'Tis the season to drink dark beers, listen to Christmas music, and search for the holy trail grail (aka velcro dirt). This Fall (technically September, October and November in the Northern Hemisphere) has been exceptionally dry and cold in the Pacific Northwest, but with just enough precip that trail conditions have been pretty amazing. In general, it's been the perfect mix of weather for testing a wide range of options for Fall riding—hard shells, softshells, base layers... you name it! But overall the season has given us some damn fine riding. Disclaimer before diving into this review: Pierce and I don't live and ride in the arctic circle. Consequently, we can't appease everyone. Especially anyone lubing up the chain on their fat bike.
So what's in store? While researching what's new in the women's apparel sphere, I started to see a trend that involved pants. I've been waiting years for companies (other than Gore and Endura) to come out with MTB women's specific riding pants that are on par with the men's lines. So I was pretty excited to line up five (five!) pair of pants for this gear guide to go along with three "new-to-me" shorts. The reviews include a mix of light to heavy layers that you can (hopefully) mix and match to meet your needs and local conditions.
Below you will find a selection of eight fall women's kits from Fox, 7mesh, Velocio, Sombrio, GORE Wear, Giro, Sweet Protection, and Norrøna. These reviews are based on short-term testing with a focus on fit, comfort, style, initial durability, and function. You will also see a bit of information on each brand's efforts to reduce environmental impacts.
About The Tester:
Nikki Rohan stands 5'5" and weighs 130 lbs with a 28-inch waist, 37-inch hips, and 35-inch chest and wears a size small helmet, size large gloves, and EU-41 shoes. She typically falls between a size small and medium, a US size 6 to 8.5 shoe. She resides in Hood River OR with her husband, Colin Meagher, her two kids, a dog, and a grumpy cat. Nikki has been mountain biking for close to 20 years, including a short stint competing in the pro women category in enduro races in the PNW, as well as events like the Trans BC, the Trans-Provence, the Downieville Classic, Grinduro, and the occasional CX race.
Gore WearGORE Wear is still the same company formally known as GORE Bike Wear; it just merged with GORE Running Wear in 2018. Essentially, its the same thirty-year history of utilizing GORE-Tex for performance bike wear, just a new name, and new logo. Meaning they have a history of innovative bike wear with the use of PTFE based fabrics and a line of apparel that is longer than opening day at Whistler Bike Park.
On their website, Gore Wear mentions they have been working on getting their fabrics bluesign certified since 2010 in order to reduce environmental impacts in their supply chain, and they joined the Fair Labor Association (FLA) initiative as a stakeholder to promote and protect factory workers rights and to improve working conditions. I didn't find any indication they are part of the 1% campaign, or that they are using recycled materials in any of their fabrics, but they do use a Life Cycle Assessment which is a global standardized tool which is supposed to put them on a goal-oriented path to reducing their environmental impact. One such goal: by the end of 2020, Gore Fabrics will eliminate PFCs of Environmental Concern from approximately 85% of its products.
GORE C-5 Women Gore-Tex Active Trail Pants and C5 Windstopper Trail Hooded Jacket.GORE® C5 Women Gore-Tex Active Trail Pants
MSRP: $199.99 USD
Sizes: XS - XL
Colors: Black (tested)
The Gore Wear C5 Active Trail Pants are the perfect riding pants for someone who wants to stay dry when foul weather catches you off-guard. The pants utilize Gore-Tex Active 3-layer fabric which offers outstanding breathability, while simultaneously being waterproof, windproof, durable, and lightweight (6.3 oz/179 g). The rating on the Gore-Tex Active fabric is 28K waterproof, 25K breathable, meaning these pants have one of the highest ratings of all the pants in this review. The lightweight part is key as the pants pack down super small to easily stuff in your bag. Further, while they are engineered for cycling (articulated knees) they also work well for Fall mushroom hunting and hiking. While they have minimal features (note: no usable exterior pockets), they do have a zippered lateral hem for easy on-and-off with shoes, and a comfortable elastic waistband with no buttons to fuss with.
I tested the C5 Active Trail pants in size medium (the correct size on the GORE Wear size chart per my measurements). The pants fit comfortably in the waist but loose enough in the legs that I felt no restrictive tug when pedaling. All sizes of the pants supposedly come with a 31.5" (80cm) inseam.
The pants held up superbly in the various cold and rainy riding conditions I was able to test in. They kept my legs and chamois dry from the elements and I didn't notice any unusual sweat or overheating on the longer climbs. A further bonus of wearing pants vs. shorts that I was able to really appreciate was how clean I was after riding. I had a minor crash in these pants and aside from some nice mud streaks, they showed no signs of any rips or tears after landing fairly hard on my hip. Some notable things about these pants are: they feel super lightweight yet offer excellent protection from the rain and wind. They are slightly less noisy than I expected (if you know, you know), and they don't slide down my hips while pedaling like the previous pair
I tested four years ago did. The elastic waist has been upgraded to a more fitted style and seems to keep things securely in place, although there is no way to make adjustments. While I traditionally like having pockets for my phone or a snack, there is something to say about keeping things simple. The price tag is competitive with the other pants in this review although the cost reflects the high-end fabric technology more than the design elements. If you're looking for a simple and functional pair of riding pants that will keep you dry and that you can easily stow in your pack, these pants should be considered.
