Buying Right: Function, Fashion, and the Fat Tire

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside magazine, May 1996

Buying Right: Function, Fashion, and the Fat Tire
By Gordon Black

Mountain bikers, you've probably noticed, are different from road cyclists in just about every respect except the number of wheels under them. This is especially true in matters sartorial, where fat-tire riders prize freedom of movement over aerodynamics. Combine this with a tendency to rebel against the shrink-wrapped road establishment, and you get a new breed of mountain biking apparel that pays homage to grunge/retro styles without sacrificing functionality. Expect the padded crotches and technical fabrics that have been proved on road and trail, plus a looser fit, more pockets, dirt-worthy durability, and styles that won't get you labeled a geek at the aprŠs-ride caf‹. Most are sized for men, but the loose fit works just as well for women.

Swobo's Pocket Woolie($95) updates an old standby that road riders forgot: the racer's standard-issue top from the pre-synthetics era. Cut big in washable 100 percent merino, it neither clings nor sags and features plenty of pockets. When it's too hot for wool, wear the Cannondale Mad Plaid Sleeveless Jersey ($45) alone; when wool isn't warm enough, layer this oversize cotton flannel for core insulation. It has a chest pocket, hangs well, won't bunch up, and makes the most of your Gold's Gym biceps. If you want long sleeves, Tinley's mountain jersey ($36) has them. It looks like a casual shirt but performs like a technical top, generously sized from shape-retaining ribbed cotton with three roomy back pockets.

Over it all, the Dirt Designs Ground Zero Vest ($65) is perfect for indecisive weather. It's sewn from a three-ply nylon/Supplex blend to keep the wind and rain out, with a ventilation flap in back to keep you cool. Keys, energy bars, and sunglasses can be secured in three zippered front pockets.

For your other half, Zoic's Gusseted Short ($56) has a padded liner featuring CoolMax fabric to deal with moisture and heat. Two cargo pockets and a built-in nylon web belt make these twill shorts useful and stylish both in and out of the saddle. Bellwether's Cordura Double-Short ($65) combines first-class biking shorts with relaxed-fit street shorts. The oversize outers, of brushed Cordura nylon, hide a technical inner made from cool nylon stretch mesh with a breathable synthetic Ultrasuede chamois pad. Ibis's Rad Riderhosen ($60) are knickers built from heavy brushed cotton with convenient cinch straps at calf and waist. They'll keep you warm and provide extra protection for your legs. But they don't have a pad, and they do have a seam down the middle--so wear your road shorts underneath.

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