Founded at the end of 2014 by outdoors enthusiast and mountain biker, Alex Feechan, the FINDRA brand has been making ripples into waves amongst the UK MTB scene with their uniquely designed clothing for women. We got our hands on FINDRA's Route Merino t-shirt for some pedal testing.
One of the themes which run throughout FINDRA's collection of garments is the use of merino wool. For those of you who aren't familiar with the properties of merino wool, let us tell you that it's a pretty incredible material and a staple amongst outdoor adventurers and explorers alike. So, what is it?
It goes without saying that merino wool comes from sheep whose wool is much finer than other breeds of sheep, thus making it a lot softer and less scratchy than your Nana's knitted jumpers. The wool itself contains keratin which is responsible for healthy hair and nails, but it's the keratin that gives the wool a silky soft feeling.
Merino wool has natural anti-bacterial properties which help reduce bacteria build up and consequent odours, making it perfect for active wear. The fabric is also great at holding water and can absorb approximately one-third of its own weight as well as having the ability to dry super quick.
Not unlike down, merino wool allows the heat you create to be trapped in little air pockets between the fibres which help to keep you warm. However, it also has the ability to release the trapped heat because it's so breathable. This feature helps regulate your body temperature when you're exercising, which is perfect for us riders!
FINDRA's Route Merino T-Shirt
So you can see why FINDRA uses plenty merino wool in their collection. Along with buffs, hoodies and baselayers, the women's outdoor brand have the Route Merino t-shirt which is available in four flat and largely understated colours. So we took one out for a few rides, both mountain bike trail days and for more leisurely bimbles.
First of all, that's exactly what makes this t-shirt so great is that it looks, fits and feels casual enough to wear in a whole host of activities. Personally, I do love a piece of kit which I can wear on/off the bike - so that's a bonus.
Other features to admire includes a totally seamless design, textured fabric around the neckline to improve breathability and the fact it's 100% Italian-spun merino sports wool.
FINDRA's Route Merino t-shirt has a lovely tapered fit and when combined with the qualities of merino wool, it softly hugs the figure without feeling constricting. The longer length on the body provides ample coverage for when you're sending it off a drop, or if you prefer to tuck the excess into your shorts, there's enough for that too.
The sleeve length is slightly longer than a traditional t-shirt length, and certainly, avoids the typical female 'cap sleeve' design that so many other brands favour. The additional coverage provides improved protection to your shoulders and arms from the sun and from rogue branches which attempt to fumble your flow.
However, I found the neckline to come up a little too high for my liking. Personally, I don't like having collars which touch the front of my neck and while they help prevent a draft down the front of your body, I feel the neckline could have done with being just a little lower.
FINDRA supplies their merino garments with a really helpful "Merino Care Guide" which tells you how best to look after your garment. After all, the delicacies of merino wool fabric with its myriad of kickass properties tend to come with a strict set of do's and dont's...
- Hand wash OR machine wash at 30 degrees on a low spin short cycle
- Reshape the top when damp
- Dry on a clean flat surface
- Wash with a mild detergent
- Use fabric softeners
- Tumble dry, dry on/near heat or in direct sunlight
- Wring out
- Dry clean or use bleach
These guidelines are recommendations from FINDRA, but they apply to most other merino wool garments you'll find on the market. I found it really helpful and considerate for FINDRA to include this guide, otherwise, the t-shirt would have been thrown in the wash bag with everything else and hung up with pegs on the line (yes, I'm a lazy launderer).
The Verdict: The good, the bad and the ugly
I've worn, aired and washed FINDRA's Route Merino t-shirt over the course of a few months now and overall, I do really like it for a number of very simple reasons: It's comfortable, soft, fitting and the colour is quite lovely too. This t-shirt is much more than just a riding top, it's an ideal base layer for chillier days and a doubles up as a cheeky casual shirt too.
However, you need £70 to buy it and nothing short of unicorn tears to take care of it. The fragility of this t-shirt gives it both a high-quality superior feel as well as a sudden fear of all things pointy which may snag the fabric. I did follow FINDRA's washing guide each time and while the t-shirt remained intact, unblemished and ever vibrant in colour, I felt that it required more effort than I would usually put in to take care of it. For this reason, I would probably save this t-shirt for more base-layer purposes and perhaps wear on the occasional bimble or walkabout, and less so for stand alone trail shredding.
The new FINDRA shop
Having run the business through their online website and via distributors, FINDRA has finally opened the doors of their first retail shop, and where better to have it than the MTB mecca that is Innerleithen.
The new store is situated on Innerleithen High street and it showcases the full range of FINDRA's collection. It's more than just a clothing store though as founder, Alex Feechan hopes the store will act as a hub for women’s cycling in the area as she plans to host rides, talks and presentations to inspire and motivate not only women cyclists but the active community at large.
So next time you're in the Scottish Borders, pop in and say hello to the Findra team. Their address is FINDRA Design Hub, 83 High Street, Innerleithen, Scottish Borders, EH44 6HD.
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