Well, it’s that time of year again: the skies alternate between a postcard-perfect robin’s egg blue with that bit of a crisp chill in the air, and soul-sucking gray with arctic winds driving sleet sideways. No—this isn’t Quebec cold, nor even New Brunswick kind of cold. But let’s face it, the vast majority of wintertime mountain biking happens in areas that don’t have conditions akin to the Rebel Alliance hunkering down on the planet Hoth. That’s not to exclude the denizens of fat biking, but that particular offshoot of mountain biking has its own particular needs that differ radically from the gear reviewed here. If you’re rolling on 5" tires in the wilds of Minnesota, Lapland, or the frozen North, this review of “winter” mountain bike clothing probably won’t be your cup of tea—just complain in the comments as per the usual and then look elsewhere.
With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s talk fall/winter mountain biking apparel, shall we? We have kits from Endura, Maloja, Pearl Izumi, Dainese, Fox, Specialized, and Alpinestars to keep your off-season to an absolute minimum.
The path to enjoying a fine and pleasant misery begins simply: a wicking base layer. Then a mid layer that insulates a bit and breathes/wicks as well. Finally a softshell or hardshell outer layer (a softshell will repel water and is generally windproof/breathable; a hardshell is waterproof/windproof/breathable-ish). Top that 3-scoop sundae off with accessories to keep digits from turning into popsicles, and then add sprinkles as necessary: winter shoes, skull cap, vest, arm warmers, knee warmers, etc.
This review is primarily focused on the double scoop in the sundae of winter riding: the outer layers. And since conditions can vary anywhere from pleasant if brisk autumn riding to “baby, it’s cold outside” with biting wind and a hearty dash of snow where I ride this time of year, just about anyone who wants to slap some rubber on the dirt from now 'til April in the Northern hemisphere can find something below that’s ideal for where they live and ride. Except the fat bikers. Sorry.
This Scottish based company needs no introduction to anyone who’s ever contemplated winter riding and actually shopped for proper gear. Endura may not have the sexiest looking designs out there, but the sheer functionality of their garments is without question. But then again, they are based in a country that gets hammered with weather off the North Atlantic, and that kind of crucible as a testing ground will breed excellence.
About the tester: Colin Meagher stands 5’9”/176 cm and weighs 165lbs/75 kg with a 32-33”/82cm waist, a 40”/101cm chest, and a 30.5”/77.5 cm inseam. He typically wears a M or L glove, depending on the manufacturer, and a size M helmet.
The Endura Singletrack Jacket II and MT500 Waterproof Short II, shown with the Giro Pivot 2.0 glove and the Shimano MT7 Gore-tex winter boots.SingleTrack Jacket II
Colors: Claret, Camouflage (tested), and Navy
Tested in 42°F and heavy rain.
The SingleTrack Jacket II is (ta-da!) and update over the venerable SingleTrack Jacket (which is currently still on offer on Endura’s website for the exact same price as the SingleTrack Jacket II. Go figure). As near as I can tell, both jackets are cut the same and share the same construction details: relaxed fit, a roll away hood that fits over the helmet, pit zips, adjustable cuff and hem, reflective bits on the backside for low light visibility, Napoleon pocket with a media port, and hand warmer pockets. They differ only in that version II breathes better: it’s constructed of Exoshell20™ 3-layer fabric with a waterproof/breathable rating of 10k/20k; the original uses a 2.5 layer fabric that is rated 10k/10k.
Details of the Singletrack Jacket II: a stowaway hood that easily deploys over a helmet, a plush microfleece collar, a well-appointed drop seat, and pit zips.
I test drove this jacket in size M. The fit was perfect—roomy enough to add a layer but not so roomy as to flap like a tent in a hurricane at high speed. The pit zips were easy to reach and the hood deployed without having to futz around much. It wasn’t really cold so I can’t comment on the hand warmer pockets other than they are easy to get to. The Napoleon pocket is waterproof so your electronics are safe there.
