Since jumping on my first mountain bike twelve years ago, I’ve spent a small fortune on bike clothing. I’ve purchased men’s and women’s gear from Dakine, Sombrio, Kona, Sugoi, Mountain Equipment Co-op, RaceFace, and most recently, Oakley. Three years ago I also purchased a pair of Loeka shorts from their website thinking that a brand that positions itself as “women’s-only cycling apparel” was worth a shot. Unfortunately, they didn’t fit my body type, the fabric was a bit stiff, and the colours a little drab. I returned the shorts, no questions asked, thanks to Loeka’s great return policy. Fast forward three years and Loeka’s gear is rocking a new look and fit. Their team has been hard at work fine-tuning the design and fit across their full product range.
On the trail wearing Loeka's Kasista long sleeve jersey and Cascade Freeride short
Standing almost 5’10” with cyclist thighs and a penchant for loose fitting bike gear, I typically wear size large. Since function is so important with active gear, it’s often tough to find shorts that fit and look good, but are still practical for riding. I’ve had a few wins over the years – Sombrio’s discontinued Lotus shorts, Dakine’s Siren shorts, Race Face’s Indy shorts, and several Dakine and Race Face men’s jerseys. All of the women’s jerseys I’ve tried have been designed for women with shorter torsos and typically styled for XC and road riding.
Cue the new and improved, Loeka. Recently they asked if I would try riding in some of their new gear including the Cascade Freeride shorts, Oszust All Mountain shorts, and Kasista ¾-length and long-sleeve jerseys. I jumped at the chance!First Impressions:
Love the colours! Both of the kits are bright and colour matched (tops match the bottoms). I particularly love the bright colours of the Cascade shorts (foliage) and long-sleeve Kasista jersey (ceramic) since I tend to wear variations of black, somewhat black, and almost black. You can still opt for black, but it’s refreshing for a brand to offer a choice.
The jerseys are, by far, my favourite Loeka product. The light polyester material is totally breathable, works really well at absorbing moisture and dries fast! Plus the so-called “antibacterial” technology eliminated any body odour after a long day in the saddle. These jerseys are suitable for any type of ride with the exception of serious road riding getups.
Kasista 3/4 Sleeve jersey
• Colours and artwork are great – fashion-forward, feminine, and designed to match the shorts
• Shape works well with back of jerseys dipping down lower to help with coverage when riding
• Long sleeve jersey: Loose fitting (can be worn over body armour) and loose cuff that can be pushed up over your forearms when the mercury rises
• Short sleeve jersey: Great fit, flattering and feminine while allowing ample room to move when riding and allow airflow (can easily be worn with arm armour)
• Light, breathable fabric that is comfortable in warmer temperatures
• Hidden zip side pocket is a great feature
• Thumb hole on long-sleeve jersey not necessary for DH rides
• No front underside glasses/goggle chamois
• Long-sleeve jersey - MSRP $64.99 USD; 3/4 sleeve jersey - $59.99 USD
The long-sleeve jersey offers enough room to wear armour underneath plus it helps that the material has a bit of stretch. I confess that I typically wear t-shirts downhill riding on warmer days and was weary about wearing a full-sleeve jersey. Not only did I stay relatively cool (and stink-free), but I was protected from the sun and the mosquitoes. My one gripe is that the sleeves may be a little long for some girls, but most should be fine with them.
The Kasista is also available with long sleeves as well
Like all of their jerseys, the 3/4 sleeve Kasista uses an hour-glass fit (but not too snug) and longer in the back to cover your shorts while riding. The shorter sleeves are functional for all-mountain and cross-country rides, and this is by far my favourite XC/AM riding jersey (finding its way to my laundry basket every other day).
Both jerseys include a side stuff pocket that is perfect for holding my sunglasses in the park (yep, I’m a princess and love my shades in the line-up), or my iPod on XC rides (pocket comes with MP3 player earphone hole). The designs are modern enough, complimentary to the shorts, and there are several colour options (I even like the graphics that are female, but not frilly). In a nutshell, you can’t go wrong with Loeka’s jerseys – they’ve nailed the fabric, function, and fit.
The only feature that I didn’t use was the thumb holes on the long-sleeve jersey – but I could see how these may be useful when worn off the bike in cooler temps. One thing that I wish they both had was a glasses/goggle chamois on the front underside – with several brands now offering these, I’m become accustomed to using them.
Loeka's Cascade Freeride short
Finding comfortable, practical, and flattering shorts is every mountain biking girl’s quandary. Years of tweaking their designs and listening to customer feedback is starting to pay off for Loeka.
The Cascade shorts are clearly designed for durability. The new material has been coated in a waterproof, breathable coating (opposed to the stiffer material used in past years) which is perfect for riding in wet conditions and softens after a few washes. With a moisture wicking lining, the added layer can be a little warm when the temperatures soar, but Loeka is working on an even lighter, but still waterproof, material for 2012. The cut is long, falling to my knee (remember, I’m 5’10”) and they fit easily over knee armour.
Cascade & Oszust Shorts:
The lighter duty All Mountain Oszust short
• Colours and embroidery are great – fashion-forward, feminine, and designed to match jersey
• Length of shorts works well with armour and for most heights, including tall (5’10”); they may be a little long for women under 5’
• Side leg pocket is a great feature for holding cell phone, money, etc. – doesn’t interfere with riding
• Cascade shorts: Waterproof material good for cool and wet days
• Oszust shorts: Material is soft and comfortable to wear
• Ventilation zips on hips and inside leg are double-lined, limiting air flow; they are also a little unflattering when open
• Weight of material plus lining (Cascade & Oszust) can be quite hot on warmer days
• Cascade Shorts - MSRP $89.99 USD; Oszust Shorts - $79.99 USD
The all-mountain Oszust shorts are the same cut as the Cascade shorts, but the material hasn’t been coated, making them incredibly soft and comfortable for pedalling or just lounging about. Again, the lining can make them a little hot on warmer days, but in BC, they work most of the time.
Loeka's All Mountain Oszust short and Kasista 3/4 Sleeve jersey
The pockets and ventilation zippers are the same on all Loeka shorts (with the exception of the pocket flaps on the black Oszust shorts which I prefer). The most functional feature is the cargo pocket – a place to store money, phone, or whatever, that doesn’t get in the way of pedalling. The silhouette of all the shorts can be a little boxy when the side vent zippers are open (no girl wants her hips looking wider!), but they’re still flattering from behind.
Unfortunately, the side and inner leg vents are double-lined (a production error) which means air-circulation is compromised, but this will be rectified next year.Pinkbike's take:
|Loeka is on to a good thing, girls. If you want well-designed, durable, flattering women's gear, give Loeka a try. The team at Loeka continue to grow their product line (rumour has it they're launching urban gear in 2012) and are passionate about making this bourgeoning brand the best it can be for us girls. - Vanessa Carrington|