Who better recognizes the apparel needs of women mountain bikers better than women? Below are looks from a few of the women-owned mountain bike apparel brands that are cranking out the fit, function, and style that women have been desperately seeking.
Machines for Freedom
Tested by Leah Barber, 5’0″ wearing size 25 shorts and size small top
Machines for Freedom is an inclusive women’s cycling apparel brand that was started by Jennifer Kriske in 2014. Initially focused on road cycling gear (like these essentials), this spring MFF launched their versatile off-road collection for gravel and mountain biking adventures. All of their apparel is designed to inspire confidence in women, allowing us to feel comfortable being our strong feminine selves, especially when riding these “machines for freedom.”
The MFF off-road collection is vastly different from the other brands mentioned here, and frankly, from any other cycling apparel brand we’ve come across. The Key Short comes in two inseam lengths, 5.5″ and 11″, so shorter riders or those not necessarily concerned about coverage can let those thighs breathe with the shorter option. The shorts are slim-fitting, and the high-rise waist takes some getting used to. My initial thought was, “why did they send these J Crew chinos?” But the high-waist and snug fit actually make everything stay put, with no loosey-goosey fabric to worry about when getting up and out of the saddle, and no backside cleavage.
Fitting a chamois under there is a pretty tight squeeze and when riding chamois-less, expect a couple of wedgies. The shorts fabric is a little on the thick and weighty side, definitely chino-esque, but surprisingly stretchy. These can feel hot and sweaty quickly, and the lack of built-in ventilation is another good reason for going with the shorter length. The neon citronelle color gives off a bold vibe without being all motocross. The Key Short also comes in black and utility green, with sizing from 24 to 38, for $108 at the Machines for Freedom website.
There are five fabulous pockets! However, they are so slim that I would not ride with anything in them except maybe a gel packet. There’s a nifty pocket on the top of the rear waistband that was perhaps intended to hold a phone. I could fit 90% of my iPhone in there and it felt secure but I kept thinking it was getting all sweaty from touching my back. Sigh.
Ok, can we talk about this shirt for a minute? While MFF does make some amazingly soft lightweight tech tees to go with the Key Shorts, the Mystic Felines tee is currently my favorite thing in my closet! Nothing makes me feel more strong and feminine than donning this hand-block-printed design of fierce and powerful queens of the jungle. This organic cotton-tee is quite literally a work of art by female artist, Dioscvri. The print can also be found on more mountain bike friendly accessories like a water bottle and scarf.
Tested by Carolyn Baldwin, 5’6″ wearing size medium shorts and medium top
Revel Rider’s mission is to bring quality mountain bike apparel to women and create an inclusive and welcoming community for all levels of riders. Founder Nikki Wilkinson was frustrated by the lack of apparel that helped her look as awesome as she felt when flying down the trail, so she decided to make her own to appeal to the ever-expanding women’s mountain bike community.
The Ride Shorts inseam is a decent length with ample room for knee pads. The material itself is heavy and feels pretty burly, but is very stretchy and moves well. Despite the weight of the fabric, it never felt restrictive while pedaling. With some strategically placed laser-cut vents, the airflow was decent, but I still found myself sticking to the shade a bit more than normal due to the thickness of the fabric.
The sizing is spot on. I tested a size large and found that the waist and thighs were just right. The leg-hem falls below my knee cap, and there’s plenty of room for knee pads. The waist sits fairly high and stays right where you want it. There is an elastic velcro tab to help tighten up the waistline if you are looking for a snugger fit. On the fly, you’ll find a metal zipper complemented by a two-button closure.
In terms of features, you could say there is an abundance of storage space available. With a zipped pocket on each leg and one in the back, there are plenty of places to stash snacks, phones, maps, keys, and anything else you can think of. The two zipped pockets on the front are so big that they each take up an entire thigh. I placed my phone in one pocket while riding and kept having to pull over because it kept getting stuck between my knee and the frame! As much as I like the placement of the pockets, maybe a more definitive and well-thought-out shape would make them more functional.
The Ride Jersey is lightweight and features a half sleeve. With some teeny tiny pinholes in the fabric, I found that it breathes quite well and is very comfortable in the heat. The shape of the hem does a great job of covering your lower back and overlaps quite nicely with the Ride Shorts for excellent coverage in the rear.
