FOLLOW HOLLOW MEN'S ALPACA SOCKS
48g (as tested) $25/ £20 (at time of writing)
The Follow Hollow Men's Alpaca Socks are what I'd describe as an "everyman" design. One capable of cutting it on the trail, and on the road. If price is your bottom line, they'll also give pure Merino blends a seriously good run for your hard earned.
Pros: Soft, excellent moisture management and odour control.
Cons: More limited sizing, dodge the drier.
I'm told this is a work in progress and presently boils down to two sizes, medium and large. Medium covers 7-10 (US) and Large 10.5-13 (US). At present they're still working sizes out for US women and UK conversions. Being an EU 43 street, 44 cycling shoes, I went for the large and these proved absolutely perfect.
We're told "Follow Hollow" refers to the technical properties of Alpaca hair. These are completely hollow, which theoretically give it a competitive edge over merino wool. Their exact composition is 80% "baby" (less than two years old) alpaca wool, 15% nylon and 5% Spandex (Lycra).
The theory goes that this blend offers optimal temperature and odour management while staying put. The yarn from alpaca this young has not yet developed barbs, so feel tactile, in the same sense as merino.
Detailing and construction are correspondingly high. Reinforcement ar the toe box and heel is more subtle than I've come to expect from wool, and indeed better quality synthetics. However, this hasn't posed any concerns, in terms of comfort, or durability.
Appearance divides opinion here, but the greater coverage is welcomed off-road without looking "trail" when riding road bikes. Not that you'd notice during the cooler months, with tights anyhow.
Pretty straightforward, so long as you apply the same cautions as per merino. Brian Davis; Follow Hollow's founder, insisted comfort would improve still further with wearing and washing, which has proved true. I've machine washed ours at 40 degrees with no problems. They'll line dry in around 40 minutes, given a decent breeze. Swerve the drier whatever you do.
Well, they've lived up to the hype, in every respect and I'm wondering why no-one thought to use Alpaca wool before. As I intimated in my earlier section, fit is excellent and I've had consistently excellent results, regardless of shoe genre, or materials.
I've run ours with everything from these Lake MTB booties (below), to full blown race slippers, with Audax and touring shoes as my defaults.
A warm start to September saw temperatures exceeding 25C 30, 40 and 50 miles in, the fibres ensured a consistently cool inner climate. I was conscious of some heat generated and a faint clamminess - much as you'd get with merino/hybrid blends but this was spirited away with surprising haste.
After a full day's riding - even in synthetic shoes, nasty niffs were a moot point and though hardly good hygiene, successive wearing for three days and a further 150 miles didn't summon a nasty funk. However, it’s worth noting I'd switched to leather uppers, by the second ride.
Heel cups and balls of my feet felt perfectly cushioned throughout, losing nothing to more substantially padded models, such as the agreeable Smartwool PHD Outdoor Light Crew Socks. Though very tactile the Spandex component has ensured cuffs remained in situ all day, without any unsightly branding, or nagging discomfort.
Greater length offered excellent defence against brambles, stray stones and prickly foliage, when I've been indulging in bridle path cut through s and longer mixed terrain outings aboard my Univega.
As the heatwave has given way to cooler, unsettled weather, I've welcomed the additional warmth. Especially on cold, clear all-nighters, or when engulfed by tidal waves of dodgy water, thrown up by larger, passing vehicles.
At the time of writing, Brian Davis is offering a single pair at $25 US dollars (£20 sterling) which in some respects, is hardly cheap. However, this becomes incrementally cheaper, the more you purchase. i.e. 2 pairs $45, 4 pairs $80 etc.
Very reasonable, when pitted against Merino (arguably its closest comparator). Smart Wool PHD Outdoor Light Crew Socks are a couple of quid cheaper. However, it’s worth remembering these are a merino/nylon blend.
Much the same story with Polaris Challenge Merino Ride, which are a similar hybrid. The Follow Hollow are also made in the US, where manufacturing costs are higher, compared to the Far East.
I've been impressed by the Follow Hollow. Moisture management, odour and temperature regulation is a notch higher than Merino weaves. There's little in it, price-wise, compared with merino/synthetic blends too.