When I tested the Endura clothing it was raining hard enough to consider loading up the Noah’s Ark play structure at the local church. I’m really not sure how hard it was coming down other than heavy enough that I felt like a salmon going upstream on the climb trail and the two creek crossings—normally pedal deep at most—were deep and fast enough that I opted to connect the dots with some rocks to cross rather than ride through them. Overall, the jacket kept me dry, inside and out, although the face fabric wetted out near the end my test ride, which impaired breathability somewhat; my guess is the DWR was substandard on this sample as I’ve never had an issue with Endura’s DWR treatment before. But I treated it with Nikwax TX Direct and sorted that out in short order. Overall it’s a great fitting, great performing jacket, albeit not the lightest one I tested. But you get a lot for the price. MT 500 Waterproof II Short
Color: Black (tested).
The MT 500 Waterproof II Short is constructed from Exoshell60™ waterproof/breathable fabric, which offers a mind-blowing 18k/64k waterproof breathability rating. There are a few waterproof stretch panels to aid with movement and the seat is reinforced for durability. There are no front pockets but it does have a rear zipped pocket for essential items that doubles as a stash pocket for the short itself. The waist is a simple elastic waist with a drawstring to cinch it tight. It has reflective patches on the body for safety when riding at night. It does not come with a liner short but it is compatible with any of Endura’s “Clickfast™” liner shorts.
Details of the MT500 Waterproof Short II: Waist adjustment via drawstring, Clickfast (Endura's liner short retention system) compatibility, mesh lining to glide over under layers, and a hanger hook.
The short fit nicely out of the box, that Goldilocks just right, thanks to the elastic waistband, and cinched easily for a comfortable, secure fit. The length was a tad long but fitted so it wasn’t inclined to flap about at all, rather it just offers a little bit more coverage for keeping the wet stuff out. I missed not having stash pockets in front, but got over that soon enough.
As mentioned above, it was absolutely biblical rainfall when testing but I stayed warm and dry inside and out, minus a wee bit of moisture that soaked my knee guards—likely that was simply spray coming off my wheels, but that spray never infiltrated to soak my liner shorts. The body of the short felt boxy at first, like a crisply starched dress shirt; but as the fabric broke in from pedaling, that feeling dissipated. I never felt the least bit restricted in my movements either, and the fit over my knee guards was decent. Overall, I have zero complaints on the fit or function of these shorts—the performance is brilliant. But I do wish they had a bit more style to them vs. the somewhat stark, utilitarian vibe that they currently have. But then again, riding in the rain is a get shit done kind of thing for most people, not a fashion parade. Die Germans make rad stuff is basically how I translate Maloja (pronounced Mah-loy-ah). Maloja was originally founded out of a desire to ride mountain bikes in something other than lycra or the heavy duty free ride gear available when they were founded back in 2005. Their offerings tick all the boxes for excellence in the kind of conditions typically found between November and April where I ride.
Maloja's LauternM. Snow Jacket and OsanM. Freeride Pants shown with Giro's Pivot 2.0 glove and Shimano's MW7 Gore-tex winter boots.LauternM.Snow Jacket
Colors: Wood, Glacier, Vintage Red, and Waterfall (tested)
Tested at 33°F with heavy snow (over an inch an hour coming down).
The LauternM.Snow jacket is a pretty high tech piece of apparel, make no mistake. It’s 100% waterproof (28k) thanks to the 2.5 layer Gore-tex Paclite™ fabric and taped seams. But it also breathes well with a 15.000 g/m2/24hr rating. There’s a key pocket, water repellent zippers, and reflective details for visibility when riding after dark. It has a Napolean pocket on the left breast, a nice drop seat to keep back tire spackle infiltration to a minimum, and a cut at the cuff that overlaps the gloves at the back of the hand.
The Maloja LauternM. Snow Jacket features reflective bits on the body of the jacket for visibility in the dark, a great drop seat to keep debris from where you really don't want them, a cuff designed to overlap the wrist but keep fabric bunching to a minimum, and velcro adjustable sleeves to tailor the fit at the wrist.
