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Product review: The Sport Series long sleeve jersey from Wabi Woolens

Posted by on November 27th, 2017 at 4:39 pm

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(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

I’m picky when it comes to jerseys these days. It’s probably because I’ve been riding and racing long enough that I’ve become a curmudgeon and I don’t have patience for second-rate stuff. And being “in the industry” means I’ve come across some of the best kit available.

Bullshit 100 ride-5

Harth Huffman testing his product in 2013.

Take for example, the latest from Portland-based Wabi Woolens. Wabi was founded in 2008 by Harth Huffman, a high school teacher and entrepreneur who loves to ride. Like many of us, Huffman also loves wool jerseys. But unlike most of us, he’s taken that love to the next level by designing, sourcing, sewing, and selling wool jerseys to fellow riders.

I got my first look at Huffman’s work on an adventurous ride that explored unpaved backroads of Washington County back in 2013. Huffman and his stout Rivendell tackled the rough ride with respectable aplomb. If this guy knows his way around a jersey as well as he knows his way around a bike, I thought, I should probably check one of them out.

The latest from Wabi is the Sport Series Chevron long sleeve. Huffman said it was his best work yet and he was eager to share it with me. He’d seen me in an Icebreaker wool jersey and wanted to know how Wabi compared.

Honestly, it’s not really a fair fight. The quality and finish of the Wabi jersey is head-and-shoulders above anything I’ve worn from Icebreaker. Of course Wabi is a boutique brand, with an attention to detail and hand-made quality a huge company like Icebreaker (recently purchased by VF Corporation, Smartwool’s parent company) can’t touch. Another factor in Wabi’s favor is that it’s made entirely in the U.S.A. The fabric is produced here and sewn in the Portland region.

The fit

The Sport Series is made to fit snug. Wabi calls it a “sleek and snug, race-inspired fit.” I was initially put off by how snug it was right out of the box, but Huffman assured me it would “relax” after washing and wearing. He was right. Think of it like a good pair of jeans that feels a bit tight when you first get them, but after washing and wearing a few times they get to know your shape and become super comfortable.

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I don’t know much about fabric, but this jersey feels luxurious. The wool is very soft and the attention to detail is top-notch. The substantial cuffs, the ample collar, and the way the fabric almost completely covers the zipper, make it feel more like a nice sweater you’d wear for dressy occassions than a bike jersey. In fact if this thing didn’t have rear pockets and a full zip up front, I’d definitely wear it to a nice dinner.

If this thing didn’t have rear pockets and a fully zip up front, I’d definitely wear it to a nice dinner.

One of my jersey pet-peeves is when the zipper folds awkwardly and bulbs out; but with this one, the zipper lays down nicely. Wabi has found that sweet spot between a piece of kit that has everything where you want it, but nothing where you don’t.

In the rear, the Sport Series doesn’t disappoint. There are three full-sized pockets, plus a zippered pocket in the middle. The rear drops a few inches for extra coverage.

Wabi says their Sport Series is made for spring and fall. I’ve worn it in winter too and found that it can be comfortable from the low-to-mid 40s to mid-to-upper 50s. My go-to set-up so far this winter (when it’s not raining) is to wear it with a long-sleeve base layer and a light vest. The jersey itself is so comfortable and snug that it works well as a layer. Another thing that makes this jersey versatile is how it looks. The blue/black colorway and chevron, combined with the high-quality wool aesthetic give it a classic retro look; but the cut and the fit means it’ll also look fine in a speedy group ride.

At $195, it’s a bit more expensive than other options on the market. But if you appreciate high-quality kit and you like to buy and use things made in the U.S. by a Portlander who loves to ride as much as you do, this jersey is well worth it.

Learn more about this jersey at WabiWoolens.com.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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22 Comments
  • joan November 27, 2017 at 5:12 pm

    This looks like a great jersey.

    First, I will lament that it is not available in women’s sizes (which they seem to have forgotten so completely that they don’t even refer to the sizes as men’s; and let’s please not pretend that “unisex” sizing is anything but men’s sizes). Next, Jonathan, I’ll suggest that the fact that this jersey is available in men’s but not women’s sizes should certainly be worthy of a mention in your review. It’s a real limitation.

    Women are incredibly underserved by the bicycling industry. I think the success of Gladys Bikes shows just how hungry we women cyclists are for stores and products that serve us. I wish more bicycling vendors and retailers would figure that out.

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    • Harth Huffman November 27, 2017 at 6:16 pm

      Hi Joan,
      You are 100% correct on all counts. I have long lamented not having a women’s jersey in my lineup. I do not even pretend the current jerseys are unisex, as that would be insulting to women who spend the money and try to make them fit properly. I have tried for years and I have samples in my basement as proof. I even did a small production run about eight years ago, but they just weren’t right. I do have photographic proof on the Wabi facebook page that I am closer than ever. The pattern is all but done and there are samples out there being tested. I just don’t have the money to produce them. I won’t bore you with the details, but setbacks have been numerous and Wabi Woolens is a part-time job for me, as I am a committed teacher first and foremost. But I can say that a women’s jersey will happen, though I can’t say when and feel certain about it. Thanks for your comment.

