We fitted Kate Donald out with a range of Specialized’s mountain biking apparel and let her loose on the trails around Jindabyne. Here’s what she found from their female range.
The first time I went mountain bike riding it wasn’t love at first sight.
By the end of the ride my butt cheeks felt bruised, my fingers were locked onto the brakes, and I was hungry as hell. There was zero desire to drop all my life savings on a new bike and ride off into the sunset. That feeling came after my 3rd ride. The 3rd ride was magic.
Picking up a little more speed, smiling instead of screaming, as the air rushed past me. I was starting to get some height up the bank of the berms as I came around corners, the adrenaline was building through my body, and I quickly realised why everyone was obsessed with bikes. Needless to say, at the end of that ride I went straight to the bike store and bought a bike that was more expensive than my car, but worth every penny.
Mountain biking and trail riding quickly became my go-to summer activity. From the fast-paced, downhill runs at Thredbo, to the cruisy bike trails around Lake Jindabyne, if there was a spare moment, I was on my bike. In the changing conditions experienced living in the mountains, I soon realised the value of a good quality bike riding outfit.
You want gear that will protect you from the blaring sun as well as the beating down rain. The constantly changing incline of trail riding means you’ll go from sweating up a storm as you push to the top of the hill, to feeling the rush of the cool wind as you charge down the trail.
Your clothing needs to be breathable yet durable to survive the wear and tear of mud splatters and bike crashes. It might sound like I have high expectations for my clothing, but when testing out the new Specialized Women’s Trail series, it is hard to expect only but the best.
My kit of essential trail riding wear includes bib shorts, jersey, trail shorts and windbreakers and I put that gear to the test on the bike trails around Jindabyne.
Specialized are one of the founding fathers of mountain bike riding, making the first production mountain bike way back in 1974. While they still produce wicked bikes, clothing and accessories, their recent focus has been to give back to the biking community with programs like OUTRIDE, that promote physical health and mental wellbeing through cycling.
An environmentally conscious company, they are constantly making improvements to minimize their footprint by not only creating products that last, but also manufacturing responsibly, reducing waste and using recycled materials where possible.
I once looked at hardcore cyclists wearing there strange skin tight bibs with padded bums and sniggered a little, that was until I started riding. These are an essential piece for all riders. The Mountain Liner Bib Short is a slim fitting base-layer, made from the breathable and lightweight VaperRize™ fabric, to ensure a seamless fit under your outer layer. Worn discreetly under your trail riding gear, these bib’s will save your ass, literally. With a built in chamois (bum pad) to protect your ‘sensitive bits’, the pre-moulded protective insert provides built-in cushioning for your groin and bum. No more bruised pelvic bones after a long day on the trail. The best part of this design is the SWAT™ pockets.
I was a little hesitant to leave the backpack at home, being a lover of all things packs but specialized have designed this bib with five integrated pockets to fit all the essentials. Chuck your sunscreen, repair kit, snacks and phone in an easy to reach pocket and avoid having that nasty sweat stain under your pack.
The only downside of these Bib’s is that I’m still yet to figure out how to go to the toilet without the hassle of undressing completely, any pro tips would be much appreciated. I would have loved to see a hidden zip or button system to make for easier toilet trips and give the option to wear them as shorts.
The moment I put these shorts on I was in love. The women’s trail shorts are a relaxed fit, without feeling like you’ve got your outfit from your boyfriend’s wardrobe.
The adjustable tabs on either side of the waist ensure the fit of the shorts is tailored to your body, and allows you to size up if you prefer that baggy mountain bike look in the legs without the constant worry of your pants falling down. Made from moisture wicking VaporRize™ fabric, they have plenty of stretch to move with your body whilst still feeling durable enough to survive your stacks.
The most comfortable short’s I’ve ever owned, they’ll take you from trail rides, to the coffee shop without looking like you just stepped off the Tour de France. These trail shorts are not just for hitting the trail on a bike, I also started wearing them on hikes too. With built in UV 50+ sun protection, your thighs don’t get sun burnt through the fabric like with many other cheaper fabrics.
The downside; I found the 2 front hip pockets were in an awkward location when filled and pedalling, however this was easily overcome when worn with the Mountain Liner Bib Shorts, filling the SWAT™ pockets instead.
Small enough to fit in your Mountain Liner Bib pocket, the Deflect™ Jacket should not be left behind on any riding trip. The front chest pocket of the jacket is not only a great place to stash your phone when wearing it, but also doubles as a neat little case for your jacket to fold into when you take it off.
While the jacket feels super luxe on, the structure of the fabric is so much more than meets the eye. Designed from a breathable, yet windproof Pertex Nylon with a water-repellent coating, the jacket is perfect to throw on when the weather turns but you’re still sweating up hill.
My favourite feature of this jacket though, is the integrated reflectivity for improved safety when riding at night or in low-light conditions. When vehicle headlights hit the jacket, the reflective laminate in the fabric fibres of the jacket reflect the light making the jacket appear bright.
The Trail Air Jersey is an easy-breezy biking tee. A little bit of a sweaty betty myself, I need a shirt that allows my body to breath without feeling cold from sweat the moment I stop pedalling.
Made from recycled content, the VaporRize™ fabric makes this jersey super breathable and lightweight, whilst minimising its impact on the planet. Unlike the light cotton shirt, you usually ride in, this one has added sun protection of UPF 50, to ensure your shoulders don’t get burnt through the fabric.
The fit of the tee is described on the tag as being relaxed; however, I would say it is more fitted to the female shape than most trail jerseys. Regardless of the tag description, I loved the cut. A super comfortable fit whilst still feeling feminine, it was nice to finally find a jersey that didn’t feel like a boxy brown paper bag on. A little on the expensive side for a trail jersey, retailing at $100AU, I think the built-in tech justifies this price tag.
Downsides to this downhill clothing quiver?
Honestly, it was really hard to pick out any flaws in the Specialized women’s trail range, the quality of the fabric and detail in the designs really blew me away. I did notice the clothing size runs a little on the small size, I am a size 10-12 AU and wore a large in all items. When looking on the Specialized website, the sizing chart goes up to a women’s size XXL (roughly equivalent to a size 16AU) however the website only seems to stock up to a large to XL online.
I cannot stress the importance of outdoor brands to make and stock a wider range of clothing sizes to encourage all size and shapes to be outdoors. The outdoors is for everyone, and something as simple as not finding the right size clothing can discourage someone from enjoying it.
The thing I love most about this new Women’s Trail range from Specialized is that they haven’t just “shrink it and pink it” like other mountain bike brands. They have put some solid consideration into the design and cut of this range to ensure women feel comfortable on the bike, with nothing but the best technology. It was so empowering to find women’s trail riding gear that moved well, felt great and still made me feel feminine, without being sold in 50 shades of pink or floral print.
Photos by Aaron Dickfos (@expedimage).
Kate was sent the MTB apparel by Specialized and was allowed to keep it all afterward, the views are her own.