Casey Brown rocking her new signature jersey, just one of the many women's kits we tested this summer. Scott Robb photo.
The other day I was riding with a few of my girlfriends, and this woman in a really cute pair of bike shorts passed us on the trail. Intrigued, we tried guessing the brand and began naming off all the mountain bike apparel companies we knew: Wild Rye, Shredly, Dakine, Sombrio, Mons Royale, and the list kept going. I couldn’t help but laugh because five years ago we probably wouldn’t be having this conversation in the first place. Around that time I struggled to find tops and shorts that not only fit me well but actually felt stylish on the trail.
Now, there are all kinds of options. Want a pair of shorts with an adorable sloth pattern? Wild Rye has got that. How about a technical jersey designed by one of the most badass riders in the sport? Yeah, Dakine has that too. Truth be told, in the last year, the bike industry has really stepped things up for women, largely because you asked for more choices. Now we can be picky about what we want to wear and express our individual style. Eager to see what brands came up with this year, I decided to test out four very different women's kits. Here’s how they held up to the riding in the Tetons.
Casey Brown’s Signature Collection with Dakine
When you look good, you feel good. Casey's kit gave my bike park riding an extra boost of confidence. Max Ritter photo.
I’ll take any excuse to channel my inner Casey Brown, and was thrilled to hear that Dakine released a collection designed by the legend herself. As one of the most tenacious riders out there, Brown brought a wealth of experience from World Cup racing, Crankworx, and freeriding to the design table. The end result? A high-quality jersey and pair of gloves that are meant for charging. When asked about the inspiration behind the design, Brown admits that she's never been a big fan of women’s bike tops, often opting for a male t-shirt to ride in. It’s a sentiment that I understand because women’s riding shirts can often be cut in an uncomfortably tight “women’s fit”. Instead, the Thrillium jersey has a relaxed fit that doesn’t feel like you’re swimming in fabric. The jersey is made with a lightweight and quick-drying material that makes it a go-to choice even on a warm day of riding. And for extra brownie points, the material is also made from recycled bottles, which is a huge win in Brown’s book.
With that being said, it is a downhill jersey through and through. I’ve tried pedaling in it and felt like I was going to melt, so I’d prioritize the garment for lift-serviced/shuttled laps. Another highlight of the garment is its color scheme. The colors are fairly neutral and have a bit of a retro vibe, which is a refreshing option to see. I will say that I'm disappointed that the women's Thrillium jersey has only one colorway option, whereas the men's jersey has six. All in all, it’s a unique garment that exudes Brown’s laid back and chill style. Plus, even her dog Snuff is featured on the back.
Casey Brown absolutely nailed it on the fit, and the matching gloves round out the whole kit. Left Max Ritter photo, Right Erickson photo.
Brown also designed a pair of gloves to go along with the jersey. Her hope with these gloves was to create something that protected your hands but didn’t comprise a close connection between you and the handlebars. The palm of the glove is made with a lightweight leather that feels sturdy but is thin enough that you can still feel what’s happening with your bike. With that being said, I’d highly recommend measuring your hands before buying a pair. The gloves are really snug and feel the most comfortable when you have the right size.
Riding: XC /Trail / Downhill
I've worn this Wild Rye kit at the bikepark and on my favorite pedal trails. It seems to handle anything you throw its way. Max Ritter photo.
Wild Rye’s tagline is “play wild” and that playful ethos is easy to see in their garments. They’ve become most well known for their cheeky patterns, featuring everything from silly sloths to stoic little llamas. If you’ve never been one for patterns, hold your horses, Wild Rye has plenty of different styles to choose from, ranging from bold and playful to simple and elegant. Although, rumor has it that llamas make you faster on the trail.
The Freel is Wild Rye’s signature short, designed with quality in mind. The four-way stretch nylon fabric feels durable and capable of handling everything from a lap at the bike park to an adventure ride in the backcountry. They’re by far the most versatile pair of shorts I tested. When it comes to living in a mountain town like Jackson, I’d rather invest in one pair of shorts like the Freel that can do most kinds of riding, than have to buy multiple garments for all the riding I like to do. Not only am I stoked, but my bank account is pretty happy too. One other little detail I love about these shorts is that they have belt loops. For me, I like having the option to wear a belt, should a pair of shorts stretch out. I’ve never been a big fan of the adjustable velcro straps because they’re a bit annoying if you don’t actually need to use them. Belt loops don’t really get in the way.
