Everyone’s making pretty amazing gear these days. Having good designers and great fabrics is key, but it isn’t necessarily enough anymore. Brands have to do something else to stand out. Given climate change and our connection to the outdoors when we ride, companies are turning more and more to eco-friendly processes, whether that’s giving back somehow, utilizing more sustainable practices, or a combination of the two. While a lot of companies are using Bluesign fabrics or recycled materials in their products, others are taking part in movements like “One Percent for the Planet” or “Protect our Winters”. As we dip our toes into learning what each of these brands is doing, we have added a section at the bottom of the article where you will find links to some of the specific campaigns and certifications that are listed. One other area I attempted to touch on with each brand is whether or not they have a repair program, and if so, what that looks like. It’s nice to be able to send in your favorite shorts to fix a small rip, rather than buy a new pair, but repair programs (except maybe Patagonia’s) are currently pretty limited for a number of reasons—primarily because they are consumer-driven, and the feedback I received from the majority of the brands is that we consumers aren’t demanding this service.
Below you will find a selection of ten women’s kits from Wild Rye, Pearl Izumi, Mons Royale, Flylow, Maloja, Ion, DHaRCO, GORE Wear, Troy Lee Designs, and Patagonia. These reviews are based on short-term testing with a focus on fit, comfort, style, initial durability, and function. You will also see a bit of information on each brand’s efforts to reduce environmental impacts as discussed above.
About the Tester:
Cassie Abel started Wild Rye, a women’s specific brand of mountain bike apparel, in 2016. Named after a tenacious grass that grows at 6000+ feet above sea level (the place the founder and many mountain bikers like to play at), it’s a brand with a conscience and a desire to get more women active in the outdoors in good looking and technically astute apparel while at the same time casting a keen eye toward social and environmental sustainability. As stated on their website, they “believe in quality, well-fitting, technical products that combine contemporary yet playful patterns and styling” but whenever possible they use recycled materials and strive to adhere to Bluesign, the highest industry standards for sustainability, as well as the Higg Index for fair labor and environmental responsibility. As they move forward, Wild Rye looks to be utilizing a mix of recycled or natural materials whenever possible as well as sustainable practices. Currently, they do not have a repair program in place as they are simply too small to be able to offer that (Cassie is, in fact, the only full-time employee).
Wild Rye “the Freel” shorts and Sandia Adventure shirt.
The Freel Women’s Bike Short
MSRP: $119.00 USD
Sizes: 0 – 18 (US)
Colors: Swirling Dots, Mauve Bees (tested), Emerald Sloths, Grey Vicuna, Geo Dot, Vicuna, Coral Arrows
The Freel is touted as a “sturdy, enduro-ready women’s mountain bike short made with a durable nylon fabric that is sun, splash, and abrasion-resistant. It’s meant for everything from local races to single track missions to après at the local watering hole. Tech details include a gusseted crotch, 12” inseam (size 8 ), a DWR coating, a UPF 50 rating, and plenty of pockets for essentials.
Wild Rye proclaims that the Freel shorts run true to size, and I would agree. I tested in my standard US 6, and they fit perfectly with a relaxed, loose cut and feel. The shorts are crafted from a nice, stretchy yet durable material and they easily fit over medium profile knee guards without a gap. They also offer belt loops—a nice addition for the average curvy lady who just can’t find shorts with a small enough waist to fit their hips and butt.
I tested these shorts in a wide range of spring and early summer conditions: a mix of hot, cold, wet, and dry. They are not the lightest shorts of the bunch, but they’re breathable and are well built to withstand the wear and tear of overgrown singletrack missions. I appreciate that the shorts include a DWR coating for the damp spring days and UPF rating for desert and alpine adventures. The pockets are usable (although I will admit I am not a fan of hand pockets), and my phone easily fits in the zippered thigh pocket with minimal floppage. I did notice that the Freel bunched up just slightly at the top of my thigh (as did Ion and Pearl Izumi) when I was climbing, but that is a common occurrence I’ve noticed with any short that has a slight taper towards the knee and not something that impacts my riding. In fact, the only reason I even notice it is that I get to see lots of photos.
Overall I am stoked on these shorts. I keep finding myself going back to them despite the fact that they are pink. They are comfortable, stylish, reasonably priced, and I love supporting companies run by women. Also, extra kudos for offering a multitude of sizes and very unique designs!
Wild Rye the Freel shorts and Sandia Adventure shirt.
The Freel shorts zippered pocket, hand pockets, and belt loops.
Sandia Women’s Cycling and Adventure Shirt
MSRP: $95.00 USD
Sizes: 0 – 14 (US 8 tested)
Colors: Sage, Charcoal (tested), Pacific Blue
The Sandia is a wicking long sleeve cycling jersey that features mesh panels for breathability, three pockets across the back, a UPF 50 rating, and chafe-free reinforced seams. The fabric features a touch (9%) of spandex for ease of movement.
I tested this jersey in size 8 which was a spot-on fit – not too tight and not too loose. While I’m typically a size 6, I ordered up a size from that based on sizing charts and recommendations of the staff. This was by far my favorite riding top of this review. It’s a super versatile and comfortable jersey with a simple, solid design, has minimal branding, offers long sleeves for added sun protection, and includes back pockets for snacks and basic necessities for days when I ditch the fanny. The material effectively wicked away moisture and the mesh panels seemed to offer added cooling when it was hot out. I never felt like I was overheating despite the fact that some of the testing was in pre lockdown 70-degree Utah sunshine.
