Happy Riding
MTB

Gear Guide: 10 Summer Riding Kits for Men

Happy Riding

More and more, the technical gear we wear while riding has become an integral part of the riding experience. As I (and everyone else) spend exceedingly longer times in the saddle and have more exposure to the elements, I’m realizing that clothing designed for the rigors of mountain biking—clothing that utilizes performance materials and has a bike-specific fit—is more important than ever. Like many others out there, my first ride was in gym shorts and a cotton t-shirt, but I’ve since learned the hard way that a decent summer riding kit can make the difference between finishing a ride tired and happy vs. turning around early in a sodden, sweaty mess with my bum chafed red like a baboon’s ass.

This spring (and almost winter here during the unseasonable June-uary we have been having in the PNW) Nikki and I have been putting short and jersey riding kits from a variety of companies to the test. From sweltering, no-shade-for-miles rides to frigid, pissing rain all-day epics, and everything in between, one thing for certain is that we’re not exactly beggared for choices on good gear these days. The fit, finish, and function of all the options from the various brands seem to be converging to both practical and stylish standards, similar to how the modern wheel size, geometry, and travel of the mountain bike have converged into the single track shred machines of today. A new kit won’t make or break your ride, but it will help keep you comfortably loam hunting for far longer than your basic denim shorts and a cotton t-shirt.

Read on for details on some of the best new threads out there!

About The Tester:
Pierce Martin is 5’11” tall, has a 31-inch waist, and weighs 160-lbs on a low beer week. Usually, he is right in the middle of the bell curve wearing medium for most cycling shorts, jerseys, gloves, and helmets. Pierce lives in Hood River, OR where he spends his working hours as a desk jockey in the cube farm.


POC

For a company whose very birth was simply sketched out on a napkin in a restaurant, POC’s come far. It’s been 15 years since the Swedish brand’s casual founding, and POC can now be found in 25 countries and has won numerous awards for safety and design for a variety of gravity sports, including mountain biking.

Consumer safety is POC’s primary mission, however, they are actively looking towards better environmental practices while keeping safety their top concern. They have created a dedicated sustainability manager position, and are in the process of replacing virgin and fossil materials with recycled or renewables (one of their biggest MTB apparel collections is made from GRS-certified recycled polyester), they upcycle fabric remnants, and are currently 85% PFC free across their entire line.

POC has a standard 30-day return policy (unused, original packaging, etc.), and a one-year, original user warranty policy.

POC Essential Enduro Jersey and Resistance Enduro Shorts

Resistance Enduro Shorts
MSRP: $160.00
Sizes: Adult XS-XXL (S tested)
Colors: Uranium Black (Uranium Black tested)
pocsports.com

The Resistance Enduro mountain bike shorts are a lightweight, knee guard friendly option tailored for an on the bike riding position. A standout feature of these shorts is the utilization of space-grade Vectran fabric in high wear areas; pound for pound, Vectran is five times stronger than steel, making it extremely tear-resistant yet very lightweight. The shorts are water resistant with a DWR coating, have two zippered pockets, and a discrete zippered lift/credit card pocket on the back hem. Waist adjustment is handled with Velcro tabs.

I have ridden POC’s Enduro shorts for a few seasons now, and they have become one of my “go-to” shorts for almost every riding type. I find the semi-fitted cut works really well for me by striking a great balance between mobility and coverage. I appreciate the extra bit of length in the front for knee pad coverage, as well as the lack of bunching behind the knee with that scalloped cut. The Vectran fabric has proven to be totally bombproof through many scuffs and the occasional bad line choice, as well as multiple wash/dry cycles. My one nitpick is that I find the pockets to be a bit small/tight, making phone storage tricky.

This is a nearly perfect all-around short for me, balancing performance and durability nicely. Just the pockets hold me back.

Articulated knee with Vectran material fits nicely over knee guards.

Waist adjusters let you dial in the fit, along with a double button fly.

Essential Enduro Jersey
MSRP: $80.00
Sizes: Adult XS-XXL (M tested)
Colors: Uranium Black, Prismane Red, Light Azurite Blue (tested), Calcite Blue, Light Kalkopyrit Blue
pocsports.com

The Essential Enduro Jersey is made from a high wicking polyester fabric with raglan sleeves for mobility and to keep it lightweight and quick drying. It has a mountain bike fit with a not so subtle chest logo. There is a credit card pocket on a side seam.

When I first received the Essential Enduro Jersey, I thought POC had messed up and somehow branded a surfing rash guard. The fabric has that kind of feel to it, and I was skeptical it would stay cool and dry during high exertion activities. Thankfully, I was actually 100% wrong, as the Essential jersey turns out to be cool and breathable. Additionally, even with the long sleeves, it’s a pretty good jersey for riding in warmer weather—both keeping the sun off your arms and keeping stray cuts from any untamed brush to a minimum.

The size medium I tested is a very vanilla fit: not too loose, and not too tight. It lacks a drop tail, which I prefer as it allows for a bit more casual wear when off the bike (although the chest branding is kind of give away). Surprisingly for POC, the jersey is available in somewhat bold colors such as a variety of blues and red vs. their typical black and white offerings in the past.

I like this jersey for higher alpine adventures and park riding.

POC Essential Enduro Jersey with clean design and goggle-wipe/pass-holder pocket.