Up close shot of the C5 Active Trail pants elastic waistband and zippered lateral ankle hem.GORE C5 Women Windstopper Trail Hooded Jacket
MSRP: $199.99 USD
Sizes: XS - XL
Colors: Castor Grey/Terra Grey, Dynamic Cyan, Hibiscus Pink/Chestnut Red, Citrus Green/Deep Water Blue and Cloudy Blue/Deep Water Blue (tested)
This softshell offering from Gore is the perfect jacket to keep you warm during those cold and dry fall/winter days where your goal is to push hard on the climbs and not freeze on the descents. It features Gore's Windstopper fabric (windproof, breathable and water repellent), elastic cuffs, 2 front zippered pockets, adjustable hood, and a two-way front zip.
I tested size medium, which was semi form-fitting per the design (not baggy but not skin tight). The hood effectively fit over my helmet and the length of the jacket was adequate enough to protect my lower back from exposure to the elements.
I rarely find myself wanting to ride trails in a softshell style jacket, but with the past couple months of below-average temperatures and below-average precipitation, conditions were ideal for a softshell more often than not. The color was not super compatible with riding in the mud, but the Windstopper fabric held up better than expected to the bone-chilling winds we can get this time of year here in the Columbia River Gorge. With a long sleeve merino base layer under the jacket, I stayed warm and dry in temps hovering around 32° F (0° C) despite some sustained climbs and heavy pedal efforts. My biggest fear when riding in colder temps is getting sweaty on climbs and then freezing on the descents. Typically a good base layer/mid-layer combo under a jacket does the trick, but I was pleasantly surprised how warm this jacket kept me without the bulk of a mid-layer or vest, allowing me to avoid overheating and then freezing. While Gore's Windstopper is not a waterproof fabric, it is water repellent, and if you live somewhere that's cold and relatively dry, this jacket easily gets the job done. I plan on keeping it around for XC Skiing this winter.
C5 Windstopper Trail Hooded Jacket features.
NorrønaNorwegian based Norrøna may be a new name to many for cycling apparel, but the ninety-year old company has been in the game since 2008. Founded in 1929 with an eye towards innovating outdoor pursuits, the family-owned and operated Norrøna has a number of firsts under their belt that should boost confidence to those unfamiliar with their name: they were the first European outdoor clothing company to utilize Gore-Tex for making jackets. They were also the first company to make a “tunnel” style of tent (front and rear entrance/exit). And they were the first European company to use “glued” seams, now a common practice. Perhaps the best summary of their dedication to innovating top-flight gear is their design philosophy of “Loaded Minimalism”, defined as ‘great products made as clean as possible with all critical details’.
Norrøna has a detailed road map on how they are working towards 100% sustainability, becoming more socially responsible, and reducing environmental impacts. Norrøna also embraces a concept of 1% For Nature, as in every year, 1% of their total sales are put aside to assist qualifying organizations working to promote sustainability and environmentally friendly initiatives. Additionally, on Norrøna's website, each product has a dedicated "Footprint" section that tells you about the recycled content, fabric impacts, and factory lists that go into making the item. A European leader blazing a path—let's hope other companies follow suit!
Norrøna fjørå flex1 Pants and fjørå Equaliser Lightweight Long Sleeve jerseyfjørå flex1 Pants
MSRP: $189.00 USD
Sizes: XS - XL
Colors: Indigo Night Blue, Castor Grey/Jester Red, Trick Blue/Indigo Night (tested)
Weighing in at a scant 340g (12 oz) the fjørå flex1 Pants are Norrøna's best selling, durable, flexible, and wind-resistant softshell riding pants. They feature the flex™1 fabric which is a single-ply breathable, stretchy, wind and water-repellent softshell fabric. They have reinforced areas around the knees and seat. Norrøna states on their website that more than 50% of the synthetic fibers in this product are recycled. Additionally, they have a Bluesign Certification and they use a PFC free DWR coating (free of Fluorocarbons, a greenhouse gas villain). As for features...the pants have two front zippered hand pockets, a thigh pocket, a mesh-lined full-length side venting system with a two-way zipper, velcro ankle adjusters, and a silicone grip waistband with velcro adjusters for tightening up.
I tested the fjørå pants in size medium. After attempting to use the size chart, including watching the website video, I still couldn't understand where my measurements fit in, so I took the safe bet and ordered a size medium. They ended up being comfortably loose (whew!) The length was adequate, and I was able to cinch up the waist with the velcro adjusters, so I didn't mind the slightly baggy fit. I also could take the pants on and off without removing my shoes and tighten the ankle hem up to keep a good seal between the pants and my shoes.
