In case you didn’t already know, it’s that cold and dark time of year up here in the Northern Hemisphere. You lucky souls south of the equator are just getting into the meat and potatoes of summer. I hate on you just a bit for that, but mostly I’m envious, because I’m stuck on the part of this planet that’s guaranteed to be cold, wet, and miserable for at least the next four months. And, by cold and wet, I mean a fine and pleasant misery, well-seasoned with rain and sleet on the days when it’s not merely bitterly cold and windy. What better conditions could we possibly ask for when testing a few clothing items meant for these dark months? Laying Down the Rules Bad Weather Basics
The key to savoring a ride in this type of gnar is quality outer layers that’ll hold off the elements yet still breathe well. Breathability is every bit as crucial as waterproofness, too; all the high-tech waterproof fabrics in the world will do you about as much good as tassels on a pig if it’s raining just as hard inside your jacket as it is outside.
Nearly everyone in the bike clothing game these days is making something for riding in (dare I say it?) “epic” conditions, but not all winter clothing is created equal. Some gear will breathe about as well as your average trash bag and some gear will repel water like a sponge. But, most of it excels. And by "excels," I mean it’s the kind of gear that will keep you dry in a jet wash (true story).
So, if you plan on venturing out in the kind of conditions that mean hosing off your gear before you drop them in the clothes washer, trust me when I say that good waterproof shorts or pants and a similar quality jacket are the way to go. And, while you have your credit card out, consider adding a decent base layer, a pair of good winter cycling gloves and some wool socks or sealskins (it’s the golden age of the interwebs—look 'em up
). And, for extra points, you might add knee warmers and a skullcap to that mix.
We chose not to perform long-term tests, limiting the review intervals to an average of two or three rides for each item to get solid impressions on fit and function. Most of the testing was conducted in temps that ranged from 25F to 42 F (-4C to 6C), and in conditions that varied from clear and cold, to sleeting, to raining hammers sideways. With the exception of the below-freezing temps, we were wearing a base layer; a jersey; chamois-lined shorts under our outer shorts or pants; a jacket; knee warmers or lightweight knee guards; and a trail helmet. In the below-freezing temps, an additional or thicker jersey was worn. Testing included everything from short punchy climbs to hour-long uphill grinds, as well as jump trails and extended descents.About the testers:
Colin Meagher stands 5’9" tall and weighs in at 165 lbs. with a 32-33” waist depending on beer consumption. He typically fits a size medium pair of shorts or pants, and a size medium jersey and jacket. Nikki Hollatz stands 5’5” tall and weighs 130 lbs. with a 28-inch waist, 34-inch hips. She typically wears a size medium short or pant and a size medium jersey/jacket. Special thanks to Tyler Horton of Transition Bikes who was kind enough to be Colin's stunt/body double for the men’s action shots (someone had to take the photos, after all
). Nikki Hollatz, on the other hand, does her own stunts.
Word on Waterproof and Breathability
The standard for waterproofness is measured by the height of a column of water that can be held by a fabric without leaking. One meter (1000mm) is the minimum measure a fabric can have and be called waterproof. Breathability, on the other hand, is measured in grams of moisture that can pass through a square meter of fabric over 24 hours. For instance, a rating of 10,000 grams per square meter translates into ten kg of water moving through that square meter of fabric in 24 hours—that’s roughly 22 pounds of water.
Most foul-weather gear also features a Durable Waterproof Repellant (DWR) treatment to the outer layer. The waterproof/breathable layer, be it Gore Tex®, eVent®, etc, will keep water from penetrating the fabric, but if the outer layer gets saturated with water, it will get heavy, sag, and tend to cling to your skin. Which sucks. Hence the use of DWR coatings on most of the gear in this feature.
is located in Hood River, Oregon, the place both Nikki Hollatz and I call home, and it’s a mecca for mountain biking in the Pacific Northwest. More importantly, the designers are riders—it’s not uncommon to spot Dakine employees testing apparel and gear in Post Canyon or up on the Syncline on any given day. Consequently, the fit of their pieces is generally right on the money, and the functionality is typically well thought out. Caliber Jacket $180
The Caliber Jacket is a fully seam sealed jacket utilizing a four-way stretch fabric with a waterproof/breathable laminate rated for 20k mm/20k g/m2, waterproof zippers, and pit zips. It has a media pocket on the left breast, and both hood and waist cinch tabs. There are also two side pockets. Colors: black (featured). Sizes: small, medium, large, and X-large.
Dakine nailed the fit on this one: the torso length and sleeve length are spot on, the shoulders are roomy without being baggy, and one could easily accommodate an additional layer under the Caliber for sub-freezing days. The hood fits over a helmet effortlessly and without blocking too much peripheral view; nor does the hood bind up when wearing a hydration pack. And there’s ample drop in the seat to prevent mud from creeping into your shorts.