Oakley

Oakley has been around for 36 years. And while they’re best known for eyewear, they’ve dabbled in mountain bike apparel before, although it’s been long enough since that initial offering that a new design team and philosophy are driving the current gear. Oakley offers free returns within 100 days of purchase.

Environmental/sustainability practices are not easy to find so it may be worth trying to check in with Oakley before purchasing something if that is important to you.

Oakley MTB Trail Short and MTB LS Tee.

MTB Trail Short
MSRP: $100.00
Sizes: Adult XS-XXL (S tested)
Colors: Blackout (tested), New Dark Brush
oakley.com

Oakley‘s MTB short is made from an 84% polyamide/16% elastane fabric with a mechanical 4-way stretch for easy movement. The fabric is water repellent and quick drying with anti-pilling properties. Waist adjustment on either hip from elastic straps tipped with Velcro provides a perfect fit. There are concealed pockets on either side of the legs (the right has a horizontal zip, the left has a vertical zip) and zippered and taped pocket to secure essentials on the left hip. There’s also a zippered pocket along the waist in back. Certain details are reflective for low light visibility. The waist fastens securely shut via two snaps.

It’s hard to tell from Oakley’s website, but these shorts are quite on the slim and svelte end of the XC spectrum, with a somewhat scandalously short inseam (I measured 9.5″, 24cm). If you’re tall and skinny like myself, or Mike Kazimer, you will definitely have a lot of knee and quad showing when wearing these, so keep that in mind. I tested these in size small, and while the inseam length was super short, the waist was surprisingly large and I really had to cinch things down to get the fit right.

Fit issues and inseam length aside, Oakley’s trail short performed admirably out in the wild. The material is lightweight and breathable, making these a great pair of shorts for longer, XC type rides in warmer weather. While the pockets are plenty large enough for my tastes, they are located pretty far down on your leg, which is less than ideal while pedaling, as whatever you’ve stashed in them will get jostled around and bounce off your thighs if it’s at all rowdy on the descent. You do get a giant rear-mounted pocket, though, that might be better for stashing items, although as a dedicated hip pack wearer, I never ended up using it.

Overall, I’d recommend these for XC missions and people with slightly shorter legs.

Oakley’s trail short have a short and slim fit.

Velcro waist adjuster for keeping things in place with all pockets (excepting this one) located lower down the thigh.

MTB LS Tech Tee
MSRP: $75.00
Sizes: XS-XXL (M tested)
Colors: Real Teal, Beetle (tested), Aurora Borealis
oakley.com

Oakley’s Long Sleeve Tech Tee with the not so subtle Oakley branding is made from a poly/cotton blend for comfort and ease of movement. Wicking is handled by O-Hydrolix, a proprietary quick dry/water repellent technology. A slight drop tail offers protection from debris.

I tested this in a size medium, and contrary to the shorts, the fit was very average and worked well for my average to slender side of the bell curve build (depending on beers consumed). The long sleeves were plenty long and provided some sun and brush protection and were just snug enough that they stayed in place without riding up or and just loose enough that the cuff wasn’t uncomfortable.

Oakley’s Tech Tee has a very similar feel to POC’s Essential Enduro Jersey with a silky/stretchy almost rash guard feel. Despite the O-Hydrolix material, breathability wasn’t quite up there and the jersey had a tendency to get a bit saturated on warmer days. This is kind of an odd combo for pairing with the slim trail shorts, and I would probably recommend something a little more breathable and lighter weight if you are going to be riding in warmer to downright scorching weather.

Overall, another good choice for high alpine or park riding, as long as it’s not blistering hot out
.

Clean no-frills neckline and a rear pocket for glasses wipe or lift pass.


Kitsbow

Often called the Rapha of the mountain bike world by the uninformed who associate their Sonoma County, CA roots with snobbery, Kitsbow is anything but snobbish. Their design credo: “by riders, founded to create the riding apparel we couldn’t find.” strikes a chord because it’s from the heart. They strive to hit that perfect balance between performance, timeless design, and fit. Their mantra is: “create unrivaled gear with the best materials available. Then keep making it better.” And they are pretty obsessive about that.

Kitsbow recently relocated to an old hosiery facility near Asheville, NC, and doubled their manufacturing capability in the process. They also placed themselves within spitting distance of a phenomenal trail network, too. Not too shabby when the R & D is out the back door. Plus, 50% of their products are now sewn in the USA, allowing them to make certain items “to order”, thus avoiding the kind of waste from overproduction that plagues so much of the clothing industry as well as a reduced carbon footprint for transporting garments from overseas; their goal is to have all manufacturing in the USA by 2021.

Kitsbow has more than reasonable warranty, return, and repair policies.

Kitsbow Haskell Shorts and Cyclone Tee.

Haskell Shorts
MSRP: $148.00
Sizes: Adult 28-38 (32 tested)
Colors: Dry Grey (tested), Wild Oak, Black Olive
kitsbow.com

The Haskell was designed to be an every day short: hike, bike, run—whatever. But with an emphasis on bike. The short is fitted to break behind the knee so it won’t brush your calves when you pedal. It has six—six!—pockets for storing essentials. There are YKK snag-free zippers, reflective taping across the back for nighttime visibility, a hidden dryer hook, and it’s woven from nylon with a bit of stretch to it for mobility. The cut is semi-fitted so if you like ‘em loose, size up. This particular short is currently sewn in Vietnam versus the new facility in North Carolina.

