We tested the gear right in the brand's own backyard, Sun Valley, Idaho. Katie Lozancich Photo.
Athletic, tomboyish, or sporty, that’s how I’d always feel in my mountain biking gear when I first started riding four years ago. This was mostly because the fit was never flattering, the color palettes were blander than vanilla bean ice cream, and the variety of silhouettes to choose from was dismal. I never felt fashionable, feminine, or pretty—which wasn’t a huge deal. The goal was to ride my bike, not strut down the runway at Milan Fashion Week.
Thankfully, there’s no need to compromise anymore. Women’s mountain bike gear in the past five years has progressed in leaps and bounds. And fittingly enough, this renaissance has largely been spurred by female athletes, designers, and entrepreneurs ready for a change. Instead of waiting for the industry to evolve, they went out and made it happen. It’s thanks to brands like Wild Rye, which was started by women for women, that we’re finally seeing innovation within the female softgoods market.
Wild Rye was launched in 2016 by two entrepreneurs, Cassie Abel and Katy Hover-Smoot, with a simple goal: To empower women. For them that meant creating bike gear that was intentionally designed, fitted for real female bodies, and had a sophisticated look and feel. Now in their third year running, the small business has grown to encompass a full bike collection: shorts, jerseys, chamois, and socks. I gave a few of their flagship pieces a whirl and here’s what stood out to me about their products:
Sandia - Women’s Cycling & Adventure Shirt
Thanks to its breathable material, the Sandia keeps you cool on that uphill grind. Katie Lozancich Photo.
The Sandia differs from most women’s jerseys on the market. Instead of just being a garment you throw on for a ride, the Sandia was designed to a multi-use piece that isn’t exclusive to mountain biking—hence why they call it an “adventure shirt”. Likely inspired by their Sun Valley roots—a place where there are no shortage of things to do outside—the Sandia can easily be used to hike, bike, or even ski in. For me, I love the little pockets on the back because I can easily store extra snacks or a small repair kit. Plus, if I’m going to make a $95 investment in a product I want to use it as much as possible. The fact that I can wear this jersey for a whole variety of outdoor activities is a huge win in my book.
The pockets on the back were a nice added touch. Best used for water bottles, phones, or a pocket burrito. Wild Rye Photo.
As far as the nitty-gritty details, the jersey is made from two different fabrics—mesh and recycled polyester—that keeps you cool while riding. On top of being breathable, it has a UPF 50 rating to keep your arms protected on those sunnier days.
Lastly, it’s green. Not teal, pink, or black, but a beautiful earthy green that pairs well with the other colors in their collection. Kudos to the Wild Rye crew for breaking the color mold that plagues most women’s gear. I found the fit to be pretty true to size, but if you’d like a looser fit you might want to order a size up.
Price: $95 // Available here
The Kaweah & Freel — Women’s Bike Short
Do Llamas make you go faster? Absolutely. Katie Lozancich Photo.
Wild Rye is most famous for their bike shorts, and I have a few inklings why. Maybe it’s because they don’t cut corners and make a product that’s durable and functional. Or perhaps it’s the attention of detail that goes into every pair. I love the little things, like the pop of color on the side zipper, the panel construction, and subtle scallop cut out on the front of the shorts. All these aspects, which likely go unnoticed by most, culminate into a unique garment.
But frankly, I think what’s hooked women is their fun and quirky patterns. My first pair of Wild Rye shorts were adorned with tiny Brachiosaurus. At least that’s what I think—I’m no paleontologist. The great thing about the print is that from a distance it just looks like polka dots. The graphic is minimal and it doesn’t scream my love for dinosaurs from miles away. The 2019 collection has a whole new selection of patterns, sadly no dinos, but the new llama print makes up for it. Each pattern is designed by a handpicked female illustrator, and every year the brand intends to feature a new artist to keep things fresh.
All of Wild Rye's patterns have their own unique character. Wild Rye Photo.
This spring the brand introduced a new short, the Kaweah, to accompany their iconic Freel short. The main differences come down to feel and budget. They both feature Wild Rye’s thoughtfully designed fit but are made from different fabrics. The Kaweah uses a poly-elastane material, which is the go-to mountain bike short fabric, whereas the Freel is made from a nylon and spandex blend. I’ve tried both and preferred the Freel because it felt a bit a softer. But with both, you get a breathable short that’s suitable for an enduro race or casual pedal on your favorite backyard trail.
Price: $95 for the Kaweah, $119 for the Freel. Both are available here.
Marion - Women’s Chammy Short
Wild Rye didn’t forget about your bum! Their Chamois keeps everything where it should be. Wild Rye Photo.
A fun day on the saddle starts with your chamois. Wild Rye has the Lululemon equivalent of a padded bike liner that is both functional and stylish. Its yoga-style high waistband makes for a comfortable silhouette that doesn’t cut into your stomach while you’re riding. The chammy pad—sourced from Italy—is padded a bit more than most, but trust me your undercarriage will appreciate it.
My only issue with the liner is that I’m not the biggest fan of the material on the leg band opening. At times I’ve found the elastic bands to be a bit irritating, but they do keep the chamois from moving around so I understand the intention behind the design.
Again, like the rest of Wild Rye’s products, the chamois is a versatile garment that’s meant to be used for more than just mountain biking. The Marion is my go-to short for road riding, and I love that it works for a long mountain bike ride as well. The less gear I have to buy, the happier my wallet will be.
Price: $115, available here.
Final takeaway: If you’re going to get anything from Wild Rye, snag a pair of their shorts. Katie Lozancich Photo.
Wild Rye proves that fashion and good taste don’t have to be thrown out the window when it comes to designing women’s gear. Their garments are an investment, but at the end of the day, you’re investing in a durable product that makes you feel extra sassy on the trail.
Interestingly enough, when my gal pals and I took a big group photo in our Wild Rye shorts and shared it on Instagram, one of my guy friends reached out asking for a men’s pair. Hopefully one day we’ll reach the point in the industry where we can all have fun dinosaur and llama printed bike shorts regardless of gender. Until then boys, I’m sure a pair of their shorts will fit you. There might just be a little extra room in the hips.
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