The size M version of this jacket I tested fit pretty well. It’s a regular cut but felt like a semi-fitted cut: I wore it with a base layer, mid layer without the jacket being restrictive in any way, but had I wanted to add an insulating layer of any kind it might have been a bit too snug for my comfort level (Maloja recommends sizing up if you prefer a looser fit for semi-fitted and regular cut apparel). I prefer more venting options than just opening the main zipper and I like hand pockets, but at the same time, I really appreciated the lightweight that this streamlined jacket had without those bells and whistles.
I took this for a spin in pretty full on conditions: I literally watched the trail disappear under a blanket of heavy snow, leaving a track over an inch deep in the fresh stuff by the end of a one hour rip around my local trail. During that ride, I really appreciated the jacket’s ability to flip the middle finger at the heavy precipitation, as well as the breathability of the Paclite fabric. I think I’d have appreciated it a bit more with pit zips on the steeper parts of the climb but overall I was impressed with the fit, water shedding, and breathability.OsanM.Freeride Pants
Colors: Wood, Charcoal (tested), and Mountain Lake
This pant is a premium foul weather offering. The main body is Stormshell™: a three-layer, 4-way stretch fabric that is reasonably water resistant (with taped seams at more critical areas), very breathable, and completely windproof. There are two zippered mesh vents on the thighs, a single main zipper pocket on the right hip for essentials (credit card, keys, etc). The waist is adjustable via tabs but it has belt loops if you care to fly that way, and there are Velcro tabs at the ankle to fine tune the feel around your shoes. A bit of reflective highlights on the calf for safety in low light round out this premium pant.
Details on the OsanM. Freeride Pants: the choice of belt loops and waist tab adjusters, and leg vents with a bit of elastic to keep them from gaping too wide when pedaling or moving aggressively on the bike.
I like riding in shorts, but when it comes to staying dry in miserable conditions, pants win hands down. Why? The pant overlaps the cuff typically found on a proper winter MTB shoe making it that much harder for rain, sleet, or wet snow to get into your shoes and popsicle your feet. Extended riding in the kind of slop that makes even Belgian Cyclocross mechanics wince will get shrugged off by a pair of quality foul weather pants.
Basically, this is a DWR treated softshell pant with a hardshell feel. The size M version I tried fit great: they’re a bit long in the leg, but I have short legs, so no worries. Even though I like two front pockets, the single pocket on these pants is really all you need: it’s got plenty of room for a car key, a phone, and a credit card. The thigh vents are easy to reach, and while the ankle cuff is too tight to pull on over a shoe, it’s roomy enough that you can use it with a more full on winter boot without restriction but the Velcro tabs on the cuff will allow one to cinch it down securely over something like Sealskinz or Showers Pass waterproof socks without a gap.
I tried the size OsanM. pants in exactly the kind of conditions that make pants an awesome choice when the shit is hitting the fan: cold, windy, and snowing like a bitch. The DWR coated pants shed the snow easily, the pants breathed well, and despite the gusting wind, I stayed warm and dry. On the steepest portion of the climb trail I opened the leg vents to get a bit more breathability, but otherwise, the Stormshell fabric did its job pretty well. Best part? Getting to the car and being able to swap clothes in the crappy weather without having to waste time in the freezing cold toweling off.Pearl Izumi has been a leading manufacturer of quality cycling apparel since forever, and was one of the first to embrace the movement away from lycra for mountain biking. Based in Boulder, CO their design team is made up of users who ride hard and design clothing to match how they ride.
Pearl Izumi's Launch Thermal Jersey and Summit Shorts shown with the Summit Glove and Shimano's MW7 Gore-tex winter boots. Men’s Launch Thermal Jersey
Colors: Blue Mist/Eclipse Blue (tested), Smoked Pearl/Monument, Black/Veridian Green, Tibetan Red
Tested on a clear day with temperatures right at 44°F.
The Launch Thermal Jersey is a versatile winter weight long sleeve jersey that can be worn alone on cool to cold, dry days (think 45-55 degrees F/7-13 degrees C), or used as an insulating mid-layer under a shell when it’s miserable out. The body is composed of SELECT™ thermal fleece fabric that both wicks and breathes. It has a v-neck collar, a slight drop seat, and a hidden sunglasses wipe. The cuffs feature a nice bit of elasticity to keep the sleeves comfortably in place on your wrist.
