We’ve got a real affinity for Sydney-based apparel company DHaRCO. Designed for hot Australian conditions with an emphasis on simple, clean lines, using an inspired colour palette, it’s fantastic gear.
DHaRCO Gravity Shorts – Men’s and Women’s:
These are probably our favourite item in the DHaRCO range (along with the Tech Tees). We’ve been running these shorts for well over 12 months now, they’re the most regularly worn item in our mountain bike wardrobe.
We feel they’ve really nailed the balance between lightweight breathability and durability.”We didn’t want to weigh these shorts down with unnecessary features,” said DHaRCO, “especially in Australian heat.” There are two sensibly-sized, unobtrusive, zippered pockets – one on the left leg, and one round the back, on the waist band, which is all you need. There’s no liner, so chuck them on over your favourite set of knicks.
“We slimmed the fit down a little from last season,” explains DHaRCO. “The trail riding market has really taken to the shorts, and the slimmer cut is better for pedalling.” The same four-way stretch fabric found in last season’s shorts remains.
Short Sleeve Jerseys – Men’s and Women’s:
The range of men’s and women’s short sleeve jerseys has also been expanded, both in terms of colour ways and styles.
The fit of the men’s kit is now a little more relaxed, and there are two styles, one with mesh side panels and one with an entire mesh back, for warmer conditions. Both styles include a hidden zippered pocket which is perfect for a lightweight item like a car key, a bit of cash or key card. A slightly elasticised collar has been added too, for more comfort.
In the women’s range, there are two quite different cuts of jersey now – a ‘standard’ slim fit jersey, and less technical Raglan cut. The standard SS jersey has all the features found on the men’s, including the hidden zippered pocket and mesh side panels, while the Raglan jersey has a simpler construction for a more casual vibe.
We’re keen to highlight DHaRCO’s role in helping improve the state of play for women’s mountain biking too. The women’s MTB apparel market is slim pickings at best in Australia, with many retailers unwilling to take on much stock. For DHaRCO, offering a proper range of women’s apparel was vital. DHaRCO got on the front foot, developing a complete line of women’s kit, and sponsoring female riders, and they’ve been rewarded with a strong following amongst female mountain bikers. “I’d say about 40% of our sales are in women’s apparel now,” says DHaRCO. “We’re also seeing a lot more mixed orders of men’s and women’s kit, so clearly more couples are getting into riding together too.”
DHaRCO have distribution in New Zealand, Canada, Switzerland and the US, but they’ll ship products worldwide from their web shop too.
Pearl Izumi, the plush apparel guys with the weird name are big in Japan, huge in The States, and is now growing in presence on our shores with new kit like what we see here.
Shimano Australia are ramping it up for 2015 with their distribution of Pearl Izumi. What caught our eye from the new range was a couple pairs of shoes using BOA dials and some new styling loose fitting kit. Check it out.
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.’
Designed with the grittiest XC riders in mind, the Ace line is built for performance. The lightweight, moisture wicking material feels tailored to your body and features all the technical components you need to get to the top of the climb first. Whether you prefer grinding out long rides, sprinting events or cruising easy trails, the Ace line is the premium gear that works as hard as you do.
A good pair of knicks don’t need to cost a lot of money to do their job and do it with style. Fancy fabric technologies normally associated with high-end shorts are starting to appear in more economical models as well. What’s more, women’s ranges are also reflecting an increase in preferences for fit: soft vs tight waistbands, long and short leg lengths, silicon grippers at the thighs or compression all around.
Flow took three pairs of chicks knicks for some spins to discover what the different choices in design meant for experiences on the trails. [private]
The Race WSD (Women’s Specific Design) Short from Bontrager finds a nice balance between the elastic and compression for comfort and performance. Flatlock seams and smart, contoured construction choices provided a snug, flattering fit.
The main material, ‘Profila’, is said to help with temperature regulation, while a meshier fabric assists with ventilation at the lower thighs. A wide, almost papery feeling elastic panel at the lower legs kept the shorts securely in place. Decorative silicon patches on the outside of this panel section held it there without creating unflattering bulges or uncomfortable red marks on the skin.
The four-way stretch, contoured padding of the well-researched inForm chamois moved with us on the bike. It provided a comfortable ride feel with no hot spots or pressure points.
Profila is also used at the front of the knicks where they meet the stomach while a tougher looking elastic is used around the hips and back. Although this section is designed to enhance comfort, we found the cut was best suited to riders who are proportionally wider in the waist. On riders with a narrow mid-section there wasn’t enough pulling power to give a firm grip. This prevented the otherwise excellent chamois from staying in place impacting on the overall performance of the knicks for this particular body type.
Bellwether’s Axiom Short impressed us most in terms of fit and value for money straight out of the packet. The attractive placement of reflective decals, light, meshy side fabric, multiple panels and sophisticated looking chamois are all high-performing features often expected of higher price brackets.
Compared to the Race WSD knicks, the Axiom waistband is of a more ‘old school’ style – a piece of elastic sewn inside the material and it made them feel quite tight and fairly basic up top. Folding the waistband over the hips ensured a comfier ride though, especially after a pie and chips.
