It’s “fight the couch” season in the foothills where I live. Motivating to get outside in the cold and damp air for a solo spin is difficult in December, though less so with the right layers to stay warm in. I have been riding in some of the new 2021 gear from ION for several months now, and it has all held up well following countless washes and a few trail slides.
I’ll share all the details on this kit below, starting with the warmest couch contenders, and moving backward to the lighter-weight layers that are about to find their place at the back of the closet to wait for spring.
Shelter PL Padded Hybrid Jacket
My couch’s top opponent is this Shelter PL Padded jacket. When ION first sent the jacket to me I assumed that it was an après-shred piece for the pub and office. While it fits just fine in either of those scenarios it’s also fantastic on the trail. For any ride below 6°C (43°F) this jacket keeps your core cozy and warm, with a deceivingly breathable shell.
The black swaths of fabric along the torso flanks and under the length of either arm are not insulated, and they let a good amount of air flow through right where you need it. That same black material has a 4-way-stretch quality that helps the jacket fit comfortably in an aggressive riding position, and it snaps back to a comfortable athletic fit in pub-crawl position.
I saunter at 174cm tall (5’8″ ish) with a 102cm (40″) chest measurement and a 68kg (150lbs) current riding weight, making the size small Shelter PL Padded jacket fit just right. There’s space underneath for a warm long sleeve layer or two, and maybe a tight back protector vest when needed. Folks who wear elbow pads are out of luck with this one, as the sleeves are a little too tight to fit much more than a thin G-Form style protector beneath. The sleeve length is ample, fitting someone with a far longer ape-index than mine, and the elastic cuffs work well to keep the sleeves where you put them
While there is a hood on this jacket, it seems designed for use off the bike. It’s a little bit too thick to wear under a helmet, and too small to wear over. You could definitely throw it on and suffer the awkward helmet fit if it was cold enough, but it will serve you better walking around town.
There’s a microfiber lens cleaner tethered inside the right pocket for wiping goggles or glasses that conveniently gets washed each time the jacket does. The two hand pockets are quite large, with space for gloved hands and a larger cellphone if that’s where you want to store it.
This is a fantastic jacket for cold rides, and it can fit beneath a rain layer if the weather turns even worse. Given the somewhat high price tag I wouldn’t wear the Shelter PL on any gnarly trail rides, as it does seem like a good slide across the rocks would tear it asunder. I would, however, wear it on a warmer spring ski trip.
- Sizes: 44/XXS-56XXL
- Primaloft insulation
- DWR water repellent coating
- Color: Indigo Dawn with lightning bolt embroidery
- Hood, full zip, elastic cuffs and hem, microfiber lens cleaner
- There is not currently a women’s version of this jacket.
Scrub Mesh_ine Pants
The couch competition largely ends there. While the ION Scrub Mesh_ine Pants offer added protection from scrapes and sticks, they are undoubtedly the most breathable and cool pair of MTB trousers I have tested. If you’re searching for a warmer winter version, check out the ION Shelter Softshell that we reviewed in February. The material just below the knees and down the length of the calf is thin enough to see through, while the butt and outer thighs are double layered and triple stitched. A third stretchy material ties it all together, and the raised upper-butt swath of fabric is also extra stretchy to accommodate an aggressive bend. Despite being thin in a few key areas, these pants have held up well and should continue to for a few more seasons.
Fit on the Scrub Mesh_ine trousers is handled by a pair of velcro strips located inside the waistband to cinch them tight. In rare form, the size small is far too large for my 76cm (30″) waist, and the pants slowly meander downward if I put anything heavier than my keys in the one right-hand pocket. l also tried on the XS size to find them too tight. Once the pandemic passes, and rides grow longer, I’m sure that the XS size will fit fine. Where does that leave riders with smaller waistlines than mine?
Additionally, I really don’t dig waist adjusters inside the waistband of shorts and pants. Riders who have to cinch them tight are left with an awkward bulge of waist-hem material at either side that doesn’t look or feel flattering. The classic straps on the outside can usually lay flat after pulling the hem taut, and the velcro strips can be trimmed to avoid the under-shirt bulge if needed. Hopefully ION receives some feedback on this detail and moves the adjustment straps to the exterior for the next iteration.
The front closure has a flap of material that stretches where the usual opening would be, keeping it from flapping all the way open. This likely reduces overall weight a bit by foregoing a zipper and using a pair of velcro patches and a single snap to keep the front shut.
The length and overall tautness in the butt, hips, and legs is spot on, and feels good in either size. The ankle openings use an elastic band to stretch over heels, and they are plenty tight enough to stay out of the drivetrain.
If you like to ride in pants whenever possible, these will extend your long-leg season through much of the summer heat. The leg vents work well to cool off areas where kneepads swelter, and the thick seat material is sewn to last. Definitely take a close look at the sizing chart before ordering.