In terms of fit, the Haskell I tested in size 32 were right on the money. They fit comfortably with plenty of range of motion, without feeling overly loose or baggy. I would say that these shorts definitely had the best fit and feel for all-day comfort on and off the bike. They have tons of useful pockets, belt loops for keeping the plumbers crack hidden, and a durable construction. The cut at the knees works well with lightweight knee guards, but anything bike park heavy will bind.

These shorts are a little too heavy-duty for my standard MTB missions —I tend to prefer lighter weight shorts for all-day pedal missions. Don’t get me wrong, these are great riding shorts and I find that they work equally well for around town dining, casual outings, camping, and hiking too; but I just prefer something a little more lightweight during typical MTB rides. On the other hand, As a bike commuter with an affinity for the occasional happy hour visit or grocery stop on the way home, I appreciate that I can ride anywhere I need to go in these shorts, and not run the risk of looking like a bike nerd. The subtle reflective piping that becomes blazingly bright at night is an added bonus should I stay out after dark.

I say that if you’re someone who wants to just slap on a pair of shorts and wear them all day, regardless of activity, these are for you. Expensive, yes, but stylish and tough as well; these should last a few seasons without wearing out

Haskell short material is tough and durable, with just a bit of stretch.

Lots of pockets and belt loops for all the utility you could ever need.

Cyclone Tee
MSRP: $79.00
Sizes: XS-XXL (M tested)
Colors: Black, Mineral Blue, Canyon, Russian River (tested)
kitsbow.com

A simple crew neck tech tee, the Cyclone hides its tech in plain sight: Polartec Delta fabric venting panels actively wick sweat where you need them most—under the arms and on the back. The fabric offers a UPF 30 rating and is cut to be snug to facilitate wicking and so it doesn’t flap at speed. The sleeves are slightly longer to offer sun and brush protection. There are no pockets.

The Cyclone Jersey was the most breathable and wicking out of all the jerseys I tested. The material on the sides and under the arms is incredibly porous (you can just almost see through it), and works well for keeping things airy and fresh. The rest of the material has a very high-quality character to it and offers a much more natural next to skin feel than a standard run of the mill polyester jersey (which can have that almost slimy feel to them when you’ve sweated them up).

The fit on the size medium Cyclone was excellent for me, and I didn’t have any uncomfortable tightness or bunching. The sleeves are just a bit longer than your average tee, but not close to approaching 3/4 length. There isn’t any drop tail, which is just fine with me. Paired with the Haskell short, I would often wear this combo for long periods post-ride, and I would regularly get comments about the stylish “Russian River” color.

If I had to pick one general all-purpose jersey, this would be it.

Cyclone jersey material is wicking, breathable, and super soft.


Patagonia

Patagonia is “the” outdoor sports apparel titan with a sustainability conscience. It’s been 50 years since the founder, Yvon Chouinard, started selling rugby shirts to supplement his climbing hardware company, and in that time he’s always kept the conversation about making top-notch gear with an eye on creating with a conscience. It makes their gear a premium, but it’s engineered to endure.

As always, products are backed up with Patagonia’s iron-clad guarantee: “if you are not satisfied with one of our products at the time you receive it, or if one of our products does not perform to your satisfaction, return it to us for a repair, replacement, or refund. Damage due to wear and tear will be repaired at a reasonable charge.”

On top of that, Patagonia co-founded the 1% For The Planet initiative, as in 1% of all proceeds are donated to worthy environmental groups/causes. Further, all factories used by Patagonia are Fair Trade Sewn Certified, ensuring sustainability and fair wages for the workers.

Dirt Craft Shorts and Capilene Cool Trail Henley.

Dirt Craft Shorts
MSRP: $159.00
Sizes: Adult 28-40L (30 tested)
Colors: Wood Brown (tested), Black, Retro Layers, Smolder Blue
patagonia.com

Years ago my friend and Patagonia photographer Colin Meagher (who shot all the action shots for this article) tested and shot their first baggy MTB short in the mid-’90s. “They were horrible,” he recalls, “Total short-shorts and cut for hiking, not riding”. But the times have changed for the better. A lot better.

Patagonia debuted their Dirt Craft Short in 2017 and has kept tweaking that initial design, in this case offering a snap-in chamois liner short, a tailored for riding cut at the knee to keep fabric from bunching while pedaling, and a longer, knee guard friendly inseam that also helps protect from brush. The waistband retains its bomb-proof adjustable hook and webbing system, and the short as a whole retains what worked from day one: a pair of drop-in pockets on either hip, a zippered pocket on the left thigh for secure storage, snaps for MTB liner short integration across their line of MTB shorts, and a fair trade certified sewn, 4-way stretch breathable fabric treated with a non-PFC DWR to keep you dry while retaining breathability.

Patagonia’s Dirt Craft shorts look nothing like those original Patagonia baggies that Colin tested, and the fit is much better for mountain biking, although still slimmer and more form-fitting than a lot of other shorts on the market. The size 30s I tested were spot on for my waist without having to snug up the hook adjusters more than a notch or two. Additionally, while the inseam length is on the shorter side compared to other, more “enduro” focused shorts out there, I found these worked well for my more pedal heavy trail riding missions and that lighter weight knee guards pair with them just fine (no gaper gap). The pockets are easy to reach, and while I prefer a phone on the right side, it worked well on the left.