Pearl Izumi's Launch Thermal Jersey's microfleece inner lining.
Out of the box the fit of the size M jersey was perfect for me. This was supposed to be a loose fit, and while it wasn’t snug, it wasn’t at all baggy. And just like Nikki, who tested the women’s version of this jersey, I had a tough time finding the “hidden” goggle/glasses wipe. As a matter of fact, it’s so well hidden I never did find it.
This Jersey seems ideal for a variety of temperatures: even though it was in the mid 40s temperature wise, in the sun it felt warmer and in the shade there were patches of ice, but I never really felt too warm or too cold. I really liked the drop seat on the jersey as it was a bit gooey in some of the sun-exposed corners and it worked well to deflect debris from infiltrating my shorts.Men’s Summit Shorts
Colors: Blue Mist (tested), Avocado, Monument Gray, Lime Punch, Mandarin Red, and Black.
The relaxed fit Summit Short is a solid trail short with a 14” inseam from Pearl Izumi and comes in a slew of colors. It has a DWR coated 4-way stretch ripstop main body with reinforced panels in high wear areas. There are two zippered hand pockets. It has a single snap closure reinforced with a Velcro patch and internal waist adjusters for a tailored fit. It comes without a liner short.
Details of the Summit short include an MX inspired closure and an adjustable waist.
I tested the Summit short at the same time as I tested the Launch Thermal jersey. The “relaxed” fit was great; this is supposed to be the same fit as the Launch Short that I tested last spring but the cut of this one is a bit more fitted which had me stoked: I never once hooked the saddle. I also liked the fact that the waist snap fastened via a strap over the zipper ala an MX short; this places waist closure duties on the zipper vs the snap, virtually eliminating any chance of a “wardrobe malfunction”. The 14” inseam is ideal for trail riding but still has enough length to keep gaper gap to a minimum when wearing knee warmers or knee guards.
The short feels lightweight but held up just fine when I slapped hard on the ice that was hiding in the shade during testing. And there was plenty of wet, gooey glop on sunnier sections of the trail, too, and while that’s not exactly heavy rain, the DWR did just fine in keeping moisture at bay. The shorts played nicely with the 7 iDp transition knee guards worn while testing, too; but I’d hesitate to go with anything heavier duty for the simple reason that despite the relaxed fit of the short, there’s enough of taper at the knees that anything heavier would likely bind on the short. Overall, the fit, combined with the light weight were awesome because they allowed me to forget about what I was wearing and focus on riding; but I’d look elsewhere for a dedicated foul weather short. Dainese’s humble beginnings can be traced to the vision of a 24-year-old motorcycle enthusiast named Lino Dainese who in 1972 was inspired to start making better motorcycling gear. Now the company’s mantra is as being “dedicated to producing the most effective safety solutions in every arena where athletes continually push the human body and mind to surpass their prior achievements. From our motorcycle racing origins to alpine skiing, mountain biking, competitive sailing and outer space.”
The Dainese AWA Jacket and AWA Shorts shown with Giro's Pivot 2.0 glove and Shimano's MW7 Gore-tex winter boots.Dainese AWA Jacket
Colors: Gray (tested)
The AWA Jacket is crafted from a 2-way stretch fabric with a 10k/10k waterproof breathable laminate. There are two zippered pockets on the torso that also create non-secured stash pockets on the inside of the jacket. There are no pit-zips; instead venting is handled via laser cut holes under the arms and a laser cut strip of holes that run across the shoulders. The hood is permanently attached. There are shock cord adjusters on either side of the waist, and a slight drop seat. The cuffs are cut longer over the back of the wrist to help prevent moisture from penetrating when riding.
The Dainese AWA Jacket's hood fits under the helmet, and the jacket features a bit of laser cut venting under the arms, but the lion's share of venting is handled by laser cut back vent holes under a flap of fabric that runs across the back just below the shoulders
The size L that I tested fit well. Like many cycling jackets it’s cut to fit best in a riding position; when standing, the fabric tends to bunch in the shoulders; but when on a bike, the jacket feels natural. I liked the easy access to the pockets and the shock cords at the waist allow quick adjustments to the fit at the waist. This jacket had a comfortingly solid, bombproof feeling to it.