As I veer towards wearing long sleeve jerseys year-round to protect myself from sun exposure, this adventure shirt is exactly what I am looking for and easily meets the technical and performance benchmarks I require of my gear.
Details of the Sandia Adventure shirt.
Flylow debuted in 2005, the brainchild of two backcountry skiers looking for functional yet durable clothing designed for the rigors of backcountry touring with a splash of style. The founders and their proponents kept tinkering and growing the collection, adding cycling clothing to the mix in 2016.
Fifteen-year-old Flylow may be a teenager of a company, but they have an established 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”. To that end, Flylow uses insulated fabric made from post-consumer recycled materials as well as sourcing recycled and recyclable fabrics for gear. At the end of the day, they are dedicated to creating gear that will “wear in, not out”. Their winter apparel roots are evident in their membership with the Protect Our Winters (POW) initiative to help combat climate change. Further, they also have a repair program with wholesale pricing in an effort to keep products in use instead of going into a landfill.
Flylow Gear Eleanor short and Aster shirt.
MSRP: $90.00 USD
Sizes: XS – XL (tested M)
Colors: Blush, Patina, Abyss (tested)
Like the Aster shirt below, the Eleanor short was designed with mountain biking in mind but will pull duty in multiple activities. It has enough stretch to accommodate single track ninja moves without binding, and room for snacks in the hip pockets. There’s also a pocket on the lower thigh for your phone, internal waist adjusters, and belt loops for customizing your fit.
I tested the shorts in size medium and they were a fairly loose but comfortable fit. The internal waist adjusters helped tighten things up a tad bit and with a 12.5″ inseam, the shorts came down mid-knee and had a wide enough opening that they easily fit over a variety of knee guards. The sizing chart does not currently include a hip measurement, so while these were loose in the hip and butt on my frame, it might be worth finding a retailer and trying them on before you buy.
The shorts utilize Flylow’s Intuitive IQ MTB fabric, which is a light and super comfortable quick-dry fabric that has the feel of a board short but with the durability for mountain biking. Pedaling around in these shorts, they felt light and airy without any restriction in the areas that might run tight with some other brands. While the shorts have multiple well-placed pockets, my iPhone XR just barely fits in the lower, velcro-sealed, phone-specific pocket (plus I didn’t like how it flopped around once I managed to stuff it in, so I utilized the upper zipped hip pocket instead).
For $90, I’d put these shorts as the best bang for you buck. It’s hard to find a well-designed, relaxed fit short for this price and these appear to check all the boxes.
Up close shot of the Eleanor short.
Flylow Gear Eleanor Short and Aster Shirt.
MSRP: $75.00 USD
Sizes: XS – XL (tested M)
Colors: Shark, Patina, Dusk (tested)
Originally designed as a biking jersey, the Aster works just as well off the bike for any high output endeavor but oozes enough style to function as an après piece, too. It’s breathable, has variable venting—just undo a few buttons—and has two pockets for keys and snacks.
The size medium Aster was just a tad bit big on me but had a comfortable fit and feel. The buttons don’t come down all the way, so it’s a pullover jersey with options to unbutton as desired. The two front pockets do not close securely, so they have limited use for storing valuables, but are a nice feature and work well for stashing a pair of gloves while on a snack break, etc.
What I like most about this jersey is that it veers away from the norm and has a different look than almost anything else you will find on the market. The material is still designed to wick sweat and the jersey is very lightweight and breathable. Testing this on warmer days was where I found that I really liked the Aster. I know Flylow Gear has a pretty solid reputation in the ski industry and I would say my first impression of their bike gear is that I am solidly impressed.
Details of the Aster shirt.
For over 50 years this Japanese brand has been building cycling clothing that’s driven by a function-first design principle. That attention to detail is evident in every stitch, every gusset, and the selection of every fabric of every piece of cycling gear they make.
Pearl Izumi doesn’t shirk with sustainability either. Currently, 43% of all their products are made from recycled or renewable materials, but they have a goal of achieving 90% sustainability throughout their line by the year 2022. As for developing a repair program, they do offer a lifetime warranty on their products, however the lifetime warranty excludes “normal wear and tear”.
Pearl Izumi Elevate Short and Summit Long Sleeve Top
Women’s Elevate Short
MSRP: $175.00 USD
Sizes: US 2 – 14 (tested US 6)
Colors: Fog, Phantom (tested)
These sweet shorts from Pearl Izumi are a great example of pretty and smart, yet tough. Emphasis on the smart. They utilize a lightweight, four-way stretch Cordura fabric with bonded seams to achieve an ideal blend of durability without restricting movement. From a nerdy but cool tech standpoint, each fiber uses PI dry technology—essentially a DWR coating that’s applied to each fiber before weaving the fabric together, making for a much more durable water-resistant application. The Boa dial on the back makes on the fly waist fit adjustments quick and easy. Last and not least: the short is designed to offer a smooth pedaling experience vs. shorts that bind against the liner by utilizing a slip surface on the inside of the shorts. There is a 12” inseam, laser cut venting, and two zippered leg pockets designed to shift cargo to the back of the short for pedaling comfort.