Note, I didn’t get along too well with the chamois liner that came with these shorts. I found it to be a bit too snug and that it would often bunch up quite uncomfortably while riding. I usually prefer bib liners anyways. Something to keep in mind as the included liner does drive the price of the shorts up. However, Patagonia has two other MTB shorts on offer without a liner short for less than $100 USD, and they also have a bib liner short available (sold separately).

Great shorts for all-day pedals, with or without knee guards.

Two standard pockets, a zippered pocket, and “hook and webbing” waist adjusters.

Capilene Cool Trail Henley
MSRP: $55.00
Sizes: Adult S-2XL (S tested)
Colors: Superior Blue (tested), Wood Brown, Black, Mango
patagonia.com

Henleys offer enough style to be fashionable off the bike but this one has bike tech, too. The fair trade certified sewn recycled polyester fabric wicks and keeps funk away with HeiQ Fresh odor control, is cut for biking with a drop tail, and has a stylish button-up pocket on the chest. Semi-fitted, so no need to size up.

During testing, I found the Capilene material to be very soft and comfortable against my skin. I really enjoyed the spot-on cycling-specific fit, which (like the dirt craft shorts), is somewhat on the slimmer side. When riding, the jersey had a very unobtrusive, forget-it-was-there feel to it. I would say that the breathability isn’t quite up there when compared to Kitsbow’s Cyclone Tee, and I would probably choose that jersey for hotter days, but the Cool Trail Henley performed well overall.

Compared to Nikki, I actually enjoyed the subtle styling of Patagonia’s Capilene Henley, although I do agree that the button neck and pockets are questionable in their usefulness. The Dirt Craft shorts paired with this jersey make another casual on-the-bike/off-the-bike combo that can be worn post-ride without looking like a power ranger.

Note that most of this jersey is made from recycled materials. Go Patagonia!

Buttons on an MTB jersey and a subtle drop tail.


Mons Royale

Mons Royale was created 11 years ago around the concept that a technical apparel brand could be created with bold, fashionable designs but without compromising performance. The cornerstone of all their products revolves around ZQ sustainably sourced merino wool, meaning that everyone involved is treated equitably and fairly, from the sheep producing the wool all the way up the chain to the consumer.

Momentum 2.0 Shorts and Redwood Enduro VT

Momentum 2.0 Shorts
MSRP: $160.00
Sizes: Adult S-XL (M tested)
Colors: Ink, Black (tested)
monsroyale.com

These shorts from the Merino wool capital of the world tick a lot of boxes: zippered leg vents, Velcro waist adjusters (plus belt loops just in case that’s the way you ride) zippered pockets to keep your valuables close, zippered leg vents, and room for pads. On top of that, the face fabric is woven from Micro Grid, a tough 4-way stretch number, with a soft, Merino fabric inside against your skin.

The Momentum 2.0 shorts are more on the free ride/ park end of the fit spectrum with a looser, roomy feel, and longer leg coverage. With the size medium shorts I tested, I had to snug up the waist adjusters to keep things in place while riding. The fabric has a burly heavy-duty feel to it that feels ready to take on some demanding EWS stages; but on the inside, the merino lining is baby butt smooth and provides both warmth and moisture-wicking performance. While riding, the comfort level from the Momentum 2.0 was excellent, offering plenty of coverage and good mobility. The large vents mounted on the thighs allow you to dump some heat if needed, which I found was necessary a few times when riding on warmer days, as these shorts are a touch on the toasty side, especially with the merino lining.

On a personal note, I really appreciate that Mons Royale gives you both waist adjuster and belt loop options as sometimes the waist adjusters in mtb shorts can be kind of “meh” (although these ones worked well), and I appreciate it when companies offer options to suit your preference.

I think these shorts are a great spring piece but are maybe a bit too overbuilt for the dog days of August.

Momentum 2.0 Shorts with large thigh vents.

Belt loops or velcro waist adjusters.

Redwood Enduro VT
MSRP: $90.00
Sizes: Adult S-XL (M tested)
Colors: Olive/Black (tested), Gold/9-Iron, Ink Stripe, Black/Grey Marl
monsroyale.com

This V-necked cycling jersey is nicely camouflaged as a stylish tee that has a discreet zippered pocket over the right kidney as the only give away that it’s a technical garment. There’s a slight drop tail to keep debris where you don’t want them, a hidden sunglasses wipe, and breathable merino mesh side panels. The rest of the body utilizes Mons Royale’s Merino Air-Con fabric where each thread is made from merino fibers spun around a nylon core. This gives all the benefits of merino wool: breathability, wicking, and no anti-funk properties, all with the durability of nylon. A touch of elastane makes for easy movement during use.

Fit in the Redwood Jersey was very standard for a medium, not too tight and not too loose, although I would have preferred slightly longer sleeves. I found the drop tail length to be fairly generous, and it offered plenty of coverage in the rear for keeping trail debris off your backside.

I enjoyed Mons Royale’s Merino Air-Con material; it was super breathable, especially with the perforated pattern merino mesh on the sides and underarms of the jersey. Additionally, it did seem to keep the ride stank found with so many polyester jerseys effectively at bay. I even managed to wear this jersey for a few rides without feeling the need to wash it. Time will tell if the durability of the nylon core in the Con fabric is up there.