The Caliber Jacket is a workman-like jacket: it gets the job done, and done well, without being pretentious. The waterproof/breathable laminate works as expected and the pit zips allowed adequate venting for hard efforts without letting in the elements. All hood and waist adjustments are easily performed while wearing gloves. Additionally, the Caliber can also be pulled on or off over gloves. It’s not super lightweight, but then again, it’s nowhere near as bulky as some of the other jackets that were tested. This is an item that will easily stuff into a mid-sized hydration pack “just in case” on an iffy day while still leaving room for a nice flask of winter warmer. Ridge Short $65
The Dakine Ridge Short is a basic trail short manufactured from twill like artificial fabric. The concept is a short for shop employees (or anyone else who spends most of the day working in shorts) who may want to hit the trails after work or the trail rider who wants to hit the local pub after a ride. Consequently, it’s as stylish as it is functional. It features side pockets and a single rear pocket. Waist closure is via twin snaps.There are interior side waist adjusters as well as belt loops on the outside of the waist if you prefer to “keep it real.” As I measured it, the Ridge Shorts feature a 12.5-inch (32 cm) inseam. Colors: jean and black pirate (featured). Sizes: 30-inch, 32-inch, 34-inch, 36-inch, 38-inch.
I found the fit to be perfect: they’re just long enough to prevent gaper gap between any knee guards and the thigh, but short enough to be right at home anywhere one would wear a casual pair of short away from the bike. They are both lightweight and very breathable. But, while this was a great looking and great fitting short, and it functioned well in the dry, it is not water resistant in the slightest. If you plan on riding in sloppy conditions, these aren’t the droids you’re looking for; but if you plan on a dry condition, shoulder-season ride after work, with maybe a stop for a pint afterward, look no further. White Knuckle Gloves $38
We didn't plan on testing gloves, but Dakine sent us a couple pair of their cold weather model, so we threw them into the mix. White Knuckle gloves are made with a windproof stretch nylon back and with neoprene over the knuckles. The gloves have a thin, one-piece palm for direct bar feel. There is Thinsulate insulation in the glove with a mid-weight fleece lining on the back of the hand for a soft feel. Adjusting the fit is handled via a hook-and-loop wrist closure and the digits are touch screen compatible. The back of the thumb is covered in terry cloth, making it an excellent nose wipe. There’s also a small pad on the base of the palm for “Oh shit” moments. Colors: black (featured). Sizes: small, medium, large, and X-large.
Generally, with winter gloves I need to go up a size, as the insulation tends to plump up the inside of the glove a bit. Not so with the White Knuckle gloves. These were even a touch roomy. They are touted for temperatures down to freezing (32F/0C) and while I didn’t wear them in temps that cold, they did just fine at 38F/3C. They kept my hands warm and were touch screen compatible as advertised. It wasn’t particularly wet when I tested them, so I’ve no idea of how well they perform in the rain. However, given their construction materials, I’m going to guess that there are better gloves out there for pure chaos conditions; but these excelled as a shoulder season riding glove. Nikki’s Take: White Knuckle gloves
As the only company that sent winter gloves, I tested the Dakine White Knuckle gloves for most of my test rides. I swapped them out for the Giro Candela gloves for comparison.
The men’s size small was a good fit on my hand – I typically wear a women’s size medium glove. In comparison to my other winter riding gloves, I was impressed with the dexterity I retained wearing these – I could almost text coherent words with them on! There was minimal bulk and I was confident with the grip. When the temperature dropped into the twenties my fingertips were tingly and cold, regardless of what gloves I was wearing, so consider investing in a pair of very stylish bar mitts if you find yourself out in subzero temperatures more often than not. Overall, this is a solid winter riding glove that is functional and affordable.Women’s Caliber Jacket $180
The Dakine Women’s Caliber jacket is nearly identical to the men’s version in design and style - a technical waterproof shell designed for riding in the Pacific Northwest rain – but with a cut for the female form.
Dakine sent us a women’s size small Caliber jacket. Overall the jacket fit perfectly, not restricting my upper body movements; the arm and torso lengths were spot on. I usually wear a women's medium, so with that in mind, sizing must run large on their jackets, so consider ordering a size down. Colors: black. Size: small, medium, large, and X-large.
The jacket is a fashionable solid black with a teal zipper and small teal accents, worthy of being worn to the pub after a long ride. It is fully seam sealed and has underarm zippers for ventilation. The hood fit over my helmet and I was able to easily pull the sleeves off over my gloves. Unlike the Mode Shorts below, the Caliber Jacket is designed to be waterproof and I stayed nice and dry during all of my test rides. As the weather dropped down into the mid-twenties, I did sport a puffy coat under the jacket on the descents to keep me warm (I always carry a down jacket of some type in my pack this time of year just in case), but otherwise it was adequate insulation for all my test rides.Women’s Mode Short $80
The Dakine Women’s Mode shorts are a stylish, yet tough and durable short constructed of lightweight polyester canvas and woven twill nylon that features a four-way stretch and DWR coating. They have an internal waist adjustment, zippered pockets, twin waist snap closure and inner leg vents. Additionally, the Mode shorts have an inseam length of 14.5 inches (37cm) providing increased coverage and are designed to fit over knee pads. Colors: black, harbor, and buckskin (featured). Sizes: 24-inch, 26-inch, 28-inch, 30-inch.