I managed a handful of test rides in these pants with a mix of near-freezing temps and some minor precipitation. Overall they were amazingly comfortable and kept me clean, warm and as my dad stated, "looking like a professional mountaineer." The material is stretchy and feels soft against the skin—the pant legs also don't make that slightly annoying "vvvvvvvvvvt! vvvvvvvvvvvt!" sound that a hard shell/gore-tex style pant makes when pedaling. And the zippered leg vent is awesome for when the sun comes out. The only downside is that while the pants are designed to be water repellent, the fabric performance degrades drastically when wet, so not the best choice for those days when you know it's going to be raining sideways. Aside from being limited to drier to drizzly conditions, they come close to being one of my favorites of the group as they have some features I covet (pocket, leg vents) at a reasonable price and come from a company that appears to have a pretty strong environmental record.
Mesh-lined full-length side venting system and velcro waist adjusters.fjørå Equaliser Lighweight Long Sleeve Jersey
MSRP: $79.00 USD
Sizes: XS - XL
Colors: Caviar/Drizzle, Geranium Pink, and Indigo Night Blue (tested)
The fjørå Equaliser Lightweight Long Sleeve jersey is a lightweight, breathable biking shirt. It features a drop tail, includes recycled fibers in its construction, and utilizes the equaliser™ fabrica—a base layer fabric made of 100% polyester, with a waffle construction to trap air and provide a high warmth to weight value.
I tested the jersey in size medium. Fit was loose enough I could wear it as a jersey but still snug enough I could easily throw a mid-layer or jacket over it without any bunching. Torso length and arm length seemed appropriate for my average sized frame.
I mostly used this jersey as a base layer as temperatures here in the Gorge have been pretty chilly the last couple months. I did sneak in one 1.5hr climb without a jacket on and was pleased to discover that the jersey offers excellent moisture wicking properties: I stayed dry and happy until I stopped climbing and needed a jacket. For me, this piece is a perfect fall riding layer and is comparable to some of the long sleeve merino base layers I typically use under my riding jacket. The fabric pattern feels slightly more insulated and thicker than other 100% polyester options. The three color options have an attractive look and you really can't complain as the price is fairly competitive with similar long sleeve jersey options.
Equaliser Lightweight Long Sleeve jersey.
GiroGiro is a Santa Cruz, CA based company that needs next to no introduction: lids, eyewear, footwear, gloves, and—starting a few years ago—riding apparel that continues to just get better and better. This year sees them up the ante with riding pants and jackets designed specifically for mountain biking in the dark months.
Giro has a large link on the front page of their website detailing their Renew series of cycling apparel that is made from reclaimed fishing nets and other ocean debris. Additionally, Giro strives to use Bluesign approved fabrics where possible, which are fabrics approved by a 3rd party to meet certain environmental impact criteria. For each item on their website, Giro lists whether they use Bluesign fabrics. If that's something that is important to you, it's nice to be able verify the facts before purchasing. It's awesome to see a company as prestigious and influential as Giro is making some efforts to re-purpose excess plastic material to lower environmental impacts. It's a move that I hope to see expanded into more products moving into the future.
Giro Womens Havoc Pant and Stow Jacket.Womens Havoc Pant
MSRP: $170.00 USD
Sizes: US 2 - 12
Colors: Black (tested)
The Womens Havoc Pant is Giro's 4-way stretch, ventilated riding pant for "total comfort in colder temps". The pants feature perforated ventilation panels, a DWR coating, hand pockets, a secure thigh zip pocket, exterior waist adjustment, and are made with durablend, a robust, but "quiet" 4-way stretch nylon.
I tested the Havoc pants in a US size 6. Incremental sizing is a luxury in mountain bike apparel but when its available, boy does it make choosing the correct size easier—especially for those of us who fall right between sizes on most size charts. The Havoc Pant felt great: slightly more fitted than either the Gore or Norrøna, but loose enough to fit knee pads under without any issues (I typically wear either Fox Enduro or 7iDP Transition knee pads). Most importantly, the exterior waist tabs offer plenty of adjustment for post-holidays when you seem to be an inch wider.
The Havoc Pant is more comparable with the Norrøna than the Gore Wear options: while they do have a DWR coating and handle the drizzle and damp conditions well, they are not the best choice in a full out rainstorm. I tested them in a fairly broad range of temperature and weather conditions (37- 60°F/3-15°C), and they offer a nice mix of keeping me warm as the temps drop while maintaining good ventilation and solid mud protection in the slightly warmer temps. The ankle isn't zippered, nor does it feature velcro adjustment, so you can't take these pants on and off with your shoes on; but the hem is tight enough to keep water from completely soaking your socks (note: some water does splash in through the perforated holes). Its funny how Giro uses the term "quiet" in the description of their material, but there is something to say about wearing a riding pant that doesn't rub and make noise with every pedal stroke. I pretty much felt like I was in shorts, excepting the extra coverage. I'd rank Havoc Pant as my favorite pair of this review for typical fall riding conditions in temperate regions. The simple, quality design with a comfortable look and feel won me over.