Tested by Chris Schieffer, 5’5″ wearing a size small jacket.
Shredly is owned and operated by one of the RADest women in the industry. Full disclosure: I have been friends with the owner/founder of Shredly, Ashley, for several years. Personally speaking, I think she is a wonderful human who is caring and caters to the needs of fellow human beings. It seems she also drives her professional career in a similar direction, ensuring that Shredly listens to and cares about what women want in their mountain bike clothing. Soft fabric, beautiful patterns, long shorts, short shorts, comfortable (feminine) chamois, gaiters, scrunchies, you name it; Shredly has taken your feedback seriously and they have delivered.
They’ve done it again with the JACKET. Stylish enough for casual wear, yet filled with performance features, the JACKET is everything you want when the weather is “iffy.” Currently, the JACKET comes in two colors: KAY and LAYLA BLUSH. One, a beautiful floral pattern and the other, well… a bit more animalistic. The JACKET is constructed from the same athletic short material that Shredly is known for. It offers features that everyone loves; stretchy, lightweight, quick-drying, recycled fabric, that is also somehow extremely soft and wind-resistant.
In addition to the luxurious, eco-friendly fabric, the JACKET also has two zippered hand pockets, a vented back panel, and a high neck collar for additional warmth or style points. It has “bomber-jacket vibes” written all over it, but also comes with a hood that can be left out or rolled up and stored inside the neck.
Unlike a completely waterproof layer, sweat won’t get trapped beneath the jacket for that unpleasantly moist feeling thanks to the vented back panel and overall breathability of the material itself. If it’s raining hard, however, don’t expect this layer to keep you dry. It’ll keep you warmer than having nothing at all, but you’ll still look and feel like a soaked fashionista. An additional downside to having Voguish good looks is that the jacket itself is a bit more cumbersome to pack. It doesn’t fold extremely small and it isn’t in what we’d consider the ultra-lightweight category. However, if space isn’t an issue, this will stuff into packs (or purses for a night on the town) with the best of them.
Overall, the JACKET from Shredly is a beautiful piece that can be worn as part of your regular wardrobe as well as your mountain biking wardrobe. If you have a little extra room in your pack and want a “just in case” layer that looks amazing, the JACKET is absolutely the pick for you.
Tested by Carolyn Baldwin, 5’6″ wearing size 10 shorts and medium top
Wild Rye is a brand that takes pride in its mountain origins, dedicated to making beautiful technical mountain apparel for women. Their promise is to provide performance-driven products with a perfect fit and a contemporary style.
The Wild Rye Freel Shorts feature some fun patterns and bright colors that will bring plenty of style to the trail. Made from a nylon and spandex blend, these fashionable shorts rock a 12-inch inseam that offers excellent knee pad coverage and plenty of stretch to move with you as you dance your way through the woods. The fabric is lightweight and flowy and does a great job of repelling dirt and grime, keeping the colors poppin’ even in the muckiest of conditions!
I tested the Wild West pattern, and I fell in love with the colors and style. The Freel shorts feature two generous hand pockets and one zipped side pocket, offering plenty of options for storage and comfort. With a decent-sized waistband and generous belt loops, these shorts are designed to sit comfortably without hassle and give you the option of adding a belt for a better fit. The shape of the hem gives them a unique look, and I particularly love how the stitching down the leg draws the eye to a split in the hem, giving them a burly yet refined appearance.
Sizing was a bit of a gamble with these shorts and I feel like I ended up between sizes. I tested a 10 despite checking the boxes for the 8 in all the other categories and had to opt for wearing a belt to keep the shorts in place. Given how stretchy and flexible the fabric is, in hindsight, I wish I had gone with a size 8 and let the stretchy fabric do its thing for a more comfortable, belt-free fit.
I also tested their Sandia Short Sleeve top ($69, available at REI and evo). I really like the color and the style, and I appreciate some of the small details that make this garment stand out as more than just a plain old jersey. There is some strategic use of different fabric types for dry wicking and ventilation. Another stealthy feature is a small strip of silicone or rubber on the hem at the back of the shirt which helps keep the back in place.
The Wild Rye Freel shorts retail for $119 at REI and Backcountry, and are available in four exciting patterns: Wild West (tested), Mustard Poppy, Wild Thing, and Breezy Rye. Sizes run from 0 all the way to 18. I tested a size 10 and felt like I should have sized down.