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.
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 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.
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.
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