Casual asphalt rider, hardened trail rider, fair-weather commuter or gravel grinder it doesn’t matter. You still want apparel that is practical, comfortable and functional in all weather and on all terrain. Bonus points for the other “f” word, right? Fashion!
Shredley DSR MTB Long short ($100)
Made in the U.S.A (Colorado), all Shredley shorts took initial inspiration from a Maui surf shop (I’m just speculating here) and created the coolest women’s mountain bike short ever.
Available in the most wild, crazy, vibrant colors and designs I’ve seen outside a Run or Dye event, the DSR long shorts have a 13.5-inch inseam and a side snap pocket that, literally, holds two CLIF Organic Trail Mix bars.
These are my all-time favorite mountain bike shorts because not only do they look cool and unique but they’re really comfortable, thanks to the soft and stretchy fabric and comfy wide waist band (two inches).
Pricey? Yes. Worth it? YES.
You could easily get a pair of shorts for half the price but it will be made in China. Plus, when you order a pair, Ashley Rankin, the owner and designer, always includes a hand-written “thank you for your purchase, [name]!” note.
Ibex W2 Sport T ($75)
Lab-born synthetic tech fabrics may “automatically” sense your body temperature and magically regulate it, but Merino wool, the original tech fabric, does it naturally.
The Ibex W2 Sport T ($75) is an 18.5-micron blend of 87 percent Merino wool and 13 percent nylon that is soft on the skin, warm in cooler weather and cool in warmer weather. The “micron”, if it’s a new term for you, is a measurement of the wool fiber’s diameter. Lower microns mean finer fibers.
I like the W2 Sport T for two reasons. First, its sleek, close fit makes it a perfect cycling “jersey” because the fabric doesn’t bunch up under a hydration pack.
Second, because wool is a natural fiber, it is naturally anti-microbial and repels the bacteria and odor that your body is capable of generating.
Since odor doesn’t discriminate, it’s a great shirt for hiking, backpacking, adventure racing, anything. If you’re going to pay $75 for a t-shirt it should at least have many uses.
Search and State S1-J Riding jacket ($255)
Search and State is to cycling wear like LOWA is to hiking boots. Durable, tough, well-made, not made in China or Vietnam.
DO NOT freak out at the price tag of the Search and State S1-J Riding jacket until you read this. It looks like a sleeper jacket but it’s Made in the USA of the Finest Ingredients out there. In other words, this wasn’t just thrown together in China.
The fabric is Schoeller C-Change, which essentially “reacts” to changes in temperature and activity. It’s also waterproof and breathable. The zippers are military-grade (military grade = nothing can destroy it).
Sizing feels a little off. I normally wear a small in everything on top but the SJ-1 is tight in my shoulders and upper arms. I recommend going the next size up.
Nau Slight Shirt ($145)
Even if you classify yourself as casual asphalt rider, you can still get caught in rain or chilly spring wind. While Nau doesn’t promote the Slight Shirt as a cycling top, I certainly can.
This is the jacket I pack on spring rides from my home in the quiet, boring southeast ‘burbs to the more stimulating Grand Avenue or Uptown.
The DWR finish makes it water-repellant, it’s wind resistant, the collar covers my neck, the longer length in the back provides good coverage when stretched over handlebars and it packs down into its own pocket for easy stashing in a pannier.
Plus, when hanging out at a microbrewery, café or coffee shop, it looks like a silky shirt, not a bike jacket. Which, technically, it really isn’t but still works.
Darn Tough Vermont Fast Back 1/4 Sock light cushion ($17)
The Darn Tough Vermont Light Cushion Fast is made of 45 percent Merino wool, 50 percent nylon and 5 percent Lyrca Spandex.
What makes Darn Tough Vermont socks darn tough is the high density knitting. More knit stitches per inch equates to durability and cushioning without bulk. Cycling, running, backpacking, since I began wearing Darn Tough Vermont socks, I have never had a blister.
Good luck trying to wear out a pair of Darn Tough Vermont socks. DTV offers a lifetime guarantee on their socks. If you can wear them out, mail them back to Darn Tough Vermont for a replacement.
Pearl Izumi X-Alp Enduro IV ($110)
The Pearl Izumi X-Alp Enduro IV have the same EVA foam midsoles that are found in running shoes and carbon-rubber lugged outsoles give plenty of traction. For the humid climates, they offer a quick-drying and breathable mesh/synthetic upper.
This is my second year riding in these and I still love them. They have a nice low-cut upper to reduce friction at my ankles, the fit is excellent for my normal-width size 7.5 feet.
Off the bike, they are walkable and comfortable and the buckle closure system offers just the right amount of snug fit. If you’re wondering about the long-term durability is of the buckle closure system, it’s durable. I’ve had mine for more than a year and it’s still ratcheting.
Dakine Women’s Aura Glove 15s ($32)
Crashes happen. In many cases it’s your hands that hit the ground first when you attempt to break your fall. The full-fingered Dakine Womens Aura 15s glove is a way to protect your paws.
The Aura’s palm protects your hands with gel padding and the silicone mesh will make for decent breathability in hot and humid climates. Each glove has three pads and 2mm foam for good hand protection and the four-way stretch polyester mesh construction is a great moisture-wicking feature.
These gloves mold to my hands. Dexterity isn’t compromised and they’re touchscreen-compatible. However, I couldn’t type with these on. If you have to take a picture and upload it to Facebook with a campy quip and tag the friends you’re with, it’s a challenge. Best just take them off.
Camelbak Spark ($110)
The Camelbak Spark’s design keeps the center of gravity low around your waist rather than higher on your back. Straps at the base also compress the lumbar bladder for when the water level drops to prevent the annoying water sloshing that you get with lesser packs.
The nice narrow shape fits well between my shoulder blades sans any restriction in shoulders and arms. Shoulder straps are uber comfortable.
The difference between the lumbar bladder design vs the “traditional” design is very noticeable. I don’t have a preference either way but it’s an option for riders who get achy backs or shoulder.
Also, I find the lower center of gravity from the bladder’s position gives me better stability for the rougher trail sections.