I tested the Elevate in US size 6. Historically the PI medium was always just a little too big, so I was super excited to see the expansion of their sizing range. The 6 was just barely loose in the waist and fitted in the hips and butt. The Boa dial on the back waistband was a unique addition for tightening up the waist and seems to work pretty well. The shorts have a pretty standard inseam and the hem is just big enough to fit over my lower profile knee guards. The shorts have quite a bit of taper from the waist down to the knee hem. I did get a little bit of bunching at the hips when I was pedaling due to this tapered fit, so if you have thick quads you’ll want to try before you buy.
I was pretty impressed with these Elevate Short compared to previous offerings from Pearl Izumi. After getting through all the testing, I lean towards these being my favorite pair of this group. I really liked the look, the feel (lightweight and airy), and the features. They are a bit pricey, but worth the extra penny for the pretty awesome technology (fabric) and quality product.
Pearl Izumi Elevate short and Summit Long Sleeve top.
Up close shots of Elevate shorts zippered leg pocket and boa dial.
Women’s Summit Long Sleeve Top
MSRP: $70.00 USD
Sizes: XS – XL (tested M)
Colors: Sunny Lime/Navy Radian, Phantom/Fiery CRL Frequency, Arctic Dusk/Phantom Lucent (tested)
This piece is designed to have the look and feel of a long-sleeve T-shirt but function as a technical jersey. It has raglan sleeves cut for easy movement and offers a solid sustainability nod with a blend of 95% recycled polyester/5% polyester which wicks moisture to keep you dry, even on hot days. Oh, and those long sleeves ward off sun and errant brush on overgrown trails. The Summit also has a bit of a drop tail to keep dirt and debris out of your shorts.
The Summit in size medium fits me perfectly. The website describes the product as having a “relaxed fit” vs. the “standard fit” for the shorts, and that was the case—it was loose but without any bag to it. The sleeves were long enough and seemed just roomy enough to wear some low profile elbow guards without binding, and the slight drop tail added a little extra coverage behind. The fabric had a soft feel and wicked moisture in all the right places.
Bottom line – this jersey checks all the boxes as a basic get the job done long sleeve jersey. I could see myself wearing it under a shell in the shoulder seasons, but in terms of style, for me, it definitely wasn’t my favorite design and I wasn’t a fan of how the material wrinkled up like it had dryer sheets stuck to the inside. But personal nitpicks aside, it performed well. It’s been awesome to see the advances in the women’s line of mountain bike apparel at Pearl Izumi. The design team is putting a lot of effort into testing and fit, and this long sleeve jersey is just one of many items that are worth a look.
Pearl Izumi Summit long sleeve top features.
The mantra at Mons Royale is all about the belief that a brand could be created with bold, stylish designs but without compromising performance. The foundation for that was and continues to revolve around wool. Merino wool, to be exact, not that itchy stuff your parents warned you about. The Merino wool used by Mons Royale is ZQ sourced—a measure of sustainable practice and quality that ensures the ethical treatment of everyone involved, from sheep to farmers to manufacturers to retailers to consumers. It’s been 11 years and counting for Mons Royale, so they’re obviously doing something right.
Mons Royale Momentum 2.0 bike shorts and Phoenix Enduro VT jersey.
Momentum 2.0 Bike Shorts
MSRP: € 120.00 EU
Sizes: XS – XL
Colors: Uranium Black (tested)
Not flyweight light and not DH heavy, but somewhere in between and designed to be burly tough—that’s the Momentum 2.0 in a nutshell. The short utilizes a durable micro grid outer fabric with a touch of Lycra for easy movement combined with soft, supple merino inside for comfort and pedaling ease (52% polyester, 39% merino, 9% elastane). There are zippered leg vents with a mesh back for breathability, Velcro waist adjusters, strategically placed seams to prevent chafing, and it’s designed to accommodate pads. A zippered pocket for valuables is the cherry on top.
The size small was fairly snug in the waist but otherwise good to go. The shorts have a nice long inseam and are compatible with a wide variety of knee guards. The material feels thicker than most of the shorts I tested, but once I was out pedaling I didn’t notice the extra weight—they pedaled and moved remarkably despite that somewhat heavy feel, and breathability was good. The fabric had a little stretch for easy pedaling, and that merino lined interior felt appreciably soft against my legs when pedaling.
The Momentum 2.0 was not my favorite of the group—I lean towards a lighter, XC style short; but they oozed quality, are durable, breathed well, and are well worth the investment if you like a burly tough short vs the lighter weight type. In my book, these would be ideal for side country missions, where you’re taking a lift up, but still pedaling big miles ala any of the big descents found off Whistler Peak or just about anywhere in the Alps.
Mons Royale Momentum 2.0 and Phoenix Enduro VT jersey.
Details of the Momentum 2.0 bike shorts.