As a Hood River resident, I have ample access to Dakine biking apparel and have spent a lot of time racing and riding in the Mode shorts. Designed for aggressive downhill riding, the Mode shorts stay true to the description and are a relaxed fit baggy short that is resistant to most crashes. The shorts tend to ride low on the hips and have a slightly oversized waist. Despite the thick material, the shorts were not restrictive and the inner leg vents worked well to keep me cool when needed.
For the winter testing, I ultimately discovered that the shorts are not 100% waterproof. The DWR coating is designed to shed water, but under heavy weather conditions, the shorts were noticeably saturated after a couple hours of pounding rain. While they are a staple in my daily riding apparel and the heavy material does a good job of keeping my legs warm in cooler temperatures, I would avoid wearing these in overly wet conditions. Muddy goodness, yes; torrential downpour, not so much.
RACE FACERace Face
is proud to call North Vancouver home, and with riders like Wade Simmons, Bernard Kerr, Remy Metallier, and Lorraine Blancher testing for them, and you know the gear is getting used and abused all over the globe, as well as tweaked and refined constantly. Team Chute Jacket $189.99
The Race Face Team Chute Jacket is constructed of Storm Lite fabric, a 3 ply 10,000mm; 10,000g/m2 laminate fabric with a DWR coating and backed by a lightweight mesh. It’s fully seam-sealed and it has an attached hood with three points of adjustment. There are drawstring adjusters on the waist, hand warmer pockets, and a media player pocket on the chest. A touch of softer fabric around the collar prevents chaffing when the jacket is fully zipped up. Colors: blaze orange (featured) and black. Sizes: small, medium, large, X-large, and XX-large.
The fit was a bit tight in the shoulders on this piece, however, this wasn’t noticeable when riding. It had a perfect sleeve length and good torso length. The hood fit over my helmet without obstructing my peripheral vision at all. It wasn’t possible to use the hood with the main zipper all the way up, and the collar was too tight. The drop seat on the jacket kept the amount of water and mud spraying my shorts to a minimum.
Overall, the Race Face Team Chute Jacket is about as weatherproof as it gets. It shrugged off more than a few test laps in fairly horrific conditions (38F /3C out and spitting bullets). And, while it was a perfect ward against the elements, it still breathed reasonably well. The pit zips are just long enough to vent well without completely opening one up to the elements. It was reasonably easy to put on and remove the jacket, as well as operate the zipper pulls with gloves on. The only negative, other than not being able to fully zip up with the hood deployed, is that this was a relatively bulky jacket and it would be difficult to stuff into a pack when the rain goes away. The hood issue likely is related to the shoulder fit, and both issues would likely be resolved by going up a size, although according to Race Face’s fit guide, size medium is what I should be wearing. Agent Winter Shorts $119.99
Like the Team Chute jacket, the Agent Winter shorts are a fully seam sealed, three layer waterproof short. The outer layer is a polyester fabric with just enough spandex in it to stretch a bit (10%) that is then laminated to a water proof/breathability membrane with a rating of 10,000mm/10,000g/m2. Again, there’s a bit of a mesh to allow the short to glide easily on under layers. The shorts also feature an internal gaiter system for the really miserable days, as well as a high back. Rear vents keep things temperate below and there are Velcro tabs to adjust the waist. There are waterproof zippers for the two pockets. Twin snaps backed up with a Velcro patch for waist closure rounds out the design. Colors black (featured) and flame. Sizes: small, medium, large, and X-large.
The fit was pretty bang on. And while the shorts sound like they have a LOT going on with the internal gaiter, I didn’t notice them when pedaling, nor did they hamper my use of knee guards. I’d have to say that these are the shorts I’ve been dreaming of ever since I first discovered that winter didn’t mean that mountain biking was over. They sneered at rain, sleet, and snow. Even when I banged out a couple test laps on what amounted to be a shallow creek, I stayed dry and comfortable despite my fear that the rear vents would let in water from my bike tire. Basically, these were a put ‘em on and forget about ‘em item that’s tough enough to be worn as a daily driver. Charge Sub Zero Leg Guard $44.99
These are just like the standard Charge Leg Guards from Race Face - a knee warmer type item with a stretchy Kevlar abrasion resistant patch that covers your patella and your upper shin. It’s an abrasion resistant knee guard only as it’s not impact rated at all. The only difference between the two is that the Sub Zeros have brushed polyester inside to help keep you warm. There’s gripper silicon at either end to keep them in place on your leg. Color: black. Sizes: small, medium. large, and X-large.
Why wear something like this? Simple: there’s very little to insulate the tendons and ligaments in the knees when it’s cold. Adding a knee warmer or leg warmer when it’s cold out is common sense. If that’s not your style, one can wear actual knee guards to keep your knees warm; but when you’re headed out for a wet two-hour pedal, something that burly can chafe you raw in a hurry. And when it’s really cold, even something lightweight like the G-form or Race Face’s own Indy knee guards can be uncomfortably stiff.
