Packed with natural performance properties, merino is the wonder fabric every cyclist should own.

Merino, not to be confused with a certain Portuguese football manager, constitutes a large part of our performance clothing range. And is not just for winter, in fact you can ride in it pretty much year-round, give or take the occasional heatwave. 

Naturally breathable and extremely odour resistant (less washing) merino wool is one of nature’s little miracles. That’s because merino fibres are ‘hydrophilic’ on the inside, meaning they retain water. So, when merino absorbs sweat from your body, it holds on to it without the fabric becoming damp against your skin.

skin in the game merino base layer

On the outside, meanwhile, merino fibres are ‘hydrophobic’ and thus repel water. When your body produces more moisture than the fabric can retain, any excess moisture is released in the form of vapour and evaporates away. Clever, eh?

stiff upper lip merino neck warmer

Now, maybe it’s just us, an indication of our masochistic side or contrary nature but you might have noticed that Pearson’s merino products tend to have names that suggest a certain forbearance. ‘Skin in the Game’, for example, is our best-selling base layer, or ‘Stiff Upper Lip’, our sumptuous merino neck warmer; even our go-to merino beanie we’ve affectionately dubbed ‘Hard as Nails’.

Box hill loop merino jersey

Which might strike you as a bit odd, given these are products designed to make your riding as comfortable as possible. We could have named them more literally, of course, to better express what they actually do, but it wouldn’t quite capture the sense of ambition we know our customers have, their spirit of adventure. And, frankly, who wants to ride out to battle the elements in a base layer called Nice Warm Cuppa, or Stop Stealing the Duvet?

Skin in the game merino base layer

It also wouldn’t do justice to merino’s mind-boggling natural performance properties. Merino helps regulate your body temperature regardless of the conditions. In the cold, it traps a layer of air against your skin which your body heat then warms, keeping you cosy in the process. The genius of merino, however, is that it performs just as well in warmer conditions. That’s because the individual wool fibres are themselves breathable. 

merino fibre explained

The most important aspect when sourcing our products is that all Pearson merino comes from non-mulesed sheep. (‘Mulesing’ is an unpleasant procedure that involves stripping skin from a sheep’s back end to protect it from parasites.) Thereafter, we blend premium Australian merino with MAPP merino.

MAPP stands for Merino Advanced Performance Programme, a decades-old R&D venture that began life in New Zealand, home to the world’s finest merino sheep; animals whose fleeces are so exceptional their high opinion of themselves almost matches that of the country’s other great export, the All Blacks rugby teams.

in the beginning merino cycling jersey

All merino sheep are created equal, to paraphrase George Orwell, but some are more equal than others. Through a combination of scientific analysis and equally sci-fi breeding, MAPP merino is now accepted as the industry standard for the highest-quality wool. MAPP merino not only guarantees responsible sourcing but also that the wool will perform better than any synthetic fabric. 

The key to MAPP merino’s singular performance is individual fibres which are particularly long and strong. And very, very fine. The finer the fibre, scientists discovered, the better-performing the fabric. That MAPP merino produces such fibres is partly an accident of geography.


The sheep used are entirely organic and spend their time grazing on mountainous pasture, much of which occurs at about 5,000ft above sea level. Point being, these sheep lead blissfully stress-free lives, breathing clean air and with nothing more to do than watch whichever part of the Tolkien franchise Peter Jackson happens to be rinsing at the time.

The fineness of their fibres is not to be taken lightly. (Harder than you think given they weigh so little.) In a 1990s study at the University of Otago, a group of elite athletes were monitored during exercise and in a range of temperatures. Kitted out in different grades of merino, as well as synthetics, the fine-fibre merino performed best of all, and in both cold and hot conditions. 


Thanks to advances in synthetic fabric technology, not to mention Pearson’s commitment to sustainability, we do use small amounts of recycled polyester in some of our merino products. This helps enhance fit – merino performs best when snug against the body – and also significantly extends product life. If nothing else, this might prevent the occasional heatwave we mentioned at the beginning becoming a more regular occurrence.

And if you do purchase some merino clothing, we humbly entreat you to take good care of it. After all, a merino sheep might not have died to create your new purchase but it did lend you its overcoat. 

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