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This week’s Wool Wednesday, I’m reviewing Earth Wind Rider’s bike polo jersey. If you’re a fan of wool and a fan of retro gear, this jersey is the bee’s knees. When it first came in, I showed it to my girlfriend and the first thing she said was, “it’s beautiful!” I don’t know about you, but I count exactly how many things she has used the word “beautiful” to describe my bike gear on one finger.

Will it make me this beautiful?

Probably not.

This is a pimping jersey. There are lots of nice styling details like old school lapels, wooden buttons, an embroidered crest and numbers on the sleeve and the back of the jersey.

The Story

I asked Chris Fallon, the sales shepard at EWR about how the idea for the bike polo jersey came about. He said that it was on one of his cross-country sales trips that he began to notice a re-emergence in bike polo.

One of the things that struck me wherever I went was a new found fascination with an old sport I was quite familiar with, Bike Polo. But this was not your father’s Bike Polo with its soft grass fields; this version had been picked up and transformed by the messenger/fixie generation into a fast hard surface “streetâ€? game. It is exciting and “NEWâ€?.

He and Bill Sebell, the president of EWR, joked about how it would be fun to create a “polo shirt.” However, the more they joked about it, the more it seemed like a good idea. They wanted to create a garment that was functional but also gave a wink towards bike culture.

So much of cycle wear is strictly about performance on the bike. It ignores the desire folks may have to show their love for cycling by their clothing choices without being afraid to step out of the context of riding and go into a bank or a pub looking like they just stepped out of a plastic factory or a peloton. We did not produce Bike Polo jerseys “just for� or even “necessarily for� people that play the game, after all, how many folks that buy and wear rugby jerseys actually play Rugby? It’s about style and wearing your “colors� as it were.

Wool by its very nature is a performance material (as you well know) so why not design something that speaks to one’s love of cycling and is fashionable and fun first but still works great on the bike. That has been an underlying goal for most of what we do.

The Review

Styling:
Depending on your tastes, you’re either going to love it or hate it (if you’ve read this far, you’re probably going to like it). It definitely has old school written all over it. The lapels with wooden buttons are unique to the jersey. I can’t think of any other current wool jersey that sports them, so kudos for the innovative design. The embroidered bike polo crest is beautifully done and is a piece of art in of itself.

Chris Fallon has an interesting anecdote on the design of just the crest:

We have a working relationship with what we feel is one of the great non-profit organizations to be found anywhere. They are called Artists for Humanity. They provide training and a paid apprenticeship to inner city kids in the arts. They also have built Boston’s first, and still only, platinum certified LEED green building. I knew one of the mentors at AFH to be a fixie guy and bike polo fan as well as a graduate of Mass College of Art so we contracted him to come up with the design for a crest for us. He took all of our ideas of what we wanted and invented a crest that is both classic/new/and fun!!!

Fit and Feel:
The fit is casual and not super tight. I usually wear wool in XL and got the polo jersey in XL as well. It was a bit looser but still works out well because if it’s really cold, I can throw on a wool base layer underneath and be toasty with some room to breathe.

The wool that they use is pretty silky soft from the get go. I usually wash some new wool garments to soften them up a bit, but this didn’t need it at all. The wool weight seems appropriate for temperatures around 50-70 degrees. You could go lower with a thin base layer and you could go higher if you’re just casually riding and not hammering.

If you buy it loose, it also makes a great light sweater that will profess your love of cycling at your favorite bike and beer event.

Performance:
I’ve taken it on a couple of long rides and it feels great against the skin after many miles. The large wooden buttons are easy to unfasten one-handed. Not as quick as a zipper of course, but unless you have no coordination, you should manage fine. Only downside is that there are no pockets in the back, but as mentioned above, this is more of a casual jersey.

This jersey is a great one to grab if you’re playing bike polo, hanging out with other cycling geeks and any bike and brew mixture. I also wouldn’t hesitate to take this on a any short multi-day bike tours. It would make a great added layer if the day got cold or a nice light sweater to roam around town in.

Would I wear it in a race where it’s 100+ degrees? No, but that’s not what it’s really designed for.

Downsides:
-Well, it’s a little spendy, but I would say that it will probably last a really long time with good care. Unlike your synthetic jerseys that ultimately hit some sort of funk saturation point, the wool will keep you smelling tolerable for years to come.

-Styling is not for everyone. You either love it or hate it.

-May not represent your city.

Overall, I think EWR’s bike polo jersey is a great buy. It’s fun and functional. Innovative. It’s also a great way to profess your bike love with some class.