Velcro waist adjusters and perforated ventilation panels.Womens Stow
MSRP: $90.00 USD USD
Sizes: XS - XL
Colors: Black, Dusty Purple, Midnight Blue, Storm, and Dark Fade Teal (tested)
The Women's Stow Jacket is Giro's take on a lightweight windproof shell that repels moisture and, as the name suggests, packs down to a wee tiny stowable pouch. It features a 100% nylon bluesign® approved Stow Wind™ fabric (lightweight, windproof, durable, and repels moisture), a DWR coating, a secure chest pocket, two open hand pockets, back exhaust ventilation openings, and an elastic cuff. Giro sent me both the Stow and the Stow H20 jackets for comparison purposes. The H20 version is a giant leap up in performance as it includes Giro's 15,000K waterproof/breathable Havoc™ H20 fabric with sealed seams, but it comes at an $75 USD increase in cost. The Stow H2O also has a really cool function where it has built-in shock cords that allow you to stow the jacket easily on your bars—a feature the plain old Stow doesn't have.
I tested both these jackets in size small and they both fit perfectly although the Stow H20 was a little more fitted. As shown in the photos, the Stow has a nice relaxed fit; layering a long sleeve jersey and thin vest under it for colder days was easy. I could pull the jacket on on without taking my gloves off, too, and the torso length was adequate to keep the elements out withou any whale tail issues.
Testing involved proper layering and a mix of light precipitation, cooler temps, and wind. I spend most my time riding in a light windshell, and it's hard to break that habit. The Stow made it even harder; whenever I was headed out to ride, my hand always wanted to go towards the Stow jacket. The jacket handled the wind and light rain as expected, I stayed dry, and I never overheated. The two ventilation flaps on the back are a nice added design feature that helped to keep me cool and dry when I was huffing and puffing up some of the bigger climbs in our area. One thing to note is that I typically sweat way less than most the men I ride with, especially in colder temperatures, which is why I prefer windshells. I never struggle with overheating in them. But... the bigger the body, the more heat it generates, so take that into account when picking out what type of material might work best for your own body heat index.
Both Giro jackets seemed to exceed my expectations. The Stow H20 was a good pick for when the forecast called for rain, but the Stow was my top pick for the colder, drier rides. I also liked the fact that the Stow packed down to a postage stamp size, which made it easier to stash in my hip pack for those rides where I may or may not need a light jacket. Also, for the price, the Stow is a pretty good deal, although I wouldn't mind seeing a version with a hood.
Giro Women's Stow jacket pockets and back ventilation panels.
Giro Women's Stow H20 jacket - photos courtesy of Giro.
7MeshFounded by former employees of Arc’teryx in 2013, 7mesh had a simple aim: to bring the technical innovations that had come to back country adventurers and outdoor enthusiasts to cycling. Cutting edge fabrics, innovative construction, and advanced fit concepts are all part of their design diet. They rolled out their first line offerings in 2015 and since then have kept a sharp eye on maintaining the perfectionism their former employer is renowned for as well as a driven approach to research and development that borders on obsession (check out “rounding corners” on the ‘our story’ tab on their website). All to craft cycling apparel for road and dirt riding in all conditions that exceeds expectations.
Both Pierce and I struggled to find details on environmental sustainability practices by 7mesh. We couldn't find any information on any recycled content or manufacturing practices that go into each piece. Neither could we find mentions of contributing to 1% For the Planet or similar causes. I could easily have missed a link on the site, but the only thing I found was that their "manufacturing partners (past and present) regularly pass social & environmental audits".
7mesh Women's Guardian Jacket and Revo short.Women's Revo Short
MSRP: $225.00 USD
Sizes: XS - XL
Colors: Black (tested)
The Women's Revo short is 7mesh's foul weather, survive the worst conditions, fully-taped, waterproof, breathable trail-durable riding shorts. The shorts weigh in at a whopping 180 g/6.3 oz. They feature a GORE-TEX® 3L material, hand pockets with drain holes, belt loops, an articulated over the knee design, a zippered fly with snap closure, adjustable waist band, and have a 15.75" inseam.
I tested the shorts in medium and they fit great. Both the lightness and the extended, over-the-knee, articulated design are noticeable features the first time you pull these on. They have that hard shell feel, but in a comfortable way. It's important to note that along with the Gore Wear pants, these are the only "waterproof" cycling bottom I reviewed this time around—everything else relies on tightly woven fabrics and DWR coatings to keep you dry. While those reasonably well, if riding in rain is your thing, then a hard shell like this is what you want.
The goal for testing these shorts was to search for rain, which I found across the Columbia River in the land of the Trans Cascadia Enduro. I had high expectations that these shorts would not only keep me dry but that washing off the mud and grit after riding would be easier than with a softshell fabric, and I wasn't disappointed. The shorts are loose and designed so that pedaling is unrestricted, you can wear knee guards under them easily, and there is complete freedom of movement whether climbing or descending. The shorts breath well, although I've never really had a pair of shorts that didn't, except maybe some old school DH shorts. Bottom line, I stayed dry, and despite liking how riding pants keep my legs clean, these shorts are still my top recommendation for someone looking to invest in only one miserably wet weather garment for keeping you dry. The Revo is manufactured with the highest quality fabrics and materials and the price tag reflects this, but with that kind of quality, it's an investment that should two or three seasons, if not more.
