TARN MERINO SHIFT WIND JERSEY
AND VIRAGE PANTS REVIEW
IT’S GOOD TO BE THE WOLF IN THIS SHEEP’S CLOTHING
Words by Robert Johnston | Photos by Adam McGuire
Mons Royale is an apparel company hailing from the stunning Lake Wanaka in New Zealand. Back in 2009, founder Hamish Acland was inspired to create a brand who produced great performing technical ski apparel made from Merino wool, that didn’t compromise on aesthetics. In essence, Hamish wanted to minimize the kit he had to travel with for both on and off the mountain. So, he created items that performed well on the ski slopes and backcountry; could go days of adventure between washes; and still looked good enough to wear with pride at the bar. Sustainability has always been a key driver for Mons, from sourcing the natural Merino wool fibers to the recyclable packaging and everything in between. Over the years Mons Royale has been diversifying their range to include both men’s and women’s apparel for just about every adventure, including a growing mountain bike range that the Eurowolf was very excited to put to the test.
TARN MERINO SHIFT WIND JERSEY
The Tarn Merino Shift Wind Jersey is a long-sleeved jersey designed to offer some extra warmth in critical areas to take the chill off cooler days in the saddle, without being uncomfortable for high-effort riding. The foundation of the jersey is Mons’ Merino Shift 140(gsm) fabric, which sees a foundation of 52% Merino wool that is blended with 35% recycled Polyester and 13% Nylon to offer the beneficial anti-bacterial and temperature management properties of the Merino wool, with some extra stretch and quicker drying. A Ripstop Polyester front panel is then added to the front panel to offer protection from the wind, ensuring the cooler days don’t cause any issues. To further aid maneuverability, the Tarn jersey features a relaxed fit and Raglan sleeves, ensuring you can move around on the bike as you desire. As a first layer, the jersey is designed to be worn on its own primarily but can of course be incorporated into a layered outfit. A hidden sunglasses wipe is a neat touch that allows for safe vision clearing on the trails. The Tarn Merino Shift Wind jersey is available in sizes S-XXL with three colorways – Black, Blue Slate/Black, and Burnt Sage/Black (tested) – and retails for $130/£99.99/€99.99.
The Virage pants are brand new to the Mons Royale range, offering a lightweight pant for trail riding in all seasons. Made from a Stretch Wool Cordura with 14% Merino Wool, 81% Recycled Polyester and 5% Elastane, they’re designed to be hard wearing whilst remaining mobile and maintaining the Merino Wool temperature management properties. They feature a standard fit, with an elasticated waistband and power knit back panel to offer extra maneuverability when pedaling, and an articulated knee with space to accommodate a trail knee pad. Two hand pockets are accompanied by a zipped pocket on the rear of the right thigh, offering a secure store for your phone that’s still accessible on the saddle. The Virage pants are available in sizes S-XXL for waists from 30-38”, with three color options – Black (tested), Dark Chocolate and Dark Sage – with a retail price of $180/£149.99/€149.99.
Arriving in their recyclable packaging, I was very eager to get the Mons kit out and onto the trails from first sight. I’m a big fan of the colors and branding of the Mons kit, with enough “shout” to not be boring, but avoiding any hint of garishness.
Tarn Merino Shift Wind Long Sleeve jersey
The fit for me was just perfect, with a relaxed “steezy” body, slightly loose biceps and slimmer forearms. The length is a bit longer than average, which I was thankful for at 6’2” in a large, meaning that although the tail isn’t dropped it still sat in a good position. Similarly, the sleeve length is generous, avoiding any ride-up when stretched out, but thanks to the slimmer fitting forearms there was never any bunching up when off the bike.
Overall the 140gsm Merino Shift fabric was quite comfortable for a wide range of conditions, and that windstop did a great job at making windy, low ten celcius days pleasant. That windstop took the sting off the air moving through the jersey when rolling to the extent that even a bit below 10 degrees I was quite happy in the jersey alone. The lower airflow through the front can make the jersey feel quite hot above this, and I did sweat through the front a number of times on humid days when it was a struggle to figure out what to wear. When you sweat it through, the Merino Shift will hold moisture a bit longer than some fully synthetic materials, but still provides insulation to keep temperatures reasonable.
Most Merino products carry a slight “wet dog” smell when wet due to the natural Lanolin held within the fibers that contributes to the performance benefits, and the Tarn Wind was no exception. It was never bad enough to receive a comment from a riding buddy, but you notice it when you’re wearing it. Thankfully this is the only smell that typically came from the jersey, which resisted my multiple ride attempts at making the jersey itself smell, when it was a different story for me. Through a couple of months of wearing the jersey at any given opportunity, riding in gritty Scottish mud with a pack on and battling with shrubs on the trailside, it’s still looking as fresh as day one. It is a serious amount of money for a jersey, but you get the impression it’s well worth the investment for the long haul.
The understated looks of the Virage Pants disguise their technical focus almost entirely, leading me to happily rocking them in the pub post-ride. The black is more of a dark charcoal gray, which looks very neat in the flesh with a slight brushed effect through it. There was another great cut on these, with a reasonable leg length, a slim profile in the places you want it and slightly more room in the places you need it. The elasticated cuffs did a great job of staying out of the drivetrain without becoming a nuisance to take on and off, and the stretch panel at the back of the waist allows for articulation at the hips without causing the waistband to move. Thinner, trail-style knee pads from various brands played kindly, and the slight stretch of the material ensured there were no feelings of restriction or binding, but a thicker pad would be a squeeze. The hand pockets are a good depth letting you ride with items in there without concern and the zipped pocket is large enough to fit a good size mobile phone, though it’s position only makes sense once you’re sat in a saddle – it feels a bit wrong when you’re standing.
The material on the Virage pants loses the majority of the Merino wool content so it felt more synthetic, in that it remained lighter when wet (which was often thanks to the Scottish Fall/Winter test period) and dried a bit quicker but didn’t offer the same warmth. The thin material breathed very well considering there’s no venting in place, resisting overheating until things got particularly warm or efforts were high. Durability didn’t prove to be a concern though, with no signs of rubbing on the saddle area or any knicks or tears from a couple of small bails and a pounding with trailside shrubs. In fact, the only give-away that they had been used at all was a small line of stitching unraveling at the knee, which presented no further issues. I was happy to take the Virage pants on the drier rides between 5 and 15 Celsius, but their lack of waterproofing meant they quickly wetted through with puddle splashes and light rain. It would be great to see a factory applied DWR coating to fend off some minor moisture and add to the comfort and performance. Unlike the jersey, I didn’t manage to sustain more than a couple rides in a row without washing to test how they fared in the smell department as the trail conditions would have them saturated and muddy.
The Wolf’s Last Word
This pairing of Mons Royale gear was an absolute treat to ride in through Fall, to the point that I was sad when Winter came along, and temperatures dropped below their ideal range. The look, feel and performance of both the Tarn Merino Shift Wind Jersey and Virage pants was stellar, and they packed the longevity to boot. There’s no denying that prices are quite high, but quality often costs.
Tarn Wind Jersey – $130/£99.99/€99.99
Virage Pants – $180/£149.99/€149.99