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The ashmei Women's Cycle Croix De Fer Jersey is a thoughtfully designed, stylish and versatile top that offers excellent protection in cool conditions without making you overheat as things warm up. It might be a significant investment, but it will serve you well through at least three out of four seasons.
I tested a medium; according to ashmei's size guide I sit exactly between a small and a medium. The fit is best described as relaxed (it's not me in the photos). If you want something tighter, I'd say size down. There's plenty of length in the body, especially in the tail. You can pull this right down over your bum; it won't stay there, but that gives you an idea of just how generous it is.
In the recent warm weather, when I took to wearing it without a baselayer, the looser fit was much appreciated to help with airflow.
The fabric is exceptionally soft against the skin, and doesn't cling or compress in any way. Its suppleness hasn't deteriorated with wash and wear, either.
There are small, silicone tabs right round the elasticated hem that do a decent job of stopping the jersey from swinging round, and although the sleeves don't have grippers I didn't miss them – the stretch of the fabric holds them perfectly in place.
Testing has been in a whole range of temperatures. ashmei says its optimal range is 8-30°C – I'd say that's a little ambitious without additional kit at the lower end, and too high at the upper, though not so much of a problem if most of your riding is UK-based.
If you have a decent set of arm warmers and aren't a cold soul, you can team it with a good baselayer for temperatures down to around 10°C, I'd say. It's an exceptionally thin fabric, but don't be fooled – the merino content does a great job at keeping you warm. I was thoroughly impressed with it in lower temperatures.
Up around 20 degrees and it's unlikely you'll need a supporting baselayer. It's an ideal one to pull on for a cool, early start when you know that the mercury will rise throughout the day, though I wouldn't want to use it in anything above 25°C.
While the jersey is definitely best for steady-paced riding – think long, lazy days in the saddle – it's not to be knocked in terms of performance if you work up a sweat with more intense riding. Interwoven into the merino is a carbon fibre to help improve wicking properties. It's not as quick-drying as a top-end, race-orientated jersey, but it's outright the fastest drying merino jersey I have ever worn. The times it did become damp (invariably, the rear panel that didn't get as much airflow) I never felt cold; the wool content was clearly doing its job.
Additional features have been considerately and practically designed. ashmei has used an enlarged zipper that's easy to locate and use. The zipper garage is made from alcantara – a soft, suede-like fabric that, if you choose to fully zip up on cooler rides, feels great against the skin. Collar height is spot on, too.
There's a small tab on the rear of the collar to thread a headphone cable through if you choose to use them while riding.
The three rear pockets are very generous and the middle one has a loop to hold a mini-pump in place.
While I found the pockets a touch too high, they weren't completely out of reach. This tiny niggle was cancelled out by the fact that everything goes into and comes out of the pockets with ease. Some tight Lycra pockets can cling to contents and be awkward to access; the generous openings and non-clingy fabric mean that there's none of this here.
The zipped (again, enlarged zipper) pocket for valuables could do with having a wider opening, but I've come across smaller ones.
The crosses on the front and rear, echoing the theme of the jersey's name, are reflective. There's also a very narrow strip of reflective material around the base hem. Another nice little detail, though it serves no practical purpose, is the Croix de Fer's location featured on the rear pocket.
ashmei includes a hook too, which comes in handy if you plan to exploit the no-stink property of merino and get several wears out of it before washing.
Care of merino can be a bit of a faff. I'm always sceptical about products using it; I've had some that look excessively worn in no time despite following washing instructions carefully.
I followed ashmei's advice of hand washing after the first use, then inside out on a cool cycle thereafter – not too faffy, to be honest. It looks as good as new after four weeks of pretty much daily use.
The bonus with merino is that it doesn't need to be washed as often – it simply doesn't get the odour build-up that most synthetics do. The Croix de Fer is no exception; you can get several wears out of it before chucking it in the laundry.
The washing instructions are printed straight onto the jersey so there are no unnecessary, potentially irritating labels. ashmei claims to responsibly source its merino and I, for one, find it encouraging to know that it's trying to minimise the environmental impact of manufacturing, as well as considering the longevity of its products and what happens to them at the end of their life.
