Best known for outfitting the Pacific Northwest in waterproof casual shoes (Jungle Mocs, anyone?), Merrell has branched out into urban street apparel with technical details. While not marketed as bike-specific, some of their clothing items would be great choices for bike commuting to an office casual job.
Last summer, I tried on Merrells’s short sleeved Ophelia shirt and loved the silky-looking, quick-dry synthetic fabric and thoughtful details. I held out for fall though, hoping Merrell would come up with a long sleeved version, which I find infinitely more practical in the upper Midwest (you can always roll the sleeves up). They came through and the Ophelia has become a wardrobe staple.
The shirt is made of light-weight woven polyester, with knit panels at the sides and underarm. These add a lot to range of motion – this shirt is not going to pull at the shoulders just because you’re riding drop handlebars. They do make the shirt more casual, less appropriate (on it’s own) for a formal office – but you can always throw on a cardigan or blazer. The buttons are small, pearly flowers that add a feminine touch.
There is a small hidden snap right at the bust-line that keeps the shirt from gapping – the kind of detail that practically sells itself. Every women’s button front shirt should have this feature. The stitching on the snap has started to unravel a bit, but I am planning on simply sewing it back on. There’s a bit of room for quality improvement here.
Besides the two chest pockets, there’s a small hidden zippered pocket over my right kidney. The small size of the pocket and the lightweight fabric make me hesitant to put anything heavy inside, and anything much larger than a Clif Bar wouldn’t fit. The zipper runs from the bottom of my rib cage to my hips, making it awkward to tuck in the shirt (if I do, the stiff zipper creates a weird bulge in an otherwise tailored look). The pocket seems like a nod to bike jerseys, but falls short of real functionality. I would suggest Merrell leave this detail off in future iterations.
Unfortunately, in the time I spent thoroughly testing this product for you, Merrell discontinued this lovely blue. The current option is black, which is practical and flexible but not very exciting. That’s a bummer, because I love this vibrant turquoise. It’s fairly visible without screaming “bike nerd!” and goes perfectly with my favorite turquoise earrings.
Overall I think this is a great product, and it’s part of my regular work wardrobe rotation. Sleeves rolled up in summer, underneath a wool sweater in winter – this is a year-round staple even in Minnesota’s varied climate. I would recommend this shirt to any bike commuter – it feels like as soon as I’m off the bike, I’m sweat free and polished.
January 27, 2013 – UPDATE! Merrell’s spring collection offers the Ophelia in five different colors!