Keep in mind that these are really only for technical XC rides as they have absolutely zero impact resistance. But they are perfect for helping to prevent shredded knees if you have a tendency to kiss the dirt every now and again when it’s sloppy out. Men’s Team Chute Jacket $189.99
I tested the Race Face Men’s Team Chute jacket in a Blaze Orange size small as Race Face doesn’t offer a women’s riding jacket. I would say the jacket fit me decently, but it was noticeably loose in the shoulders and chest and tight around my hips when pulled down. If you look at the Race Face fit chart online, you can see that the men’s size small, while close to the women’s size medium, is larger in the chest and smaller in the hip measurement as compared to women’s medium. With a hydration pack on this became a non-issue, so overall, I think it was the correct size for me, given that Race Face doesn’t currently make a women’s jacket, but I believe that adding a women’s specific jacket to their clothing line would likely be well received.
During testing, right away I was impressed with how warm this jacket kept me, even when the temperature dipped below 30F (-1C). The extra weight of the jacket along with the well-designed hood effectively blocked the frigid Columbia River Gorge winds (during the winters here in the Gorge, wind chill is a constant presence and directly impacts our winter riding). The down side to the heavy weight of the jacket was I did warm up quickly on climbs. However, it was easy to vent and I never had to remove it. Overall, the burly design of the Chute appeared to be impenetrable to winter forces and the Blaze Orange adds a nice, blinding touch for those who tend to get lost in the woods.Women’s Khyber Short $89.99
The Race Face Women’s Khyber short is a heavy-duty short, with a 14” inseam, zippered front fly with dual snap closure and Velcro reinforcement, double reinforced seams, hand pockets, zippered thigh vents, DWR-coated fabric and a waterproof membrane. Race Face states: “Certainly the burliest women’s short in the Race Face collection, the Khyber Short is recommended for aggressive riding when extra abrasion resistance and durability is preferred.” Colors: orange, black, lime, and blue (featured). Sizes: X-small, small, medium, large, and X-large
Like the Dakine shorts, I have spent a good deal of time riding and racing in the Khyber shorts in a wide range of weather conditions. The shorts are comfortable and stylish and Race Face has a nice selection of colours available. The size medium runs a bit large, but is designed to be a relaxed, loose fit. Given the robust material, the short has very little stretch, so choose sizing carefully. The longer inseam and wide hem allowed for the short to fit easily over my knee guards. Ventilation provided by the zippered thigh vents worked effectively and I have personally never noticed a breathability issue on these shorts, even during an eight-hour day of pedalling under the summer sun.
I do recommend wearing knee guards of some type with these, as the inner lining tends to irritate the top of my knee when I am on long rides without knee protection. The DWR-coating ensured that the water beaded on the surface of the short and maintained its waterproof capacity during testing. Personally, I found these to be a comfortable and stylish short as well as extremely functional for winter riding conditions.
calls Scotland home. And anyone who thinks Scottish weather is all lollypops and gumdrops needs to wake the f-k up. Scottish weather is served up fresh off the North Sea and it’s the kind of stuff that will make strong men (and women) cry. Even in summer, the weather can take a turn to the biblical like few places on earth. Endura will assert that they place function over style, but they’ve started to add a bit more flair in their line, while continuing to adhere to their practical Scottish roots.MT500 Waterproof Jacket II $299.99
Like the Race Face Team Chute Jacket, Endura's MT500 Waterproof Jacket II features a fully seam sealed construction, utilizing a three-layer laminate fabric called Exoshell60 which has a waterproof/breathability rating of 18,000mm/64000g/m2 making it by far the most waterproof/breathable fabric used in any of the clothing in this feature. The jacket also featured both pit zips and hand warmer pockets that double as vents, as well as a Napoleon pocket (with an integrated goggle wipe) for media or other items that don’t like the wet. There are also cordura patches on the shoulders to guard against wear from pack straps. The sleeves feature an internal cuff with thumb loops as well as an adjustable cuff on the outside of the sleeve itself. The hood is 3D adjustable and can be easily rolled up out of the way. The waist is also adjustable to keep the elements at bay. In short, there’s a LOT going on with the MT500 Jacket! Colors: black, yellow (featured). Sizes: small, medium, large, and X-large.
The size medium jacket fit me perfectly; it was roomy enough to allow another layer underneath, but not so roomy that I felt adrift in the jacket. The hood fit over the helmet with the zipper all the way up and there was no binding with the hood/helmet combo, even with a hydration pack on, although the hood blocked some of my peripheral vision.
I wore this in some fairly nasty weather, and it’s safe to say that this is the kind of jacket one could almost comfortably venture out into a hurricane with. The breathability was unbelievable. On extended climbs, both the pocket vents and the pit zips allowed for core cooling without sacrificing too much defense against whatever Mother Nature was throwing at me. The inner cuff with the thumb loops also helped keep the elements away from me, and all the zippers could easily be used with gloves on. Additionally, the jacket (despite the inner cuffs) could be put on or taken off relatively easily with gloves on. The safety yellow color made sure I wasn’t going to sneak up on anyone, but it is available in black is the new black, too. This was a relatively heavy jacket (you can’t pack this many features into a jacket and keep it featherweight), but if you ever plan on riding in a hurricane, this is your ticket. MT500 Waterproof Pant II $199.99
Like the jacket, Endura's MT500 Waterproof Pant II is a fully seam sealed pant constructed from Exoshell60 three ply fabric. It’s light, breathes insanely well, and has Cordura panels on the high wear areas. It also has reflective logos for those midnight runs to the cold beer store. There are no vents anywhere on the pants, and they are “Click fast” compatible to Endura’s own liner shorts. Colors: black. Sizes: small, medium, large, and X-large.
