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Winter Cycling Don't let snow and ice discourage you this winter. The key element to year-round cycling is proper attire! Check out this winter cycling forum to chat with other ice bike fanatics.

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Old 12-18-05, 02:26 PM   #1
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Wool vs. Poly Fleece

I'm know wool is better than cotton. As I recall, both absorb water, the difference being that when wet cotton is next to the body it feels cold while wet wool feels warm.

I'm pretty sure that wool is better than polyester fleece, but how much better? Whereas wool tends to absorb water, I believe that polyester tends to transmit or move water. So back to my question, how much better than fleece is wool?

My original reason for posting this is because fleece is generally less expensive and easier to care for. However, since I just found some decent wool sweaters at T.J. Max for $11 each, the question is more academic.
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Old 12-18-05, 02:50 PM   #2
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I wear Ibex wool base layers. Love them. I also wear the Icefall jacket. Love that too. I wear the woolies for cycling, snow shoeing, xc-skiing, under a button down in the office - nearly everyday when the weather starts to chill.

All my fleece and poly baselayers smell of sweat. I ditched my poly turtlenecks last winter and went to the woolies. Care is easy - bathroom sink, a bit of Woolite, hand wash, roll it in a towel to get the excess water out, and then lay it flat to dry. (Usually overnight - but sometimes longer...) I have several woolies and mid weights - it allows me to switch up when things need washing and drying. Not sure on the care of a thick wool sweater - probably the same.




I aslo wear the Ibex road shorts. (wool blend) At first I thought they would be an early season / late season short because of their thickness - but I found them comfortable all summer. Care is similar... but I tend to hand wash all my cycling shorts...

(not a plant for Ibex - but I've been very happy with their quality, friendly service, fit - finish, and design)
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Old 12-18-05, 02:54 PM   #3
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For people like myself wool is less favorable due to the itch factor, except for outerwear. I picked up a winblock(?) fleece jacket from LL bean that retails for about 30 bucks that really worked well at about 6F with wind chill using a couple layers of light poly and light fleece vest underneath. Just my 02
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Old 12-18-05, 03:03 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by bullethead
For people like myself wool is less favorable due to the itch factor
I don't think anyone could consider Ibex/Smartwool/etc stuff "itchy"... its softer than most cotton T-shirts I own.
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Old 12-18-05, 03:09 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by seely
I don't think anyone could consider Ibex/Smartwool/etc stuff "itchy"... its softer than most cotton T-shirts I own.
Agree with that.


Smooth, nice next to the skin.
The outerwear gets heavier... the baselayers all use small fiber sizes.

I can't wear my heavy surplus wool coat with a short sleeve shirt, but I can wear the Ibex and Smartwool stuff just fine.
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Old 12-18-05, 03:59 PM   #6
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newskool wool clothing is totally the anwser, also oldskool merino from thrift stores...

wool is SO MUCH BETTER at managing temps and moisture, I was wearing a Ibex wool jersey and Ibex cycling shorts in 100 degree heat on a tour this summer, and felt more comfortable than i've ever felt riding in synthetic clothing even 20 degrees cooler.

I just did a four day island county tour last week, and then an overnighter up to the mountains, camping out and riding in temps in the low teens to 30, I wore a couple extra layers of wool, a wool softshell, and wool tights over Ibex shorts, and never got so sweated out I had to change out of my wool clothing.

Wool is the anwser. I've used it for about every hardcore sport I do, and wool clothing is a superior choice - it's nature's miracle fiber! (And I'm not a plant for Ibex either, its just great stuff!)
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Old 12-18-05, 04:45 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bekologist
newskool wool clothing is totally the anwser, also oldskool merino from thrift stores...

wool is SO MUCH BETTER at managing temps and moisture, I was wearing a Ibex wool jersey and Ibex cycling shorts in 100 degree heat on a tour this summer, and felt more comfortable than i've ever felt riding in synthetic clothing even 20 degrees cooler.

I just did a four day island county tour last week, and then an overnighter up to the mountains, camping out and riding in temps in the low teens to 30, I wore a couple extra layers of wool, a wool softshell, and wool tights over Ibex shorts, and never got so sweated out I had to change out of my wool clothing.

Wool is the anwser. I've used it for about every hardcore sport I do, and wool clothing is a superior choice - it's nature's miracle fiber! (And I'm not a plant for Ibex either, its just great stuff!)
+1

Bek, with our love of wool is it any wonder the sheep say 'DAAAAAAAAAAADDDDDDDD" when we ride by?
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Old 12-18-05, 04:58 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by seely
I don't think anyone could consider Ibex/Smartwool/etc stuff "itchy"... its softer than most cotton T-shirts I own.
Thanks for the info, I'll give it a feel when I come across it.
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Old 12-18-05, 05:06 PM   #9
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I'm a recent convert as well. Abd now I'm mad I spent $$ on the synthetic stuff! Also, natural fibers are better in arid climatic, they cut down on the static shock factor!
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Old 12-18-05, 10:11 PM   #10
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I overheat like a bad radiator in polyester fleece. Dunno what it is about the stuff but I can barely walk across the yard without breaking a sweat. By the time I am at work, I have sweat running down my back and I smell like a plow-horse. Yuk.

Wool isn't so drastically hot, and much more absorbant. Even if I get too warm in a wool sweater, at least it soaks up the sweat pretty well.

I like fleece okay for when I am just hanging around the house, but when I am being more active, I definitely want something more absorbant.
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Old 12-19-05, 07:44 AM   #11
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Thanks for the info so far!

Like I said in the OP, I bought a couple wool sweaters at T.J. Max yesterday for $11 each.