- Sizes: 28/XS-38/XXL
- Vented legs, triple-stiched thighs and seat
- Inner-waist velcro adjustment
- One cellphone size right-hand pocket
- Colors: black, Smashing Red (bright orange)
- There is not currently a women’s version of these pants.
Scrub Mesh_ine LS Tee
ION kept their well known cotton-like feel with a lot of the material on this Scrub Mesh_Ine jersey. The brand says that the soft t-shirt style material is “DriRelease® Eco fabric with repreve technology, which is made from recycled PET waste, and organic cotton.” The remaining material down the sleeves, across he chest, and mid to lower back is a more traditional feeling poly-blend that breathes well. The chest and two-thirds of the back panel are perforated like an old school American-football jersey, letting air move freely through the shirt.
The size small fits almost identical to any other small jersey, and most riders should be able to confidently order their usual cut. The torso and arms are tight enough to keep them from flapping in the wind or catching on things, and you will want to order a size up if you need to fit elbow pads or a larger back protector underneath. Thin vest-style back protectors should fit fine beneath your regular size.
A triangle of microfiber cloth under the right-hand hem makes for a handy lens cleaner, and there is a zippered pouch at the left flank that’s just large enough for a lift-pass or credit card.
What may look like another simple jersey is in fact a notably comfortable piece of technical riding kit that feels like it will last through a few seasons. I figured that I would have ruined the white portion of this shirt by now, but it has come clean after each wash despite my best efforts.
- €94.95. Available at Backcountry and Amazon.
- Sizes: 48/S-56/XXL
- Dry Release front and shoulder fabric, mesh back
- Lens cleaner, lift-pass pocked
- Colors: white, Smashing Red (bright orange), black
- There is not currently a women’s version of this jersey.
Traze Vent Shorts and Scrub Mesh_ine Shorts
Now for some gear that is aimed at getting folks off the couch in the warmer months: the Traze Vent and Scrub Mesh_ine shorts from ION are just the ticket. While the cut, fit, and function of both pairs are identical, their intentions differ somewhat. Fabric on both pairs is stretchy where it needs to be, and tougher in the seat and hips, but the material on the Traze Vent is thinner and more breathable in all areas. The Mesh_Ine has a thick seat and front-leg cover, similar to the pants above, with stretchy material in the crotch and at the lumbar. The Traze Vent fabric is more flexible and breathable throughout, with the lumbar material being almost see-through.
Both of these shorts fit perfectly in a size small, and the external velcro cinch straps work well to keep them in place with full pockets. It’s a bit odd that the waist measurement differs between the pants and shorts, and you will want to take a careful look at the size chart for both. The 33cm (13″) inseam is plenty long to overlap kneepads for my 76cm-long (30″) legs.
The hand-pockets are cellphone, or hand, sized, with space for snacks and a tool if need be. Like the pants, the front closure is covered by an expandable flap that doesn’t flop open when the velcro and snap closure is released. If you regularly stop for a wee while riding this feature won’t have any effect on that process.
The lightweight Traze Vent is better for super hot rides, or a shred where crashing is less likely. For any gravity-oriented pedaling I would go with the tougher Scrub Mesh_ine model.
- Traze Vent
- Price: €129.95
- Sizes: 30/S-38/XXL
- Two cellphone size pockets
- Colors: Thunder Grey, Indigo Dawn, black
- There is not currently a women’s version of these shorts.
- Scrub Mesh_ine
- Price: €139.95
- Sizes: 30/S-38/XXL
- Two cellphone size pockets
- Colors: Smashing red (bright orange), black
- There is not currently a women’s version of these shorts.
Finally, the Traze Gloves are fully summer approved full fingers. With their breathable lycra tops I wouldn’t ride in these in weather cooler than 10°C (50°F), and I wouldn’t ride with them on summer days above 38°C (100°F). I’m a year-round, long-finger gloves kinda rider.
The size large Traze fits my hand snuggly, just as it should, with little room to move around and create blisters. There’s a nice nose wipe on he thumb, and the thicker palm material extends to the webbing between the thumb and forefinger where gloves often wear out first.
The palm and finger material has plenty of grip printed on, and the fingers work as well as most mitts on a touch-screen. ION has added some padding called Nerve Nugget to dampen vibrations in the palm. I generally don’t like padding anywhere on my gloves, but these little chunks are squishy and largely unobtrusive.
- Price: €39.95. Available at JensonUSA and Competitive Cyclist.
- Sizes: XXS-XL
- Breathable mesh top, tough padded palm
- Velcro wrist closure
- Colors: Riot orange, ocean blue, grey, black (pictured)
- There is a women’s version of gloves.