20 November 2008

bikefix Exclusive Review: Earth Wind & Rider Core LS jersey

At this September's Interbike, we were introduced to Earth Wind & Rider's Bill Sewell by Swiftwick's very enthusiastic owner Sharpie. After chatting for a while, it turned out that Bill and I have shared at least two hometowns- Boston and Albuquerque. A fascinating guy, Bill threw us one of the company's signature Core long sleeve jerseys to review. Pleasantly substantial in feel, the Core is a classically-styled mid-weight wool jersey. It's machine washable and comes fresh off the back of 100% Australian Merino sheep.

To be honest, I've had a bit of an up-and-down relationship with wool cycling gear. At home, I love the heavy weight of a thick wool blanket and my Swiftwick One wool socks are my go-to socks for long days in the woods (either or off the bike). However, wool's lack of elasticity (when compared to synthetics) can make it less than forgiving of a sloppy cut and wool's premium price isn't always repaid with great durability (especially in lighter weights). On the other hand, it naturally regulates temperature, is a renewable resource and doesn't seem to stink like many synthetics can.

Earth, Wind & Rider take a good deal of pride in their garments construction and way of doing business. The company is a member of 1% For The Planet, donating 1% of their gross sales to environmental causes. While their jerseys are a bit on the pricey side, they would rather err on the side of quality and durability- the best way to make a product environmentally sustainable. My first impression of the Core jersey was one of substance. This thing is dense. I know that lightweight clothing is all the range, but sometimes it's nice to pick up a product that is reassuringly solid- the Core is just such a piece.

Rather than having their vendor (the jerseys are made in China) simply cut their jerseys' panels from sheets of fabric, EW&R actually have the panels "knit to size" and then sewn together. The company's "Wool Guy" claims that this construction method makes for a better fit overall (and no doubt improves durability). For such a substantial wool jersey, the fit is indeed impressive. At 6' tall and 145lb, I can be a bit difficult to fit, but the medium Core jersey fit my torso well- allowing room for layers beneath but without being too baggy to wear under a jacket. That said, there are a couple of odd aspects of the fit. Unusually for a cycling garment, the arms are a bit short on me (though probably not too far off for most medium cyclists). The length of the torso is what's really odd- probably 1-3 inches longer than other jerseysI've worn. While it looks good on its own or over another shirt and paired with baggies, the hem of the jersey hangs below all of my size Large windbreakers and winter jackets- something that would be far more noticeable on shorter riders. Overall, the cut is more on the mountain/touring/casual side than the Euro/road side.

Over a short sleeved base layer and bibs tights and under a soft shell jacket, the EW&R Core has been great to have along on 30-degree morning commutes. Come evening, ditch the jacket and the bib tights and you're in pretty good shape for the 55-degree ride home. The commuter-friendly red looks very nice and the dual stripes on the left arm are pretty stylish (the Core is also available in black with white detailing). The optional embroidered logo is clear without taking over the jersey- nice as well. There is a short-ish 7in zipper at the neck and three pockets at the rear.

What's not to like? As we all know, cool weather gear needs to keep the breeze out when it's strongest (on descents, for example) and let it in when it's all but nonexistant (on climbs). These requirements really favor tight, wind-resistant knits. As dense as the Core's fabric is, the knit does very little to keep wind out. As a result, I found very few conditions under which I was able to wear the Core on its own. Over a tightly-knit (synthetic) tee or under a windbreaker, the Core provides plenty of warmth and comfort. Without either of these, though, things can get a bit chilly on descents and hot on climbs- even with temperatures in the 50s. This, of course, is the case with most long-sleeved jerseys I've owned. I can't help but wonder, though, if a tighter knit (particularly in the chest) wouldn't help.

Overall, Earth, Wind & Rider's Core seems to be a very well put together jersey. The fit is a bit unusual, so try before you buy. The short sleeves/long torso won't be an issue with the short sleeved version, though thanks to the length I'd probably go with a size down from usual for a road fit. The company calls their sizing "true to (American) size," which I'd have to agree with. They have a strong commitment to the use of high quality, renewable and biodegradable materials. $130 for a jersey is a good chunk of change, but with Rapha's wool long sleeve jersey going for $220 and Endura's for $150, it's certainly competitive and the quality seems very good. If EW&R could pull an inch or so off the hem and add it to the sleeves, though, I'd be thrilled.

3.19.09: Want more information? Catch Lucero's Second Opinion here.



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