The fit on the MT500 Waterproof Pant II was just as perfect as their MT500 Jacket. The waist only has elastic to hold it in place (no waist tabs or belt loops), but they stayed put just fine. There are mid-calf side zips on the lower leg to allow pulling the pants on or off over riding shoes. Otherwise, with lightweight knee guards (G-form), they were non-binding and felt, well, as if I were a bit naked, really.
I’ve never been a fan of pants for riding. Most of the time it makes me feel as if I’m riding in pajamas. And, cold weather pants usually breathe about as well as your average garbage bag, but these completely changed my mind. They were light, breathed insanely well despite the lack of vents, and repelled the slop on the trail the way garlic repels vampires. And by breathed insanely well, I mean I did nearly an hour-long climb in conditions that alternated between sleet and rain and back again and they kept me warm without stewing me in my own sweat. I am now officially a fan. Women’s Singletrack Jacket $169.99
The Endura Women’s Singletrack jacket is a fully seam-sealed 2.5-layer waterproof /breathable material jacket that is designed with pit zip vents, a roll away hood, adjustable cuffs and hems, and reflective trim on the back. The jacket has two “hand warmer” pockets and a front chest pocket into which my iPhone (or flask) fit easily. Colors: purple, red (featured). Sizes: X-small, small, medium, large.
The size medium jacket had an overall roomy but comfortable fit. In short order, I could tell that this jacket was perfectly designed for riding in fall and winter conditions. It was one of the heavier jackets in the bunch and included a 100% seam-sealed waterproof rating. With that in mind, I put it through the gamut of winter riding conditions, including an, “I want to snow but think I will hail
” storm, followed by intense, pouring rain.
On the colder test rides, I wore a base layer, riding jersey and flannel top under the jacket without any issues. The sleeve and torso lengths were a good fit and the hood pulled up easily over my helmet. The adjustable waistband kept the jacket snug and a slight drop seat prevented water or mud from finding its way down the shorts via gaper gap. Breathability was decent, and when I overheated on the climbs, simply opening the pit zips effectively cooled me off. Overall, I was impressed with the ability of the jacket to withstand foul weather while retaining a stylish appearance and functional design. Women’s MT500 Spray Baggy Short $129.99
The Endura Women’s MT500 Spray Baggy Shorts are designed for riding on Scottish trails... need I say more? Aside from the lightweight, seam-sealed panels, the shorts have a stretch waistband with integral belt, zipped front pockets and thigh vents, and hem adjusters. Colors: black. Sizes: X-small, small, medium, large.
Much like the Singletrack Jacket, the MT500 Spray Baggy shorts were tested in horrid conditions. The shorts are solid black in color with a faint hexagon design on the hip panel. With the stretch waistband and integral belt, I would say the shorts run slightly large with the medium size being “baggy” on me. Looking at the sizing guide, I would be inclined to order a small without question. The MT500s have a 13-inch inseam that provided ample coverage for my legs and fit well over the top of my knee guards.
I spent a large amount of time climbing in these shorts while testing and I never utilized the thigh vents. Breathable? That’s left to be determined once the warmer temperatures arrive, but no complaints during fall/winter testing. As part of the testing, the Endura jacket and shorts and I took a trip to the local car wash for some pressure washing. I can honestly say that I walked away from a good 4-5 minutes of intermittent jet washing with only wet legs and socks. After that, the jacket and shorts were officially added to my list of “monsoon-proof” items.
GORE APPARELGore Apparel
is reputed to make the broadest range of clothing for cycling in inclement weather. They claim to focus on performance for each piece, as well as utilizing the most appropriate fabric possible for each item’s designed usage, and they pretty much wrote the book on waterproof and windproof breathable fabrics. Power Trail Gore-Tex Active Jacket $299.99
The Power Trail Gore-Tex® Active Jacket utilizes Gore’s Active Membrane technology. Not sure what exactly that means in terms of waterproof and breathability numbers, as that information is not on their site, but it’s easy to surmise that it’s designed for high-output exercise. Unlike most other jackets tested, there is no venting other than opening the zipper. There is a small stash pocket near the cuff of the left sleeve, as well as a semi-concealed Napoleon style front zip pocket on the left breast for media and smaller items. There are two cinch cords for the hood and for the waist, but no roll-up feature for the hood. Colors: red, blizzard blue (featured), black. Sizes: small, medium, large, X-large, XX-large.
The Power Trail Gore-Tex® Active Jacket was the only jacket sent to me in a size large. The fit was good, but still fairly form-fitting - think XC cut vs. a trail riding cut - so if you are inclined to normally go for a size medium jacket, I might recommend stepping up a size. Sleeve and torso length were bang on otherwise. The cuffs, though, were fairly tight—I was unable to remove the jacket without first removing my gloves. The hood was non-binding when deployed over my helmet, even with a pack on. There’s a drop in the seat to help keep trail debris off your bum.