Up close shot of Revo waist band and Gore-Tex logo.Women's Guardian Jacket
MSRP: $375.00 USD
Sizes: XS - XL
Colors: Eclipse and Beetbox (tested)
The Guardian Jacket is a feather weight (215g/7.5 oz), breathable, and completely waterproof riding shell that sets the bar a notch higher in terms of quality and design. The jacket is constructed with an over the helmet hood that utilizes a 3-way draw-cord, features elastic cuffs, has watertight zippered torso pockets, with a hem draw cord for cinching down—all standard features for this type of jacket. Where it shines brightest is the tech that goes into the fabric of the Guardian: it uses a Gore-Tex™ Active 3L material, a 30d Nylon Plain Weave, and Gore's® new C-Knit™ Backer Technology which essentially offers up products that are softer, measurably lighter, and just as durable as previous 3-layer Gore-tex fabrics.
I tested the jacket in size medium and it was a spot on fit. I could easily fit a base layer and thicker midlayer under the jacket, but it wasn't big and bulky. The jacket has a nice drop seat hem and the draw cord makes it easy to tighten the jacket down around your bum to keep things protected from the elements.
As with the shorts, I searched out rain, and when I found i, the Guardian delivered. I stayed dry, which meant I stayed warm, which meant I wasn't cold and grumpy. I also did some pretty stiff climbs and the breathability of the jacket was excellent—nobody likes to stew inside a garage bag. It's worth noting that the key part of learning how to ride in cold and wet weather is learning how to layer properly, and when to take layers off or put them back on. While you can test a jacket easily for water and wind factors, if you choose to wear too much clothing on a climb and then overheat, you really can't blame the jacket. I'm pretty good at layering, so I didn't have that problem. Overall, I was stoked on not only the quality, but the look and feel of this jacket. I've used the 7mesh Revelation as my go to rain riding jacket the past 3 years, but this one is lighter, more stowable, and has some upgrades that give it a slight edge over everything else I tested this year. The price tag may be daunting, but this jacket is by far one of the highest quality riding jackets I have ever used.
7mesh Guardian Jacket.
Sweet ProtectionStronger, lighter, better. That’s the mantra of Sweet Protection, another Norwegian based company. Sweet has its roots in the California skateboard vibe of the 80s but really got its start in the late 90s with a kayak helmet (would you like to pinball down a rock filled river without one?) It was unlike anything else out there and everyone wanted one. From there it was a collaboration with Norwegian snowboarding legend Terje Hakonsen and a move into snowsports. Then winter apparel. In 2011 bike helmets were introduced. In the years since their beginning, Sweet has won numerous awards for design and innovation. And now they offer cycling clothing. So how does it measure up?
Sweet Protection states on their website that "they strive to make as little impact on the environment as possible". What does that mean you might ask? Well...they try to reduce the amount of plastic in their packaging, with a goal of providing an eco-friendly package by 2020. They try to use Bluesign certified fabrics when possible, they adhere to the UN's labor regulations for factory workers, and they are working towards replacing their polyester with recycled alternatives.
Sweet Protection Hunter Light Pants and Hunter Wind Jacket.Hunter Light Pants Women's
MSRP: $139.95 USD
Sizes: XS - L
Colors: Hydro, Segry, tested color available this spring
The Hunter Light Pants are a versatile lightweight (260 g/9.2 oz) durable riding pant that utilize velcro waist adjusters, adjustable zippered ankle cuffs, two hand pockets and zippered mesh-lined thigh vents. The pants have a mix of materials including Dupont Sorona (an eco-efficient performance fiber) combined with a lightweight and water repellent softshell fabric, as well as a reinforced woven fabric around the knees and seat area to ensure durability while still retaining flexibility.
I tested the Hunter Light pants in a size medium. The waist was a bit too big, meaning I probably should have tested a size small per their fit finder size chart; but the overall fit of the pants in the hip and thigh was on par with how their size medium should fit me. Sizing goof aside, the velcro waist adjusters allowed me to cinch the waist down perfectly, and the pants also include multiple snaps at the ankle to tighten and taper the leg down—awesome for keeping elements out as well as keeping the cuff from getting sucked into the drive train.
I tested these in some unexpectedly warm temps during our fall riding season. The pants rely on the tight knitting of the fabrics to provide water repellency over a DWR coating (they state the DWR coating would reduce breathability), and I didn't have any issues with the occasional sprinkle. I wouldn't, however, trust these pants to keep me dry in a downpour. On the warmer days of testing I was able to push pretty hard on the climbs and the material breathed well—although the added thigh vents are a really nice touch for when the breathability of the fabric wasn't quite enough. I'm pretty hard on my riding clothes; we have some overgrown trails with bushes that can easily rip a pair of lightweight shorts, and I do crash more often than I like to admit. But given that, after testing I felt confident in the durability of the material despite how light weight it is. These pants are the most affordable of the group, and while they lack the extra water repellency of a DWR, they are stylish, comfortable, pedal well, and will work well to keep you warm this time of year.