In heavy weather, I found the AWA jacket kept water off of me well, but it didn’t breathe quite as well as I wanted on steep, sustained climbs, despite the cooler temperatures when testing (37F/4C). Time and time again, I found myself reaching for non-existent pit zips only to have to open the main zip up once again. The hood deploys under the helmet, and functioned a bit like a skull cap, keeping heat in but not restricting movements.
Overall, I liked this jacket a lot, but I think I’d favor it more for shuttle days or days with minimal climbing vs. all day pedal-fests based on how it breathed and its general weight. That heavier construction offers a reassuring durability about it, though, and it shrugged off some fairly nasty weather. Dainese AWA Short
Color: Gray (tested).
The body of the short is composed of a 4-way stretch fabric composed of 86% nylon and 14% spandex. The garment isn’t fully seam sealed but it is DWR coated. There are internal Velcro waist tab adjusters to fine-tune the fit and two zippered pockets on the thighs make for secure storage of valuables. The short has a single snap closure on a half fly with a privacy patch. They have a medium-long inseam that measured 13” on the size L sample shorts I received to test. There is a slight bit more overhang on the front of the knee on the short to allow coverage in the front without bunching of fabric behind the knee.
The Dainese AWA short has a single snap closure, internal adjusters for the waits, and a "privacy" patch for the fly.
The AWA short isn’t available to the public just yet (expect the AWA line to start rolling out in Dec), and as previously mentioned the sample sent to me was a size L. This made it hard to test this garment for fit, as it’s designed for a 34-36” waist according to Dainese’s fit charts and I am a 32/33” waist. Consequently riding in it was a bit like salsa dancing in a tent. From a performance level, the short was tested on a misty/drizzling day with temps around 37°F. Under these conditions, the shorts worked great, even though they don’t have a true waterproof rating. Breathability was solid. The pockets were easy to reach, and the shorts interacted with my knee guards nicely. I got to tour Fox Racing’s HQ in Irvine, CA last year and was blown away. The design studio isn’t just a few people hanging around the sewing machine, so to speak; rather it’s a virtual hive of activity with an army of designers cross-pollinating ideas and concepts. It’s an amazing melting pot that’s breeding some pretty impressive cycling clothing.
The Fox Attack Pro Water Jacket and Attack Pro Water shorts pictured with the Attack Water Glove and Shimano MW7 Gore-tex winter boots. Attack Pro Water Jacket
Colors: Black (tested), dark red
Tested in 39°F and drizzling.
The Attack Pro Water Jacket is Fox’s follow up to last year’s Downpour Pro Jacket but it’s not a retread. It’s definitely got some of the Downpour’s DNA (it still utilizes Truseal™, Fox’s proprietary waterproof/ breathable stretch fabric, and it’s still cut for the riding position) but there are enough improvements in the overall design that it’s definitely a different creature. A better creature.
For starters, the jacket’s waterproof/breathability rating has improved from 10k/10k to 15k/25; that is a significant improvement over the Downpour Pro. Fox has also switched to a more environmentally friendly C6 DWR coating. And Fox has added laser cut venting along the back of the shoulders (protected by a flap) as well as mesh in the pockets to actively channel air through the jacket when things get toasty. Silicone gripper has been added at the top of the shoulders to keep unruly packs from migrating while surfing the local brown pow, and most noticeably, there’s an offset main zipper that lines up diagonally from the right hip to the middle of the neck. The fit at the waist is still fine-tuned via two shock cord adjusters, and like last year, Fox has added Cordura abrasion guards on the elbows. There is no hood.
The Fox Attack Pro water jacket has gobs of ventilation: both laser cut holes across the back (safely tucked under a flap of fabric) and these chest vents with mesh fabric to block spray.