Despite my misgivings about the lack of pit zips for venting during high-output riding, I was impressed by the overall breathability of the Power Trail Jacket. As for water repellency - it’s Gore-Tex® - of course it’s waterproof! The lack of a 3D hood adjustment, combined with no way to roll the hood up, was a bit disappointing, as it flapped somewhat at higher speeds while descending. But, the adjusters for both were easy to operate with gloves on. This jacket is easily lightweight enough to be stuffed into one’s pack “just in case” year ‘round, not just for fall and winter riding. Power Trail Wind Stopper Soft Shell 2-in-1 Pants $229.99
The Power Trail Wind Stopper® Soft shell 2-in-1 Pant are constructed primarily of Gore Wind Stopper® fabric with wear resistant patches on the butt and inner thighs. It has a partially elastic waistband with grippy rubber on the inside of the waistband but no waist tabs or drawstring to fine-tune the fit. There is a cargo pocket on the outside of the right thigh. It’s touted as baggy short upper meets with a wind proof tights lower. Colors: brilliant blue/black, and black (featured). Sizes: small, medium, large (featured), and X-large.
The fit on these was as advertised - it’s basically a tight's lower and a baggy short's upper combined into a single garment. As such the fit was snug on my lower thighs (not constricting, but noticeably snug) while the waist was disconcertingly loose, particularly with no waist tabs, drawstring, or belt loops to help secure them in place. These, too, were a size large whereas all the other clothing tested was size medium; if you are considering this or any of the other Gore items, it might be wise to go up a size vs. what you normally wear.
For a cold, windy day with minimal rain and no mud, these pants would be ideal. But in the Pacific Northwest, it’s infrequent that the weather is cool enough to require pants like these without the rain coming in sideways, or mud like peanut butter coating the trails. Additionally, without any way to fasten the pants in place on my waist, when standing out of the saddle for hard climbing or descending, they began to work their way off my hips, making it entirely too easy to hook the saddle. Consequently, my lower legs and my butt got soaked from water coming off my wheels during testing. This got noticeably worse as the seat of the pants got more and more saturated with water and splattered with mud, forcing me to stop occasionally in order to hike the pants up. And, since the Power Trail Wind Stopper® soft shell 2-in-1 Pant's lower leg is basically a tight, shoes must be removed to either pull the pants on or to remove them.
While I can’t fault the warmth or the wind protection offered by the Gore Power Trail WS soft shell 2- in-1 pant, the lack of any kind of waist retention and the lack of any kind of water resistance killed them for me. Something else from the Gore line or from this test series would likely be more appropriate for riding in the wet slop we typically find here, but if you ride in snow or just cold and dry conditions, these might work for you. Power Trail Gore-Tex Active shorts $159.99
The Power Trail Gore-Tex® Active Short is a no frills over-short, sewn from Gore’s Active membrane for use when the rain and snow are doing their worst. There’s a small key pocket on the inside of the left waistband, but otherwise, it’s just a simple short that can be secured with a drawstring. It has a 14” inseam and a reflective logo on the side. There is no fly or exterior pockets. Color: black. Sizes: small, medium, large, X-large.
Think of this as a poncho for your legs. That’s about how it fits. It’s basically something to pull out of your pack when the shit’s hitting the fan, weather-wise - but for a ride all day item, it’s not ideal. It’s plenty roomy and sheds rain and mud quite well, though, and breathes adequately, but I’d hesitate to purchase this as a daily driver short. However, it is the perfect item to keep on hand if your ride might take a turn for the backside of Mother Nature.Element Gore-Tex Active Lady Jacket $219.99
The Gore Bike Wear Element Gore-Tex® Active Lady Jacket, similar to the pants, is a “versatile and lightweight Gore-Tex® Active Shell cycling jacket for the female recreational cyclist. The women's jacket provides comfortable fit and reliable rain and wind protection.” The jacket has two side pockets, wrist Velcro adjustments and a Velcro fastening for a separate hood that was not included in the review. Colors: neon yellow/white, ruby red/lumi orange, waterfall/ice blue, fresh green/neon yellow, black, jazzy pink/blaze orange, jazzy pink/magenta, blizzard blue/brilliant blue (featured). Sizes: X-small, small, medium, large, X-large, XX-large.
This jacket was one of two I tested that was form fitting (i.e. an XC cut) and it lacked much in the way of a drop seat to protect me from water and debris coming off the rear tire. The size medium cut fit me perfectly in sleeve and torso length, and I was able to take the jacket on and off easily over my riding gloves. This jacket was one of the lightest weight ones tested, and like the Pearl Izumi, while it lacked a built in hood, it still repelled the rain and cold effectively. But, that should be expected from a company with “Gore” in its name.
While the jacket lacks built in venting, I think the lighter construction as well as the breathability of the fabric made it such that I didn’t have any noticeable issues with overheating during my test rides. Overall, I would say the jacket is well designed and ready to withstand most winter riding conditions, although with the minimal drop seat, I’d avoid extended outings in creek beds and mud bogs.Element Gore-Tex Active Lady Pants $199.99
Gore Bike Wear describes the Element Gore-Tex® Active Lady pants as a “lightweight and multifunctional Gore-Tex® Active over pants for the female recreational cyclist.” The pants are made of a soft material which is comfortable and offers reliable protection from rain and wind. The pants have a drawstring waist in the front and elastic back. The inseam on the pants (regardless of the sizing) is a consistent 31.5” – a tad bit long for my legs, but they worked fine with the Velcro ankle adjustments. The pants have one small mesh zipper pocket on the backside and a small reflective logo below the knees.Colors: black (featured) and black/yellow. Sizes: X-small, small, medium, large, X-large, XX-large.