All in all, I have come to really enjoy the new crop of merino jerseys popping up these days. I find that I much prefer the feel of merino against my skin over the standard plasticky feel of most polyester jerseys out there. I’d say this is a worthy option to consider from Mons Royale.

Redwood Enduro jersey made from Merino Air-Con fabric.


Norrona

Norrona is another company with a storied history. While this Norwegian based brand may be a new name to some readers, they’ve been around for 90 years, and have been designing innovative cycling apparel for over a decade.

In a manner very similar to Patagonia, Norrona has a 1% For Nature Initiative were 1% of the total sales revenue is put aside to assist qualifying organizations working to promote sustainability and environmentally friendly initiatives. Additionally, each product on Norrona’s website has a dedicated “footprint” that lists the recycled materials content, fabric production impact, and factory of origin.

Skibotn Flex 1 Shorts and Skibotn 3/4 Wool T-Shirt.

Skibotn Flex 1 Shorts
MSRP: $149.00
Sizes: S-XL (M tested)
Colors: Caviar Black (tested), Olive Drab
norrona.com

The Skibotn flex1 shorts are touted as a chino inspired durable but lightweight softshell enduro short. The flex1 fabric utilizes more than 50% recycled synthetic fibers, offers 4-way stretch, is water and wind-resistant, and offers excellent breathability. It has three zippered pockets (two on the hip, one in the back), Velcro waist adjusters, zippered two-way mesh venting from thigh to hem, and a high cut in back to keep debris out when riding. There is a zippered fly with a snap closure. Oh, and a 5-year warranty rounds it all out.

I have found that Norrona has really dialed the fit of their cycling apparel and the Skibotn shorts are no exception. They feel as if they were made just for me. These are slightly slimmer and have more fitted cut but with plenty of leg length and a large enough opening at the cuff for knee pad fit without the fabric bunching or binding. As always, I appreciated that there is the choice of both velcro waist adjusters or belt loops should you need to snug things down. Other companies please take note!

The material of the Skibotn shorts feels durable, is lightweight, and has a good bit of stretch to it. This makes for comfortable, easy movement while riding with minimal flapping or extra material that might bunch up uncomfortably when pedaling. The DWR coating did a great job of keeping me dry despite all the light drizzles we’ve had during our PNW June-uary weather. The pockets were well placed and functional. Overall I really appreciated the lightweight yet durable feel to these shorts. But…

There’s always a but… My major complaint with these shorts is the zippered side expander/venting system. I am on the more hairy end of the spectrum and I’m not into shaving my legs for cycling purposes the way some avid roadies and hardcore XC riders are. In the Skibotn, while pedaling I would find the zipper system at the base of the shorts would latch onto my lengthy leg hairs, leading to the occasional (and quite painful) waxing experience, only without the spa treatment. This would happen to me with the zipper either up or down (it seemed to make no real difference), although it was slightly less likely to occur when the zipper was open. Maybe that had to do with more room for things to move around? I’m not sure. But it was most unpleasant.

I wanted to love these shorts, and everything else excepting the waxless hair removal was perfect. The side zippers just make them a no-go for me, unless I wear knee pads or leggings under them.

Skibotn shorts with plenty of pocket options.

Zippered side expander/vent and pockets.

Skibotn 3/4 Wool T-Shirt
MSRP: $54.99
Sizes: S-XL
Colors: Caviar Black, Olive Drab (tested)
norrona.com

Crafted with enduro racing in mind, this jersey is cut with a drop tail and will accommodate a backplate underneath it as well. The fabric is a merino polyester blend: merino for comfort, wicking, and insulation; polyester for breathability and durability. 50% of the polyester fibers are from recycled materials. There’s a zippered chest pocket for keys or cards.

Similar to the Skibotn shorts, the fit of the 3/4 Wool T-shirt is right on the money for me. I love the 3/4 length and I found the fit on the sleeves to be just snug enough to keep things locked in place while riding while at the same time offering me some bramble and sun protection. The drop tail is a bit long, but it keeps things nicely covered, especially while descending the steep stuff.

The merino/polyester blend of this jersey has an excellent feel and was my favorite fabric feel of the test. Like the Mons Royale piece, the merino in the fabric kept ride stink away. I wouldn’t say it is the coolest or most breathable in warm weather, but it worked perfectly in the cooler spring riding conditions where a little bit of extra warmth was appreciated (you can see Norrona’s cooler Scandinavian roots shining through here).

All in all, this would be my go-to base layer for more shoulder season missions or overnight missions, especially where you might be wearing the same jersey for multiple days.

Skibotn jersey with DWR treated chest pocket and 3/4 sleeves.


FlyLow

From their beginning, Flylow has been dedicated to making functional yet durable apparel designed for hard-core use but crafted with elements of style versus boring, purely technical garments. They’ve been around now for 15 years, and while their roots are in the winter sports industry, they’ve been making cycling clothing since 2016.

