British cycling brand Morvelo recently sent one of their new mtb tops for me to try – and it got me reflecting on how far mtb wear for women has come since I started riding many years ago.
Words: Adele Mitchell
Like many of us, my first mtb rides were dependent on borrowed kit – a bike that was too big, and shorts and a top (also too big) from my OH’s bike kit drawer.
Having decided that mountain biking was like THE BEST THING EVER I soon invested in a bike that fitted (and two more since!).
However finding gear that fitted was more of an issue because, basically, women’s mtb gear didn’t really exist.
When a toddler pointed at me on my bike and shouted “Look mum!! A mountain bike man!!" I had to acknowledge that he had a point.
Instead, there was a smattering of women’s road gear available – pink, flowery, and cut for someone considerably shorter than me. Men’s gear offered more cover – but wasn’t exactly flattering. When a toddler pointed at me on my bike and shouted “Look mum!! A mountain bike man!!" I had to acknowledge that he had a point.
Of course, you could argue, it doesn’t matter what you wear so long as you’re actually dressed…but having enjoyed a career as a fashion and beauty journalist ‘not having a thing to wear’ on my bike was a bit of an issue for me.
Also, and more seriously, I wanted the mtb industry to acknowledge that women ride- and encourage more women to ride. A great choice of women specific clothing makes a statement that they believe we are here to stay, and not just turning up to trail after our boyfriends.
Fast forward now to 2016 and, I am pleased to report, my mountain bike wardrobe is in a much better place.
Fast forward now to 2016 and, I am pleased to report, my mountain bike wardrobe is in a much better place. There is still nothing like the choice available to our sisters on road bikes, but brands ranging from the mighty Fox to start ups like Findra are making great quality products that fit, flatter and function really well.
The Morvelo Freestylin’ jersey - where this article first started - is a perfect example of what's now available. For a start, the colour matches my bike (though, to be fair, I doubt this was a consideration when they designed it). I love the colourway – its cheerful, bright, modern, and sporty. As the men’s jersey features the same design, I think we can also safely say it isn’t ‘ girly’ either.
The women specific cut combines that of a t-shirt and a ‘baggy’ jersey: the stretch Polyester fabric is shaped to skim the body rather than dwarfing you (note - they recommend you size up if you wearing body armour). As a result, it is effortlessly comfortable. As a guide to fit, I usually wear a size 8/10, and this top is a size S.
The length is perfect for me (I’m 5’ 9") – and the drop hem at the back means there is no chance of it riding up when leaning forward.
It is silky, lightweight and cool to wear even during strenuous climbs on a sunny day, thanks in part to meshed side panels. Flat stitching keeps it ultra comfortable, and the underarm panels are seamless for ease of wear with a hydration pack. It also offers and SPF 50 and a glasses wipe.
Of course, the perfect garment doesn’t exist: a couple of niggles are that the top is completely pocket free – not a problem if you carry a hydration pack, of course, but limiting if you’re out for a quick ride without one. Also, Polyester is quite delicate in the face of prickly brambles and friction – in my experience tops made from it can show tiny snags and pulls before too long.
I paired this top with a pair of Findra Ms Mo shorts – firstly because Morvelo’s new women shorts are not available until the autumn, and secondly because I LOVE them – fabulous fit, quality fabric, lovely styling. Also they are navy blue, which matches this top perfectly.
Not that matters of course….does it?