I have to admit, I’m not a big fan of Lycra. Not really because I’m self conscious or think it looks dorky, rather it’s just not that durable when it comes to mountain biking. Don’t get me wrong, when it comes to road riding, you’ll find me fully kitted out (sometimes even in bibs, *gasp*). To me, wearing Lycra on the road makes sense, the aero benefit is palpable, it breathes better, and it feels pretty good. However, on the mountain side of things, I have seen far too many $80+ jerseys and shorts ruined by one inopportune crash, snag from a close encounter with a bush or tree, or abraded to the point of failure by slick rock and the like. If I was an XC racer when seconds mattered, and kit was provided for me, I wouldn’t have an issue. But I’m not, and I need my gear to last, so I choose baggy.
The design and construction of a good pair of baggy shorts is actually a lot harder to pull off than most would think. In order to be durable, fabrics need to be tough, which usually means they aren’t that light, or breathable. To make breathable, light fabrics on the other hand, usually concessions are made so that the end product ends up having weak points. Manufacturers go about creating a compromise in a few different ways, some use Lycra, mesh, or lightweight inserts in key areas to improve breath ability, while others tend to build with one material and choose to incorporate vents, which may or may not be zippered. Add in the fact that the shorts have to be comfortable to pedal in, yet feel completely at home in the brew pub after the ride, and you start to see that a good pair of mountain bike shorts isn’t as simple to create as it may seem.
While jerseys don’t have nearly as many design requirements, they too still pose some interesting questions. Should a jersey be really loose, semi form fit, or completely fitted? Pockets? 1/4, 1/2, 3/4, full zip, or no zip? Sleeves? With so many different sub categories of mountain biking with even more genres of riders, creating universally loved clothing is no small feat.
Fortunately for you, there are a lot of apparel manufacturers up to the task. Which of course brings me to Sugoi, which has been putting out riding apparel for almost as long as I have been alive. Being very well known in the road/tri world, Sugoi is starting to get more and more into the trail/all mountain/ freeride market, but how does it stack up when compared to the competition?
Find out after the break!
Let me first state, that while riding DH or freeride, I can appreciate a pair of shorts with a long inseam. In those situations I like having extra material that covers the top of my knee pads, and the backs of my legs. However, when there is a lot of seated pedaling involved, I prefer a more normal length short. Note that I don’t mean Bermuda short, hot pants look, more something that just touches my knees while seated, and pedaling. Over the years, it seems that MTB baggy inseams have grown and grown, but are finally back to what most would consider reasonable length. One of the first pair of shorts I ever really loved, were the first generation Fox Campus shorts due to their effortless style, and comfort on and off the bike. Long before they were due to be replaced, my new puppy had gotten a hold of chamois, and destroyed the short. When I went out to replace them, I was dismayed to find that Fox had increased the length of the short by what seemed like 3 inches (though it looks like they have since gone back to a shorter inseam. Haven’t tried the new ones but it looks like they’ve gotten back to their roots). In all actuality, I don’t mind the look of a long baggy short, I just don’t need it when I’m riding cross country.
Sugoi Gustav Shorts:
•Durable double needle stitching
•Fly with 2 snap front closure
•Front panels are vented with a mesh pleat behind locking zips
•2 comfortable front pockets
•2 back pockets
•Removeable liner with RC Pro chamois and signature grip leg elastic
•Seamless crotch gusset to eliminate saddle hooking and bulk
•13 inch inseam
•Dual side velcro tabs provide an adjustable waistband
With all this talk of the right and wrong length of XC/AM shorts, I’m pleased to say the Gustav short was just about perfect in said criteria. In fact, the fit overall was outstanding from the liner, to the chamois, and the outer baggy. Sizing wise, I’m almost always a medium, and while many companies have embraced the actual numbered size instead of S,M,L, etc, I found that my Medium Gustav fit right on the money. The cut of the short never seemed to change regardless if you were standing or sitting, alluding to a very well cut seat which didn’t bunch or snag on the saddle. The outer short of the Gustav has no stretch, but there are Velcro stretch tabs to allow a good bit of adjustment in waist size (so that the shorts fit both at the beginning, and end of the season, at least here in the Midwest). In front, you will find a two snap closure, along with a full length Velcro fly. The Closure held extremely well, with the only issue being the top of one side of the Velcro was sticking right into my stomach at first. However, a few rides and washes later, the Velcro now lies flat, and is no longer an issue.