Based on my measurements, Fox sent me a size L jacket to test. Out of the box, the fit was a bit awkward (tight in the shoulders) but once on the trail it fit fine. It was 39F/4C and drizzling when I tested this piece but it repelled water the way turkey bowling will repel a mother in law. I didn’t have a pack on so I can’t testify to the effectiveness of the gripper silicon at keeping one where it belongs, but it seems like a good idea. As to keeping the internal sauna at bay… on the long climb out from the test lap I warmed up enough that I opened the chest vents and opened the main zip a bit, but that simple adjustment saw my core temp stabilize in short order. That offset main zipper is a bit tricky to get started up but it seems to make mid-ride adjustments a bit easier. Not sure if that’s something I’ve ever really cared about previously but now I kinda like it. Not that I’ll toss all my regular zipper jackets into the trash—I’m not really liking the cool-aid that much. But I appreciated how much easier it seemed to be to adjust the zipper while pedaling.
But it's not just ventilation: the Attack Pro Water jacket also features Cordura scuff patches on the elbows, zipper "garages" for the YKK vent zippers and a silicone "grabber" strip atop the shoulders to help keep pack straps in place.
Overall, I really liked this jacket; the changes from last year’s Downpour Pro jacket are subtle, but significant. The only dis I have on it is that it’s a tad bit heavy as compared to a couple other jackets in this review. But the heavyweight performance of this jacket more than makes up for the weight of the garment. Go out and pedal all day in pounding rain? Yes. Absolutely. Fox Racing Attack Pro Water Short
Just as the Attack Pro Jacket isn’t a rebranded version of last year’s Downpour Pro Jacket, this is not just a rebranded Fox Downpour short. It still uses Fox’s Truseal™ membrane but it uses a slightly more tapered cut and an MX inspired zipper with a ratcheted waist closure vs the slightly annoying 3 snap system of last year’s winter short. It does have two water resistant zip pockets like last year’s offerings and this short is also offered in whole sizes vs S, M, L sizing, but other than the logo, these are the only similarities between last year and now.
Details on the Attack Pro Water Short: a ratchet closure for the MX inspired waist closure and an abbreviated zipper.
The short fit me like it’d been tailored to me. Waist? Check. Hips? Check. Inseam (14”) falling to just the knee? Check. The zip fly is a bit shorter than a regular zipper but it allows trailside relief just fine. The cut is more fitted than last years but it’s very subtle, and it’s not at all restrictive; I had zero issues with it binding on my lighter weight knee guards. I personally like the change to the MX inspired waist closure offered on this short: it offers more ability to fine tune the waist fit than last year’s 3 snap/privacy flap closure, and it’s just a more reassuring and secure closure.
When riding, the short performed like a champ. I stayed dry. Pure and simple. Sure, it was only drizzling, but I was out riding for 90 minutes, and an hour of that was spent on a fairly relentless climb. I never had a sauna in my shorts while climbing, and while my legs were wet, there was a distinct line of rain wet knee guards and dry knee guards from the protection offered by the short. Pretty stoked, to say the least.
One thing to note, though: Fox keeps the waist sizes honest in their shorts, so if you’re between, say a 32 and a 34-inch waist, size up. Otherwise, this is a great, lightweight short that can handle the heaviest weather that you care to play in. The big red S needs no real introduction. They are one of the world’s largest bike manufacturers. But frequently overlooked is the Morgan Hill, CA-based company’s dedication to creating well-designed gear and apparel.
The Specialized Deflect H2O Mountain Jacket and the Atlas XC Comp Short, shown with the Defroster Trail Mountain Bike shoe. Specialized Deflect H2O MTN Jacket
Colors: Deep Navy, Dark Carbon, Moab Orange (tested)
37°F and mostly dry—but a few rain squalls to make it interesting.
