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My New Favorite Cycling Socks: Smartwool ‘Ultra Light Cycle Crew’

Smartwool ultralight cycle crew socks
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When it comes to bike commuting and mountain biking, I’ve always just worn running socks. Until now.

Socks are just socks, right? No. As anyone who puts down mileage running, backpacking, or cycling will tell you, what’s on your feet is important. And that includes the layer of fabric between your feet and shoes.

The new Smartwool PhD UL Cycle Crew Socks ($21) are a blend of 49% nylon, 46% merino wool, and 4% elastane. Upon testing, I found these socks offered light cushioning and great stretch (but not too much). They don’t slip or feel constrictive after a few hours in the saddle.

For most of my rides, while wearing these, I was on a mix of gravel, packed dirt, and mountain trails. No matter the terrain, the socks kept my feet comfy.

Smartwool UL cycle crew socks
Close up of the Smartwool Ultra Light cycle socks

Of course, for $21, you hopefully aren’t just paying for comfort. The price reflects Smartwool’s efforts to tailor socks to a specific type and level of activity.

Smartwool Ultra Light Cycle Crew Review

The cycle crew socks have what the brand calls a performance-oriented fit, meaning seamless toes, “activity-specific” mesh zones for breathability, and Smartwool’s Indestructawool technology (the yarn and merino fibers are spun together in a way that makes the socks are more durable).

Let’s break that down: I own a few other pairs of Smartwool socks, and I definitely notice the lighter weight and heightened breathability in this pair.

Looking at the socks off the bat, I noticed patterns in the knit construction. If you turn the socks inside out, you can clearly see the activated mesh panels and zones where Smartwool added “reinforced fibers.”

After several weeks, their quality has held up great. I do have a small snag near the ankle of one sock from a rather large thorn that I failed to notice over the course of a ride, but the yarn hasn’t yet pulled or unraveled from this, even after washing.

Of course, over time, you’ll have wear and tear on any pair of socks. But considering these socks’ lightweight construction, I am happy with the durability so far.

Final Notes on the Smartwool UL Cycle Crew Socks

The UL Cycle Crew socks fit my feet — which are on the narrower side — well. Fit is important for me; if there is excess fabric in the toebox or near the heel, I have a really uncomfortable time. The small percentage of elastane in these socks is crucial to provide that little bit of stretch.

After riding in these socks for a few weeks, I’ve enjoyed the fit and breathability enough that I recommend investing in a pair. If the crew height isn’t your style, these cycle socks also come in ankle (“micro”) height for men and women.

Note: Above, I mentioned owning other pairs of Smartwool socks. Most of these are ski socks, but I also have a few pairs of lightweight hiking and running socks.

The UL Cycle Crew socks are my first pair of ultralight socks from Smartwool. To me, the “Ultra Light” factor is a bonus. Socks don’t really contribute much to pack weight, but if I find myself tight on pack space in the near future, these socks will be the ones I grab.

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