DHaRCO is a new mountain bike clothing company born out of a desire to make products suited to Australian conditions. The result: custom fabrics suited to a warm climate, designs that riders will still reach for off the bike, and a functional simplicity, which comes into its own on the trails. Impressed with the cut, feel and visual appeal of the new range we sat down with DHaRCO Designer, Mandy Davis, to learn more about the work that has gone on behind the scenes.
Davis is a downhill rider and racer who calls Sydney’s Northern Beaches home. She started the brand because she couldn’t find any clothing that suited what she was after in terms of comfort and style.
‘I wanted something Australian I guess,’ said Davis, whose designs reflect the Australian surf culture’s success in blending form and function with bright colours and a casual, comfortable feel.
‘I wanted something that was more lifestyle, that you would be happy to wear walking down the street.’ Something she wouldn’t feel self-conscious in if she wanted to do the groceries at Coles on the way home from a ride.
Davis had a close look at existing products and noticed that they included several extra panels to make them ‘look’ sporty, without adding any real performance benefit. ‘I did some analysis and worked with some pattern makers and said, “Is there any real functional benefit from that?” And we came to the conclusion that it was mostly aesthetic.’
One thing we noticed immediately about the debut DHaRCO range is the soft but functional feel of the fabrics. Davis revealed that these are the product of a two-year design and research phase. She is a keen believer that you shouldn’t need a whole lot of bells and whistles on a garment, like complicated ventilation or adjustment systems, to compensate for the limits of the materials. A commitment to performance from the outset has resulted in innovative and practical fabrics that have been specifically developed for this Australian company.
There was a lot of crash testing involved in the development of the fabric for the shorts. The winning material is durable, has a soft moisture-wicking texture against the skin, a water and mud-repellent outer, and is constructed in a way that still feels very lightweight and moves well on the bike. The shorts appear to be the company’s biggest seller so far with people trying them on and refusing to take them off, ourselves included. In fact, we’ve even been known to work next to the heater in winter, just so we can keep these shorts on after a ride.
‘The other feedback is when people ride, they just don’t notice that they’ve got them on,’ added Davis. ‘And I think that comes from the fabric which is really nice. And the cut is just really simple. Again, same sort of thing, a lot of other shorts will have various panels and sections that make them look really sporty, whereas I’ve gone with a simple line and a simple cut.
‘I think you feel this when you’re wearing them. They just feel easy to wear.’ They’re definitely a product to look at for Australian riders who find the thicker fabrics of other baggies too hot to wear through summer.
The range also includes t-shrts, long sleeve jerseys, and jerseys with a three-quarter sleeve. ‘The jerseys, for example the men’s three-quarter, are really awesome for Australia,’ said Davis. ‘The back is pretty much all mesh, and then the same under the arms. It just gives really nice airflow. The girls’ designs have mesh side panels. And then there’s the Dri-Release, which is a quick-dry type of fabric with a really nice feel.’
Dri-Release is another fabric specifically developed for the company that has surprised us in terms of comfort and performance. It is used in the selection of men’s and women’s t-shirts that can be worn for a more casual look on or off the bike. We’ve been using them a lot for commuting as well, and like the soft feel, combined with fabric technology that doesn’t get whiffy after a couple of rides.
Another key distinction between DHaRCO and their competitors is that their women’s range provides riders with as many styles, and even more colour options, than the men’s range. This is something that girl riders will be particularly grateful for, and points to Davis’ reasons for creating the range to begin with.
‘You’ve got four choices in the long sleeve jersey and three in the three-quarter and three in the t-shirt. I think that variety sets DHaRCO apart,’ said Davis.
‘But the men’s stuff is equally really nice,’ she added. ‘The feel and the look are a little bit different to what’s out there. A bit more casual, a bit more down to earth, for the everyday person that wants to get out and ride.’