Up close shot of the articulated knee and Vectran fabric which offers extra protection and the front zipper pocket.Hunter Wind Jacket Women's
MSRP: $129.95 USD
Sizes: XS - L
Colors: LTGRY, HYDRO, tested color available this spring
The Hunter Wind Jacket is your basic breathable, lightweight wind jacket for warm and windy days. Not everyone lives somewhere with biting cold this time of year, and sometimes all you really need is a light wind jacket to keep you warm when pedaling. The Hunter Wind Jacket is not only extremely breathable, but is ultra-light, weighing in at a scant 110 g/3.8 oz—about as light as two large eggs. The fabric of the jacket is primarily nylon with some elastane for stretch. It has an adjustable waist, an extended drop seat, elastic stretch panel sleeves, a vented back, and a small chest pocket: all the details you need and nothing else.
I tested this jacket in medium and it fit great—just right in the shoulders but I was still able to easily fit a long sleeve base layer or jersey under it. The material felt light and had just the right amount of stretch to it for unrestricted movement. The elastic cuffs are nice and work well to keep the sleeves in place.
This jacket, like the pants, isn't something I wanted to be caught out in a storm with, so I opted to test it on some of the drier days. It was comfortable and pretty much performed like every lightweight wind shell I've tested. I got a little sweaty on one big climb, but temperatures that day were exceptionally warm, so the sweat was from me overheating, not the jacket lacking breathability. Aside from that, there's not much to say: the jacket is a nice ultra-lightweight, stow-in-your-bag, wind shell that doesn't break the bank. It'll keep you warm when the wind picks up or the temp dips below jersey riding weather. But it's not a go-to for monsoon weather.
Sweet Protection Hunter Wind Jacket.
VelocioNew England based Velocio launched in 2014 with a design philosophy that focuses on finding a better way from the ground up for every single piece of gear they produce. To that end, Velocio uses their own patterns, sources their own fabrics, and pretty much lives the mantra of “design, ride, repeat” to continually refine the products they offer. A part of that refinement process means recognizing how cycling clothing impacts the environment and social responsibility: Velocio is a proud member of 1% for the Planet and sources fabrics from environmentally responsible vendors as well as utilizing recycled materials when and where possible in their designs. They also subscribe to EU labor guidelines for conditions of employment, discrimination, equal pay, and protection of pregnant workers. So quality designs, environmentally sustainable and a conscience are the cornerstones of Velocio. Oh, and bio-degradable packaging for the cherry on top.
Velocio Women's Signature Softshell Jacket and Trail Short.Women's Trail Short
MSRP: $99.00 USD (current price)
Sizes: XS - XXL
Colors: Coral Red, Titanium, and Navy(tested)
The "Trail shorts" is Velocio's only baggy style riding short currently available—they call it their "highly technical and light weight go-to for MTB, Gravel or the Pub riding short". It has an ultralight-weight, double woven, high stretch Italian milled fabric developed by MecTex that offers 4-way stretch, utilizes a low profile waist system with a single side adjustment, has two zippered pockets, and comes with a DWR finish.
I tested the Trail shorts in size medium. The shorts are designed to have a tailored, slim fit and the size medium fit me perfectly. Considering Velocio makes mostly road/gravel lycra-style cycling apparel, the XC fitted style and the overall design was what I expected.
I tested the shorts in the same conditions as all the others, cold, blustery, but generally drier fall weather. Rather than wearing knee pads, I wore knee warmers under them to keep my legs warm. The shorts were comfortable, the stretch fabric allowed freedom of movement without any added weight and they breathed well. The two zippered pockets were well placed and I could easily slip my phone into either pocket. The DWR coating kept me dry in the important areas, although I avoided any really rainy days. Overall I'd say these shorts are pretty sweet. The inseam is on the shorter side (falling above my knee cap), but then again, these shorts are designed for more for the XC crowd. Overall, Velocio did an excellent job designing an XC-oriented lightweight riding short that would be perfect for cool weather riding in drier climates like Colorado, Utah, or Arizona. While they held their own in the cold-ish, slightly damp weather, I'm pretty sure I'll stash these away with my warmer weather riding gear. For anyone who likes a slimmer, XC-cut riding short and who wants to know where the fabrics are coming from, I'd highly recommend taking a look at this company's offerings.
Trail short waist adjustment and side zippered pocket.Women's Signature Softshell Jacket
MSRP: $299.00 USD
Sizes: XXS - XL
Colors: Dark Olive, Fire Red(tested)
The Signature Softshell Jacket is a technical masterpiece. It offers exceptional breathability and moisture management, while remaining lightweight and warm. It's designed for temperatures from freezing up to 50°F/10°C, and has a waterproof membrane (10K rating). The jacket has three large back pockets, one zippered front pocket, elastic cuffs, and a 3D patterned, pre-shaped design for fit and comfort on a bike.
I tested this jacket in a size medium. As you can see from the photos, the medium is snug, especially in the shoulders; but I have somewhat broader shoulders than average for my height, so pretty much the correct size. Just slipping this on, I felt like I should be testing this on my gravel bike. I would definitely put this jacket into a road or gravel riding category, or maybe XC for someone who has an affection for lycra; but that doesn't mean it won't also work well for trail riding.