Phoenix Enduro VT
MSRP: € 80.00 EU
Sizes: XS – L
Colors: Black/Grey Marl, Punk Baby, Khaki Rose, Ink Stripe (tested)
The V-neck Phoenix Enduro VT jersey is constructed with Mons Royale’s Merino air-con fabric. This means that each fiber used to construct the fabric of the shirt utilizes a nylon core wrapped in Merino wool fibers. This allows the air-con fabric to harness the positive properties of Merino—breathability, odor control, and next to skin comfort—while maintaining durability and shape retention, thanks to the nylon. There’s a bit of Lycra woven in as well, for fit and ease of movement (83% merino, 13% nylon, 4% elastane). This isn’t just a simple tech tee made of merino wool, though. Rather this is a proper bike jersey: it has breathable side panels, a dropped tail, stash pocket, and a hidden goggles/glasses wipe. And the sleeves, while not a true 3/4 length, do offer a bit more coverage from sun and brush than a typical tee.
The size small was an a-okay fit. Loose in all the right places and super comfortable. The short style sleeves are almost 3/4 length and came down my arm enough to provide the little extra bit of coverage that I appreciate. The material felt soft but durable and the fabric handled my sweat like a champ (no embarrassing sweat stains where my hip pack waistband and belly intersect). And it held form well despite several washings.
This is the ideal jersey for warm spring days or shoulder season missions where the weather is somewhat unpredictable and I can’t be sure what I might run into. Style-wise, it has an flattering cut and design, but again, I’m not a huge fan of large branding across my chest. If they could convince their marketing department to remove the large branding, I am pretty sure this might just be one of my favorite jerseys of this bunch. For someone looking for a super rad merino style fabric, Mons Royale is well worth looking into.
Details of the Phoenix Enduro VT jersey.
Named for a tiny village near St Moritz in Switzerland, and based out of an old farmhouse in Bavaria, Maloja is not your typical mountain bike clothing company. Founded in 2005 from a desire to make better mountain bike apparel, Maloja has worked hard since their beginnings to achieve exactly that. They strive to keep the quality high, have worked to bring production from Asia back to Europe, and have a focus on holding to the highest environmental standards, all while creating functional, fashionable purpose-driven apparel. To that end, Maloja has been using Bluesign approved textiles since 2010; currently, 75% of all functional materials used by Maloja are Bluesign certified.
Maloja also has a two-year warranty against manufacturing defects; excluding normal wear and tear, they will repair or replace whatever item has failed. Returns and exchanges must be done within 30 days of original purchase, with the item in its original packaging.
Maloja MERAM shorts and LUSAIM jersey.
MSRP: $129.00 USD
Sizes: XS – XL (tested S)
Colors: Moonless, Night Sky, Yak, Cypress, Red Monk (tested)
The MERAM short uses a 4-way stretch polyester/elastane blend for durability and easy movement—ideal for mountain biking but able to double up for a variety of outdoor endeavors. They feature a 36cm (14”) inseam, a pre-shaped knee with more fabric draping over the knee than behind for easy pedaling, two pockets with ‘invisible’ zippers, and waist retention with a stretch insert at the back. There are also belt loops to customize the waist fit, and zippered venting.
Sizing on these is more in-line with other European brands and the small was a perfect fit. These were by far the baggiest shorts of this roundup, and are positioned to be part of the more downhill/freeride line of apparel that Maloja makes. The shorts feel light and stretchy, and since I’m not a belt kind of girl, the velcro waist adjusters were useful to tighten things up. The shorts have two well-positioned zippered side pockets that easily held my phone in place sans any flopping when pedaling or charging the rough stuff.
While these were one of the baggiest pairs of shorts of the review, they were also one of my favorite go-to options—which surprised me, to be honest (in general, I prefer more fitted, XC style shorts). I loved the design and longer inseam, and despite the DH pedigree, the shorts were still light enough that even in the heat and on extended climbs pedaling didn’t faze me. If you are looking for a longer short with a ton of style and performance, these are well worth looking at.
Details of the Meram shorts.
Details of the Meram shorts.
MSRP: $69.00 USD
Sizes: XS – XL
Colors: Night Sky, Yak, Red Monk, Lotus (tested)
The LÜSAIM jersey is touted as a relaxed cut multi-sport shirt with a front print. It has a round neckline and three-quarter length sleeves that contrast with the body of the jersey. There are no pockets. The fabric is composed of hemp dry, a Maloja sourced material made from an 85% recycled polyester/15% hemp blend. It’s a fast-drying and breathable fabric thanks to the polyester, but with a natural antibacterial characteristic from the hemp so it won’t stink up as quickly as pure polyester.
The size small fit great. The jersey was comfortable and the fabric worked as described. Even in the heat when I was sweating, there were no visible sweat stains as the fabric wicked away moisture. The sleeves came right below my elbow for that wee bit of sun protection but they were tight enough that elbow guards weren’t happening. The torso length was long enough to cover my lower back chamois gap when pedaling, and the jersey fabric felt more durable and seemed less likely to snag than other poly blends.
I was pretty happy with the LÜSAIM. I’m not necessarily a pink person, but I ended up really liking the look and found the color patterns offered a fun and playful but stylish appearance. The price is right in line with most of the other tops in this review and given their overall quality, Maloja is one of the brands I like to push to friends looking for good cycling apparel.[PCAPTION]Details of the LÜSAIM jersey.[/PCAPTION]
Ion was born back in 2004 with a focus on wetsuits and neoprene products for the international windsurf, kitesurf, surf, SUP, and wakeboard scene. From that water initial focus on water sport lifestyle, the range soon grew to include a variety of accessories. But in 2012 Ion took the same approach to the world of mountain bike clothing with a line of functional clothing, gear, accessories, and protection with a surf lifestyle bent.