All this fabric technology and carefully considered design comes at a cost: it's one of the most expensive women's merino jerseys on the market, even when compared with small British companies' similar tops (though its Classic designs are £10 less than the Croix De Fer, at £116).
Hommage Au Velo's Burton jersey, for example – I can't comment on fit, but Ashley had one of its men's merino tops on test and loved it – and it has an RRP considerably lower than ashmei's Croix de Fer.
Lusso's Merino Plum jersey got a thumbs-up from Sarah, though its lower wool content (35%) may mean it's not as warm as ashmei's, but again it's significantly cheaper at £69.99.
Torm's TL7 has an even lower RRP of £66 (39% merino), though I can't comment on fit or performance.
To my mind, the fabric choice and carefully considered design of the Croix de Fer is hard to beat. It's an absolutely perfect jersey for long rides in changeable temperatures when keeping warm without overheating is a priority. Sadly, the price tag is likely to put many off; quality comes at a cost.
Outstanding performance, thoughtful design, exceptional comfort... but expensive
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road.cc test report
Make and model: ashmei Women's Cycle Croix De Fer Jersey
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product is for
ashmei tells us: 'Designed for changeable alpine conditions, descents and as a first barrier against unexpected showers, this is our new short sleeve silhouette finished with an iron cross reflective graphic in honour of one of the most celebrated legends of the Tour De France.
"Available this summer in an exclusive teal colour. The Croix de Fer itself is an icon of the Tour, having featured 19 times since 1947. Graphically represented at the front of the Jersey, a repeating series of Croix de Fer icons form the front chest as well as the signature rear stripe, while the coordinates are also marked subtly on the rear pocket.
"Our high-performance fabric is second to none in terms of regulating body temperature. On a practical front, three rear stowage pockets plus a zipped security pocket provide ample storage needs."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
*Highly breathable, wind-resistant fabric
*Reflective chest and rear stripe print
*Reflective hem binding with silicon gripper
*Three rear stuff pockets with pump pocket
*Alcantara zip guard
*Blended MERINO + CARBON fabric- 65% Merino Wool, 35% Carbon
*Super lightweight, high performance – 168g
*YKK® Reverse Coil #3 Zipper with enlarged zip pull
*Sun protection of UPF 50+
For a merino top, it won't weigh you down.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Easy if you follow ashmei's instructions:
Cool wash at 30C
Wash dark colours separately
Do not use fabric softeners
Do not tumble dry
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Brilliantly: keeps you warm when it's cold, doesn't let you overheat when the temperature goes up or you put the hammer down.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Temperature regulation of fabric and comfort.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Right at the top end.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes; while it's expensive, it will serve you well and last.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
Fabric with outstanding temperature regulating properties, thoughtfully designed features, relaxed and exceptionally comfortable fit... a little cheaper and it'd be a 9.
About the tester
I usually ride: Road My best bike is: Carbon road.
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: commuting, touring, club rides, general fitness riding, Getting to grips with off roading too!
Emma’s first encounters with a road bike were in between swimming and running. Soon after competing for GB in the World Age Group Triathlon Championships in Edmonton in 2001 she saw the light and decided to focus on cycling.
After a couple of half decent UK road seasons racing for Leisure Lakes, she went out to Belgium to sample the racing there and spent two years with Lotto-Belisol Ladies team, racing alongside the likes of Sara Carrigan, Grace Verbeke, Rochelle Gilmore and Lizzie Deignan. Emma moved from Lotto-Belisol to Dutch team Redsun, then a new Belgian team of primarily developing riders, where there was less pressure, an opportunity to share her experience and help build a whole new team; a nice way to spend her final years of professional racing.
Since retiring Emma has returned to teaching. When not coercing kids to do maths, she is invariably out on two wheels. In addition to the daily commute, Emma still enjoys getting out on her road bike and having her legs ripped off on the local club rides and chain gangs. She has also developed an addiction to touring, with destinations including Iceland, Georgia and Albania, to mention just a few. There have also been rare sightings of Emma off-road on a mountain bike…