Every spring, we get the opportunity to check out the latest shapes, fads, and trends from numerous mountain bike apparel brands. Regardless of price, every clothing item we get seems to have one task in mind: to make movement on the bike more comfortable while appealing aesthetically to at least one market segment.
It’s safe to say that basically every apparel brand does this to a certain degree, and some more than others. Trends still seem to be steering toward apparel that looks as normal off the trail as it does on the trail, as the average trail rider is likely still the largest market. But there are still plenty of race-inspired options out there. Let’s start things off easy with some casual options from Club Ride.
Club Ride always has some fun pieces for singletrack style. This year, they dropped the Detour Print shirt, a really light feeling button up with Western chili pepper inspiration. The “shirsey” is made with a 4-way stretch fabric consisting of 85% Polyester and 15% Spandex, and it turns out that it’s actually rated for UPF 50 sun protection. There are laser cut vents around the armpits and a small zippered pocket in the back. The top is very light against the skin and the looser fit makes the shirt feel even cooler. It’ll be a great option for hot summer days, especially since the jersey dries quickly. The Detour Print sells for $89.95. There are three other color/pattern options.
I also tried out some new shorts from Club Ride, the HiFis. The HiFi shorts feel like a traditional mountain bike short. They are baggy, but aren’t balloons. The 13″ inseam just covers the knees, so they should get along with kneepads. For being on the technical side of what Club Ride offers, the HiFis look stays subdued. Even though there are extra pockets, like the exterior mesh pockets on both thighs, they don’t feel like an EMT’s pair of pants with slots and loops for tools all over the place.
The HiFi shorts use a 2-way stretch fabric made from Polyester and Spandex that feels like a slightly weighty material, which should hold up to abrasion well. The adjustable waistband on the outer waist is also very easy to use. At 5’8″ and 160ish pounds, the medium of both the HiFi and Detour Print fit me well. The HiFis sell for $100 and come in two color options.
Gore is one of the most performance-minded brands out there, and the gear usually does not disappoint. Their mountain bike apparel is light, breathable, and protects from the elements admirably. The downside on premium Gore apparel is that it can be pretty expensive.
This Gore C5 Long Sleeve Trail Jersey isn’t a total bank-breaker at $80, and it is still a high quality piece. The jersey is made from 91% Polyester, and is very thin, although still abrasion resistant. The C5 lets a lot of air in and will be another great option for hot summer days, especially when it’s your third or fourth day in a row in the sun, and protection from rays is important. The C5 L/S Trail jersey has a fitted, but loose style that covers well, but isn’t flappy.
On the bottom side are the C5 Trail Light shorts. These shorts aren’t terribly expensive either at $100 and feel pretty versatile. I have grown to really like these because they are kind of a hybrid between a pair of gym or yoga shorts and a pair of mountain bike shorts. The C5 Trail Lights have an elastic waistband with a slightly grippy inside.
On the back and inside of the hips is a ventilated mesh material for more airflow. Gore says that these shorts are “XC-inspired.” They are indeed very light and ventilated, and will be great for long, hot days in the saddle. There is only one pocket on these shorts, and it is shallow. I would have to make sure I’m riding with some kind of pack, because even an iPhone takes up all of the pocket space, and that can be too much weight to have swinging around in these lighter shorts. Aside from that, the shorts fit great, and I see them being functional for workouts beyond the bike.
Lastly, we have the C5 Gore-Tex Paclite Trail Pants. They are like a rain jacket for your legs. Err, they are rain pants. With that, the idea works the same way that taking a rain jacket on a ride does. Ball up the Paclite Trail Pants into a really big fist-sized ball, and stuff them into the bottom of a hydration pack. In the event of heavy rain, put them on. The elastic waist band is similar to that on the Trail Light shorts.
There is some silicone on the inside for extra grip. Like the other Gore materials, the pants feel very light and are easy to pedal in. Unlike the C5 Active Trail Pants we tested here, there is a small pocket on the Paclites for a set of keys. The Paclite Trail Pants are a culmination of technology and performance within the Gore line, and that does draw a steep $200 price tag for these pants.
Pearl iZUMi never has a shortage of good things to wear. Every year they continue to develop, test, and launch new apparel and to widen what they have to offer. These Canyon shorts and jersey reflect the more practical and affordable side of Pearl iZUMi’s 2020 mountain bike line.
The Canyon shorts come in at $65 and are a form fitting baggy short for trail riding. The legs have a 12″ inseam that hits above the knees. The shorts feel a little snug around the hips for me, but otherwise fit well. There is a zippered cargo pocket on the right side, useful for storing a phone since the main pockets are a little shallow. There is also a zippered rear pocket, good for throwing an ID and credit card into for stops at the pub afterward.
The Canyons have an adjustable velcro waistband on the inside of the waist. These usually aren’t my favorite waistbands because it can be a little trickier to flip the waistband to the outside and try and get the fit right, rather than cinching up something on the outer part of the waist when they’re on. These shorts are a little more weighty, but feel like they’ll hold up for a long time. They have an eco-friendly C6 water-resistant DWR treatment and it does an admirable job of shedding water. For $65, the Canyons are a sensible pair of shorts that should last a while.
