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The Fr3nd Classic T-Shirt is a great casual top that works well on or off the bike. The slim fit is excellent, and it feels incredibly soft on the skin. Breathability is good, and it doesn't ever get smelly, but it's not one for high-intensity workouts because of the very slow drying nature of the fabric.
In the world of cycling – or indeed any kind of fitness – baselayers tend to be made from either synthetics or merino wool. Personally, I use the former kind as I find merino – even the finest quality stuff – itchy and uncomfortable.
Fr3nd's Classic T-Shirt is constructed from a mix of Tencel – an environmentally–friendly type of fabric made from sustainably sourced wood – and bamboo. Both have excellent properties for activity, being naturally breathable, antibacterial, and with good heat regulation.
I found this T-shirt to also be incredibly soft-feeling, unlike merino wool. It feels comfortable to wear, whether underneath a shirt in the office, at the gym, or on the bike. You really don't notice you're wearing a 'performance' fabric.
I found the fit perfect too – it's slim, but not tight-fitting (though I am on the slightly slimmer side), and there's decent length in the arms and body, even for tall folks. It's available in sizes small, medium, large, XL, and XXL, and in Navy (as tested), Grey, Winter White, and Black.
It also wicks sweat easily, pulling it away from the body and evaporating it away from the material instantly, and it doesn't smell – ever. I wore this on and off for a couple of weeks without washing, and it still smelt like new.
It's definitely not one for high-intensity activity, though. I wore it on a fast lunchtime ride underneath a jersey and a thin body warmer, and after an hour of riding it was drenched in sweat nearly all over. Worse still, I left it to dry in a warm room on a drying rack, and it was still damp after about six hours.
It's worth pointing out that in my rather sweaty experience, a merino wool T-shirt behaves in the same way. It gets drenched and takes ages to dry, unlike a synthetic. The difference is, when merino gets wet, it does retain the body's warmth... to a degree.
Personally, since I started using synthetic mesh baselayers, such as this one from Albion Cycling, I haven't looked back, though I appreciate you might want something thicker for the winter.
The Fr3nd Classic T-Shirt isn't designed for this kind of duty – it's definitely more for casual use, and for that, it works brilliantly.
Other casual short-sleeve options that work well on and off the bike include the 7Mesh Desperado Merino Henley. It's expensive, mind, and the reviewer Steve found it itchy against the skin and slow to dry. I suspect this T-shirt was also designed not to be saturated in sweat on high-intensity rides.
There's also the Chapeau! Men's Merino SS Base Layer, which looks stylish and is soft against the skin, though reviewer Shaun made no mention of drying times. Again, though, it's a more of a casual option than a hardcore road-riding baselayer.
Both tees are more expensive than Fr3nd's Classic T-Shirt, which makes me feel that this is a much better option in terms of value.
Supersoft, breathable and a great fit, this is the ideal casual baselayer for on and off the bike
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road.cc test report
Make and model: FR3ND Classic T-Shirt
Size tested: Large
Tell us what the product is for
Fr3nd says, "Welcome to your new favourite T-shirt. With a tailored fit, high-performance fibres that wick and dry super fast while using a luxurious yet sustainable blend of Tencel/Bamboo fabric, our Classic T-Shirt is peerless sure to be the finest T-shirt you have ever owned.
Our bespoke fabric is naturally cooling, wicks sweat and dries fast making it ideal to wear all year round and the ideal T-shirt you can wear for cycling to work, running, travel or even the gym.
Tencel has a super luxuriously feel, twice as soft as cotton, is sustainable and biodegradable and naturally antibacterial, keeping you cool and odour free, even after a hard workout or fast ride to work. The bamboo content is also sustainable and biodegradable and aids the wicking and drying properties.
Our tried and tested blended Tencel/Bamboo fabric is incredibly strong, crease-resistant and lasts longer and is able to withstand repeated wash and drying cycles compared to cotton.
With a modern, tailored cut, our Classic T-Shirt has a slightly longer sleeve length and low profile collar with detailed zig-zag topstitching, all to create the finest T-Shirt in the world."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
A really high quality garment.
Good breathability and comfort, but better for lower-intensity efforts.
After a month of use and a couple of washes, it still looks new, so nothing to worry about, but it's early days.
Slim, but not race-slim, with good length even for longer folk. Could easily be worn to the pub without standing out.
A size large on me was perfect – I am 6ft 4in with long limbs and a slim but muscular build.
Doesn't feel really light, but that's not actually a bad thing for casual wear.
Supersoft – a brilliant alternative to merino.
It's more expensive than a basic cotton T-shirt, but cheaper than other technical T-shirts we've tested. The advantage here is it looks like a normal T-shirt but performs like a technical one.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Easy – regular 30 degree wash with all your other clothes. Still looks the same after a couple of washes, though some of the letters on the inside of the garment did wash off slightly.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Perfect performance for casual use on or off the bike, and it feels great against the skin.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Takes ages to dry if it gets soaked, but I don't use it for high-intensity efforts so that's not an issue.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It's pretty reasonable for a good-looking technical tee that looks set to last a long time. It's cheaper than similar casual T-shirts we've tested before, including the 7Mesh Desperado Merino Henley and Chapeau!'s Men's Merino SS Base Layer. It appears to perform better than both of those, too.
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
If you want a great baselayer for on or off the bike that won't look out of place in a pub garden in the summer, then this is a great technical T-shirt. It breathes well, doesn't smell, and feels great to wear. The price is decent, too.
About the tester
I usually ride: Condor Italia RC custom build 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: commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, mtb,