The thing about mountain bike in shoulder season is you never know what you’re going to get from day to day. Even when you do have a good idea what the weather is going to be, the best days tend to start and end on the cool side with warm, glorious sun in between. Here are the wearables we’ll continue riding in this fall and into the winter.
Shoulder season tops
We like to bring out all the tops for shoulder season riding: a warm layer for getting to the trailhead, a vest or long sleeve merino jersey for warming up, and of course a weatherproof jacket to pack for the ride.
Icebreaker 200 ZoneKnit™ Merino baselayer
A warm and breathable base layer can help keep your core warm when riding in cooler temps. Icebreaker 200 ZoneKnit™ Merino baselayer is lightweight, form-fitting and can stand alone during shoulder season rides or be comfortably layered under a vest, jersey or heavier jacket when winter comes.
This 96% merino top is incredibly stretchy and has extra perforation for venting across the upper back as well as beneath the arms and running down the side panels. The size finder tool on the icebreaker website is one of the most helpful for ordering the right size online. Also, I found this layer to be long in the torso and the arms and that will likely be the case for other petite women.
- Price: $125
- Buy from icebreaker
Maloja Tozzagom Vest
IMO cycling vests like the Maloja Tozzagom are under-rated. Unlike long sleeve jerseys that start to feel stuffy as soon as you get warmed up, the Tozzagom vest keeps armpits cool and breezy while insulating your core. It’s the closest feeling to laying in a cold room under a warm, quilted bed that you can get on the bike.
The Tozzagom features insulated fabric that’s both windproof and water repellent. The single breast pocket is big enough for the most max phones out there, and it’s waterproof to boot. We like the tall popped collar and double zippers for regulating heat during the ride and casual styling that layers well with almost any top. Just about the only thing this vest is missing is a set of hand warming pockets for truly frigid starts.
- Price: $219
- Buy from Maloja.
Pearl Izumi Summit 3L WxB Rain Jacket
Pearl Izumi’s Summit 3L WxB jacket is made for “the wettest, rowdiest rides” and that’s where it ended up. The rain jacket is constructed from a three-layer fabric and meant to stay breathable and comfortable while on the move. Our tester found this to be true. The Summit 3L jacket is light and maintains good breathability when it’s zippered up, sheltering the rider from the rain.
The hood is big enough to get around a helmet, and has a cinch behind the crown for a tight fit. There is plenty of space in the pockets for hands, snacks, and keys and our tester appreciated the true-to-size fit and droptail for added coverage in the rear.
- Price: $175
- Buy from Pearl Izumi.
Stio Sidecut Tech Hoodie
The Stio Sidecut Tech Hoodie is a great choice for squeezing in those last few high alpine rides of the season and for frosty dawn patrol sessions before work. For such a thin and lightweight jacket, the Stio Sidecut Tech Hoodie provides a ton of warmth thanks to the grid-like pattern inside. On the outside, Stio throws in a DWR coating to keep mist at bay.
While the hood isn’t big enough to fit over a helmet it does have semi-rigid brim and a cincher for keeping heat in and rain out. This makes it a good jacket for hiking as well, which is good because most of us buy gear like this to use off the bike too. The zippered hand pockets are a generous size and offer secure storage if you need it. There’s also a zippered breast pocket that works well for holding your phone.
- Price: $189
- Buy from Stio.
Icebreaker Cool-Lite™ Merino hoodie
A lot of shoulder season options lean towards adding warmth. Aside from having long sleeves, I would hardly call the Icebreaker Cool-Lite Merino hoodie a warm layer. In fact, it is extremely lightweight and breathable as its made with 60% Tencel fabric, and feels more cool than some of the other warmer tops here.
The hoodie is ultra-soft and silky while the fit is generally loose and drapey. This layer can be worn alone or with a baselayer underneath for extra warmth. It’s a good choice for riders that run hot or tend to sweat a lot even in cooler weather, plus this merino hoodie easily transitions into other seasons and other sports.
- Price: $180
- Buy from icebreaker
Shoulder season bottoms
Depending on where you live — or just depending on the day — shoulder season could mean pants for riding, or it could mean shorts. If it is a mountain bike pants kind of day, lighter-weight materials tend to feel best, and we give bonus points for anything that’s easily vented or opened up during the ride.
Specialized x Fjallraven hybrid trousers
The first time I pulled these Specialized x Fjallraven hybrid trousers up around my waist, I knew I’d like them. The fit is spot on, from the slim upper leg down to the tapered cuffs. The colors are subdued and the material is tough. Fall rides, with their sporadic moisture and snappy temperatures call for pants like this. The zippered side pockets give the pants a secure cargo space.
I was stuck under some massive rain clouds wearing these pants and though they didn’t defend my skin entirely from moisture, they shrugged a lot off and dried out quickly. The G-1000 Lite Eco Stretch material can be waxed for better wind and water resistance and the pants have an elastic waistband for a sure fit. These pants seem to err on the side of being a great all-around trail and adventure pant than a highly technical riding pant but if the Leatts below are too racy, these Specialized x Fjallraven pants should fit the bill.
- Price: $160
- Buy from Specialized.
Wild Rye Women’s Freyah Pants
Wild Rye’s Freyah Pants have fun prints, yet are somehow neutral, and the fit accommodates most female body types with sizes ranging from 0-18. The Freyah is different than most other women’s mountain bike pants, in that it is meant to perform and not intended for casual wear. The waist is high and fitted with belt loops, a zipper closure, two (adorable) buttons and an inside snap that keeps everything snug. Unfortunately there are not waist adjusters of any kind, so hopefully you select the appropriate size and never gain or lose weight. I selected size 2 based on my jean size and the size chart on Wild Rye’s website, and they fit a tad loose, which is the way I want them to fit.
