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Merino We Love You
We’ve said it more than once, and we’ll say it again: Merino we love you. A breed of sheep with an incredibly soft, fine fleece, the wool they produce is a beautiful thing. But whilst it's easy to say it will keep you cool, warm, dry and fresh all at the same time, perhaps we need to explain why - whether training, racing or drinking beer - we just can't get enough.
The interior of the merino fibre is something termed ‘hydrophilic’, meaning it retains water. When merino absorbs your perspiration, it holds it in the fibre without the fabric being damp against your skin. The outside of the fibre on the other hand is ‘hydrophobic’, i.e. it repels water. Add to that the fact it also absorbs UV radiation and you have something special that doesn't grow on trees but does grow on sheep.
This marvellous aspect of merino helps to keep your core temperature stable, regardless of the conditions. In the cold, it traps a layer of air against your skin which your body heat then warms, keeping you insulated in the process. However, what a lot people don’t know is that it is just as versatile in warmer conditions. This is due to the fact that each and every fibre is breathable. So, when you start to produce more heat than the fabric can retain, in the form of moisture, the excess is released through the fibres as vapour and moves away from your body. So the ability for merino wool to carry water gives us the excuse to claim it really is the super-domestique of all fabrics.
Whether riding through wind and rain in winter, or climbing a mountain in the searing heat of summer, this ‘super-wool’ works with your body and the conditions you’re facing. The various grades of merino used in Rapha products is the result of a long-running research and development programme set up in New Zealand, home to the world’s finest (and softest) merino sheep.
Combining scientific analysis with state-of-the-art breeding programmes, the Merino Advanced Performance Programme (MAPP) is now widely recognised as the very best of an already high-quality fibre. MAPP merino not only guarantees that the wool has been responsibly sourced but also that it will perform better than any synthetic fabric. At New Zealand’s University of Otago tests were carried out to prove if indeed this wonder-wool can improve performance. While all the athletes displayed a lower heart rate during periods of exertion wearing merino compared with polyester in cold conditions, their heart rates in hot weather were lower still.
Ok, maybe it's not exactly spiritual but putting a base layer on each day, no matter what you do or where you find yourself will give you something those who aren't wearing merino don't have. Look through any Rapha photo shoot and when these men and women are not on the bike breaking themselves, they are adjusting saddle heights, arguing at the breakfast table, avoiding washing the dishes and sleeping on the sofa in merino. Everywhere, everyday comfort that is 100% natural and renewable. That's why it's good for the mind, body and soul - the unwavering material that won't let you down. For that reason merino is never far from our hearts.
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