Flylow may be a gawky teenager of a company, but they have a comprehensive sustainability statement. At the core of that is a strong desire to create “healthy happy jobs, help support independent retailers, and create thoughtfully made products”. In the process of walking that path, Flylow is using insulated fabric made from post-consumer recycled materials as well as sourcing recycled and recyclable fabrics for gear. Bottom line? They are focused on creating gear that will “wear in, not out”. They are a proud member of Protect Our Winters. Further, they also have a repair program with wholesale pricing in an effort to keep products going instead of going into a landfill.

Deckard Short and Garret Jersey.

Deckard Short
MSRP: $90.00
Sizes: XS-XXL (M tested)
Colors: Typhoon, Harissa, Black (tested)
flylowgear.com

Designed around the principle that you gotta go up to go down, but down is where the fun is, the Deckard Short is made from Intuitive IQ MTB fabric, a 100% polyester number with mechanical stretch to the fabric vs. the addition of elastane, making it both lightweight and quick drying (Elastane/spandex offers stretch but tends to retain water). Construction includes three zippered pockets for sunglasses, snacks, or your phone as well as offset seams to eliminate chafing. There’s a nice 14″ (35cm) inseam and an inner Velcro waist cinch as well as belt loops. The Deckard thoughtfully has no center back belt loop to minimize lower back irritation from either a traditional pack or hip pack.

The Deckard shorts I tested in the size medium were more on the baggy side of things and were a little big for me, but don’t have a flashy, over the top, cycling-specific look and feel. For dialing down that slightly roomy waist fit, I opted to forego the internal waist adjusters, choosing instead to use a belt and test just how well that lack of a back belt loop reduced lower back irritation from a pack or hip pack: survey says my shorts didn’t fall down and I had no chafing, so double win. I also found that there’s plenty of room and length for knee pad coverage, enough so that I would classify these shorts as much more of a park or free ride fit than pure XC. The pocket placement was good.

Despite that intended use assessment, the material of the Deckard is surprisingly lightweight and flexible. Things were plenty breathable and I didn’t get too hot while wearing these on extended climbs in warmer weather. There is a definitely a bit of mechanical stretch to the fabric, but less so than other shorts out there that have spandex woven into the fabric. This led to an excellent experience while both climbing and descending, as I had complete freedom of movement. However, with the looser cut of the Deckard, I did notice that things got a bit flappy at high speeds. I never tested the “quick-drying” aspect of the lack of elastane in the fabric, but I’ll take it for granted.

If you are looking for a pair of shorts with minimal bike nerd styling that breathe well, are reasonably lightweight, and with a more downhill oriented fit, these should be at the top of your list.

Deckard short with large thigh pocket.

Deckard short Pockets and belt loops.

Garret Jersey
MSRP: $65.00
Sizes: Adult XS-XXL (M tested)
Colors: Barn/Arabic (tested), Kompu/Aspen, Typhoon/Dusk
flylowgear.com

The Garrett jersey is reputed to be DH tough and cut for aggressive riding but loaded with heavy pedal mission tech: Polygiene anti-stink, wicking 4-way stretch fabric for the body, a drop tail, and mesh side and neck panels to help keep you cool. But the low-key design is typical Flylow in that it doesn’t scream bike nerd.

The Garret jersey is another very neutral fitting jersey: the size medium I tested felt spot on. I would have appreciated slightly longer sleeves though, as they felt a little short, especially for a DH inspired jersey, and because I’m really liking that 3/4 length for sun/brush protection. Overall though, the jersey has a clean, round neckline and a rounded hem at the back all which added up to a dialed fit.

The breathability of the jersey was sublime and the material is almost mesh-like. Especially in the neck and along the sides—you can really feel the air flowing when up to speed. The little bit of stretch from the 8% spandex really makes for a comfortable ride, and I hardly noticed the jersey while wearing it. This jersey is a perfect choice for hotter days on the bike, and the clean and subdued Flylow styling and colors ticks all the boxes for me.

Garret jersey is airy and breathable.


Bike Components

Hailing from Würselen, Germany, Bike Components started as an online bike store twenty-three years ago by two mechanical engineering students who happened to be passionate about cycling as well. That humble start quickly outgrew their apartment, and today they service 300,000 customers annually. The BC Original line of products is Bike Component’s self-developed line of products stemming from thousands of kilometers in the saddle, including shop rides right from their retail store and are designed to fit a performance/price point that may not be covered adequately by the brands they sell.

The shorts and jersey tested here are crafted to BC’s spec in Lithuania, and the manufacturer adheres to Bluesign, GOTS, Fair Wear Foundation, and the Higg Index. Currently, the DWR is not PFC free, but Bike Components hopes to have a solution to that by 2021.

Original MTB Shorts and Original MTB Jersey.

Original MTB Shorts
MSRP: 67.22€
Sizes: Adult XS-XXL (M tested)
Colors: Black/Grey (tested), Black/Orange
bike-components.de

The BC Original MTB Shorts are Bike Component’s “in house” do it all short: enduro, freeride, downhill, and gravel… Whatever you wanna do. It features a durable and lightweight four-way stretch fabric that is rip and pilling resistant while still offering both breathability and a DWR coating for weather resistance. The waistline can be adjusted with a webbing and slip lock system, and it features a high rear waistline to keep debris out when loam surfing. There are three zippered pockets—one on either hip angled for easy access, and another on the right thigh. Waist closure is securely handled by an easy to operate “Tra-In” slide button. The inseam length measures 32 cm in size Medium (33 cm in size Large). Fabric composition is 90% polyamide—a fabric characterized by elasticity and a soft next to skin feel—and 10% elastane (spandex).

