Long Term Review: Kitsbow Soft Shell A/M Shorts & Sastan Jersey

Kitsbow Sustans jersey and Soft Shell AM mountain bike shorts long term review

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…

Kitsbow Sustans jersey and Soft Shell AM mountain bike shorts long term review

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.

Kitsbow Sustans jersey and Soft Shell AM mountain bike shorts long term review

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.

Kitsbow Sustans jersey and Soft Shell AM mountain bike shorts long term review

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.

Kitsbow Sustans jersey and Soft Shell AM mountain bike shorts long term review

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.

Kitsbow Sustans jersey and Soft Shell AM mountain bike shorts long term review

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.

Comments

bib-a-roo bob - 12/09/13 - 6:07pm

I never understood the shorts over shorts thing. My under carriage disapproves of all that bunching twisting and seat snagging. Straight up bibs for life.

Brian - 12/09/13 - 7:37pm

I don’t care how well made they are – it’s MTB kit and it will get roughed up. Over $500 for a jersey and shorts is pretty insane. They look great and if they were more reasonably priced i’d be interested but alas – i’ll stick to my non-premium fit and fabrics…

tg - 12/09/13 - 7:53pm

$500 for a mtb kit! Are you flippin kidding me!

tight n slippery - 12/09/13 - 8:08pm

I never understood the shorts over shorts thing. My under carriage disapproves of all that bunching twisting and seat snagging. Straight up bibs for life.

pornitswhatlwouldratherbmaking - 12/09/13 - 8:20pm

They do look nice and l like the colors hes wearing. But dang they are expensive! Eh, if you have the cash go for it.

Henrik - 12/09/13 - 10:12pm

So you’ve had them for 12 months and not even taken a spill in them at all? You are the perfect rider Kitsbow is after. The dude with the garage queen bike in the parking lot that would rather show off than ride.

Get these to some real testers please. Let’s see how they hold up to a tumble or two.
Totally redic.

Tyler Benedict - 12/10/13 - 8:28am

Henrik – Actually, I wreck quite a bit. Comes with the job of pushing things hard to test them and riding unfamiliar new places, parts and bikes (and pushing them hard right out of the gate). A few times I worried I may have damaged them or, at least, permanently redesigned them with some of our lovely orange clay. Throwing them in the wash makes them new again. But, as suggested in the review, I’m wearing these for my XC/trail days, not lift-served bomb runs.

Tom - 12/10/13 - 9:01am

This stuff looks good, I like what they are doing, and it looks/sounds like it is durable. Expensive yes, at least its made in Canada. When you put good quality fabrics, r&d and hire properly paid labour you are surely going to pay for it in the price of the product somehow.

juanbree - 12/10/13 - 10:10am

so what coffee shop do you go to?

DowningK - 12/10/13 - 1:53pm

After reading a lot of reviews on the kitsbow line I got the all montain pocket polo. its probably the best jersey I’ve owned. I’ve ridden with in cold and hot temps, and taken a spill or 2 as well. I did a high speed lean against a granite wall on some tight single track and although I got some nice abrasions on my shoulder the jersey went unscathed. I am passionate about cycling and I am willing to invest in high quality items. I couldn’t believe i spent so much on a pair of Sidi Dragons, but 8 years (and thousands and thousands of miles) later they are still going strong. Yes we know its expensive, but its also well thought out, and clearly designed by cyclists. I am going to start to put some coin away for the AM shorts, it will be a nice spring gift to myself.

Pete Whitbeck - 12/12/13 - 5:39pm

I bought the AM shorts and the long sleeve AM jersey at Outerbike this year. Love the stuff! Attention to detail is amazing as is the fit. I wear old bibs under the shorts and that works great. My wife got the women’s AM shorts and loves them as well. Expensive – yes, but the Scholler fabric is bombproof while still breathable, comfortable and stretchy. Also, as mentioned by Tom in the above comments, Kitsbow has a great business ethic.

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