Testing the “lady” pants coincided with my first time wearing pants mountain biking (I’m more of a shorts and leg warmer type). I was pleasantly surprised at how effective they were at blocking the wind and cold, and the Gore-Tex® material did its job keeping me dry. The Active lady Pants fit loosely and comfortably, and slid on and off over my riding shoes easily.
During testing, the pants had a tendency to slide down lower on my hips, catching on my seat on occasion. I tried pulling the drawstring tighter, but there’s no cinch and without knotting it tightly (potentially difficult to undo with gloves on
), they continued to loosen whenever I was climbing or descending out of my saddle. Given that the companies sent the sizes we requested for these reviews, I am inclined to think a size small would have fit my frame better, but a simple cinch cord tab on the waist would have also helped. Overall, I was impressed with the lightweight functionality of the pants and will consider adding pants to my mountain biking wardrobe once my leg warmers have been trashed beyond repair.
PEARL IZUMIPearl Izumi
is based in Boulder, Colorado, but has its roots going back over fifty years to Japan. The Boulder-based enterprise has been the nexus of Pearl Izumi design since 1989 and seeing as how the weather coming off the Flatiron Mountains a stone’s throw away from HQ can translate into snow in May, it’s safe to say that Pearl Izumi knows a thing or two about making clothing that performs in foul weather. Men’s MTB WRX Jacket $175
Pearl Izumi Men’s MTB WRX Jacket is their go-to trail riding jacket for wet and rainy conditions. It features venting slits under the arms as well as a vent on the back of the hood, neither of which can be seal closed, but they are shielded from direct exposure to rain or snow. The MTB Barrier fabric is touted as wind and water protective with a waterproof/breathability rating of 10k/30k. There are no cinch cords for the hood or the waist - rather, the jacket is designed with a clingy, stretchy material around the edge of the hood and a snug fit at the waist. As a bonus, the arms are roomy enough to easily allow the use of elbow guards if needed, and the sleeves feature abrasion-resistant patches right where you would need them. Colors: black, citronella (featured). Sizes: small, medium, large, X-large, XX-large.
This is another great fitting jacket. The arms are just long enough, the torso length is perfect, and there’s enough room for an extra layer if need be. It’s more of an XC style of fit, particularly as it tapers at the waist, but it’s not restrictive. The hood fits easily over a helmet with the zipper all the way up, and it stayed in place without restricting movement (even when wearing a hydration pack).There’s a decent drop seat on these, so the possibility of debris finding its way inside the shorts is minimized.
I found the MTB WRX Jacket to be an extremely well thought out piece - there’s everything you need and nothing extra, and what was missing, like the hood and waist cinches, wasn’t missed when worn. The lack of hood adjusters for use with the hood/helmet interface was actually kind of nice; the fit of the hood wasn't as tailored as jackets that had 3D adjusters, but then again there was no fumbling around for the tabs or pulls when the hood was deployed, either. The breathability of the WRX jacket, with its fixed venting slits was ok, I never put in any really hard efforts that overwhelmed the pit and hood vents. It was also lightweight enough that it would easily go into a pack for year 'round adventure riding instead of being just a fall/winter piece. Men’s MTB WxB Short $100
The Men’s MTB WxB Short features a 2.5 layer waterproof/breathable laminate with a woven polyester face. The waist is elastic, with hook and loop adjusters to fine-tune the fit, while the generous leg openings are designed to fit over knee guards. There are no pockets and there is no fly. The waterproof/breathability factor on these is a reasonable, 5k/5k. Colors: black. Sizes: small, medium, large, X-large.
The fit was pretty much right on; I had to do very little fiddling with the waist tabs to get the fit perfect. The fit was great, and for the duration of this test, the shorts worked exceptionally well at repelling mud, sleet, and assorted other trail debris. This is a shell short that is meant to be worn over a liner short, knickers, or tights. It will work ok as a stand-alone short for foul weather rides, but it just doesn’t have the heft or reinforced fabric to be a stand-alone short for day in, day out long rides in nasty conditions. Think of this as more of a go to piece for the days when you want to get out on the trails and it could get nasty vs. something you’d wear when it’s raining sideways and you’re shuttling Fromme with your buddies until someone gets hurt. Women’s MTB Barrier Jacket $80
The Pearl Izumi Women’s MTB Barrier Jacket is a lightweight full-length centered zip jacket with a trail-specific fit. The Elite Barrier fabric provides superior wind protection and water resistance and the jacket is designed with abrasion resistant panels on the outside of the arms for durability. This is more of a wind shell than a full on rain jacket, and the construction echoes that: the body is 100% polyester without a waterproof/breathable laminate and there is no DWR treatment. Color: deep lake (featured). Sizes: X-small, small, medium, large, X-large, XX-large.