For temps under 60F I normally wear 2 base layers, a short sleeve poly over a long sleeve poly and a windbreaker. I adjust the mid layer depending on the temp. I had been using a sweatshirt from 20F to 40F and have added a fleece vest or fleece jacket under 20F.

Today was 25F so I wore one of the wool sweaters. I was warm enough, but not too warm. The interesting thing was that my long sleeve poly was not as sweaty as normal.

The next time its ~25F I'm gonna try a fleece "sweater" (very high pile) I have for comparison.

On a slightly different note, do you wash (hand or machine) your "dry clean only" wool?
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Old 12-19-05, 08:40 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by seely
I don't think anyone could consider Ibex/Smartwool/etc stuff "itchy"... its softer than most cotton T-shirts I own.
I find good wool stuff very comfortable but my Mom appears to have an allgery to wool and finds even the softest wool itchy. I'm sure there are others like her but I bet it is rare.
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Old 12-19-05, 08:57 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ritehsedad
...

On a slightly different note, do you wash (hand or machine) your "dry clean only" wool?
I hand wash mine with a bit of Woolite or other mild detergent in cold water in the bathroom sink... I don't trust a machine with it, and I do it often enough that drycleaning (aside from the enviro impacts and nasty chemicals) would be overkill.
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Old 12-19-05, 09:12 AM   #14
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Most of the modern wool can be machine washed and dried. I've actually heard that one shouldn't use woolite, as it strips the lanolin from the wool. I spurge on some 'wool detergent' via Rivendell.
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Old 12-19-05, 09:51 AM   #15
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Most of the modern wool can be machine washed and dried. I've actually heard that one shouldn't use woolite, as it strips the lanolin from the wool. I spurge on some 'wool detergent' via Rivendell.

Whoa!
That's crazy!

I was using an eco detergent from the co-op, and then found some Woolite in the bottom of the closet.
I'll have to research this!
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Old 12-19-05, 10:06 AM   #16
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Here's some quick info:

There is also much mythological agitation around Woolite, but it's just a publicity scam. Woolite was 'gentle' in the 50s, if you compared it to the usual regime of hot water and Tide in the machine, with bleach to boot. It was gentle mostly in that it firmly recommended hand washing. But it's not a gentle product, it's very alkaline and strips the hell out of innocent wool fibers. Leave it to the uninitiated.

http://www.fuzzygalore.biz/articles/wash_sweater.shtml
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Old 12-19-05, 12:12 PM   #17
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I've been using Rivendell thin woolie shirts and other stuff for a few years. I've just used the gentle cycle and I like to use Dreft or generic Target baby laundry soap. I also don't put a lot of the stuff in. I've had good luck with both durability and I like to drip dry it so it hasn't shrunk yet.
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Old 12-19-05, 02:35 PM   #18
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Big fan of merino wool here. The range of temperatures at which it's comfortable seems to be greater than other fibers - you're not so cold as with a regular poly jersey, and you don't overheat the way you can with fleece. The downside is that I sweat like a Republican on a witness stand, so my wool gets pretty wet. But it's warm, comfy wet.
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Old 12-19-05, 03:47 PM   #19
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nice post on the dishwashing detergent. Guess I'll toss out the woolite. I've always loved wool but recently started using some Ibex stuff for cycling and haven't looked back. I'm phasing out my poly undergarments now and will be replacing them with wool.
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Old 12-19-05, 04:07 PM   #20
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Dollar for dollar I think the poly products deliver more (cost versus comfort). There are cheap and expensive versions of wool and poly products (fleece, underwear, you name it). In either case, the fancier more advanced the product, often the better it'll perform (you get what you pay for--generally). All that said, WOOL IS KING!
To summarize: Cheap poly is usually more comfortable than cheap wool. Good wool is much better than good poly. All IMHO.
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Old 12-19-05, 06:23 PM   #21
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For some reason the poly stuff gives inconsistent warmth. What worked one day i.e., same route, temperature, clothing, speed, wind....doesn't always work the next...BRRR.

The wool is much more reliable. HOWEVER, if you're cycling hard with say....2 wool layers and a softshell...waterlogging sets the chill ... after about 2.5hrs. Haven't figured out how to get around that.
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Old 12-19-05, 10:10 PM   #22
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Another vote for merino wool here. I find wool itchy, but can suck up the moisture yet not be wet. merino wool for me has no itchy side effects, and it seems to work well in heat as well as cold temps. I recently picked up a bunch of m.wool socks... great stuff.
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Old 12-19-05, 10:18 PM   #23
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Another vote for wool. Have a favourite turtleneck wool sweater my wife knitted for me and it's great. Holds the heat but still breaths. Just need to figure out my outer shell that works best.

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Old 12-20-05, 05:08 AM   #24
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I have used both wool and poly for a long time and wool is by far a superior fiber over poly fleece. Poly itself is OK as an underwear material, but poly fleece has limited use. Wool is MUCH better than poly in windy conditions. In fact, I venture to say that cold windy conditions, in wearing poly fleece is almost like being naked.

By volume, wool is much bette than poly fleece. You can fill a suitcase with poly fleece and not get the warmth factor of a nicely compressed woolen article.

Poly is easier to wash. Maybe you could find a wool/synthetic blend that can be machine washed. Otherwise, there is a lot to be said about being able to throw clothes in the washing machine.

Wool tends to felt in high friction spots which I personally like because it stays warm. Poly wears out in high friction spots.

Last edited by mike; 12-20-05 at 05:15 AM.
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Old 12-21-05, 12:59 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lala
Here's some quick info:

There is also much mythological agitation around Woolite, but it's just a publicity scam. ...
http://www.fuzzygalore.biz/articles/wash_sweater.shtml
Wow, err...I've been washing mine with jeans in cold water. If I understood the article, they say hot water and dawn or baby shampoo? I wonder if liquid ivory hand soap is OK.
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