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The FR3ND Merino Polo Shirt is a tidy, understated way to stay temperature-balanced and pong-free across days of riding. Made from 100% merino with good length in the arms and hem, it's a very useful addition to your wardrobe, on or off the bike.
As any fule kno, merino is a miracle fibre that should be the base (ahem) of every cyclist's wardrobe. It's easy to see the place for merino in longsleeve shirts for protection from both sun and cold – but what about short sleeves?
Even the subtler classic short-sleeved jerseys still shriek 'CYCLIST', and have absolutely zero use beyond being on an actual bike. I rather liked the Showers Pass Scout shirt for its stealthy approach, but the look can be a bit off – and it's only 30% merino, so the smell is going to build up.
Enter the FR3ND Merino Polo Shirt. Only available in navy, denim blue and this grey, it's pretty much a polo shirt. In fact, that's exactly what it is. No pretensions. That's it. No pockets, no special shoulder gussets, no reflectives, and no glove-friendly poppers instead of buttons.
In fact, there's absolutely nothing that marks it out as cycling apparel beyond the cut. And that's why I like it so much.
Raised in the antipodes, milled in Italy and assembled in Portugal, this well-travelled superfine merino feels just gorgeous against the skin. If only all base layers were this silky; my word it's nice.
Often polo sleeves are cut too high for my liking, and on a bike they ride up, but here they sit nicely mid-bicep and are finished with a heavier hem. At the tail there's no split, just a T-shirt-style hem that's generous enough to cover you in a riding position, but not so long it looks like a nightie. I'm 6ft nothing and 80kg this week, and the size large proved bang-on perfect, the hem coming down to mid-jeans back-pocket.
For a non-lycra or elastane fabric it's amazingly stretchy, so it sits very nicely. The lack of pockets seems fair because for the sort of riding it's for – commuting, pub visits, gravel spins, vineyard tours – you're likely to have on-bike options for carrying stuff. Also, with such a light, soft and compliant fabric, cargo would probably twist it out of shape.
The weight is just right for keeping you either cool and warm when needed. No, this isn't the top for tackling an alp on a 30°C day, but under a jacket it will keep you as warm as any thick baselayer. Merino doesn't wick as fast as synthetics, but you can wear it day after hard day and not be classified a hazardous environment when you come into a town for refreshments.
At £78 the FR3ND Merino Polo Shirt is well priced for 100% merino. Decathlon does its Forclaz Travel 500 polo for £29.99, but it's only 60% merino and the arm cut looks short.
Smartwool does the Men's Merino Sport 150 Polo for £79.99 but again, it's not pure merino – this one is 56%.
The Isobaa Mens Merino 180 Short Sleeve Polo Shirt is also £80, and that's 100% and looks to have good arm length – also, at the time of writing it was on sale at £64.
At the WHAAAAT end of the price spectrum, Shackelton does the Dudley Merino Polo for £150. Maybe they're crowdfunding a repeat expedition.
FR3ND doesn't do a women's cut of this, but Alpinetrek's bizarrely-named Rewoolution Women's Mirth is £76.95 for what looks to be 100% merino loveliness.
Personally I can't imagine buying anything less than 100%, as you're immediately compromising the major benefits of pong protection and temperature regulation. If you're looking for a casual vibe but want to be supremely comfy, this is well worth a look.
Gorgeously soft, well-cut 100% merino shirt for all manner of casual activities
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road.cc test report
Make and model: FR3ND Merino Polo Shirt
Size tested: Large
Tell us what the product is for
It's for people wanting to look relaxed and non-cyclist, whilst offering warmth and anti-smell skills.
FR3ND says, "Our classic Merino Wool Polo Shirt has a contemporary tailored cut and is produced by our tried and tested 16.5 Microns, 100% superfine merino wool that has a luxurious, soft handle. Highly breathable and naturally antibacterial, our Merino Polo Shirt keeps you cool in summer and warm in winter by regulating your temperature, making it the ideal garment to wear all year round.
"Smart enough to wear to the office and when paired with jeans or chinos makes a great casual polo shirt that can be worn in almost every work/social occasion. Merino is organic, sustainable and biodegradable and because of its natural antibacterial qualities, won't smell like synthetic polos, resulting in less washing, saving you time, power and water. In fact, we guarantee you could wear the polo for 5 consecutive days without it smelling.
"Ideal for travel, be it international business trips where luggage space is restricted or simple commuting by bike to work, the superfine merino fibres wick sweat, dries fast and won't breed bacterial like cotton and polyester, resulting in you arriving as fresh as when you left the house."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Available in grey, denim blue or navy blue
Can't fault it.
Just lovely. Warm when needed under a jacket, and breezy / wicking out in the open.
The strong hems point to longevity.
Feels lighter than it looks.
Gorgeous. Silky-smooth gorgeous.
It's a competitive price for a 100 percent merino top.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Still looks like new. Wool washes easy.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Really well. Warm or cool as needed, and no smell for days.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The cut, and the feel of the fabric. Lovely.
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?
For 100% merino it's well priced.
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
This is a casual shirt that works as well on the bike as off it. Beyond the bike-friendly cut it has no technical features, but then it doesn't pretend to – it does what you'd hope from looking at it, and it does it very well.
About the tester
I usually ride: Sonder Camino Gravelaxe My best bike is: Nah bro that's it
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo cross, general fitness riding, mtb, G-R-A-V-E-L