When it comes to mountain-bike apparel, my tastes run toward looser-fitting, casual pieces that bridge the trail ride to the late afternoon bar stop. The market seems to be going that way, too, with less techy fabrics (or at least materials that mask their technologies), patterns instead of logos, and finishes that feel as good with jeans as they do with baggies. Here are my top picks of the season.
Dainese Driftec Tee ($80)
Best known for its moto apparel and protective equipment, this 25-year-old Italian manufacturer recently branched into mountain biking gear, and the product is fantastic. Other than the drop tail for coverage when you’re hunched over the bars, the Driftec is as comfy as any loose-fitting tee-shirt. What really sets it apart, however, is the proprietary synthetic fabric, which is as soft and gossamer as silk, incredibly cooling in the heat, yet still tough enough to resist rips and snagging. The graphics are bold and simple, too, with a range of eye-catching colors. Dianese makes long- and three-quarter-sleeve jerseys from the same fabric, which I’ve been favoring in the heat to keep the sun off my arms. If there’s one downfall to these tops, it’s that the fabric (like many synthetics) can get pretty smelly after just a single ride. The Terratec shorts, built from a rugged, lightweight material are an excellent, hard-wearing match.
Bottom Line: This gear is so cool and comfy that I’ve been choosing it over everything else in my riding drawer.
Dakine Oakridge Flannel ($80)
Dakine has discovered the antidote to culling the stink through a partnership with Polygiene. The treatment, which is licensed to a handful of outdoor companies (but no other cycling brands), infuses fabrics with silver chloride, which prevents the growth of odor-causing bacteria. And since Polygiene is permanently integrated into the threads, it won’t wash out or lose its potency. That means that while the Oakridge feels as soft and cozy as any other flannel on the market, I’ve been able to wear it ride after ride without any stench. I toss it in my pack for days in the high mountains and then just wear it straight to the brewery afterward. The Dropout uses the same Polygiene technology in a synthetic, short-sleeve jersey for warmer weather riding.
Bottom Line: A reinvention of the venerable flannel for big-mountain shredding.
DannyShane Romer Polo ($95)
Like pretty much everything in the Austin, Texas company’s line, this button-down, collared polo puts a premium on style but still manages to pack in the performance. The Romer’s secret is its fabric, with the 47-percent bamboo white ash adding breathability and durability to the polyester blend. The material’s grid has micro-channels that help draw out and dissipate moisture, and somehow the blend also seems to resist odors. Mostly I like this piece because it’s cool and draping and very soft on the skin, but, like the fabric from Dainese, has also shrugged of contact with branches and rocks. One note: DannyShane gear seems to run a little larger, especially in the more lifestyle-oriented pieces, so order accordingly.
Bottom Line: Perfect for going hard without looking like you take yourself too seriously.
Ibex Enduro Half Zip ($130)
Merino wool might seem too hot for summer riding, but Ibex’s blend is soft and stretchy and so thin that you can almost see through it. I also like the material’s versatility: surprisingly airy when it’s hot, but still somewhat insulating when I’m at altitude and the temperature drops, even if it’s damp with sweat. The 3/4-length sleeves are a nice compromise of coverage versus cooling, the drop seat keeps mud at bay, the zipper is the quick-lock variety so you can tug open the collar easily if you leave the toggle up, and there are even reflective hits (on the sleeve and the back pocket) for after-dark visibility.
Bottom Line: I wouldn't trust my money and ID in the snap, rear pocket, but otherwise this cozy knit jersey is pretty much dialed.