Can a merino wool cycling jersey stop you getting sunburn?
Summer for Sheep
On some long summer drives through Central Queensland, NSW, Victoria and even Tasmania I have seen merino sheep standing with their big wooly coats on looking quite comfortable despite the lack of shade and the shimmering heat haze radiating from the ground. Surely they would be cooking in those thick merino wool jerseys!!
Wool growers will ensure that their sheep have at least 3-5cm of fleece on them as the hotter part of the year approaches and good farm managers ensure there is an adequate supply of fresh water, shelter and minimise movement of their flocks during the hotter parts of the day. This management helps to keep sheep in excellent condition. Periods of stress for merino sheep will show up as weakness in the fibres on their fleece, which in turn reduces the strength of the fibre making it less suitable for manufacturing high quality wool cycling jerseys, wool cycling bibs and merino cycling shorts and knicks.
There are a number of factors that influence UV protection of fabrics that we generally wear. These include;
- The type of knit or weave and the weight of the fabric (expressed as Grams per square metre -gsm) will increase the UV protection of the fabric.
- The material that the fabric is made out of. It is very interesting to read about the synthetic fibres versus natural fibres in the table below.
- The colour. Darker colours provide more protection than fabrics of the same material in light colours.
- How wet or dry the fabric is. A wet cycling jersey will provide less UV protection that a dry jersey. This variable also changes according to the fabric involved.
Fabrics that provide poor protection
Here is a quick summary of fabrics that do not perform so well in the sun.
- Bleached or white cotton
- Viscose (rayon)
- Threadbare, worn fabric
- Knits, especially loosely woven
- Undyed, white denim jeans
How does Merino Wool Offer UV Protection?
Merino wool helps to naturally protect your skin from the harmful rays of the sun and does it far better than more traditional summer fabrics such as cotton. How does it do it? Wool absorbs UV radiation through the entire UV spectrum providing protection from the sun. This is natural, as merino wool comes from the merino sheep originally from the mountains of Spain. 200 years of genetic improvements and adaptation to hot Australian summers has helped further develop this natural UV protection.
Proof is in the Pudding!
In 2001 a study by Gamblicher et al (2001) found that more than half of 236 fabrics studies fell below the European standard for ultraviolet protection of UPF >30.
All 100 of the Merino fabrics passed the test, with even the worst performing fabric still having a UPF greater than 40.
Thanks to Armadillo Merino® for the use of this table.
All of the 100% Breathe Vélo merino wool cycling jerseys have a UV factor of at least 40 UV. This provides our riders with great sun protection and comfort that most cotton products and does it without chemical additives or needing to apply copious amounts of sunscreen. Together with the breathability, odour reducing and softness characteristics of this organic, biodegradable fibre your merino wool cycling kit from Breathe Vélo will keep you safe, cool and comfortable throughout the long hot summers in whatever part of the world you are riding.