Ion’s main philosophy is about “challenging yourself, experiencing nature, and feeling it’s force.” In line with this perspective, Ion works to develop innovative, smart designs that transform this philosophy into functional and stylish lifestyle gear. Further, Ion has a “save our playground” initiative to coordinate and bundle all of the brand’s actions to achieving their products in an effort to minimize their environmental footprint while still producing cutting edge clothing and gear. Yes, they exist to create products, but Ion wants to create durable items that aren’t worn today, and landfill fodder tomorrow. Their focus on the environment can be seen in all aspects of their brand, from company philosophy to production to packaging to materials to partnerships with suppliers.
Ion is currently producing 70% of their SEEK bike line from renewable raw materials with a goal of 100% by 2022. Does Ion have a perfect record? No, but they are working to get there as much as possible. Look for their Fair & Clean Content Seal to know which of their products embody the best environmentally friendly production methods.
ION Scrub Amp shorts and LS 3/4 Scrub Amp tee.
Scrub AMP Wms Bike Shorts
MSRP: $129.95 USD
Sizes: XS/34 – XL/42 (tested S)
Colors: Inside Blue, Black, Root Brown (tested)
The Scrub Amp is Ion’s top-notch bike short offering everything you need for all-mountain shredding. The shorts have a 4-way stretch fabric, bonded hem, and waistband which provide a durable and very flat surface, velcro waist adjusters, DWR treatment, laser-cut ventilation holes, two zippered hand pockets, and an integrated phone pouch.
Per the size chart, I tested the size small Scrub Amp shorts. They were slightly snug in the bum and waist but stretchy enough that overall they had a solid fit. The waist adjusters on these shorts are effective for snugging them up and the longer inseam works well to cover most knee guards while the hem is just loose enough to move freely when wearing guards. The shorts do slightly bunch at my hips when I am descending (like the Pearl Izumi and Wild Rye shorts—oh, the joys of having curves!) due to the slight taper and fit, but they easily fall back into place otherwise.
The shorts fall into the average category in terms of weight. They are not the lightest I tested, but offer added durability and are unlikely to snag or rip on blackberry bushes. The laser ventilation offers good airflow when pedaling in the heat and the fabric breathes well. The protected phone pocket in the right hip is a nice feature, but I personally have a hard time pedaling with a phone directly on the front of my hip. I prefer my phone down on the side of my thigh or more to the outside of my hip. That nitpick aside, I highly recommend these shorts to anyone who is looking for a little added inseam length and who likes to shred technical trail with the confidence that your clothing has the durability to withstand a bit of chaos.
ION Scrub Amp shorts and LS 3/4 Scrub Amp tee.
Details of the Scrub Amp Wmns shorts.
Women’s LS 3/4 Scrub Amp tee
MSRP: $79.95 USD
Sizes: XS/34 – XL/42 (tested S)
Colors: Ocean Blue, Black, Pink is Back (tested)
The Scrub Amp 3/4 tee consists of DriRelease® Eco fabric with repreve technology which is made from recycled PET waste. The jersey fabric has a soft cotton feel and features an integrated goggles/glasses wipe as well as a lift pass pocket.
I tested the jersey in small. Technically per the size chart, I should be a medium, but I had traditionally fit in a small with Ion in the past, so I went that direction. As a result, it was a bit tight across my shoulders and neckline, but it was still stretchy enough that I had no issues out on the trail. I would consider sizing up if you fall towards the high end of a specific size. The 3/4 sleeve profile was long enough to go over my elbows and offer added protection from the weather, but too tight to wear elbow pads. The jersey rides comfortably against the skin (no irritation from the shoulder tightness) and the DriRelease fabric does a fantastic job of wicking away sweat.
ION has really stepped up their game in both the style and high-quality design of their women’s apparel. The prices are super competitive and their environmental record /use of recycled and organic fabrics gives them a leg up as one of my favorite brands. While I don’t love the branding across the chest on this tee, the colors and pattern is stylish and I will happily wear this jersey out on the trails this summer.
Details of the Scrub Amp 3/4 tee.
This Australian surf lifestyle inspired mountain bike clothing company believes that technical apparel starts with good, eco-friendly fabrics, and should be designed for both performance and style, with a great fit and “common sense” technical features vs. gimmicks added on just to hit marketing buzz words. Center to the tech they use is Drirelease Technology, a patented fabric technology that uses a blend of hydrophilic and hydrophobic fibers to wick instead of a chemical treatment, creating a lifetime performance of the fabric and a smaller environmental footprint vs. chemicals that need to be re-applied.
DHaRCO ladies gravity pants and 3/4 sleeve jeresy.
Ladies Gravity Pants
MSRP: $179-95 USD
Sizes: XS – XL (tested M)
Colors: Black (tested)
With a skinny jean look but World Cup pedigree (tested by Connor Fearon, as well as a select cadre of lady shredders) the DHaRCO Ladies gravity pants are designed to tick all the boxes: it utilizes a quick-drying and breathable fabric, has a water-resistant finish, is tailored for free range of movement with room – barely – for knee pads, and has three pockets for essentials (two at the hip, and one at the base of the spine). The 95% nylon/5% spandex fabric is Bluesign approved and DHaRCO offers a return for a refund or exchange on any items if you were not 100% satisfied.