The Launch 3/4 jersey is a no frills almost-long-sleeve top, for $85. The jersey has a fitted and tapered feel, and the fabric, made from 95% recycled Polyester. The Launch material feels very thin and is almost like a mesh, with lots of tiny, little holes. The openings on the sleeves remain wide and it should be easy to put on/take off a set of elbow pads.
Pearl iZUMi also have the Rove shorts for $90, and these are pretty amazing. With a belt, they can be a great, lightweight pair of shorts for easy trail rides, but I usually wear them off the bike, all day long. They look like a normal set of shorts, but with a thinner, cooler fabric, and features like a water resistant coating and reflective accents.
Pearl Izumi updated the Elevate short this year to include a raft of premium features. This is a truly high-end mountain bike short, constructed of high-tech lightweight material, and incorporating a Boa fit system. The ratcheting dial, located on the rear, outside of the shorts along the waist band, allows for a super-secure fit. I was worried the placement of the Boa would make it tough to get these shorts off, but fortunately Pearl Izumi includes a traditional zipper and snap closure on the front for bathroom breaks.
The Boa dial doesn’t seem to interfere with my waist pack strap either. The long length pairs extremely well with knee pads, and the included chamois is thick enough to provide relief, but not so thick that it feels like a diaper.
Perhaps the coolest thing about these shorts is the laser-cut vent holes running up the inside of the legs. The shorts use a lightweight material to begin with, but these holes really up the ventilation factor to a ten. Available at PearlIzumi.com and JensonUSA.
This above kit by POC is definitely on the more aggressive, technical side, but it is still very comfortable. We’ll start with the Resistance Pro DH pants. These pants are made for gravity sending, with a tough, stretchy nylon and Cordura, and have a natural bend in the reinforced knee panels.
On the bottom of the pants are two buttons, and a zipper that extends up to right below the knee. This makes life much easier putting on or taking off a set of knee pads, and there is plenty of room in the knee for good set of pads. With the buttons done up, the zipper can act as a vent, but otherwise ventilation is limited on these. On trail rides with climbing involved, they might be too much for rides hotter than 75°, but they will be great for days on the lift. The construction and features on these pants are amazing and I am confident they will last for a long time. MSRP on the Resistance Pro DH pants is $175.
The Essential Enduro jersey ($80) pictured with the Pro DH pants is very straightforward. It feels lightweight, drys out easily, and guards against the sun’s rays. I wore it on my fourth day of riding in Sedona in March, and it was perfect as the sun got hotter and my skin more burnt. The jersey handles sweat well, and doesn’t get stinky after hours on the trail. It’s available in red, black, or five different shades of blue.
On to the opposite end of the spectrum, POC also has this Resistance Ultra Tee for anyone who doesn’t want to squeeze into Lycra on XC or gravel rides. The Ultra Tee is an interesting hybrid of a jersey, with two open pockets in the rear, and a zippered pocket, but on a baggy shirt. There is an elastic band/gaiter that keeps the jersey down in place. The gaiter seemed like it would be annoying at first, but it hasn’t been very noticeable. It’s also nice to have some rear pockets on a loose jersey. The downside of the Ultra Tee is the price. The features are great, and it seems very durable, but it costs $150.
Paired with the Ultra Tee is the Essential Enduro shorts, a slim fitting baggy short, which has been great for anything from gravel to trail. These shorts also retail for $150, and are on the lighter side, despite the enduro tag. They are easily adjustable with an external set of velcro straps on the waistband and there is not a lot of extra garb. The material feels tough, yet light, and has a water repellent finish. They do feel on the lighter side of an enduro short but work well with knee pads.
Singletracks / Spacecraft Collective
We won’t bore you by telling you that our own jersey is the best one ever, and that donning it will instantly make anyone better at cornering and wheelies. But we do have them in stock. Singletracks finalized this jersey at the end of last year and we’re just getting some time with it on the trails. It’s made by Spacecraft Collective, and (really) it’s comfortable, and it has a pretty light fabric. The back panel is all mesh, so it vents well. Overall, it’s an easygoing trail jersey without a lot of flash and should work for most types of riding. It is on sale in our shop for $60 and there is an even wilder women’s version.
If I had to pick a favorite pair of shorts in this round up, I’d have to choose these Norrona Skibotn shorts. They stike a great balance point between casual and high-performance, and with a lengthy set of features that don’t make them look busy. Norrona is new to the US, and with the single, concept store location in Boulder, it’s easy to think of the brand as being similar to Patagonia.
At $150, these shorts are not cheap, but don’t feel overly expensive for what they offer. There is a silicone gripper on the inside of the waist, and externally located adjustable velcro bands with a nice metal loop. The pockets are roomy, zippered, and comfortable. Running down the side of the shorts is a zippered vent that opens up for more airflow. The Skibotns feel durable and solid, but are in the middle when it comes to weight.
Still, they stay right where they need to be, and are comfortable for hours on the bike. The Skibotns are made partially from recycled fibers and Norrona uses a PFC-free. water-resistant coating. Adding to the value, these shorts also come with a five year warranty against manufacturing defects, and Norrona has a repair program for its products, although it requires shipping to Norway. Don’t want to ship your shorts overseas? Norrona has a store with spare parts for apparel and a list of DIY repairs on its website.
Thanks to each brand that provided apparel for testing and review.