I was pleasantly surprised how warm, but not sweaty I was in this jacket. Wearing Velocio's long sleeve merino base layer under the jacket, I was able to ride in mid-30 degree temps and climb for an hour without overheating and then descend for thirty minutes without feeling like a popsicle. The front pocket is perfect for keys or a snack, and the back pockets will hold basic tools and snacks for someone planning a long gravel or road ride, or a short-ish trail ride. This jacket is technically savvy and performs exceptionally well. If you can get past the eye-watering price tag, it's a great option for those looking for a high-end, keep-you-warm, jacket.
Features of the Velocio Signature Softshell Jacket.
Fox RacingFox Racing has been at the forefront of mountain bike clothing since before millennial's were a thing. They know how to create quality cycling apparel and the further they step into offering more options for ladies, the more excited I get. This fall's clothing line is no exception; the design and quality will not disappoint you.
I didn't find any information on environmental efforts on the Fox Racing website but they do state that, as a company they take certain steps to promote fair labor practices and ensure good working conditions throughout their supply chain. But no mention of any 1% give back, or the use of fabrics made from recycled plastics. Most of the smaller companies source their fabrics form larger brands like Fox, so inherently, there are small efforts, but it would be great to see Fox put a bit more effort into telling us how they are working to protect the environment.
Fox Women's Defend Fire Pants and Ranger 2.5L Water Jacket.Defend Fire Pants
MSRP: $199.95 USD
Sizes: S - L
Colors: Black (tested)
The Women's Defend Fire Pant is a 2019 addition to the Fox line up and one of the first pair of women's specific mountain biking pants I have seen from them. They are what I would call an insulated softshell style pant, designed to be wind and water resistant and feature Cordura seat and knee panels for extra durability. The pants also have a bonded fleece lining (extra toasty), a DWR finish, an MX style "Race Ratchet" closure waist system, and have a 30.5" inseam.
I tested the Defend Fire pants in size medium. They fit exactly as all Fox apparel does... acceptably baggy. I really wish there was a size small and a half, but the waist ratchet closure allowed me to cinch the pants down securely. A giant plastic buckle isn't my ideal waist slosure system, but it's clever to integrate the closure mechanism and adjustment into one. The pants have a tapered leg with elastic cuff like the Giro pants, great for keeping the elements out and keeping the cuff out of the drive train. I was able to fit my medium profile knee guards under the pants without any issues and—with some finagling—I could just squeeze my iPhone XR into the one zippered thigh pocket.
I put most the testing miles in on these pants when the temperatures were hovering at freezing, which is a bit below typical fall temps for Hood River. I did that for a reason: I definitely had some minor issues with these pants being on the brink of too warm. When they say "bonded fleece lining" what they really should say, is perfect for fat biking in Minnesota. But then again, despite the sweaty legs, there were also lots of moments when I was pretty stoked to have them on—especially in the bone chilling gorge east winds. The fabric lived up to Fox's description: they provided excellent wind protection and kept me dry in the wet. Most softshell pants offer decent breathability and these were par for the course. And as noted, the fleece lining provided more than ample extra insulation—I just had to make an effort to choose colder days and shorter climbs for testing. At the end of the day, for the conditions I typically find during winter, I prefer a lighter weight softshell pant; but for someone who is shuttling or using the bike park in cooler temps, these would be magic. They get my nod for being the most durable and the warmest of the selection.
Fox Defend Fire Pant Race Ratchet waist closure and zippered thigh pocket.Women's Ranger 2.5L Water Jacket
MSRP: $109.95 USD
Sizes: XS - XL
Colors: Black (tested)
The Ranger 2.5L Water jacket is a fully seam-sealed and waterproof "choose your own adventure" jacket. It features a 2.5 layer lightweight 10K waterproof and 3K breathable fabric, a DWR coating, two zippered front hand pockets, elastic cuffs, a draw cord at the hem, and a helmet compatible hood. Why put a DWR coating on a waterproof fabric? Because without it, eventually that outer fabric will absorb water (wet out) impairing the ability of that membrane to breathe properly (sweat vapor will not be able to escape the saturated face fabric any longer). That's why you see two numbers associated with a waterproof factor; ther first is the resistance to water penetration and that second is the breathability. To break that down,10K is essentially "rainproof and waterproof under light pressure" and breathable with light exertion, whereas something like the Gore-Tex 3L used in the 7mesh Guardian jacket falls in the 28K waterproof/17K breathable range.
The size medium jacket fit me a tad bit loose— just like the pants—but perfect for someone who likes a little extra room for layering (like me. I could easily wear an extra layer or two under it without any issues). The jacket had a nice lightweight feel, which I really appreciated when riding more technical terrain.