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      • joan November 28, 2017 at 10:35 am

        Thanks so much for your thoughtful reply, Harth! I’m glad to hear a woman’s jersey is in process, even if it takes a while. Your work is beautiful!

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      • Pete November 28, 2017 at 11:40 am

        …and I hope you are healing up fully and quickly!

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  • John Liu
    John Liu November 27, 2017 at 7:17 pm

    That is a lovely jersey and the price is completely reasonable for a high quality, locally produced, attentively designed piece of kit.

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  • B. Carfree November 27, 2017 at 7:44 pm

    Looks great, and the jersey looks pretty good too.

    From the looks of it, I’ll have to pass owing to my stupidly-long arms and torso. It’s mildly unpleasant to have a long sleeve jersey stop at mid-forearm and ride up above the navel. It does make me wish I had a more normally proportioned body though.

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    • Harth Huffman November 28, 2017 at 6:23 am

      Tall sizes. Just sayin’…

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      • B. Carfree November 28, 2017 at 11:23 am

        Are they really long enough for us knuckle draggers? I may have to check it out more carefully. I’m eight inches taller than my wife but my hands hang lower than hers when we stand beside each other. My arm length is great for bike fitting, since it allows me to comfortably roll with a wide variety of stem lengths, and it was fantastic back in the days when I played basketball and tennis, but for clothing it’s just silly, almost as silly as my size 51 feet.

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  • Kevin Tice November 28, 2017 at 7:16 am

    I own two Wabi Woolens jerseys. They are the best pieces I own. Quality of materials and workmanship are excellent-a great value.

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  • Sam November 28, 2017 at 9:23 am

    I wish I weren’t allergic to wool. It’s kinda hard to ride with your airways constricted. Other than that, I love everything about wool and this product.

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  • Allen Potter November 28, 2017 at 10:11 am

    Over the years I have bought 4 different jerseys from Wabi. Yes, they’re expensive. I have taken advantage of discounts at times. But looking back, I’d pay full price gladly. I wear these jerseys every day on my commute. They repel mist and cold. With a light vest or windbreaker, they are great down to freezing temps. Colder than that, you’ll want a heavier top layer. But the jersey is amazing. My oldest one is beat to hell, stretched out (a quick rinse will put it back into shape more or less), and has several holes in it. This is after 8 years of heavy use. I wore it today. Still warm, still absorbs sweat, still fully functional. It’s without a doubt the best kit I’ve ever owned. Wabi seems like a labor of love, and as such, I sometimes worry that Harth will stop making them. If he does, I”ll stock up, for I never ever want to be without a Wabi Woolens jersey. PERFECTION. Thanks Harth!

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  • Jim Lee November 28, 2017 at 11:07 am

    My “Wabi Lightning” was a really great bright orange fixie!

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  • Tim K November 28, 2017 at 11:09 am

    The only downside to Wabi jerseys is for Harth- they’re so well made, I don’t need a new one! I bought one about 5 years ago and it still looks like new. The price is cheap compared to the value.
    On second thought, the new chevron design is probably enough reason to buy a new one.

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    • Oliver Smith November 28, 2017 at 1:50 pm

      Likewise… I got one ~5 years ago and it will last me another 5. Love the range of temperatures that this jersey serves. It’s perfect for summer along the coast and with layers, cold December rains. No logos and interesting colors too!

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  • Rain Waters November 28, 2017 at 2:25 pm

    Wonderful wool. Thank you

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  • stasia:) November 28, 2017 at 4:26 pm

    Harth!! Harth is my favorite morning-Springwater-commuting, wool-jersey-creating awesome met-on-a-bike-ride person! 🙂 Psyched for your women’s sizes whenever those happen;)

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    • Harth Huffman November 28, 2017 at 5:49 pm

      Hi Stasia! Thanks so much! You will definitely be one of the first to get a women’s version, for sure. After all, you’re a legend, remember? But here’s the thing: I fell on a ride two weeks ago and broke some bones. I’m off the bike until maybe February. It’s killing me already, slowly but surely. Anyway, please shoot me an email so we can stay in touch once your job changes – harth@wabiwoolens.com .

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  • Mac November 28, 2017 at 5:54 pm

    Awesome write-up and cool product/story. Harth, curious where in the USA the fabric is spun, knit, and dyed? Love that you’re doing this all on the side of your teaching job. Incredible.

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    • Harth Huffman November 29, 2017 at 6:12 am

      Thanks Mac. I use two sources. One is completely done on the East Coast by a family owned company named Sextet – the heavier fabric of the Winter Weight jerseys is made by them. This fabric for this particular jersey and the current Sport Series jerseys are from a CA company but I think they do the processing out east, too.

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  • John Liu November 29, 2017 at 9:36 am

    Harth, have you considered sewing a reinforced tab on the extended tail of the jersey, where a blinky light can be clipped? I realize a blinky can be clipped to the top of the pocket, but that places the blinky facing skyward.

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    • Harth Huffman November 29, 2017 at 10:23 am

      No, I haven’t considered that, John. But it’s an interesting idea. I have used the zippered pocket for just that purpose though, and it seems to work ok. The weight of the blinky seems to hold it down and aimed in the right direction.

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  • Rivelo
    Rivelo December 1, 2017 at 4:00 pm

    We have them in stock. Great jerseys.

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