Casual mountain bikers have understandably separated themselves from lycra kits. For a long time, most lycra hasn’t been complimentary to our human form, it’s too tight in some spots and too baggy in others. It’s hard to find or even know where to look for a good kit that doesn’t have the giant logo of an XC race or a craft beer splayed across the chest.
Honestly, who wants to pack themselves in lycra shorts and a jersey when they’re on the way out of the office for an hour-and-a-half after work ride? Not many of us.
Until this year, I never mountain biked in spandex, nor did I ever want to. Again, why would I? There are plenty of casual baggy kits out there that I can wear from the trail to the bar without feeling self conscious about displaying my physical anatomy to the person pouring my beer.
Things change, however, and as I’ve been preparing for the BC Bike Race and dabbled more and more in XC riding and racing, the benefits of squeezing in a lycra kit have emerged. After multiple hours in the saddle, a lycra kit is more comfortable to wear, it dries quicker, and to be honest, all the kits I’ve been testing for this review look pretty damn good. Not to mention that snagging the crotch of baggy shorts on the saddle only adds frustration and depletes mental energy after really long rides.
All of these kits have proved quite useful for long races or rides, as well as saddling in for long gravel bike ventures.
Endura MTR Spray bib shorts and MTR S/S jersey
Scottish brand Endura brings a lot of style with the MTR Spray bib shorts and MTR jersey. The MTR jersey zips open, has rubberized shoulders for durability and grip for backpack straps, three back pockets, and a small zippered pocket under the traditional three pockets.
The toughest part when organizing this review was getting kits in the right size. I’m usually a medium for everything, and a few of the kits in this review were about a size too small. The Endura gear, however, was true to size and I fit easily into a medium.
The jersey is made from a really thin polyester and elastane mix and makes for a slim feel over the arms. The arms also have silicone grippers which keep them in place.
Overall, the MTR jersey does a great job moving moisture to the outside to keep itself dry, as evidenced by white salt blotches left in place on the sleeves when my sweat dried.
The only downside to the jersey is that it sags a lot with cargo in the back pockets, which can look a little goofy matched up with a pair of bib shorts. The jersey, like others can be sized up for a looser fit.
The fit of the MTR Spray bib shorts is my favorite of the bunch. It extends close to the knees and stays there with a ribbed pattern of silicone that wraps around the inside. The chamois stays in place on long rides. A floating pad and taped rear spray panel help to keep moisture out. Despite being a thicker material, the bib shorts stay on the cooler side during hot days. If you’ve got wet springs or a rainy environment, these might be the bib shorts to go for.
- MTR Jersey: $100 (available at Wiggle.com)
- MTR Spray Bib shorts: $165 (on sale at Wiggle.com)
Assos XC bib shorts and XC short sleeve jersey
The Assos kit was a tough one to size right and I needed to opt for a large on both the jersey and the bib shorts. The large has worked out for the most part, but still never felt like it fit 100% correctly. The jersey is a touch too loose in the torso, and the bib shorts are loose around the bottom and tight toward the top of the leg.
Aside from a finicky fit, I’ve enjoyed the Assos XC jersey and bib shorts. There are three colorways for the jersey; this blue, a green, and a red.
I like that the sleeves are tight and extend down near the elbows. It’s also well vented with mesh around the armpits for more air and less stink and brings a lot of air into important parts.
There’s a traditional three pocket layout in the rear with a zippered storage compartment under one of the pockets and to the side. The pockets stay tight and hug cargo close to your lumbar. The width of each pocket makes it easy to yank out gels or gummy worms on the go.
The XC bib shorts also feature a floating chamois that is thick and rebounds quickly back to its plush form. The side of the shorts are made of a ripstop and abrasion-resistant material called dyneRope which protects from trail rash – a welcome feature on minimal XC clothing.
This is the same material made on these rash guard arm sleeves, which can protect you against abrasion from crashing. The Trail Arm Protectors are lightweight, easy to stuff into a rear pocket, and while they may look hot or look like arm warmers, they’re incredibly well vented and should not be worn as arm warmers. Thankfully, I haven’t crashed wearing them, but it appears to be a tough material.
- XC short sleeve jersey: $170 (get the women’s version at JensonUSA)
- XC bib shorts: $240
- men’s short available at Jenson USA
- women’s short available at Jenson USA
- Trail Arm Protectors: $75 (available at Competitive Cyclist)
DNA Cycling Race bib shorts and Race jersey
When I went out to Fruita for the launch of the new Pivot Mach 4 SL, they handed all of us writers a pro-as-hell looking kit made by DNA Cycling. I wore it when I raced the Grand Junction Off-Road and got passed by many-a-rider so unfortunately, it doesn’t make you pro-as-hell.
Pivot sells this exact kit on their website as the DNA Race jersey and bibs for $100 and $125, but DNA sells the non-branded kit for the same price through their website, although it is unlisted. They have other variations, like the Race Day jersey for $120-$140. DNA caters to custom orders in big quantities but has several options for single orders in their preset graphics.
The cut of the Race/Day jersey is tight and almost looks too small as you’re about to zip it up. It really hugs the torso though and ends up fitting just right. The mediums were true to size for me. The material is more of a mesh and vents well to stay dry.
I appreciate the tight fit for up close cargo and bottle storage without sag. The DNA material on the Race kit feels a bit warmer and not quite as soft on the skin as other kits, but it’s still fine on multi-hour rides.
The bib shorts also fit great, and I dig the race cut that extends low. The suspenders on the bib shorts are the softest out of any of the bibs in this review and are unnoticeable after several hours. Soft silicone coats the inside of the bottom leg on the bibs. Considering that these are priced from DNA as an entry-level jersey and bib short, they’re a great kit and offer the best value of the bunch.
- Race bib short: $125
- Race jersey: $100
Velocio Signature bib and Recon MicroModal jersey
I checked out some Velocio baggy riding apparel not too long ago, and it’s still some of my favorite gear. The MicroModal jersey and Signature bibs have been added to that list.
I found this jersey the best looking of the bunch. It’s a relaxed style that implies casual riding, rather than racing with its subtle baseball-T layout. It feels like a soft, thin, athletic shirt and is made of MicroModal Carbon fabric. This jersey ditches the zipper for less weight. I have raced XC in this and ridden multi-hour rides and it remains comfortable from when I put it on to when I throw it in the hamper.
I really dig the fit as well. The sleeves are long and cut just right and the torso wraps around me perfectly.
There are the usual three pockets at the rear with wide openings and plenty of room for storage, while not sagging too much.
The Signature bib shorts fit me OK in a medium but are a touch on the small side. I wouldn’t mind a little bit more chamois coverage towards the front side, for, ahem, well ya know. I really enjoy the function of the chamois on the Signature bibs. It’s thick, stays cool, and remains in its cushy, dense form after long rides. Overall, I like the look of the Velocio kit the most, and it is also one of the most comfortable kits.
- Recon Micromodal jersey: $140
- Signature bib shorts: $230
Check out our mountain bike shorts buyers guide and our picks for the best mountain bike shorts.