I tested these fitted-style pants in a medium. The waist was a little loose and sat fairly low on my hips, but the overall fit was pretty solid and the velcro adjusters helped me tighten up the somewhat loose waist. The material felt stretchy enough that I didn’t notice any restrictions when pedaling and I was able to wear a pair of low profile knee guards under the pants. One thing I did notice is that the pants taper down at the ankles, but there is no adjustability at the cuff, so you will have to remove your shoes to get these on and off.
I rode in these in a variety of weather conditions including a blistering hot day where I realized I had made a poor clothing choice for that particular ride (I was out in direct sunshine in 80-degree temps without a scrap of cover). As a result, I experienced this amazing thing called leg sweat. I had a much better experience riding with these in temperate spring conditions. In those conditions, the pants seemed to breathe well and the extra coverage was nice for both keeping my legs dry and clean and for reducing cuts and scraps from trail debris. Last fall I tested a bunch of women-specific riding pants, and I would easily put these in the top tier in terms of fit, style, and quality for shoulder season adventure pants.
DHaRCO Ladies Gravity Pants and 3/4 sleeve jersey.
Details of the DHaRCO Ladies Gravity pants.
Ladies 3/4 sleeve Jersey
MSRP: $69.95 USD
Sizes: XS – XL (tested M)
Colors: Camo Palm, Aqua Party, Scarlet Storm (tested)
This might be the three-quarter sleeve jersey you’ve been looking for if you don’t want to be too girly, yet don’t want to be too hard-core. The flattering cut hides the technical performance inherent it: mesh side panels for breathability, a zip pocket for essentials, and the extra sun and abrasion protection a ¾ sleeve offers as well as a semi cover for elbow guards. The fabric is a 100% quick dry polyester that is made with recycled fibers, excluding the mesh side panels. The jerseys are also available in short sleeve and long sleeve options at different price points.
The size medium 3/4 sleeve ladies jersey had a near-perfect fit. The sleeves came right below my elbows and the cut was fitted but comfortable. The jersey utilizes a wicking polyester quick-dry material that kept me dry when climbing in the sun while the mesh side panels offered excellent ventilation. The jersey has a little zip pocket on the side for lift tickets, or maybe a little snack for those of you who don’t like to carry a pack.
DHaRCO gets extra points in the style category with this one: the fit and design of this jersey garner plenty of compliments when I wear it. They also meet the modern demands for creating quality riding apparel by utilizing advanced fabrics that provide the performance that a simple cotton tee doesn’t but with the comfort one expects from cotton. DHaRCO might be a small company, but they’re doing an excellent job of crafting top-notch cycling apparel that is fairly priced and environmentally sensitive.
DHaRCO Ladies 3/4 sleeve jersey.
Troy Lee Designs (TLD)
The story of Troy Lee Designs begins in 1981 when a sign painter – named Troy Lee – begin painting anything from airplanes to mailboxes to helmets. After a short period of time, custom helmet paint jobs dominated his time. The journey from that humble beginning to MX and MTB helmet, protection, and apparel leader has consumed nearly four decades. But it’s safe to say that Troy Lee Designs is firmly established as an icon.
As a brand, TLD decided to do things more sustainably, starting 3 years ago by switching their entire bike line to Bluesign approved fabrics. That move made them the first domestic bike apparel brand to switch entirely to using Bluesign approved fabrics. But their push towards preserving our playgrounds doesn’t stop there: they also have worked to reduce some of the packaging processes including using smaller bags, less plastic, etc as well as utilizing more timely production calendars and delivery schedules to help curtail global shipments and the resulting carbon footprint. In regards to returns, exchanges, and warranty, TLD will readily accept returns on unused items and warranties items “only in the case of manufacture defect”. It does not cover products damaged due to normal wear and tear, negligence, improper care, natural breaking, or fading of colors and materials over time and/or exposure.
TLD Women’s Mischief short and Lilium SS jersey.
Womens Mischief Shorts
MSRP: $109.00 USD
Sizes: XS – XL (tested M)
Colors: Charcoal, Black, Deep Fig, Dusk, Golden (tested)
TLD released three new lines of women-specific apparel this spring: the Mischief, Lilium, and Luxe shorts. Each of the three lines has unique styles designed to meet the demands of women; Mischief is designed to have a loose, more relaxed fit, while the Lilium collection is focused on sleek and innovative fabric and fit. The Luxe short is TLD’s response for the women saying they’d like their clothing to feel as good as their yoga pants do. I tested the Mischief short, which is part of TLD’s more relaxed fitting line of women’s riding apparel. It features 4-way stretch material, 3 zippered pockets, and laser perforated zones for added ventilation. The fabric is UPF 30+ and Bluesign approved.
I tested the Mischief in medium which was, unfortunately, a tad bit too big on me. I really should have taken a closer look at the size chart, which takes things a step further than any other I have seen by including measurements for waist, hips, thigh, leg opening, and outseam. While the mediums were too big in the waist, I was able to utilize the velcro waist adjusters to keep them snug enough for testing. True to the description, these shorts have a loose relaxed fit with a roomier cut than some of the other lines—definitely a good option for those with curvier frames.