The fabric is comprised of 88% Nylon/12% spandex and it feels sturdy. It’s not heavy, per se, it just has that “I’ll save you and repel water and mud and breathe at the same time” kind of feel. In addition to the durable fabric, the knee area is reinforced and articulated with elastic fabric that allows for ample movement when pedaling or wearing bulky pads underneath. The fabric panel on the tush is subtly patterned, and the lines on the rear of the pants are just plain flattering.
What really sets these pants apart for me are the tapered, patterned ankle cuffs, complete with leg zippers. The ankle taper accommodates most inseams and reduces chain/cassette snags. Bonus: the bottom portion opens via Velcro that must be separated by She-Hulk herself. Once opened there is a zipper that can be unzipped to knee height. The leg zipper allows for pads to be put on while wearing the pants, which eliminates a lot of awkward “pants off in parking lot” situations.
Pearl Izumi Rove Pants
Pearl Izumi’s Rove pants are built for casual rides through the fall and winter to keep you connected with riding buddies. While they aren’t a technical riding pant like the Leatts or Malojas, these have an athletic feel and work great for commuting if your winter rides are limited to such.
The fit is OK. The waist feels fine but the inseam long and I’ll likely get them hemmed. The integrated belt is simple to use but the hook on it can take some fidgeting to hook/unhook. The pants have a slim fit and a natural stretch and feel suited to athletic use. They are available in grey and khaki.
- Price: $120
- Buy from Pearl Izumi.
Endura MT500 Spray shorts
When Endura says these MT500 Spray shorts are made for rainy days, they mean it. The MT500s have a thick and sturdy fabric made from 100% nylon. If you happen to be in the Northwest, where there is always a steady tinkle of rain but you need to stay cool and want something less restrictive than pants, the Enduras are a perfect choice.
The Spray shorts have a waterproof, taped seat panel to keep your butt from getting soaked by the rear tire. This is the only waterproof portion of the shorts and the rest get a DWR treatment to allow more ventilation. The shorts work fine with a pair of knee pads and they fit long and baggy.
Fox Flexair Pro riding pants
The women’s Fox Flexair Pro pant has become one of my favorite pairs of riding pants. First and foremost, I’d like to thank Fox for minimally branding these pants with two small Fox logos on each hip instead of absolutely covering the pants in logos, as they have in the past.
The flexible TruMotion® all-way stretch material offers a full range of motion when pedaling, is super lightweight, and is reinforced with Dyneema® knee panels that are abrasion-resistant and just plain cool looking. The DWR finish also sheds water, dirt and debris, and manages to look perfectly clean after every ride. The fabric also contains body-mapped laser perforations on the inner thigh and mesh paneling on the back of the legs for additional airflow which is a nice feature for sunny, yet brisk fall days full of pedaling. The Flexair also comes equipped with two zippered hand pockets that are large enough for a humongous phone and, as with many pants this season, the leg is tapered with a zipper closure at the ankle providing a fitted aesthetic while also reducing snags. Unfortunately the ankle zipper only unzips enough to pass a foot and possibly a shoe through in the event that you forget the correct order of donning knee pads when dressing.
These Fox pants feature a low rise waist and an easy to secure, comfortable front ratchet closure system. However, it only tightens so much and they tend to loosen as sweat starts accumulating and there is no way to tighten them further.
Maloja MomosM pants
The Maloja MomosM pants are made from premium, weatherproof material that’s surprisingly lightweight and easy to wear. Velcro straps at the waist and cuffs can be used to dial in the fit and keep everything tight and there are belt loops too. The shaped knees and overall tapered fit make ensure these pants pedal well, albeit with the requisite whooshing sound that lets you know they’re working to keep the elements out.
A small rear zippered pocket is good for a small wallet while zippered vents on the front open wide to avoid clammy quads during the ride. These vents are easy to operate without having to stop and Maloja thoughtfully added paracord to give the pants structure even with the vents agape. The Maloja logo on the back of the legs is reflective so you stay safe on day rides that unexpectedly bleed into night. I’m 6’3″ and would like the inseam to be a little bit longer but otherwise, these are now my go-to MTB pants.
- Price: $199
- Buy from Maloja.
Leatt MTB Enduro 3.0 V22 pants
File these under the “excellent value” category. I know, I know. A hundred bucks isn’t cheap for pants, but considering the quality of these Leatt pants and how some pairs of short pants often cost $150 and up, I’m calling these a deal.
The Leatt Enduro 3.0 V22 pants are easy to fit over a pair of knee pads and the size fits true. They are on the techy side but if you’re into gravity riding, you’ll feel right at home. The pants have good breathability and hold up to abrasions on the trail. My only complaint is that the pockets aren’t all that suited to holding a cell phone. There is a phone pocket on the back of the waist band, but I haven’t been able to jibe with it. The front pockets are shallow and a bit awkward for a phone.
Otherwise, the Leatt pants are the best pants I’ve seen for $100 in a long time.
Pearl Izumi Prospect Thermal Jogger
These are absolutely the most comfortable pants that I have tested in this bunch. No, they aren’t meant for mountain biking. Yes, they are life-changing if you need something cozy to don after a cold ride.
The Prospect Thermal Joggers have a tapered leg and an athletic fit. The pants are made from recycled polyester and the inside of the joggers are made from brushed fleece for a really soft touch and the waist band is elastic. There are reflective elements on the rear cuffs for safety. These are made for cool days and they are easy to move in and somewhat breathable.
- Price: $105
- Buy from Pearl Izumi