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For me at least, Bontrager's Commuting Wool top is further proof that the US brand has its fingers firmly on the fashionable commuter pulse, producing garments that perform on the bike and at your destination whether it be work, rest or play.
Seventy quid sounds a little steep but then were talking Merino wool and razor sharp detailing. Sizing is accurate enough for virtual purchases, although, unless completely familiar with their range, Id still suggest trying before you buy depending on how fitted or loose you felt comfortable with.
In essence, this is a polo shirt with cyclist tailoring there's a choice of long or short sleeved versions and Bontrager also do a WSD women's specific version which we reviewed a few months back. A single button down rear pocket is perfect for safe carrying of keys, bankcards, phones and similar essentials while a splash of Scotchlite provides some security without giving the game away. Flat seams enhance the fabric's natural comfort and both the collar and buttons are designed with style and climate control in mind - unbutton should things get the wrong side of temperate, or flick the collar over gumshoe style for a little extra protection from rain/chill. My large seemed just right and entertained a snug fitting base layer without bunching up when hunkered low on the drops, complimenting the rest of the commuting family, generic messenger knickers and even jeanss perfectly.
Arguably, Id pay the extra tenner and plump for the long-sleeved version for winter but in practice, short seems fine for most duties and dries just that little bit faster after washing. Tourists will be pleased to know it packs down really small, thus occupying nominal space in a pannier and line-dries in around 20 minutes. Whether bombing across town to drop something with a client, meeting friends for Sunday lunch or meandering through the lanes, peoples reactions have, without exception been complimentary. Being wool, wicking and odour control are good so, unless youre wearing a really basic rain-shell on top theres no danger of this dapper look being sabotaged by sweaty backs or fetid armpits.
Another smart casual classic from Bontrager that looks great and performs on or off the bike.
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Make and model: Bontrager Commuting Wool Shirt
Size tested: Charcoal - L
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?
"Bontrager's Communting Wool Top offers the urban commuter fashionable function and superior comfort. This lightweight, casual polo-style top is comprised of 100% Merino wool for premier comfort and temperature control and features subtle reflective highlights for added visibility. A single-button rear pocket and semi-fitted design help make this top just as appropriate off the bike as on".
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
100% Merino wool with splashes of reflective detailing.
Should last a good while so long as tumble drying is avoided.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Bontrager certainly understand the need for apparel that is practical for the ride, yet appropriate for the workplace and this merino top is no exception. Quick drying and odour management properties mean it shouldnt be overlooked for touring duties either.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
It certainly hit the right notes with me.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes, although probably the long sleeve version
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Age: 38 Height: 1m 81 Weight: 70 kilos
I usually ride: Rough Stuff Tourer Based around 4130 Univega mtb Frameset My best bike is: 1955 Holdsworth Road Path and several others including cross & traditional road
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo cross, commuting, touring, fixed/singlespeed, mtb,
Shaun Audane is a freelance writer/product tester with over twenty-eight years riding experience, the last twelve (120,000 miles) spent putting bikes and kit through their paces for a variety of publications. Previous generations of his family worked at manufacturing's sharp end, thus Shaun can weld, has a sound understanding of frame building practice and a preference for steel or titanium framesets.
Citing Richard Ballantine and an Au pair as his earliest cycling influences, he is presently writing a cycling book with particular focus upon women, families and disabled audiences (Having been a registered care manager and coached children at Herne Hill Velodrome in earlier careers)