One thing these shorts do right is pockets. The pockets are nicely placed and functional. On top of that the shorts are stylish, offering a clean look with five attractive solid color options. One of my test rides in these shorts was a 4-hour grind in a mix of muggy and wet spring weather. The fabric seemed to shed the light sprinkles yet also wicked away my sweat effectively enough that they never got that droopy/floppy/heavy feel damp fabric gets. The Mischief short is an excellent short for someone looking for a loose-fitting and stylish all-mountain riding short that doesn’t kill your piggy bank.
TLD Mischief short and Lilium ss jersey.
Details of the Mischief shorts.
Lilium SS Jersey
MSRP: $75.00 USD
Sizes: XS – XL (tested M)
Colors: Floral Black, Floral Charcoal (tested)
The Lilium SS jersey is a quick-dry 4-way stretch knit top that offers UPF20+ protection from the sun, a drop tail hem, and a Jacquard style engineered mesh (knit in a single layer) for ventilation. While we tested the floral pattern version of this jersey, it also comes in solid black or deep fig, as well as a number of long sleeve styles and colors.
I tested the size medium top and unlike the shorts, it was a pretty spot-on fit. One important thing to note is I also received this jersey in the long sleeve Mischief version and like the Mischief shorts, the LS Mischief version was simply too big. I recommend checking the size chart and veering to the lower size if you fall in the middle range.
This is a pretty simple jersey with a sleek look but a comfortable fit and riding feel. Personally, I really liked the floral pattern that was sublimated throughout the fabric, and the material offered excellent wicking performance. Even after a long climb without a speck of shade, I didn’t feel the jersey clinging to me as some poly blends do. The new Lilium line looks to be exactly what I want in my riding gear: competitively priced, simple no-frill colors, functional with a focus on quality fabric, and superior fit.
Details of the Lilium SS jersey.
Founded by Yvon Chouinard in 1970, Patagonia is the OG conscience-driven outdoor apparel company. They started giving back 1% of sales or 10% of profits—whichever was greater—to environmental causes back in 1986. That has now morphed into the internationally recognized 1% for the planet. In 1996 they committed to all organic cotton to minimize environmental impacts. Their commitment to creating top-performing, classic designs that use environmentally friendly materials and recycled materials in effort to offset climate change and the environmental impacts from the industrial production of their products is unparalleled. Patagonia backs all their gear with an “iron-clad” guarantee: “If your item isn’t working for you, send it in for a return or repair, hassle-free, anytime.” as well as a trade-in policy: “Bring us your quality, used Patagonia gear and we’ll give you credit that can be used in Patagonia retail stores, or on WornWear.com and Patagonia.com.”
Patagonia Dirt Craft shorts and Capilene Cool Trail Bike Henley.
Women’s Dirt Craft Bike Shorts – 12″
MSRP: $159.00 USD
Sizes: 0 – 18
Colors: Black, Retro Layers: Camp Green, Spanish Red (tested)
The Fair Trade Certified Dirt Craft Shorts are touted as a single track “workhorse”, regardless of whether you’re climbing for miles or descending something meaty in the backcountry. They come with a removable (non-bib) liner and a slightly longer inseam than the initial women’s short offerings by Patagonia. The shaped waistline follows the body’s natural curves with a bit of a rise in the back to keep debris at bay. There is a somewhat unique, adjustable low-rise hook and webbing adjustable waistband for fine-tuning the waist fit. Knee openings are roomy enough for knee guards without flapping, which is nice. The Dirt Craft is constructed with a DWR coated four-way stretch fabric (65% recycled nylon, 30% nylon, and 5% elastane) for breathability and easy movement. There are two easy to reach hip pockets plus a zippered security pocket large enough for a smartphone on the left thigh. The liner short (72% polyester/20% spandex stretch knit) has snap loops for across the line integration with other Patagonia riding shorts.
The size US 6 Dirt Craft was the perfect fit. The shorts have a relaxed cut around the waist, hips, and butt, and the adjustable hooks are super-efficient for snugging the waist fit up as needed. The 12″ inseam is long enough that there is pretty much zero gaper gap between my knee guards and shorts, and the security pocket is perfect for those of us who like to carry our cell phone in our shorts, but not on the hip.
These Dirt Craft Shorts have come a long way in the design department in the last couple years and easily match up with all my favorite mountain biking shorts in terms of fit, style and comfort. I feel confident that they can handle long days pedaling in any mix of riding weather short of a downpour. It’s important to note that the price for these shorts includes the addition of a liner chamois; I do like Patagonia’s chamois design, but I would love to see this short available without the liner for those who prefer a bib or a chamois-free lifestyle.
Patagonia Dirt Craft shorts and Capilene Cool Trail Bike Henley.
Details of the Patagonia Dirt Craft bike shorts.
Women’s Capilene Cool Trail Bike Henley
MSRP: $55.00 USD
Sizes: XXS – XL (tested S)
Colors: Black, Gypsum Green, Spanish Red, Smokey Violet (tested)
In line with other jerseys reviewed here, this Henley tee from Patagonia is just as happy on the trails as it is socializing after the ride is over. The body is made from a 100% recycled polyester fabric with HeiQ Fresh, a built-in order control treatment, and is custom-tailored to fit on the bike with articulated seams and a medium-sized drop tail. Fair Trade Certified sewn and Bluesign approved.