The fit on the bc original MTB shorts is eerily precisely exact to me. It’s like they measured every bike short they sell and took the average of those to create a short with a waist fit that falls squarely in the middle of the bell curve. Being very averaged sized myself, I found that they fit me just perfectly. I barely had to cinch down the adjusters and I found the cut to be right in the sweet spot of the baggy to slim spectrum. Pockets were easy to access and held my phone easily. I did have issues with the “Tra-In” slide button on the fly of the shorts and often had to take a few moments to figure it out, which wasn’t ideal during “high-pressure” situations.

The material of the shorts is neutral feeling against my skin, lacking any standout texture or features. It’s fairly lightweight but has a robust heft to it, although without being overly stiff the way some of the more burly fabrics can feel. From a pedaling performance perspective, it has a good bit of stretch and breathability to it.

Overall, without the benefit of long term testing, this appears to be a pretty bomber but quality pair of shorts that should last a couple seasons without having to shell out a boatloads of cash.

BC Original MTB Shorts with side cinch and pockets.

Original MTB Jersey
MSRP: 42.01€
Sizes: Adult S-XL (M tested)
Colors: Black/Grey (tested), Black/Orange
bike-components.de

The “sporty” BC MTB SS Jersey is another do it all type item from Bike Components. This 100% polyester slim cut jersey features raglan sleeves with a 40-way stretch material for ease of movement, a 3D body material for both wicking and breathability, an anti-bacterial treatment to keep that skunk fresh feeling at bay, a lift pass/key pocket with an integrated glasses/goggle wipe, and a reflective logo for visibility.

Similar to the shorts, the BC Original MTB jersey fit is very average: it’s neither super fitted nor is it flap in the wind roomy. Compared to other short sleeve jerseys tested, it had slightly longer sleeves, which I appreciated. I didn’t have any bunching or flapping issues, and I barely noticed the jersey while riding.

I was quite surprised with how much I enjoyed this jersey, despite its unassuming all-black design. The material in the torso and back is very breathable, and the material in the sleeves and shoulders has a much more durable and water-resistant feel to it as compared to other polyester jerseys, which minimized any scratches from early-season overgrowth on the local trails. Trail funk was pretty minimal vs. non-anti-bacterial treated jerseys, although not as good as Merino.

This offers an excellent high-performance option but with minimal cost as compared to a lot of other jerseys out there, making it well worth considering. Note there is also a long sleeve version of jersey if that is more up your alley.

BC Original MTB Jersey

Sleeve material is heavier duty than torso and back.

Back and side views.


Endura

Born in the Scottish countryside 27 years ago, Endura has from the get-go been driven to create innovative designs and has crafted a reputation for functionality and durability. They collaborate closely with leading experts in aerodynamics, bike fitting, and top-level athletes to ensure their products perform at the highest levels.

From an environmental sustainability standpoint, Endura is pretty green. Just this year they committed to planting 1 million trees annually to help reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. From a strict clothing creation standpoint, their clothing has been PFC free since 2018, they offer their own biodegradable re-proofing and tech fabric cleaners, and they don’t use PTFE fabrics at all. 98% of their packaging can be recycled, too. In an effort to keep clothing in use vs. in landfills, they offer a reasonable repair service. As a member of Pentland brands, they use HIGG index tools and are committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. Last, 1% of the net profit goes to “good causes”.

Endura has a typical no-nonsense warranty program against defects in manufacturing, and have a practical return/exchange policy.

Singletrack Lite Short and Singletrack Tee.

SingleTrack Lite Short
MSRP: $99.99
Sizes: Adult S-XXL (M tested)
Colors: Black, Azure Blue (tested), Forest Green, Tangerine
endurasport.com

Designed as a warm-weather Mtb short, the SingleTrack Lite is cut above the knee and the legs are literally riddled with laser cut venting holes. There are three zippered pockets: two on the hip and one in the back. The fabric is a lighter weight 4-way stretch. The short also utilizes Endura’s clickfast liner tech allowing one to securely clip in any of Endura’s chamois liners.

Of all the shorts that I tested, these were by far the baggiest and felt the most DH specific. As you can see this, led to a bit of “Diaper Butt” in the pair I tried, but I did test a size mediums and Endura recommends a size S for my 31-33″ waist (take note!) Consequently, you may want to size down if you prefer a slimmer fit. The length of the inseams is plenty long enough to cover knee pads. The hand pockets are well positioned and held my phone easily.

My only issue with these shorts is that the material is super loud when rubbed together. That combined with the generous sizing led me to feel as if I was doing an impression of a giant blue flightless bird trying to take flight when pedaling down the trail. Other than that, there is a huge amount of venting in these shorts, thanks to all the laser-cut holes, and I never felt too hot while pedaling. Additionally, the wicking waistband kept things dry in a spot that can often get hot and humid during high exertion.

All in all, I would choose these shorts for my days in the bike park or when descending is the main priority on the docket vs. a climb all day for a big descent kind of ride.

Singletrack Lite Short has plenty of coverage and lots of ventilation.

Waist adjusters can cinch things down as needed.