Wild Rye's sloth pattern won me over, but be sure to check out all their other fun designs. Max Ritter photo.
To spice things up this year, Wild Rye introduced the short-sleeved Sandia riding shirt. It’s essentially a short-sleeved revamp of their classic Sandia Cycling and Adventure shirt. On top of having a really stylish fit and beautiful selection of colors, the garment breathes well, wicks moisture, and is incredibly soft. I’ll probably use it for a hike or run too because it’s such a great top.
Riding: Downhill / Trail
Mons Royale has a knack for making garments that look great on and off the trail. Max Ritter photo.
When Mons Royale first launched their performance merino clothing, they became renowned for making some of the best ski base layers you can find. Thankfully, for us mountain bikers, the company realized that merino wool was just as useful for mountain biking as it was for snowsports. Now the brand has become a presence within the bike industry, creating garments that you can not only ride in but don’t mind wearing and out and about because they look so damn good. I’m not afraid to admit that part of the reason I love my Mons kit so much, is I don’t have to wash it all the time. I’ve brought their garments with me on extended photoshoots where access to a washer was limited. I wasn’t worried about smelling like an onion because merino wool seems to ward off odors. Is it black magic? Who knows, but I dig it.
My kit includes the Tarn Freeride Raglan 3/4 and you can never go wrong with a ¾ jersey. It’s a classic and flattering look. But if baseball tees aren’t your thing, Mons Royale has all kinds of different jerseys and riding tops to choose from. Seriously, they’ve got over 10 different tops and riding jerseys. There’s sure to be a colorway and silhouette that suits you.
The summer heat has never been an issue for Mon's merino wool. The garments never feel gross and overly sweaty after a full day of riding. Max Ritter photo.
Mons Royale’s Momentum 2.0 Bike Shorts is their only option for shorts, but it’s a great pair of bike shorts nonetheless. What I love most about them is how sturdy the fabric feels. If I were to take a gnarly crash I’m not too concerned getting some heinous road rash or my shorts getting cheese grated. These shorts are my go-to choice for downhill riding, and if the climb is fairly mellow. Even though the short has built-in vents, the material still feels too hot and heavy to do a long sufferfest on the saddle. The one thing that these shorts lack, though, is a proper cell phone pocket. The only way to carry your keys, phone, and other essentials is by means of a backpack or hip pack which is bummer if you want to travel extra light for a ride.
Riding: Trail / XC
Backcountry's new kit will leave you smiling with how breathable and lightweight it is. Max Ritter Photo.
From selling and handling all kinds of gear, Backcountry has learned a thing or two about what makes a good product. It doesn’t come as a huge surprise that the online retailer wanted to put that knowledge to use by launching their very own line of outdoor apparel.
For their new line of cycling clothing, the brand drew inspiration from adventures spent down in the desert. The Gemini Bridges jersey was built with Moab rides in mind and has a synthetic material that wicks away sweat and dries it before you even notice it. The sleeves ensure that you don’t roast your shoulders to a crisp, and the underarm panels help keep you feeling cool and comfortable even on the climb up to trails like Captain Ahab. It’s a great shirt for trail and downhill riding. The fit is great too. It’s not obnoxiously tight and it’s not overly baggy. My only suggestions for Backcountry: add more colors and make the fabric a bit more durable.
I'm impressed with Backcountry's first-ever apparel line and am excited to see how they improve their MTB garments moving forward. Backcountry photo.
To pair with the Gemini Bridges Jersey, Backcountry released the Slickrock short, which was designed with trail riding specifically in mind. The material is a stretchy synthetic blend, that’s lightweight and extremely breathable. But what really hooked me about this short was the attention to detail. I love the scallop trim at the end of short because it makes the cut feel a bit more feminine. The design on the front—which are actually laser-cut vents—adds a nice little pattern to the front of the short. The two zippered pockets in the front can keep all the essentials you don’t feel like stuffing away in a pack. My only disappointment with these shorts is that they neither have belt loops or velcro straps to adjust the size. Initially, these shorts fit me great, but eventually stretched out. That wouldn’t be an issue if I could adjust the waist. Hopefully in the next design Backcountry can add in this feature.
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