The Deflect H20 MTN Jacket is made from Specialized’s proprietary stretch woven 3-layer water and wind resistant Deflect™ fabric which has a waterproof/breathability rating of 20k/20k--double the base standard for a garment to be considered waterproof/breathable. Like all 3 layer fabrics, it’s a microporous laminate sandwiched between a DWR coated outer “face” fabric and an inner layer that serves to protect the membrane as well as glide against your inner layers of clothing. Specialized has sweated the details on the design, too: all the seams are taped to prevent water seeping in via the stitching, a zippered Napoleon style chest pocket for electronics or other essentials, Watertight Aquaguard YKK zippers, adjustable cuffs to help keep water from intruding at the wrists, dual torso pockets, and dual adjustable waist shock cords. There is a slight drop tail to help keep your backside clean. Oh, and it has a visored hood. That’s a LOT going on, but the shell has a simple, clean look to it.
It's not a massive drop seat, but it's there.
I tested the Deflect H2O in size M. The design crew at Specialized nailed the fit perfectly. The jacket cut was fitted but not too fitted: I tested this with a base layer under a light mid-layer and could have fitted a lightly insulated vest or second mid layer easily, but not much more. It moved well whether dancing over roots or throwing shapes in the odd patch of peanut butter goo. The hood is designed to fit under the helmet but it fit over a Giro Montaro helmet just fine (although you need to unzip the neck a bit to deploy the hood that way). The two torso pockets double as vents with mesh lining, too, a nice touch as there are no other vents. It has a minimal drop tail, though—maybe an inch?
On the trail the jacket breathed well under heavy pedaling, and shed the on and off rain easily. I also appreciated the stretch woven material of the shell: it had just enough give to offer full freedom of movement regardless of how I contorted my body on the slick patches of trail. I definitely would have appreciated a tiny bit more of a drop tail, though, as moisture and grit managed to infiltrate my shorts when I roosted through a few puddles: at 37°F you kind of notice that icy spike tricking where you don’t want it, but a short with a higher back would likely have eliminated that, too. Or maybe I could have just ridden around the puddles. But where’s the fun in that?
Overall I was impressed by how well the jacket performed: it was lightweight, waterproof, and breathable. Atlas XC Comp Short
Colors: Black, Carbon (tested).
The Atlas XC Comp Shorts are Specialized’s go to trail short for those with more of the “I want to ride fast but not in lycra” crowd than the “I want to smash berms on the EWS Circuit” crowd. They are constructed with Specialized’s Vaporize fabric: a durable, stretchy lightweight fabric that breathes well. The list of pleasing features is long: A velcro MX style fly with 2 snaps and a privacy flap to keep unwanted exhibitionism at bay, two zippered pockets on the thighs, inner waistband adjusters for an exacting fit, a 14.5” inseam with a tapered knee that leaves just enough room for knee guards, and a Body Geometry Chamois liner short.
The Specialized Atlas XC Comp Short, shown with and without the liner short in place.
The first thing I noticed is that these shorts weigh about as much as a down feather. The second is that they have a bit of an exacting fit: I tested the 32 waist, and while I wasn’t muffin topping, it was close! And they have a tapered cut to them, too. But even though the cut is fairly tapered, I had no issues with lighter weight knee guards like G-forms or Specialized’s Atlas knee guards. The inseam was just where I like it, too: the shorts draped to just below my knee cap, banishing the dreaded gaper gap.
On the trail the Atlas XC Comp Shorts breathed exceptionally well and moved like a second skin, but without the sausage casing feel imbued by lycra (despite the fact I had on a liner chamois underneath them). Speaking of the liner… The Body Geometry Chamois included with the shorts clip in via a snap on either side of the waist and feature a super comfortable pad. I experienced zero hot spots or chafing during testing. The pockets of the short are well placed and easy to reach. But while these shorts perform well for their designed purpose, they are definitely more of a fair weather short than a foul weather short, lacking a DWR or any kind of a laminate to keep moisture out. But overall, a great fitting and great performing short for long rides in dry conditions regardless of temperature. This iconic Italian sports apparel maker has been turning heads since 1963. That’s the year leather craftsman Sante Mazzarolo crafted the first gear to bear the Alpinestars logo: a pair of leather boots crafted for the then-emerging sport of Motocross. Following this debut, they soon became a leader in MX and motorcycle protective gear. In 2004 they began to make MTB clothing, and they’ve been killing it ever since.
