Revival of The Original Technical Fiber

Photo from behind Nicole riding a bike with fall colored trees lining the roadway.
Nicole and I heading out for a great fall ride in the PNW.

My grandfather, Theo Caldwell, purchased an unassuming plot of land on the high plains of the Klickitat Valley in the mid-1970s. A prominent figure in the booming Seattle housing market, he built his home here in the flatlands outside of Goldendale, Washington, as an escape from the hustle of the city industry and began to farm sheep.

The 500-acre plot of land, mostly empty, rocky pasture that my grandfather once grazed his sheep on, has been a staple in my family for almost 50 years. And it’s been an integral part of my own rearing. I learned to drive here. I learned to chop wood and build fire here. And Nicole and I are excited to be planning our wedding there in about a year’s time.

The CBD farm (names after the three families that have called this place home over the years), no longer raises sheep. And no, it does not produce cannabis. Only a few apples to press for cider each fall, a few pigs, and some sport horses for jumping and carting competition. Its foundation as a sheep farm is hard to ignore.

So I’ve always been oddly excited when the clothing brands I love so much for their innovative cycling apparel begin to incorporate this natural fiber into their designs. As a part of their renewed Social Purpose, PEARL iZUMi is looking to renewable resources like Merino wool to help them achieve their goal of using recycled, renewable, or organic materials in 90% of their products by 2022. For a company of this scale, this will be truly incredible.

But just as importantly, their new Merino Wool Collection also proves to be incredibly effective technical wear for several key reasons. First, the wool’s capacity for thermal regulation comes from its naturally high insulating properties and breathability. Secondly, its capacity for water vapor absorption is unmatched, allowing for not only better functionality as a weather barrier but requiring less care between uses. And by adding in a blend of fibers from recycled water bottles, these two materials have allowed these new products to keep us warmer and drier than either material alone.

These Merino wool-based garments give us added confidence when we head out for a ride in the cold or in the wet. They also feel as cozy as it gets, owing to Merino’s finer fibers than traditional wool products, and remind me of my deep family roots in the wool industry. I’m excited by the forward-thinking that allows businesses like PEARL iZUMi and The Woolmark Company to come up with a sustainable product like this to not only offer us higher quality gear but to give us gear that takes fewer resources to produce and lasts a lifetime.

A portrait of Dillon's grandfather
Grandpa Caldwell
Theo Caldwell holding a lamb by the halter on the family farm.
Raising the original technical fiber.
Dillon petting a horse on the property.
Not just sheep on the farm anymore.
Nicole riding her bike
Taking in the sights on a ride in our wool jerseys.
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After several years on the US domestic road circuit (most recently with Colorado's 303 Project), Dillon is switching gears and focusing on gravel/adventure racing for 2019. As a brain tumor survivor, mountain bike tour guide, van lifer, journalist, and cycling coach, Dillon brings a wealth of unique experience to PEARL iZUMi's team of influencers. If you happen to be racing a gravel race in the U.S. this year, you'll likely see him and his big silver van. Don't hesitate to say hello!

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