to ensure that when you roll them back they stay firmly in place.
There is a grippy elasticated section at the rear to prevent the jersey from riding up your back. This works well and is pretty standard on most cycling tops. I think it would be an easy addition on the wrists cuffs as well.
In my highly scientific test (over 700km of riding with no wash), I am pleased to report that this top remained remarkably stink free. And for me that puts it at the top of my packing list for any multi-day routes: especially on rides that promise hot days and long chilly nights.
There's no doubt this is a super comfortable jersey, but another key selling point is the impressive rear pocket array. 7Mesh call it the 'Anything Pocket' because it really will take almost anything. It is built from a separate floating panel of stretchy material that doesn't pull the main jersey out of shape. It's a little like having a bumbag sewn onto your top and it works remarkably well.
There are five pockets in total. Three external pockets allow you to stash and easily access a phone, wallet, or gilet while you are riding. The zippered pockets come in two different sizes. There's a smaller one to the right that will take tyre levers, an Allen key and inner tube. The larger one on the left will take an OS Map and a few snacks. It even features a sewn hole so that a set of headphones can be threaded through a corresponding hole in the main jersey and into your ears.
I'm not a big fan of carrying loads of kit in rear pockets, but if, like me, you are constantly convinced you left your wallet/phone/sense of humour at the last pitstop, then these pockets do offer a great way to organise and secure your most valuable bits of kit.
The pockets are a really good feature, but I reckon there's a very narrow weather window that would see this top being used as an outer layer. For the most part, I think they'll be unused under a gilet or jacket.
7Mesh is based north of the tech-city of Vancouver and to the south of Whistler, with some of the best riding that Canada has to offer right on its doorstep. I was a bit sniffy about its packaging when I first opened it. It's covered with phrases that could have been generated by a Chat GPT: 'All about two wheels. Any two wheels', etc.
But head to the company's website and you get a sense of a company that really does care about its environmental impact. Merino itself has some genuine environmental benefits.
The name '7Mesh' is a mark of respect to the Squamish Nation – one of Canada's indigenous peoples – and the company sets out to challenge Canada's history of colonialism. There's no reason any of that should influence your buying decision, but it really does seem to have its heart in the right place.
I am a big fan of merino wool and over 20 years of reviewing outdoor kit, I have tested a wardrobe's worth of base layers, jumpers, leggings, underpants and technical T-shirts. A lot of that collection has been eaten by moths – and you do need to watch out for this. I also left my favourite merino cycling top on a gatepost just south of the Lake District on a ride from Scotland back to Bristol last summer (reward offered for any information that can lead to its return).
This jersey has just returned from a 400km ride to York where it kept me warm and incredibly comfortable right through a very chilly night. It is going to be top of my packing list for a series of big rides this summer and I have no doubt it will give me years of great service.
But there is no getting away from that price tag, and I’m not sure I would be able to justify buying this for myself. I used to use lots of Icebreaker and Smartwool kit and a simple T-shirt there costs £80. The Ashlu's merino is wonderful, but I ended up wearing it over a synthetic base-layer, so I was still pretty ‘fragrant’ on the train ride home. And while the pocket design is really impressive, I still haven’t used it to its full potential, because it was always tucked away under a waterproof or gilet.
There are plenty of other merino jerseys out there. You can check out the Vulpine range, which offers slightly more urban chic, and its Alpine Jersey is currently on offer at £91.
Torm's T18 Jersey is slightly more expensive but comes with reflective detailing and will probably take you further into the winter months. It does however contain a lower merino content in its sports wool mix.
Or if you are looking for a real bargain you could check out the Triban Long-Sleeved Merino Wool Bike Touring Jersey that scored well when Simon reviewed it, and that is currently available from Decathlon at £59.99.
Super-comfortable merino top that is definitely worth a look. It is well featured, will give you years of service and comes from a sound ethical company.
Super-comfortable jersey that benefits from merino anti-microbial properties and features hugely versatile rear pockets
If you're thinking of buying this product using a cashback deal why not use the road.cc Top Cashback page and get some top cashback while helping to support your favourite independent cycling website
road.cc test report
Make and model: 7Mesh Mens Ashlu Merino Jersey
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product is for
Perfect for multi-day rides and longer days in the saddle through a range of conditions.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Really neat rear pocket array that can carry a surprising amount.
Feels really well made and the stretch fabric on the pockets is exceptionally well designed
Works brilliantly in a range of conditions and kept me consistently warm and comfortable
My experience of merino products is that they need extra care to prevent them getting munched by moths.
Comfortable fit but would have liked a bit of elastic on the cuffs
This is a relatively lightweight top and that means it tends towards being a base-layer.
Superbly comfortable and a brilliant jersey to have next to your skin.
There's no getting away from the price, but ethically sourced merino wool is always going to be expensive.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
I've used this product for a few months and found it easy to care for.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
I appreciated this jersey most in the middle of the night when the temperature dropped and I needed to stay warm. It performed brilliantly.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Its anti-microbial properties means it is ideal for multi-day trips.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Merino wool is ethically sourced and for that reason alone it compares exceptionally well with similarly sourced products.
Did you enjoy using the product? Loved it and will be top of my kit list for summer trips.
Would you consider buying the product? No – but solely because of the price.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? No – that price again.
About the tester
I usually ride: Specialised Langster (fixed commuter) My best bike is: Condor Fratello (new – Audax rides)
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: commuting, touring, club rides, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, Audax