Alpinestars Descender 2 Jacket and Outrider Water Resistant Shorts shown with the Nimbus Waterproof Glove, Paragon Knee Guard, and Shimano MW7 Gore-tex Winter boots. Descender 2 Jacket
Colors: Black, Black/Acid Yellow, Acid Yellow/Black, Rio Red/Alpinestars Red (tested), and Bright Green/Black
Tested at 35°F with heavy sleet.
The Descender 2 Jacket is a lightweight windproof and water-resistant shell constructed of a ripstop fabric. Breathability is aided by a vent strip that runs across the shoulders. There are no pockets and no hood. There is a nice drop seat on the bottom hem. That hem and the cuffs are elasticized to keep them fitted close to the body and wrists. They use a YKK zipper for the main zip, and back that up with an inner flap to help block wind/moisture. The neck is lined with a microfleece along the collar. There is a storage pocket at the base of the spine that doubles as a stuff sack that can be attached under the saddle if you aren’t using a pack of some kind.
Alpinestars Descender 2 Jacket details: note the microfleece collar and a bit of mesh to help the jacket breathe and to move easily against your inner layer. The Descender 2 also stuffs into the storage pocket on the back of the jacket.
I tested a size M Jacket based on Alpinestars fit charts: great fit on the jacket from the get-go. The second thing I noticed was that the jacket weighs next to nothing. It’s just fitted enough that I never found myself wanting a shock cord system to fit the waist, yet roomy enough I never felt restricted. On the trail, the jacket breathed well and shrugged off the sleet the way a delinquent shrugs off a first offense at the courthouse. There is a bit of mesh along the shoulders that helps keep the jacket off your mid layer so it can breathe under heavier exertions, too.
At first glance the Descender 2 jacket is about as no-frills as it gets but the attention to detail in its construction makes this simple lightweight piece a solid performer. The simple cuffs may not have adjustments but the elastic eliminates that; you can't tailor that fit but the design makes that a non issue. There's a slight overhang on the back of the hand that creates overlap at this key point to help ward off water, too. And while there might not be shock cords to fine tune the fit at the waist, the same use of elastic there keeps the hem from riding up combined with the drop seat wards off rear tire spackle and spray quite nicely. The microfleece collar to eliminate chafing was a bonus, too.
On the trail it shed water acceptably for what it is: a water-resistant jacket. And it both breathed well yet kept the wind from turning me into a popsicle, even when I was crosswise to a classic Columbia River Gorge East wind. Add in the low cost and I’d snag this in a heartbeat for anything short of a late autumn excursion to Iceland. Outrider WR Base Short
Sizes: 28-40 (this is a euro-based size, not a waist size; I typically wear a 30)
Colors: Black/Acid Yellow, Black/Bright Green, Black/Royal Blue, Black/Rio Red (tested), Dark Blue/Lime, Dark Shadow/White
The Outrider WR Base Short is the Italian clothing manufacturer’s top-flight foul weather short. It’s composed of a multi-material body: the main shell of the short features a 4-way stretch breathable fabric in the front panel, while the rear and crotch panels utilize a laminated ripstop and seam taped fabric. It features external waist tab adjusters, a MX style waist closure system secured with two snaps, an open pocket on either hip, and a single secure zipper pocket on the right thigh. The crotch has no stitching on it to create unwanted pressure points. These do not come with a liner short. It has a 14” inseam.
The Outrider Shorts have a dual snap closure and an adjustable waist.
Based on Alpinestar’s size charts and my beer consumption I tested a Euro size 32 to better fit my 33” waist. The fit of the short as a whole was pretty bang on. The overall cut of the garment is fitted, but the cut at the knee is a bit more generous than some others in this review; I could have gone with something much burlier than the G-form guards I tested them with. The inseam was right where I like it.
It was a wintery mix during my test ride for sure – sleet and snow the whole time – but the shorts kept me warm and dry on the descent and breathed well on the 20 odd minute climb back to the top. As conditions deteriorated during the ride, I had a couple silly crashes, too, but the shorts took the abuse without any complaints. Overall, I came away from the ride with a shit eating grin because it was that fun to be out in those conditions and not be freezing my ass off.