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The Cafe du Cycliste Irma Men's Merino Cycling Jersey is very comfortable and feels built to last. It's better as a mid rather than outer layer on cold and windy days, though, plus there are no brightly coloured versions and it's extremely expensive – you're spoilt for choice with good jerseys at half the price.
This is a nice jersey – well shaped, very well made and very comfortable – but at £188, the price is impossible to ignore. While its performance is good, in reality it's no better than a great many tops that cost significantly less.
It's even more costly than the MAAP Force Pro Winter LS Jersey, which itself was judged 'very expensive' at £160, and in fact is only topped for price in our recent reviews by the Le Col x McLaren Project Aero LS, which is £195.
That, however, has the twin excuses of being developed in conjunction with F1 windtunnel addict McLaren and using fancy 'aero' fabric, whereas the Irma is more conventional merino.
Merino tends to adds expense over synthetics, but the name is a little disingenuous – this fabric is actually 65% synthetic (polyamide and polypropylene), and only 35% merino wool.
From a performance point of view there's nothing wrong with that, and indeed the Irma's merino blend works very well. Unlike Emma, who tested the women's version, I found it proved warm, soft against the skin and breathable. The sleeves and back are made of it, while the textured front panel and collar are polyester.
Unfortunately (and again, unlike Emma), I found this polyester – despite being thicker as 'an added layer of insulation on cooler days or fast descents' – significantly less windproof, and not as warm in general either. I actually found my chest would chill on descents (or rest stops) quite easily, while the much thinner fabric on my arms stayed warm and comfortable. Emma, conversely, felt the jersey protected her core well, but not her arms.
I also felt these panels were less breathable than the merino-blend back and arms.
During a largely cold and wet test period I've been wearing it a lot as a mid-layer – over a base and under a waterproof or water-resistant jacket – and in that role it's the kind of thing you never have cause to think about. It just quietly and comfortably does the job.
I like how the size large fits me, even though I'm technically a medium (large covers 102-106cm chests, and mine is 100cm). It's slim all over, with nothing to sag or flap, but leaves me feeling completely unrestricted – just what I'd want from a top designed for long miles on cold days.
I could certainly wear a medium (98-102cm), and the fabric's easy stretch would surely keep it very comfortable still, but if you expect to use this with bulky baselayers then sizing up seems a low-risk option.
The only oddities I found were the arms, which are slim and quite long – the medium's arms would have to be 4cm shorter to be bang on for me. Still, the slight rucking this caused didn't affect comfort at all, even with other layers on top. It also makes them easy to seal over the cuffs of gloves, if not so good if you want them inside.
On the back you get three good, wrist-deep pockets and a slightly shallower mesh one that spans all three. The mesh's top is elastic, and the first 7cm of each side of that elastic is sewn to the jersey, stopping the pocket from gaping open and keeping it pleasingly secure – it's a perfect stash for packable wind or rain layers.
You'll need those too, as this has no water resistance, and as I said, cold winds can cut through the chest. While this is breathable enough to wear as an outer up to around 15°C, I personally wanted at least a windproof gilet over it as the air got nearer 10°C. It's great under a jacket as temperatures drop further.
There's one more pocket: a zipped one on the right, though it's only just big enough for my 16.5cm phone, and with an opening barely 10cm long it's actually easier to jam the phone in than my hand. The silicone-covered fabric zip pull is a nice touch, though, and the main zip is a quality YKK one with a good garage for comfort.
If the front panels were windproof, or the whole thing was the merino blend, this jersey would be a lot more versatile. As it is it's rather limited as an outer layer, and that brings us back to the £188 price...
The Santini Colore Pure Men's LS Jersey is warm, fleecy and just as usable, but only £99. And the Altura Endurance Men's LS Jersey also does a similar job – but with windproofing and DWR water repellency – and is £80.
This jersey is well made and a great shape, but the polyester panels and lack of wind/rain protection really limit its usefulness as an outer layer. And while it's great as a mid-layer for cold days, it just doesn't justify its huge premium over a host of cheaper competition.
Stylish, well made and great as a mid-layer, but limited as an outer – despite a massively high price
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Cafe Du Cycliste Irma Men's Merino Cycling Jersey
Size tested: Large
Tell us what the product is for
CdC says: "Part of our Audax collection, Irma is built for bigger rides and tougher roads and features a raft of distance detailing. Odour resistant, fast drying and exceptionally breathable, the high performance merino blend protects when the temperature drops but naturally helps regulate your core temperature when it rises again."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
-35% merino | 40% polyamide | 25% polypropylene
-high performance fabrics
-moisture management properties
-oversized reflective elements
-three cargo pockets
-unique 'drop' pocket
-full zip with guard
-made in europe
This is twice the price of many jerseys that work as well or better.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
The usual 30° thing is fine.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Great as a mid-layer, vulnerable to wind as an outer.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Great fit, merino panels work well, looks good.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
No bright colours, polyester panels lose heat to wind.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It's very expensive – you'd be hard pressed to find one for more.
Did you enjoy using the product? Mostly
Would you consider buying the product? No
Would you recommend the product to a friend? No
Use this box to explain your overall score
It's a good mid-layer but very expensive, and works no better than many jerseys at half the price. The quality is very high, and there's lots to like, but the price is hard to ignore.
About the tester
I usually ride: Vitus Zenium SL VR Disc My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: general fitness riding, mtb,