I tested this jacket in some unexpected rain squalls as well as during some cold dry spells. During one outing I climbed 1200 vert in a bit of a storm without getting sweaty and at the same time, the rain beaded up nicely on the exterior fabric. Win-win, meaning I stayed dry. My conclusion? Hands down this jacket is the best deal in this entire review. Unless you live in a rain forest, you'll likely only ride in the occasional rain shower, and for just a bit over $100, this thing is light, durable, breathable, and will keep you dry.
Features of the Fox Ranger 2.5L Water Jacket.
The Fox Women's Ranger Thermo Jersey ($99.95 USD) is another great option for when the weather drops into the brr zone and you have that impulse to go dead sailor off some drops.
SombrioOriginally the brain child of MTB luminaries Dave Watson and Andrew Shandro, among others, Sombrio rapidly gained a reputation of style and comfort and became an “it” brand over a decade ago. The name stayed the same but the players behind the scenes changed; however, Sombrio’s dedication to crafting clothing that’s ideal for ripping on the trails while retaining a distinctly urban vibe that’s by no means out of place in the local pub remains. And it’s not all about looks either, Sombrio utilizes proven fabrics for consistent performance in all conditions. Bonus, the care instructions for every fabric used are posted on their website and their clothing now features a lifetime warranty.
Similar to Fox Racing, details on environmental practices are slim to none on the Sombrio website. There aren't any details on recycled content in clothing or manufacturing practices on each piece of gear. Additionally, we couldn't find any environmental causes or sales donation plans that Sombrio participates in.
Sombrio V'AL 2 shorts and Blocker Hoodie.V'AL 2 Shorts
MSRP: $80.00 USD
Sizes: XS - XL
Colors: Black, Moss (tested)
The V'AL 2 shorts are Sombrio's reinvented version of their go-to women's trail shorts. The shorts feature a stretchy and durable Core Flex Dura fabric, seamless crotch panel, two front hand pockets, one zippered side pocket, internal waistband retention system with a buckle closure, and a 13.5" inseam. The Core Flex Dura fabric is a mid-weight option that features a 2-way stretch, moisture wicking properties, and includes a DWR finish.
Although I typically wear a small in Sombrio, I tested the shorts in size medium; Sombrio reported to me that they had tweaked the fit to be a bit smaller than previous versions, so I sized up. Despite the sizing tweak, the medium was still pretty loose on my waist; but the shorts have an updated adjustable waist system that lets you cinch things down without a ton of bunching. Perfect. Once out on the trail, it didn't feel like the shorts were too loose, and I liked the overall fit.
These shorts aren't really a fall/winter specific short, but rather the type of shorts I wear year-round. The stretchy mid-weight fabric is comfortable and durable, and the shorts easily fit over just about any knee pad you choose to wear. While the V'AL 2's do have a DWR coating to keep your bum dry in most conditions, the Core Flex Dura fabric is not a Gore-tex type of fabric. If you like to ride in heavy rainstorms for hours on end, as with most of the items in this review, eventually you will end up cold, wet, and with a saturated chamois and in search of a hot toddy. That being said, these shorts have some nice updated design features from previous versions, which I appreciated. Addionally, they'll handle most weather conditions and basically get the job done for half the price of most winter specific riding gear, making these a great year round option for temperate climates.
V'AL 2 shorts adjustable waist system and pockets.Blocker Hoodie
MSRP: $120.00 USD
Sizes: XS - XL
Colors: Dark Charcoal, Moss (tested)
The Blocker Hoodie is a mid-weight Dura Tek fleece jacket designed to keep you warm and comfortable when the temps drop. The jacket features a helmet compatible hood with internal draw cords, two zippered front hand pockets, a DWR coating, and strategically placed splash proof panels. Dura Tek fleece is a 100% Polyester ribbed fabric designed for warmth and breathability. I would put this hoodie in the same category as the Gore Wear C5 Windstopper jacket: an insulated softshell with DWR.
I tested the Blocker Hoodie in size small which fit me fairly well—but maybe a little too well in the shoulders. The jacket has a standard fit and should be snug but not constricting. The hood easily fit over my helmet and the jacket had nice elastic cuffs that kept the sleeves comfortably tight around my gloves and wrist.
I tested this jacket in mostly colder, damp, but not pouring buckets, conditions. While Sombrio calls it "mid-weight", it's a fleece and therefore on the thicker and heavier side. It handled the colder temps well and I didn't notice any unusual sweating—although I'd put the target temperature for this jacket somewhere between 35°F and 55°F—any warmer and I think breathability might be an issue. I couldn't find any technical information on Dura Tek Fleece but Somrbio states that it is "our custom tech stretch fabric... woven designed for maximum comfort." So a polyester/elastane blend of some kind. As for how it handles the elements... the DWR coating and "splash-proof" panels seemed to do the trick, keeping me dry from trail wide puddles and the occasional drizzle—pretty much comparable to most the other top layers in this review. But I don't think I'd trust the material to stay dry in a rainstorm. This fleece Hoodie is a warm, stylish top layer that hopefully can make you ride as fast as Jill Kintner on those cold muddy days. Especially when you're wishing you were sitting on a beach in Mexico drinking a margarita.
Features of the Sombrio Blocker Hoodie.
Sombrio Noble jersey ($65 USD).