While some shorts clearly fit into one category or another, the Gustav is versatile. It could easily pair well with a semi form fit jersey for a relaxed yet racier look, but pair it with a jersey such as the Gustav, and you can easily perfect that freeride goon look without trouble. Basically, if you stress about how you look on the bike, the Gustav won’t let you down.
What can I say about the chamois, other than it is excellent. One of the top 5 most comfortable I have used. The legs are just the right length (I don’t like chamois’ with short legs), it was plenty breathable, and stays comfortable on long rides (28m was the longest I tested it for). Really, the only complaint or confusion I have about the chamois, is the “removable” concept. Most baggy shorts I have ever seen, either have a sewn in chamois, or one attached with snaps. With the Gustav, it was sewn in with fabric strands that are presumably meant to cut if you want to remove it. They even go as far as providing two neon green elastic loops on the inside of the baggy which you would assume are to attach the chamois to to keep it in place. However, once the chamois is cut, there is no way to attach it to the baggy, or the green loops. Weird.
In order to make a durable outer short, Sugoi chose to build it out of a fairly stout ripstop nylon, with double stitch seams through most of the short. To tackle the breathability issues I mentioned earlier, the Gustav employs two large zippered vents, one per leg, along with a total of 6 grommeted vent holes. Storage wise, the short features two standard, mesh lined front pockets along with two rear mesh lined pockets secured by Velcro flaps. Sugoi also incorporated what I can only assume is a carabiner loop above the left pocket, which may sound like a superfluous addition, but actually is one I found myself using quite a bit to hang my keys due to the lack of belt loops.
Overall, the Gustav Short has held up extremely well, with almost zero signs of wear after roughly 500 miles, a few crashes, lots of mud, and repeated washings. What could be fixed? The only issue to be addressed is the inability to reattach the chamois after it is removed. Other than being able to keep the chamois attached to the outer while storing the shorts, there really wasn’t any drawback to the flaw, so it really isn’t an issue. Add a way to reattach the chamois, and the Gustav would easily garner a 5/5.
•Full graphic sublimated body
•Flat seams for increased comfort
•Zone Construction: mesh inserts for added ventilation
•Crew neck and neck tape
Just like it looks, the Gustav Jersey fits like a big, comfy, breathable T, which I happen to be a big fan of. Typically, when it comes to jerseys, for me the more relaxed the fit, the better. Interestingly, the Gustav combines quite a few seams and panels to create a jersey that is relaxed and loose fit, yet somehow almost fitted. Comfort on the Gustav jersey is off the charts on anything from 1 hour MTB rides, to 8 hour days at Rays MTB Cleveland.
Clearly, the Gustav jersey’s styling isn’t for everyone. Between the sublimated Coy fish and borderline tribal graphics, some would argue that it would be more at home at an MMA fight, than a mountain bike trail. However, there will be people that like the look, and I personally don’t mind it. The Gustav definitely leans more towards the gravity side of things with the cut and style, so its looks should fit right in.
While it may seem simple in its outward appearance, the Gustav jersey is actually quite technical. Between the expertly placed mesh panels, the flat lock seams, and comfortable taped neck, the Gustav is much more than just a t-shirt. The Gustav even sports a zippered pocket on the back, which is brilliantly shifted as far as possible to the side. Jersey pockets are cool and all, but I almost always ride with some sort of hydration pack, so a centered pocket is a no go. By offsetting the pocket on the Gustav, Sugoi has allowed for a pocket that doesn’t interfere with back packs, and is also still accessible while wearing one. I assume largely in part to the large mesh panels on the sides of the jersey, the Gustav vented extremely well staying dry the majority of the time.
Everyone’s liking of the Gustav’s styling may be questionable, but everyone should easily appreciate it’s comfort and performance. The Gustav is a top level jersey, and one that I wouldn’t hesitate to buy.
Sugoi Hans Jersey:
- 10″ front zip
- 1 back zip pocket
- Traditional collar
- Contrast trim detail