I tested the henley in size small per the Patagonia size chart and online fit guide. The shirt fit perfectly, and for you extra petite ladies that tend to shop in the youth section, Patagonia does make this in an XXS. The fabric felt soft and a lot like a cotton tee, but easily wicked away sweat on hotter days. The jersey had a nice torso length and the drop tail added that little bit of extra protection to close the rear gap and keep debris out. I had zero issues with funky smells—even after a few longer rides, and the jersey seemed to show no wear and tear after multiple wash cycles.
Now for a little honest confession —Henleys aren’t my thing, not even a little. It looks like one of my tee-shirts from the late ’80s. Or maybe a staple at a polo club. Plus I keep trying to figure out what the faux pocket on my boob is supposed to do and why would I want buttons that lead to nowhere on my jersey? That being said, what this jersey lacks in a style that I can relate to, it makes up for in quality, comfort, performance, and of course company policies. Patagonia has the best repair program for apparel out of any MTB brand on the market. Rather than buying new shorts or jersey each season, they provide an incentive to get things fixed, which at the end of the day helps reduce our environmental footprint.[PCAPTION]Details of the Women’s Capilene Cool Trail Bike Henley.[/PCAPTION]
GORE Wear harkens back to the invention of polytetrafluorethylene (PTFE), the waterproof-breathable barrier that makes Gore-tex do what it does: repel water while allowing for breathability. Gore Wear first came to be recognized for its apparel in 1985 with the “Giro jacket“ the first waterproof and windproof Gore-Tex cycling jacket. This was one of the first jackets to be cut specifically for cycling, as well, with a bit of a drop tail. This simple jacket became the foundation for what is now Gore Bike Wear.
Gore Wear has been working on getting their fabrics Bluesign certified since 2010 in order to reduce environmental impacts in their supply chain, and they joined the Fair Labor Association (FLA) initiative as a stakeholder to promote and protect factory workers rights as well as to improve working conditions. They currently aren’t part of the 1% campaign, nor am I aware that they are using recycled materials in any of their fabrics. But they do use a Life Cycle Assessment which is a global standardized tool with the goal of putting them on a path to reducing their environmental impact. One such goal: by the end of 2020, Gore Fabrics will eliminate PFCs of Environmental Concern from approximately 85% of its products.
GORE C5 Women Trail Light Shorts and Long Sleeve Jersey.
C5 Women Trail Light Shorts
MSRP: $99.99 USD
Sizes: XS – XL (tested M)
Colors: Terra Grey/Black, Deep Water Blue/Black, Citrus Green/Black, Hibiscus Pink/Black (tested)
The C5 Trail Light shorts are a lightweight XC-inspired over short designed to offer unhindered all-day pedaling. The shorts feature a popular, stretchy elastic waistband, mesh inserts for ventilation, two zippered pockets, and spray protection along the groin and thigh. The Trail Lights have a less baggy/more fitted cut and come in at a featherweight 4.2oz. The fabric is a mix of polyester, elastane, and Polyamide.
I tested this short in a medium and felt marvelous: just the right amount of cling to show curves but not so snug as to hamper movement. The elastic waistband was extra comfortable despite the silicon grippers on the interior and they’ve held up without stretching out over the past 4 months of testing. They do have a more fitted feel in the hips and butt but are stretchy enough that I didn’t have any restrictive feelings when pedaling nor did I feel any bunching in the hips. The shorts had an average inseam (falling right above the knee) and they comfortably fit over my low profile knee guards.
The lightweight material and added ventilation were nice on a couple blistering hot spring days before the onset of “June-uary.” While some people may not like the MX look of the ventilation panels, I like the design and find the shorts pretty stylish. The two zippered pockets are big enough to accommodate the basic necessities (food, phone, car key) without any issues. If you’re in the market for a super lightweight riding short with all the basic features and the added comfort of an elastic waistband, give these a try.
GORE C5 Women Trail Light Shorts and Long Sleeve Jersey.
Details of the C5 Trail Light Shorts from Gore.
C5 Women Trail Long Sleeve Jersey
MSRP: $79.99 USD
Sizes: XS – XL (tested M)
Colors: Deep Water Blue/Dynamic Cyan, Nordic Blue/Citrus Green, Hibiscus Pink/Chestnut Red (tested)
The C5 Trail Light Long sleeve jersey is a lightweight option for year-round trail riding. This no-frills jersey is fairly minimalistic, featuring a simple round neckline, reflective details, and an abrasion-resistant fabric. It is available in 3/4 sleeve and short sleeve options as well but at different price points.
I tested this jersey in a medium, which seemed to be a comfortable relaxed fit for my frame. Technically, per the size chart, I should be a small, but since shoulders are not always taken into consideration I tend to size up. The torso and sleeves were plenty long, and the cuff was loose enough that I was easily able to push them up on my arms as needed. The jersey wicked moisture from my skin efficiently when I was working hard and sweating. The material is touted to be abrasion-resistant and while I never crash-tested it, I didn’t have any issues with threads coming out or velcro sticking after multiple wash cycles. If you’re a fan of simplicity, this jersey has a good look and meets the quality demands I expect in a riding jersey at this price point.
Details of the C5 Women Trail Long Sleeve Jersey.