POLARIS CHALLENGE MERINO RIDE SOCKS
THREE MONTH TEST £17.99
Polaris Challenge Merino Ride Socks are in fact, a hybrid blend, consisting of merino wool and polyester with some elastane thrown into the mix. Some might feel the asking price a bit steep, given the brand's standard merino socks come in at just over a tenner. However, the Challenge Merino Ride perform equally well off the bike.
First up there are two distinctive colours, which Polaris call Lime/Navy and our Navy/Orange, which not only compliment the Nexus Challenge Short and Traverse Ride Jersey but blended in with other cycling kit better than I had expected.
There are three sizes - small, medium and large - which should cater for the vast majority of adults and seem in tune with other brands, taking some of the guesswork out of online purchases. Our mediums were perfect for my size 9/43 but I’d go the large (9.5-12.15) route if you’re between sizes.
Longer socks have become increasingly popular over the last decade. Personally, I wrestle with the aesthetic, worn with traditional Lycra shorts and sportier shoes. However, they offer ankles and calves better protection from brambles and other prickly stuff that can hide in long grass. Elastic cuffs are gentler than others, so no risk of unsightly banding but to date, no problems with them gathering, or slipping-even after several hours’ continuous effort.
Talking of which, padded toe box and heel sections are common enough. Density, especially around the toe box is less generous than Smart Wool NTS but achieved a slightly better fit with racier road and mountain bike shoes.
Greater support around the arch genuinely seems to combat fatigue, especially off road, when shouldering the bike and running. In these contexts, there’s never been any hint of blistering. This remained unchanged, paired with walking boots on long cross country meanders.
Merino is in many respects an obvious choice given its ability to regulate temperature, evict moisture and mask odour. Compared with purer merino blends, the challenge felt more synthetic, closer to a higher end polyester weave.
Faux leather shoe uppers can stunt wicking prowess, which wasn’t quite seamless, regardless of materials but my feet never turned soggy in the way polyesters can. Even in high humidity, with the mercury hovering around 30 degrees. Wearing the challenge for four consecutive days, they still smelt just the right side socially acceptable, ditto my feet.
Thoroughly soaked, they’ve dried in around thirty minutes and so far this December, my feet have remained toasty in more traditional leather touring/race slippers, although overshoes have been a must once the mercury’s plummeted and roads saturated.
Bottom line, the web is littered with bargain merino socks and the challenge livery might be a little vibrant for some. Nonetheless, they are a decent staple that work well on and off the bike.
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