The Vulpine Alpine Merino jersey is a stylish and functional garment that combines the famous properties of the fine wool with a casual, urban aesthetic, and it works well for long rides, café stops and city commutes.
I'm a big fan of merino and I think Vulpine has put it to great use with the Alpine jersey. Merino is a good insulator in slightly cooler weather, and before the sun came out in mid-April this jersey worked well as a layer under a lightweight shell at around 10°C. It also breathes incredibly well and is – slightly counterintuitively since it's wool – one of the coolest fabrics to wear in hot weather, although it does absorb moisture more than synthetic materials.
It has withstood a few wash cycles now and hasn't bobbled or degraded in any other way. I would expect to get a lot of use out of it and am looking forward to doing some bigger rides in it once the lockdown lifts.
The fit is more T-shirt than skinsuit, since the Alpine is aimed at a more relaxed type of riding rather than racing, but even with that in mind I found the rear on the long side while I felt the sleeves could do with a bit of extra length, especially for reaching forward to the bars (it's not me in the photos). However, someone with a longer back and shorter arms than me might find it perfectly proportioned. (Mat liked the fit of the long-sleeve version.)
The Alpine Merino was one of the original jerseys in Vulpine's range. Now under new ownership, the British brand has been busy working on new designs as well as reworking old ones in order to reclaim Vulpine's position in the cycling clothing market. It's good to see that some of our criticism of the first Alpine jersey from 2013 appears to have been taken on board, particularly the use of 100 per cent merino which, although lovely, is extremely stretchy and can lead to pocket sag.
The new version is 80 per cent merino with the rest polyester, which reinforces the merino, stops it from shrinking in the wash, and should give it some extra longevity. Although you might also expect polyester to diminish some of merino's whiff-combating capability, it doesn't. I found the Alpine still stayed much fresher than all-synthetic jerseys.
Vulpine on its website still warns against loading the pockets up too heavily, but I found that with a mini-pump, phone and energy bar they stayed in position while riding. Carrying a full water bottle would be overloading it, but that's what bottle cages are for.
The pockets have also been redesigned. The original Alpine jersey's left and right rear pockets closed slightly nonsensically with a button while the central one had a zip. In this latest iteration the buttons have disappeared, making ordinary on-the-fly access much easier, while the zipped valuables compartment has moved over to the right, leaving a standard open central pocket.
There are reflective strips sewn above left and right pockets.
Pocket height is spot on, although when loaded they tend to make the longish rear/bum flap hang away from the shorts in mid air, making the silicone gripper redundant. I'd like to see the length reduced and the gripper tighter for a tidier rear.
Other nice details are the embroidered logos, flatlock stitching, no labels (care instructions are printed inside) and tactile leather puller on the zip. It's also very cool that the green zip has been turned into a design feature, matching the green logos on the rear and a band inside the collar.
Apart from this charcoal/green scheme, which will not be the most visible out on the road, it also comes in green/navy, navy/yellow and orange/red.
The Vulpine Alpine is not the cheapest merino jersey out there: dhb's merino jersey costs £75 while Decathlon brand Triban's 'touring' merino jersey goes for £39.99. Rapha's Classic Jersey II, meanwhile, costs £110 and is made from 36 per cent merino and 64 per cent polyester, while ashmei's Croix De Fer, with 65 per cent merino, is £128.
Vulpine always positioned itself alongside Rapha at the high end of the market, and its new owners have continued to aim it at riders who like to wear a designer label as well as a good quality garment – and that is reflected in the £100 price tag.
However, £100 is a fair price for a chic-looking, well-performing, nicely made jersey from a cool brand that, despite its troubled recent past, looks to be back with some really top-drawer kit.
Chic jersey from a reinvigorated premium brand that makes the most of merino
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Vulpine Alpine Merino SS Jersey
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product is for
Vulpine says: "Incredibly comfortable distance riding jersey, cut from soft, odourless merino wool. A Vulpine classic.
"The Alpine became an instant classic when it launched, as we displayed our new way of thinking about comfort and style in a 3-pocket jersey. We've provided you with merino wool for incredible softness, odour resistance and multi-condition riding, blended with polyester for long term durability.
"Merino wool reacts to the ambient conditions, cooling when it's hot, warming when cold, and even pulling water off your skin in the rain, so you feel far more comfortable. As a natural fabric, merino also looks less out of place in a social setting, making it subtle for lunch stops. We've given you a full length YKK zip for adaptability and convenience, and added our classic leather pull, easily gripped with gloves or at speed. We've designed the rear pockets for great practicality, and added subtle reflective features. Discover why this is the perfect distance cycling jersey."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
From Vulpine's website:
80% Merino Wool/20% Polyester
180gm Superfine 18.5 Micron
Odourless, breathable and wicking for all day comfort
Fast drying & comfortable in all conditions, cools when hot and warm when not
Three rear pockets, angled for ease of access. (nb. merino is naturally elastic so we recommend not to load up the pockets too heavily)
Rear silicon waist gripper, to maintain on-bike fit
Full length YKK zip
Printed care info (no scratchy labels)
Looks to be stitched with care (in China) with some neat embroidered logos.
Fit is obviously a personal thing, but I found the rear slightly long and the sleeves slightly short. Overall, the fit is more casual than racing.
Medium was good for me (178cm, 68kg) bearing in mind the fit is more relaxed that that of a race jersey.
Merino is nice and light.
Very soft next to the skin – lovely to wear.
You're paying a lot more than for something from Decathlon or similar, but it undercuts Rapha's Classic II by £10.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
It has been regularly washed at 40° (the instructions recommend 30°) and is as good as new.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It's difficult to go wrong with merino – it's light, warm and cool all at the same time – and Vulpine has made good use of it.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
If you like to wear nice, stylish-looking clothes on the bike the Alpine jersey has all that, but it's also designed to be practical.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
I didn't dislike anything, although the length of the back and the sleeves wasn't ideal for me personally, having a fairly short back and long arms, but Vulpine can't be blamed for that.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
The price is premium, just undercutting Rapha's £110 Classic II jersey but quite a bit more than the likes of Lusso's merino jersey and dhb's, while Decathlon brand Triban's 'touring' merino jersey is £39.99.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
We gave the original Vulpine Alpine short-sleeved jersey a 9 in 2013, and I think Vulpine's new owners have done a good job of continuing the look, feel and tradition of the British brand's range. Mat has given the new long-sleeved version an 8, docking it a point for value – but this short sleeve version is £30 cheaper and I reckon warrants a 9.
About the tester
I usually ride: Racer Rosa custom alu My best bike is: Colnago Master Olympic
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: time trialling, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, School run on a tandem
Simon finished his MA in online journalism back in 2003 when the internet wasn't very exciting or popular yet. So he got a job as a sub editor on Britain's biggest weekly cycling magazine, where as well as taking out commas and putting them back in again he got to review a lot of bikes and kit.
As a keen time triallist he has spent many hours riding up and down dual carriageways early in the morning and has a national medal, a 19-minute 10 and a few open wins in his palmarès.
He and his eight-year-old son do the school run on a tandem, beating the traffic in car-choked Reigate and getting a great workout at the same time (for one of them).