This was the lightest weight jacket I tested and along the same lines as the Gore Bike Wear jacket - and similarly, it had an above the waist cut with drop seat and no hood.
Based on the product description, I chose to test the jacket on cold, mildly damp days and avoided the kind of weather that calls for a mask and snorkel. Overall, the jacket had a nice, true-to-size fit that did not restrict my upper body movements and offered good breathability during prolonged climbing. The extra abrasion resistant panels found on the outside of the jacket arms are a nice added feature. I will be packing this jacket for those cool evening rides on the central California coast when the fog rolls in and the temperatures drop. Women’s Elevate Shorts $90
Pearl Izumi Women’s Elevate shorts are constructed from durable four-way stretch fabric and designed for aggressive trail riding. They have a relaxed fit, with a snap front closure and zip fly, two side pockets, one pocket on the rear waistband, and a 13” inseam (landing just below the top of my knee). The shorts have a water resistant DWR treatment and are light and breathable. Colors: dark purple, belgian block (featured). Sizes: X-small, small, medium, large, X-large, XX-large.
The Elevate shorts were true to size and fit. Even with a slightly tapered hem, the shorts fit over various knee guards that I wore during the test rides without any gap between short and guards. The light and dark color blocking design was a nice variation from the solid color shorts I typically sport. The cut and design of the shorts make it an attractive and flattering clothing item. Given the timeline on testing these products, and an effort on my part to not crash on the frozen dirt, I didn’t get a chance to see how the lighter material holds up post “crash and burn,” but I imagine that the four-way stretch fabric would hold up well.
Overall, I was impressed with these shorts and while I would not choose to wear them on the monsoon days when only an idiot or a product tester would be out on the trails, I would recommend them for anyone looking for a solid riding short that is designed to handle aggressive riding and inclement weather.
ROYAL RACINGRoyal Racing
was founded by riders - Steve Peat among them - who were tired of modified moto cross clothing that just didn’t work right for the needs of the gravity oriented mountain biker. And, they’ve been evolving their product line ever since, with input from world class riders like Peaty and Garett Buehler. Matrix Jacket $139.95
The Royal Matrix Jacket features a typical three-ply 10k mm/10k m/g2 laminate fabric throughout the body of the jacket with two venting pockets (the website says three, but that must be a typo) as well as waterproof zippers, a 3D adjustable hood and an adjustable waist. This is a fixed hood with no roll up stowage feature. There is mesh throughout the inside of the jacket that allows smooth flow of the shell over inside layers. Colors: black, lime (featured). Sizes: small, medium, large, X-large, XX-large.
This was a surprisingly roomy jacket, but then again, this shell is supposed to have a free-ride fit, so a looser fit overall vs. a clinging, XC fit. The hood easily fits over a trail helmet with the main zipper all the way up. There is reasonable drop to the back of the coat, so the possibility of trail debris getting down the back of the shorts is minimal.
For the most part, this was a great piece. This was a warm jacket that was absolutely bombproof in heavy precipitation. The fit on the hood was fantastic; it could easily be deployed even with the front zipper all the way up, and while a bit of the hood was visible in my peripheral vision, it wasn’t distracting. The pockets were located right where I needed them, and the fit was roomy enough for easy movement without being too loose - even though this was easily the roomiest jacket I tested. Adjusting the hood or the waist with gloves on was a snap.
My only two complaints are that the jacket breathed poorly despite the breathability rating. On my 30 minute pedal-up while testing, I quickly overheated, even with the venting pockets and the main zip wide open. Additionally, the cuffs on the sleeves were tight enough that I couldn’t remove the jacket without removing my gloves first. I’d say that for shuttle riding, the Matrix would be the cat’s meow, but for long, hard pedals, it might not work as well as other pieces I tested. It was also the heaviest piece I tested - not the jacket to stuff into your pack as a “just in case” item on an iffy day. Storm Short $99.95
The Royal Storm Short is straight on order from the UK: as such it’s as water tight as a frog’s ass. The three-ply, four-way stretch fabric features the by now typical 10k mm/10k g/m2 waterproof/breathability rating. Waist adjustments are handled by a ratchet tab. Logos are reflective and the pockets feature waterproof zippers. Colors: black. Sizes: small, medium, large, X-large, XX-large.
The Royal Storm Short was a wee bit more snug than the other shorts tested, but otherwise great. There’s plenty enough room for knee guards too. The back isn’t as high as the Race Face shorts, but I never did get that dreaded spray of cold misery down my backside from a gap between short and jacket.
These shorts are a fantastic riding short that will keep the rain, mud, slush, snow and anything else on the trail from saturating your inner short and giving your nether regions a case of the cold and clammies. I tested them in absolutely miserable weather and came away dry as a bone. They breathed as advertised, as well. These are definitely not an over short to break out in case of foul weather, either; but rather a ride all day, rinse, and repeat short similar to the Race Face Winter Agent shorts.
Visit the Winter Gear gallery for full format and additional images
Colin Meagher and Nikki HollatzRiders pictured:
Tyler Horton and Nikki HollatzImages:
@dakinenews / @Endura
/ @Royal-Racing*All pricing is in USD