Vulpine has spent the last few years consolidating a deserved reputation for designing top quality clobber that meets the demands of everyday life as well as performing well on the bike. The Merino Sunset Hoody is one of its latest on-the-bike/off-the-bike creations; it offers style and practicality, but with imperfections that raise a question mark over its quality and value.
The Sunset Hoody is designed for commuting, short hops across town and general everyday wear. It's lightweight, made from a merino blend, and has sophisticated and minimal styling that should suit any number of occasions.
The fit of the top is about what you'd expect from your average hoody; there's nothing about it that shouts 'cycling', whether you're on or off the bike. The body is on the slim side but in no way restricting, there's still has plenty of room for movement.
The cuffs are elasticated, giving a snug fit around your wrists and keeping out any draughts. The sleeves don't appear to be cut with extra length as some cycling tops tend to, but they're still long enough to keep your wrists covered when you're reaching forward for the bars.
The waistband is also elasticated, again keeping out draughts, and also helping to stop the top riding up while you're pedalling. The collar zips up high and fits closely around your neck, another good defence against any chilly breezes. The hood fits closely too, and can be brought in tightly using the drawstrings.
The Sunset Hoody is made from a merino (30%) and nylon (65%) blend, with a pinch of elastane (5%) thrown in to give it that extra bit of stretch often found in cycling-specific garments. Merino is a firm favourite for many types of outdoor or active clothing; it's soft to the touch, comfortable and offers a good degree of insulation. It also has the benefit of being anti-microbial, keeping away any nasty smells, and wicks away moisture well. The nylon gives the hoody that extra bit of resilience when it comes to everyday wear and tear.
However, after a few weeks of wearing the hoody I noticed some pilling (bobbling) on areas that were in close contact with other surfaces. The pilling on the chest and shoulder were the most noticeable, where rucksack straps had been in contact with the material (for the record this was Vulpine's own Commuter Backpack). We spoke to Vulpine's product development manager about this and he explained: "As is the nature of merino wool and all wools they will pill slightly in high abrasion areas." But he also added: "We wouldn't have expected it to pill so soon...We wearer trailed these hoodies extensively without problem and conducted fabric test reports...to make sure that the standard was 'officially' suitable for our customers." It's good to know that the products are road tested, but at the end of the day the pilling issue could be a deal breaker.
As with many of the offerings in the Vulpine range, attention to detail and style are key strengths. The stitching throughout is neat and robust, the styling is unfussy and low key, with branding kept to the bare minimum: simple embroidered logos on the chest, collar and back of the shoulders. If you're very observant you'll have noticed the small V on the zip puller, a nice touch.
The Sunset Hoody does come up a bit short when it comes to any real cycling-specific features, though. Apart from the material choices, there's the hood and a couple of front handwarmer pockets. There's no zippable pocket, which is something that's often found on similar items, so you'll have to find somewhere else to store valuables.
In terms of fit, feel and looks, the hoody is lovely to ride in, and just as good off the bike. It does a perfect job of switching between being an item of clothing for physical activity and one for lounging about in, plus everything in between. Cooler mornings and evenings are where it really comes into its own during the summer months; it's great extra layer that keeps the chill at bay and then folds up reasonably small to be stowed away in a rucksack during the warmer daytime hours.
The Sunset Hoody comes in six different sizes, from XS up to XXL (33in chest up to 48in), but just the one colour. The RRP is £119, which does seem a bit steep, but it's currently in the sale for a more affordable £75. However, the issues with the pilling would need to be addressed before even this seems like good value; when you're spending £75 on a hoody you want it to be looking good for a fair while before noticeable wear and tear starts to take hold.
That said, in comparison to other similar items that have been through the road.cc testing stable, it doesn't fare that badly on the price scale. We reviewed the Huez* Softshell Sweat Hood that retails at £185, although it's certainly worth pointing out that this had more technical detailing and weatherproof features. A more directly comparable offering, perhaps, is Howies' new Bull Bay Hoody, with a similar style and spec, but available in three colours, and with an RRP of £75.
A comfortable, functional and stylish hoody that's let down by a fabric issue
road.cc test report
Make and model: Vulpine Merino Sunset Hoody
Size tested: Medium
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?
The Vulpine Sunset Hoody is designed as a top for both on and off the bike. Vulpine says: "Finely detailed, lightweight cycling specific hoody, ideal for riding and lounging as the sun drops."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Warmth - Internal Merino fleece for warmth & Nylon outer for toughness
Wicking - Moisture wicking, anti-microbial
Details - Full-zip thru hoodie with Vulpine branded zip
Fabric - 65% Nylon, 30% Merino, 5% Elastane 260gsm
The stitching is neat and robust, as are the zip and drawstrings.
It's really nice to ride in, comfortable, warm and the fit is just right. Off the bike all these things work perfectly too. There's very little compromise in either situation.
Probably the hoody's biggest downside, the pilling issue is really something that needs to be addressed. This isn't something you'd expect to see after just a few weeks of general use, and especially not on a premium product.
A really nice fit, slim and stylish for everyday use and everything about the fit also works well on the bike.
Really comfortable, the merino comes into its own here; it's the kind of top you could live in all year round.
The RRP of £119 seems quite steep; the sale price of £75 is far more palatable, but it's hard to justify the price with the fundamental flaw of the pilling.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Super-easy, clear and obvious washing instructions are printed inside the hoody.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Performance and style were both really good.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The fit and the comfort.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The pilling on the surface; this is the one issue that holds the product back from getting a high score. Also a minor quibble would be the lack of a zippable pocket.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? No
Would you recommend the product to a friend? No
Use this box to explain your score
After quite a bit of thought I've given the Sunset Hoody a 6. General performance, comfort, style and fit are all really good, but obviously the pilling issue lets things down and consequently has an effect on value and durability. If this issue was addressed it would be knocking on the door of an 8 or a 9.
About the tester
I usually ride: KHS Flite 100 Singlespeed/Fixed, Genesis Equilibrium 20 My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 5-10 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed
Oli has been a road.cc staffer since day one. He's the graphic design and photography force behind the site, and has got a keen eye for good quality, well designed cycling kit. You'll find him on his bike everyday whatever the weather, he's got a penchant for a steel frame and has had 'fit mudguards' on his To Do list for nearly 6 years now. Likes: cold toast, gin, rugby. Dislikes: fitting mudguards.