Singletrack Tee
MSRP: $49.99
Sizes: Adult S-XXL (M tested)
Colors: Black, Navy (tested), Lime Green, Tangerine
endurasport.com

Crafted as a ‘Limited Edition’ tech tee, the standard-fit Dots T is made from a 100% polyester wicking fabric. The graphic is sublimated so it’ll never fade. Note that there are no pockets, so if you like to stash things in your jersey, you are out of luck.

Similar to the Singletrack shorts, the jersey is on the roomier side of things and has more of a DH/Freeride inspired fit, although their sizing chart has me wearing a medium, so I tested the correct size. The sleeves were of a decent length for a short sleeve tee, and I didn’t find myself wanting for more. The Singletrack jersey has a much more classic polyester feel to it which isn’t quite my favorite after being immersed in so much merino this test session. Despite that, it still offered plenty of breathability and wicking and I never found myself getting too hot or sweaty. One unique aspect of this jersey that I appreciated is that there is quite a bit of neck coverage, helping to reduce sun exposure on the back of your neck, which with my fair skin, is something I often struggle with.

Paired with Endura’s Singletrack short, the Singletrack jersey makes a perfect DH or Park/shuttle kit that serves up breathability and protection for long days of descending.

Singletrack Tee shown in Dots LTD colorway.


Chromag

Very few modern-day bicycle companies have achieved what might be labeled as “cult status”. Whistler Valley, BC based Chromag, though, is one of those rare companies. Founded in 2003 by Ian Ritz, Chromag is first and foremost, a company of riders making the things—bikes, components, and now clothing—that they truly want to use “over anything else that’s out there.”

From a sustainability standpoint, Chromag recognizes that staying local as much as possible for materials and manufacturing keeps money in the local economy and minimizes their carbon footprint by reducing transportation for their materials, but as they’ve grown, some things simply can’t be had in Whistler Valley and are sourced from elsewhere, although they work hard to keep to “made in Canada.” They utilize recycled cardboard for their hang tags, and offer repairs to apparel in an effort to keep their products out of landfills. Contact Chromag or the shop you purchase them in for warranty, returns, and exchanges.

Feint Short and Horizon Jersey

Feint Short
MSRP: $150 CAD
Sizes: 28-38 (32 tested)
Colors: Charcoal (tested), Sea
chromagbikes.com

The Feint is made from a somewhat heavy-duty 4-way stretch fabric with laser cut venting and features two zippered waist pockets on the hip that are angled for easy access. It has a hidden pass pocket if you’re riding the lifts, and fastens (and adjusts) with an MX inspired ratchet system. It’s designed with lifts and long days on the local trail network in mind (Whistler Valley has miles of amazing technical trails lacing the hills).

The Feint shorts are another baggier fitting short on my frame and have more of a DH specific fit and feel. I probably should have sized down to a size 30″ instead of the 32″ I tested, but they worked well enough for me and provided a bit more coverage and mobility for all-day big mountain trail missions than my more typical XC type mtb short choices. There is plenty of knee pad coverage, although the front of the knee isn’t tapered like some of the other options out there, I didn’t have any issues with fabric bunching behind my knees. The giant Chromag logo on the thigh of the short is subtle yet eye-catching, and I actually got lots of compliments on it!

The fabric has a bit more weight to it compared to other shorts but also has plenty of stretch and forgiveness to it, and they moved well when pedaling. From a durability perspective, they feel bombproof and I get the sense these shorts could take some serious abuse in stride, although I never put that to the test. There is venting, and while it isn’t quite as extensive as Endura’s vents on the SingleTrack shorts, it works well, although things did get a bit warmer on hot days, especially in full sun with the all-black color. The pockets were easy to access and readily held my essentials.

Overall, a great short, but I did have one dis: with the pair of shorts that I tested, I could not keep the MX style fly clasp to stay closed. Whenever I bent over or put tension on it, it would immediately start to come undone (slightly distracting when landing a bit nose heavy off something meaty). Chromag assured me it was the first complaint like this they’d heard and should anyone else experience something similar it should be covered under warranty.

Similar to Endura’s shorts, I would use these more for big mountain days or bike park laps, and less for hot XC rides.

Feint Shorts with zippered side pockets and MX style fly clasp.

Horizon Jersey
MSRP: $77 CAD
Sizes: Adult XS-XL (M tested)
Colors: Moss (tested), Black, Grey, Sea, Earth
chromagbikes.com

Chromag’s Horizon jersey is crafted from an antibacterial and moisture-wicking fabric with a nice sublimated logo on the body of the garment. There are no pockets or places to stash your lift pass, but maybe that is a good thing.

Fit in the Horizon for me was great and I enjoyed the classic t-shirt shape without any drop tails or funky necklines. I would have preferred the sleeves to be a bit longer, though (more and more I’m liking 3/4 sleeve jerseys for sun and brush protection).

Of all the jerseys I tested, the Horizon had the most classic slick and silky polyester feel to it. I prefer some of the newer, more almost cotton-like feel that a lot of jerseys have these days (especially in the merino/polyester blend options), so this wasn’t quite my favorite feeling jersey. Despite that, it offered up plenty of breathability and ventilation and the antibacterial treatment did a great job of keeping that polyester jersey funk from identifying me to the vision impaired.

All in all the Horizon is a great standard polyester jersey that is available in a wide variety of simple and stylish colors.

Horizon Jersey has a standard t-shirt cut and clean styling.


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