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Kora Azog yak wool jersey review

25 Apr 2017

An understated and extremely cosy jersey that is a great winter/spring addition to any cycling wardrobe

Yak wool is the new merino. A number of high-end brands have utilised the natural wonders of merino wool for cycling jerseys (Rapha most notably), but adventure clothing brand Kora believes that the fleece of the yak – a big, hairy ox found in the Himalayas – has even more performance benefits.

Kora founder Michael Kleinwort says, ‘Yak wool is a fine, hollow fibre capable of trapping air inside as well as between its fibres. Independent tests have shown that our 100% yak wool fabric called Hima-Layer Original 230 is weight-for-weight 40% warmer and more breathable than comparable merino fabrics. It is also softer than merino – it handles similar to cashmere – while it has the same natural anti-odour and moisture management properties.’

Kleinwort first became aware of the wool while climbing in the Himalayas of China, where yaks cope with extreme cold and wet. He decided to start a business creating clothing from yak wool, with the focus on sustainability and environmental sensitivity.

‘The yak wool in the Azog Jersey is purchased by Kora from nomadic herder communities living in a remote part of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau,’ he says. ‘At 4,500-5,100m altitude it is one of the highest inhabited areas in the world and contains the source of three great rivers: the Yellow, the Yangtze and the Mekong rivers. Our company’s mission is to empower these herder communities and protect the fragile ecosystem in which they live.’

Until now, the majority of Kora’s clothing has been aimed at the outdoor and mountaineering market, with base layers and hooded tops. The Azog is the first foray into cycling gear, although the emphasis is still on the adventurous side of the sport. Designed to be comfortable and versatile on long cycle journeys, the natural antibacterial properties ensure that is won’t get smelly over time.

Kleinwort says, ‘The Azog Jersey is designed for multi-day adventures and long base training rides in the cooler months when conditions and temperatures vary. Depending on how you layer, the jersey is suitable for temperatures up to 18C and down to near freezing. I’d recommend a wool base layer underneath – this will wick moisture but keep you warm even when it’s wet. A synthetic layer will not do that. The jersey will handle the odd bit of rain without a problem, but it’s worth keeping a thin waterproof layer in a pocket or pannier in case of a proper downpour.’

In line with its ‘bike packer’ objectives, the jersey comes with really deep pockets at the rear, so you can stuff them an extra layer, a hat, neck warmer, banana, Jelly Babies, map – ‘All those items you might need in a hurry that you don’t want to be spending ages digging around in a pannier for,’ says Kleinwort. While the main body of the jersey is made from yak wool, the arms are merino wool to make them lighter and more flexible. Thumb loops help to keep the jersey sleeves tucked beneath gloves when the temperature drops.

The Cyclist view

I’ve always liked merino cycling kit. It manages the double act of being stylish and high performance – soft to touch with good temperature regulation and excellent wicking properties. And, of course, it doesn’t stink like manmade fibres once it gets sweaty. So I was keen to try a yak wool jersey that promises everything that merino has and more.

The first thing I noticed about the Azog jersey was just how warm it is. The fabric is not particularly thick, but it is reasonably heavy, and it feels like a substantial layer compared to many modern lightweight materials. While there is a bit of stretch, the jersey isn’t particularly form fitting and it hangs a bit around the waist, but then the company has stated that it’s aimed at long adventures rather than racing, so I can forgive its lack of aerodynamics.

The look is simple and, in my opinion, rather stylish. I could see myself slipping this on for a walk to the pub on a cool evening as much as a month-long bike packing trip across Asia. It’s certainly an excellent commuter top for days when you want proper protection from the elements without looking like you’re off to race at the cobbled Classics.

Riding on chilly days in early spring, I was immediately thankful of the Azog’s natural warmth. I felt positively cosy in my fleece covering, although as the miles racked up I did find myself beginning to overheat slightly. There were no problems with wicking, and I remained comfortable throughout, but for hard rides it is probably best kept for really cold days when, paired with a base layer and thin rain shell, it would cope with pretty much any weather the British winter could throw at it.

Although I have no plans for an extended trip with all my worldly goods stuffed into panniers (I need to be back in time to pick the kids up from school), I can see how this would become a well-used item of kit. It’s comfortable, unfussy, goes with anything, and copes with a large range of conditions as long as you’re not laying down serious watts on a training ride.

The yak is perfectly adapted to one of the harshest environments on Earth; its wool is perfect for fun days out in crisp British conditions.

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