Until Kitsbow came on the scene just over a year ago, the concept of premium, upscale mountain bike gear was about as common as chickens with lips. There was technically refined kit -stuff from Club Ride, Zoic, Loeka, Vaude to name a few- but it was the roadies who enjoyed the higher end fabrics and tailoring.
The Soft Shell A/M Shorts and Sastan Jersey are fine tuned mountain bike clothes. They’re not baggy, drop-off-a-suspended-bridge-to-certain-doom threads. They’re the kind you’d wear to take your special lady for a spin, then drop her at the cafe to go rip the trails for a couple hours before rejoining for brunch.
Over the past twelve months, they’ve introduced quite a few new items, debuted a women’s line and added accessories. While they’ve been busy making new patterns, I’ve used those 12 months shaking down their original two pieces…
Three main things set Kitsbow’s apparel apart from the rest. First, the aesthetics are more country club then full face. They’d fit in just fine in most social circumstances, looking almost like a rugby polo to the uninitiated. If not for the lack of traditional front pockets, the shorts would work just fine for off the bike use, too.
Second, the fit, finish and materials are top quality. The shorts are Schoeller Dryskin, which is incredibly soft, and the waistband is padded with all seams covered. They do offer adjustable waist models now, but these are fixed, and available in single inch increments to get the right fit. I measured a 33″ and ordered a 33″ and they fit perfectly. The Sastan Jersey uses a tough Cordura exterior with soft Merino Wool inner face. Add in quilted shoulder and articulated elbow pads and you get one good looking, comfortable and durable top.
Third, they’re somewhat fitted. As fitted as you can get without inhibiting movement, so they don’t flap around when pedaling at XC cadence or look out of place at the coffee shop. Consider it the more mature option for those opting out of the full lycra look.
The Sastan has a half-length zip with two-section, dual side pockets. A zippered one sits inside the outer pocket, keeping small bits from being mashed under a hydration pack. The caveat is this: Don’t put anything in the open pocket you don’t want to lose or have fly out. Like a cell phone. It can land on a hardwood floor when you leap over a baby gate and have its screen shattered. Damn it.
The sleeves have a soft, non-elasticized cuff to keep trail debris and cold wind from running up your arms. The chest pocket has an open top pocket and zippered front pocket with microfiber sunglasses wipe tethered inside. Handy, but you’ll never get it slipped back in as flat and precise as the way it ships to you, so you’ll see a crumple or two over you chest. Personally, I’d prefer the wipe to be on one of the side pockets.
The shorts get minimal, color matched reflective piping. The leg opening is cut on a bias such that it won’t rub the back of your calves during pedaling. Nor will the front catch on your knee cap, and the fabric so soft there’s never been any chafing.
Rear facing side pockets seem odd when standing, but on the bike they make a lot of sense. Stash a gel or map in there and it won’t even register. Even a small billfold/credit card holder was barely noticeable when pedaling.
Both pieces are spring/fall weather appropriate. Much above 70ºF and they get a bit warm. Below that, though, they’re easily layered to keep you comfortable into the 50’s. I rode with Swobo wool 3/4 bib knickers and a thin wool short sleeve base layer on this particular ride (in the mid/high 50’s) and was perfectly comfortable. Summer wear they are not, particularly the jersey. The shorts could work when paired with a really lightweight padded liner.
If you didn’t catch the pricing in my holiday gift guide, you may well have surmised these things aren’t cheap. You’d be right. The shorts are $269 and the jersey’s $327. I’d justify that price tag with the following: They’re extremely comfortable and well made, they’re made in North America (Vancouver, BC) and should last for many years. If, like me, you’re of the buy-one-good-thing-so-it-lasts mindset, then they’re worth a close look. I recommend them highly. They have a few variations of both pieces -some cheaper, some not- worth looking at as well on Kitsbow.com.