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The Fr3nd Merino Wool Shirt is a summer-weight option for looking sharp yet relaxed on a bike and not smelling after a day or two. There are no technical features and you're paying a premium, but if it's the look you're after it's a very good choice.
Merino is a miracle fabric for cycling. Warm when you need it to be, and not smelling even after days of use, it's the perfect bike travel companion.
Fr3nd has aimed at the crossover use case between work/smart casual and multi-day travelling. Being made from 100 per cent merino grown in NZ, milled in Italy and sewn in Portugal, the shirt can be worn for three or four days of pretty heavy riding before there's any noticeable odour.
I wore it as an about-the-home-office shirt for a week straight with no notable signs of revulsion from my life partner. I'd imagine it handling a long journey with a soak in a hotel sink or stream then being dry by morning or shortly after starting riding.
The fabric has been engineered with a bit of stretch, so it's comfortable bent over on a bike. I found the size large to be perfect on my 6ft/75kg frame with long arms.
There's really nothing to distinguish the shirt from any other business shirt, even close up. You could wear a tie with it and people wouldn't bat an eyelid – likewise, you could roll the sleeves up, pop on a pair of baggy shorts and hit some gravel without looking strange. The cuffs are a single button, with a second button halfway up the cuff split, so it's easy to get a secure fit when rolled up so they don't unroll.
The tail is short, meaning it's designed to be worn untucked, but it's long enough to tuck in if that's the look you want.
The fabric is definitely summer weight – and as it's also SPF50, you could wear it by itself and not get sunburnt.
I own and love a £90 EDZ Merino shirt which has been on many a chilly bikepacking trip with just a thin baselayer underneath. The EDZ shirt would definitely be too warm in temperatures above maybe 15°C, which is where I see the Fr3nd offering being most comfortable. Below that, I feel the thin fabric lets too much air through.
There are reinforced patches on the elbows, to protect the thin fabric from wear; that seems a good idea, as 100 per cent merino isn't overly strong when it's spun this thin, and as the patches are the same colour you don't look like a geography teacher (other stereotypes are available, and FWIW my geography teacher was cool).
Fr3nd has gone for the muted end of the rainbow, the shirt being available in 10 variations of grey/blue.
At £130, the Fr3nd is a fiver less than Icebreaker's Pankow shirt, but a little more than French brand Seagale's lightweight merino for €120 (currently around £102). For cooler weather, the EDZ offering is definitely better value for money.
If you're after a shirt for warmer weather, to keep the sun off while cycling, walking or sightseeing, able to go pong-free for days and possibly to find a new job along the way, the Fr3nd Merino Wool Shirt is a very good choice.
Sharp-looking shirt for warm-weather adventures, in or out of the office/cafe
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road.cc test report
Make and model: FR3ND Merino Wool Shirt
Size tested: Large
Tell us what the product is for
It's for people travelling on or off a bike who want to look really sharp and be comfortable and protected from the sun.
The ultimate non-iron shirt made from Superfine Merino Wool that offers you supreme comfort, practicality and performance like no other and with eco credentials that limit the impact on the worlds resources and the environment.
Superfine Merino Wool is peerless when it comes to performance and offer several additional benefits over typical synthetic blended shirts allowing you to wear your shirt for longer, washing it less while looking and smelling fresh.
Merino is naturally antimicrobial, meaning it doesn't breed bacteria which creates the bad smell synthetic blended shirts suffer from. This allows you to wear the shirt for several days without the need to wash it and because the fabric is engineered not to crease and has a stain-resistant finish, it will remain looking sharp.
Merino Wool also naturally regulates your temperature making it the perfect travel shirt for a multitude of climates, from cold airconditioned offices to extreme heat.
Made from Superfine New Zealand merino wool that is spun in Italy to create a soft and luxurious material before being manufactured in one of Portugal's premium shirtmakers with over 170 years of experience.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
For warmer rides or paired with a baselayer if you run a bit colder, it's great, drying very fast after sweaty efforts.
Early days, but the thin fabric is reinforced at the elbows, so it should last well. Across the shoulder there's a double panel of fabric as well.
Perfect on me, with generous arms.
Sized up perfectly.
Super-soft wool and a great fit.
It's definitely at the higher end of the price band, a fiver less than Icebreaker's Pankow but £40 more than EDZ's (chunkier) merino shirt.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Wool wash at 30 is fine.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Really well – no smell!
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The cut – looks and feels sharp without being restrictive.
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?
My EDZ merino is a chunky £40 less but considerably heavier, but Icebreaker's Pankow is a fiver more.
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
Understanding this is a warm-weather shirt, it's hard to fault except on the premium price. Overall, I think it's very good.
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