Ingrid Jönsson, Firouzeh Akabari and Eleonor Lubell; if you’re unfamiliar with these women, don’t feel bad. I hadn’t heard of them either until I found their names stitched in the Woolpower Thermal Wear I was wearing. Signing your name to what you’ve made is a sign of confidence in a product – equally confident in the performance of Woolpower’s cold weather garments is their Canadian distributor, Canadian Outdoor Equipment. As proprietor Chris Scerri outfitted me from head to toe with the Swedish clothing, he promised that it would outperform any other material geared towards keeping riders warm.
On test was a 400 weight Helmet Cap ($28), a 200 weight Crewneck base layer shirt ($86), a 400 weight Full Zip Jacket ($152), 200 weight Long Johns ($82), knee-high Liner Socks ($19) and a pair of 200 weight Knee-High Socks ($19). Immediate fit of the items was comfortable and debunked misconceptions I had about wool. Made from fine Merino wool, Woolpower’s products felt soft and inviting and wasn’t at all itchy or irritating against my skin. Although the cut of the arms and legs was slightly long, it’s was actually a bonus because a motorcyclist’s riding posture causes normal clothing to ride up. Likewise, the shirt and jacket featured an extended back that provided extra coverage when leaning forward.
Riding throughout October when the biting chill of early mornings meant letting the bike warm up enough to piss off the neighbours, the Woolpower gear under normal riding gear was enough to keep me warm. I even remained comfortable during single-digit temperatures while others resorted to being heavily bundled in one-piece Aerostitch suits. However, longer rides in colder temperatures required layering the Woolpower garments under windproof clothing to prevent the heat from being wicked away.
One of Scerri’s claims that I wanted to test was that the wool wouldn’t absorb any smells. I like to think I never offend anyone’s nostrils, but wear the same clothes on a week-long ride and they can get as funky as a hermetically sealed hockey bag. Yet, after wearing the Woolpower clothes almost daily for a month, the material smelled the same as when I first pulled it out of the box. Some of this can be attributed to Woolpower’s claim that their wool is self-cleaning; apparently two types of cells make up the wool’s fibres and they absorb moisture at different rates resulting in their constant motion. This causes a mechanical, self-cleaning effect.
After washing everything for use on a press launch, I noted that the wool retained its shape and didn’t show any adverse effects from being laundered. The only wear-and-tear I discovered after extensive use was the pulling of fibres on the sleeves and on the upper collar of the jacket from rubbing against beard stubble. However, this was only aesthetic and didn’t affect the utility of the clothing.
Another technical aspect relevant to Canadian motorcyclists is that wool doesn’t lose its thermal properties when wet. I put this to the test in a downpour during a Yamaha press launch when my riding jeans and Woolpower Long Johns became soaking wet. Initially, as the rain soaked through, I was uncomfortably cold, but as the water in the material warmed, so did my legs.
A competitive approach to staying warm would be to use electrically heated gear. However, unlike electric garments that only work while the rider is tethered to their bike, Woolpower provides continuous warmth and can be worn for other activities. An unexpected result of this test was my attachment to the helmet cap. A lot of body heat is lost through the head and the cap, which not only fit well under every helmet, became something that kept me warm around the house instead of turning up the thermostat.
Woolpower products can be ordered online by visiting canadianoutdoorequipment.com or by calling 905-990-1750. It’s worth reading their informative booklet on wool and the challenges of staying warm in adverse conditions. There wasn’t any arguing that Woolpower made me more comfortable during cold weather rides, effectively extending my riding season. In my book any product that keeps me riding longer deserves an appreciative two thumbs up. – Uwe Wachtendorf