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Ashmei's Merino Carbon Cycling Jersey is comfortable and discreetly stylish, with the thoughtful detailing that appears to be an Ashmei speciality.
Ashmei took a step sideways into cycling having previously made a name in posh running gear, with the lofty aim of being the best that you can buy. Mat tested the softshell jacket a couple of months back and was seriously impressed. There's also a very expensive pair of bibs and this carbon-merino jersey in the initial range. Available in a choice of black (as tested), light grey or red, the jersey is made from superfine merino wool blended with 34% carbon and 4% Spandex.
I've tested other jerseys and bibs which use carbon fibre for a variety of claimed reasons (breathability and wicking, principally) and I must confess to having been a little sceptical, not least as there's often only a very small percentage and I had difficulty believing it really made much of a difference. Here there's a whopping 34% carbon, and Ashmei say that it's added specifically to accelerate the wicking and drying of the fabric. This makes sense – merino wool is a lovely fibre from which to make cosy and comfortable gear, but once it's wet it tends to hold onto the moisture for longer than man-made fibres.
Carbon fibres are flexible – it's only once combined with resin and cured that you get the stiffness needed to make bike frames and so on – so it's not as unlikely as you might think to be able to use it in clothing. Merino wool makes up the bulk of the fibre mix at 62%, and Ashmei use a high quality superfine grade, resulting in a very comfortable fabric. The remaining 4% is Spandex, to give a bit of stretch.
Fit is good; it's not aero by any means, but it's got a decent cycling-specific cut with a dropped tail. Our model here is a good bit smaller and lighter than me, so it sits a bit closer on me than it does on him. It's not a jersey you'd race in, but for a long day in the saddle or just a cruise into town it's about perfect.
The fabric is heavier than lightweight Lycra and I found it ideal for warm days, but once the mercury gets much above 20 degrees I'd probably choose something lighter and airier if I was going far or fast. It's very comfortable, thanks to the fabric (developed specifically for Ashmei) and details like the bonded seams, designed to remove a potential source of irritation. Sweat is transported away from the skin quickly, and the claimed benefit of the carbon fibres was also backed up by my experience – it does seem to dry quicker than pure merino.
At the rear, Ashmei have deviated from the norm with two main pockets either side of the central stripe. This allows these pockets to be a little wider than usual, which could be good for those with big hands who find it hard to get stuff in and out of regular pockets. There are two further zipped pockets, one hidden inside the left-hand pocket and one accessible from the outside on the right via a vertical zip.
On balance, I prefer the traditional three-pocket layout, which allows me to keep my keys, phone and wallet physically separated (my key bunch being too bulky to fit in the zipped sections here) but that really boils down to personal preference (or carrying too many keys). Three pockets might be the conventional way of doing things but that doesn't mean it's the best for everyone, so it's good to see a brand taking a different approach.
Below the pockets is my favourite detail – the perfect example of how to integrate a safety feature into a high-end piece of cycling gear. There's a narrow strip of reflective which runs right along the bottom of the rear of the jersey. It's so well-integrated and discreet that I didn't even notice it the first few times I wore the jersey, until the light caught it at the right angle (it's more obvious in the photos than in the flesh). From behind, it's positioned perfectly to catch the headlights of a following car. On the inside of this band is a tacky silicone gripper strip to help keep the jersey from riding up.
Styling-wise, you might wonder whether someone at Ashmei served time designing for Rapha. Those broad stripes are somewhat evocative, at any rate. The red full-length zip adds some welcome contrast on the front. It's smart, grown-up cycle wear; branding is subtle – just a same-colour embroidered logo on the left sleeve.
There's a flap across the top and bottom of the zip, or zip garage if you prefer. I am in favour of the one at the top, to stop any irritation to your neck, but the one at the bottom is just a pain – it makes starting the zip a fiddly exercise every single time you don the jersey. I've never had a jersey zip snag on my bibs so I can't see the point. One final detail to note – that small red rubberised loop outside the rear of the collar is there to hold an earphone cable.
Pricing is a little less than Rapha's part-merino Classic Jersey and a little more than Vulpine's closest equivalent. The quality of the materials and construction are certainly on a par with both. This kind of gear isn't cheap, but when you factor in the low volumes that a young niche brand is likely to turn out and the quality of the materials and build, the pricing is fair.
High quality jersey made from innovative carbon/merino blend; smart, discreet styling.
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Make and model: Ashmei Merino Carbon Cycling Jersey
Size tested: Medium, Black
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Ashmei say: "Superfine merino wool is a fantastic fibre. It's soft, prickle free and regulates your temperature, warming you in the winter but cooling you in the summer. We wanted to improve the performance of 100% merino wool and blended it with carbon which dramatically speeds up the moisture wicking and drying. It's a bespoke material we developed for our running collection and has become a firm favourite with runners around the world.
This fabric has another advantage of being stink free. Merino Carbon resists bacteria which is the cause of traditional polyester jerseys smelling after a while. It means you can wear your Merino Carbon Cycle Jersey in the café after a ride without being paranoid that the nasty whiff is coming from you.
Merino wool has some great environmental benefits too, being sustainable, renewable and biodegradable, and it can be washed at a basic 30� cool wash without special chemical detergents.
The Merino Carbon Cycle Jersey has a bike specific fit and comes with 4 rear pockets, 2 of which are zipped pockets to secure your phone or valuables. The jersey has a full zip with a chin guard. We've also bonded the key seams to reduce chaffing and provide an ultra flat finish.
The hem has a scooped rear with a reflective gripper silicone finish to secure the jersey and keep you seen in nighttime riding conditions."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Fabrics:. 62% Superfine Merino Wool. 34% Carbon. 4% Spandex
Features:. Reflective detailing, 4 rear pockets, bonded key seams, a rear earphone cable locator, scooped hem, 4 secure zipped pocket, available in black, red and grey
Care Instructions:. Cool wash 30�, Wash dark colours separately, Do not bleach, Do not dry clean, Line dry
Wicks well; fit is perhaps not quite up to Rapha standards.
No bobbling after a handful of washes and no areas of concern as regards durability yet.
It's an expensive jersey, there's no doubt, but in line with similar offerings.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Well - it's comfortable and smart.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Feels great against the skin, and the styling.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The lower zip guard is a perpetual annoyance.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? No
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Maybe
Age: 36 Height: 190cm Weight: 78kg
I usually ride: Boardman CX team for the daily commute My best bike is: Rose Xeon CRS
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: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking
Jez spends his days making robots that drive cars but is happiest when on two wheels. His roots are in mountain biking but he spends more time nowadays on the road, occasionally racing but more often just riding.