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Icebreaker Rhythm Jersey and Halo Short: High Mileage, High Performance

My pro-cyclist friend likes to utter this truism: "The farther you get from your bike, the stupider your bike clothes look."

I find his joke funny, because the term "cycling fashion" has always struck me as an oxymoron. I've never been keen to wear too-tight, garish tops and unattractively bulging shorts (which make all cyclists look like they're wearing a diaper stuffed into a sausage casing). Yet ugly seemed to be the price I had to pay to get top-notch performance and comfort in the saddle. That is...until I discovered Icebreaker's short-sleeved Rhythm Jersey and Halo Short. They actually look good--even when my bike is nowhere in sight.

The jersey is gorgeous. Did I just call a piece of bike clothing gorgeous? Yes, it's true. The lightweight merino wool fabric (which is infused with a touch of Lycra to keep it from stretching out of shape) feels soft, almost silky against my skin. The fit is body-hugging but not constrictive, and the fabric's matte surface (a welcome change from shiny synthetics) is attractive.

The Rhythm is intended for cool conditions, but I found it pretty comfortable during an ultra-steamy indoor spin class (I insisted on wearing it there because I've come to prefer it for every ride I do). On outdoor road rides this spring the shirt's performance truly stood out. Although my early-season lack of fitness had me huffing and puffing, the Rhythm never felt sweaty or clammy. It felt cozy during chilly grey days when a raw spring wind blew, but it also breathed and kept me pleasantly cool when the sun came out and shot the mercury to summer-like temperatures.

The features are smart, too. The zipper pull on the hidden side pocket is much better designed than on most jerseys: It has a large ring that's easy to grab when I'm reaching behind with bike gloves on. Sticky silicone along the jersey's hem keeps it from riding up. Open-topped, elasticized pockets on the back hold snacks and a tube-changing kit. The front zipper is nice and deep, so when it's open it offers great ventilation during long uphills.

The Halo short was a revelation. Most bike shorts are glossy, but the Halo's matte finish is classy and much more flattering on me than those shiny sausage casings. The waistband is higher than some, but not so high that it limited my lung capacity. Even sucking wind on steep climbs, I could take in full breaths. The length is perfect.

The Halo has a little less Merino (84 percent) than the Rhythm, which makes it smooth enough to glide easily over the saddle. The chamois is thicker than most, and broad, like the best women's-specific designs generally are. Unfortunately, the first time I wore it (for a short one-hour ride) I found the chamois fabric to be a little abrasive, but nothing that a smear of chamois butter couldn't fix. And the ample cushioning has been most welcome for early-season riding (when my tush is still adapting to the saddle!) and on longer rides, when it keeps me feeling as comfortable at mile 40 as I felt at 10.

But what really makes me love these Merino pieces for biking is their smell—or lack of it. Most other bike tops and shorts stink something awful after a few long, sweaty rides. But not these. Not only do I like the way I look in the Rhythm and Halo, I like the way I smell.

Available in blue and black, sizes XS-XL.. Icebreaker also makes men">men's cycling gear.

Bottom Line: Cycling duds made for hours of comfortable performance that look—and smell—good off the bike, too. –K.B. (April '11)

BUY ONLINE : $130/jersey , 160/short , click on icon below(or links) to shop.

Manufacturer's Site: www.icebreaker.com

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