While the fabric breathed well while riding and certainly looks the goods, we found the Axiom’s seemed to age the quickest of the three pairs of knicks tested. The non-meshy fabric on the inner thigh irritated more than the others where it rubbed against the Velcro of a saddle bag and the legs stretched noticeably after just a few rides. The loose feeling legs combined with the tightness of the waist detracted from our enjoyment of the shorts as a whole, but this could have been an anomaly in our size (small/10). We recommend trying before you buy to see if other sizes fit more evenly.
At $140 dollars, the Louis Garneau Neo Power Fit Shorts were the most comfortable of the three, but also the most expensive. This also made them the smelliest as they were always first to reach the wash basket.
The shorts are constructed from 13 panels of ‘Power Lycra’ and rely exclusively on the compression and elastic properties of the fabric to stay glued to the body. With no silicon or elastic bands to speak of these shorts didn’t place any unwanted pressure anywhere.
Power Lycra is also used for the waistband, but the stretch, cut and soft feel of the fabric means they hugged the waist a lot more securely than the Bontrager design. We assumed the long length equated to reduced muscle vibration and better temperature regulation. The Neo Powers are also available in a shorter design however you might want to check with your local bike shop for availability.
The chamois is not as contoured as the others but it still takes a multiple-density, four-way stretch approach to design and uses memory foam to provide comfortable cushioning where it’s needed most. It took about five and a half hours for the first signs of chaffing to appear, something that could certainly be alleviated with some good chamois cream before leaving the house.
The fabric still looks near new after the test period although less reflective decals than the Bellwethers made them feel a little less safe at night. We also found that the tighter design of the Louis Garneaus meant we opted to ride in a size larger when compared to the other two brands.
Each pair of knicks tested offered some strong selling points in terms of materials chosen, fit options for specific body shapes, and value for money.
At $89 the Axioms from Bellwether are an excellent value pair of knicks with some high-performing features. They’d be a great pair of back ups, or a good first purchase if you’re worried about the cost of getting into cycling or how tight some shorts feel on the thighs.
For $10 more, Bontrager’s Race WSD short are a flattering high-performing option that are most comfortable for women whose body shape is wider in the waist area in comparison to the hips and thighs.
The even pressure distribution created by the Louis Garneau Neo Power Fit Shorts, in combination with some well thought-out design choices that make these knicks the most versatile in terms of fit. The soft, snug, secure feel makes them an easy recommendation for rides over four hours, or for a long lasting pair of shorts that are still relatively easy on the wallet.
When trying knicks on for the first time, wear stripy undies and do some squats in the change room. If you can see the print of your pants, this is a good indication that riders behind you will see even more out in the sun.
Sometimes you just want to ride your mountain bike, but without looking too much like a mountain biker. You know, whack on something a little more ‘basic’ and going for a shred leaving that anti-fungal-sweat-wicking-reflecto-multi-pocketed-silicone-grippered jersey at home and getting back to your roots.
This is what drew us to Nzo’s latest merino goodies, the Nomad Hoodie and Bart Tee. They reminded us of simpler times, when our riding kit didn’t have logos galore and wasn’t made from the same fabrics they use on the Mars lunar lander.
The look and feel is far from the razzamatazz of most cycling kit, but the Nomad and the Bart have two secret weapons:
1) They’re designed by Gaz Sullivan. Gaz is an actual real-life mountain biker. He started Nzo in Rotorua as a way to nurture his mountain biking lifestyle. He’s a mellow kind of middle-aged guy, who rides hard and often, likes nice bikes but likes nice trails more. Safe to say, he knows what real-life mountain bikers want.
2) They’re made from Merino wool, nature’s own super fabric. The Merino that comes from NZ’s omnipresent sheep is ideal for mountain bike apparel; it doesn’t get stinky, it’s soft to wear and it handles moisture exceptionally well.
The Bart is a pretty simple affair; it looks and fits just like a slim-fit tee-shirt, but it is made from superfine Merino. The knit is soft on the skin and ultra flexible too, not at all restrictive in spite of the slim cut.
Weight wise, it’s a heavier feeling garment than most cycling kit, but that doesn’t mean you’ll cook in it. We would say it’s better suited to cooler temps, but the Merino wicks sweat away quickly, so you never feel like you’re trapped in a sticky, hot sack even if it is a warmer day.
There are no pockets, but they’d ruin the casual vibe of this garment anyhow. We’ve machine washed ours from day one, and while it has shrunk a tiny bit, it shows no signs of wear or loose stitches. At $49 too, it’s a bargain for superfine Merino wool.
We cannot stop wearing the Nomad hoodie ($89), both on and off the bike. On the trail, doing downhill runs, on road trips – it genuinely feels like we’ve spent more time in the Nomad hoodie than out of it over the past three months. We’ve worn this thing to death, and while the weave has a slight wrinkle to it from dozens of runs through the washing machine, there’s no sign of wear and tear at all.
Like the Bart, it’s super comfy. The slim fit seems just right for most mountain biker’s body shapes (if there is any such thing!), and we wore this hoodie on plenty of rides throughout winter. It’s just a great, casual alternative to layering up in bright, shiny cycling garments.
There are two zippered pockets, both small enough that they don’t flap around or sag if you pop your keys in them, but it’s the proper full length zip we like most – it zips all the way up to right under your chin. The attention to detail is cool too, especially the print on the inside of the hood.
Like it says on the tag – ‘made from sunshine and grass’ – these are pure and simple riding clothes, for what is ultimately a pure and simple sport. You’re not paying for logos, you’re just paying for good kit. We like the ethos and we like the clothes.