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Race Face women’s Khyber MTB shorts review

The waterproof Race Face Khyber shorts are perfect for wet autumn and winter mountain biking. The distinctive and robust fabric will shrug off whatever the trail throws at you, though the lack of stretch means you need to take care when choosing your size.

One of the first things that struck me about the Khyber shorts is how good they look. Available in a stealth black or a cool, almost denim blue, these are shorts I wouldn’t feel weird wearing off the bike, and look damn good on it. But how do they actually perform?

The fabric, described as ‘Tweedster’ by Race Face, has a woven textured finish, and feels tough. This is borne out by surviving several crashes with barely a mark and no holes or tears to show for it.

The material itself is DWR treated, which means that water beads on the surface rather than soaking in, and more importantly for autumn/winter riding is also waterproof.

In my experience, the waterproofing performed excellently – riding in the rain for 30 minutes I emerged dry, bar the splashes my rear wheel sent up my back and consequently down the top of my shorts. They also dried pretty quickly, though they did feel quite heavy when wet.

The outer fabric has a softer mesh bonded to it on the inside, keeping them comfortable next to the skin, which is good, as the Tweedster fabric has quite a rough feel.

There is no real stretch to the fabric, so getting the right size is important. As a UK size 12 of the curvy variety, eg I have hips, I opted for a size Large and for me the fit was great. They sat comfortably around the hips and bum, and were loose over my thighs. I did need to adjust the waist a little to stop the shorts gaping when I leaned forward over the bike, but the internal Velcro pull-tags made this easy, and held perfectly while riding.

The waistband of these shorts has a fleecy lining, which sits nice and soft against the skin. There are also belt hoops should you wish to add an extra layer of security, and they’re fastened by a zip fly and two secure poppers.

A wider waistband at the rear of the short would be a welcome addition

One element that I feel is lacking in these shorts is a slightly wider or higher waistband at the rear of the shorts. It’s a feature I’ve had in other shorts and have really appreciated, particularly for riding in the autumn/winter months as it gives added protection against the cold and rain.

[UPDATE: Good news; Race Face have let us know that they are revising the design of the waistband on the Khyber shorts, adjusting the front and back rise.]

These shorts don’t come with a chamois, so you’ll need to don a padded liner if you want a little cushioning. I wore a padded liner underneath them for riding, and experienced no problem in terms of fit or comfort.

These reached to just below my knees (I’m 5”8). There was plenty of room for movement, and to fit knee pads underneath.

I was concerned that the shorts would ride up while cycling, and that if they did, the rougher Tweedster fabric on the hem would rub on my exposed skin. Happily, this fear was unfounded – they stayed in place, covering the tops of the knee pads and keeping my pale thighs protected from the elements.

Ventilation is provided by zipped vents located on the inner thigh, which did provide a cooling effect when riding.  However, I found that when the vents were open I tended to catch the lower end of the vent on the valve of my bike’s rear shock when pushing off, leading to some wobbly moments. This may not be a problem on other bikes, or indeed for other riders as it could be the result of some weird cycling habit I’ve acquired rather than the shorts, but it’s worth flagging up.

All the pockets on the Khyber shorts have a zip closure, to keep your valuables secure

These shorts have LOADS of pockets. Three zipped hip pockets, two on the left and one on the right: two rear pockets, again zipped; and a cargo pocket on the thigh which is zipped and has a cover flap with a popper fastening.

Although I wouldn’t want to put too much more than some change in the pockets around the rear and front – it would impede my movement on the bike – the cargo pocket on the thigh was great, with room for a card, phone or multitool.

However, after a few rides some of the stitching holding the pocket to the short began to come undone. I’ve not had any issues elsewhere on the garment, and  the stitching seems secure everywhere else. That said, this happened with relatively little ride time and is an area of concern.

[UPDATE: Race Face have informed us that the stitching issue is a one-off problem, and they have not had any other complaints or warranty issues raised. They also say that if anyone were to experience the same issue, the shorts would be replaced by their warranty department.]

These shorts are definitely suited to autumn/winter/spring riding, as the thick material makes them quite warm to cycle in, and great for keeping the elements out.

VERDICT

Robust, practical and stylish waterproof short, perfect for riding trails and off-road in the wet Autumn and Winter months, taking you through ‘till spring.

Loose fit gives you room for movement, and space for kneepads. The addition of a wider waistband at the rear would make these pretty much perfect. The fact that the stitching on the cargo pocket is coming unpicked is an area of concern however.

PROS

–       tough, robust , durable fabric
–       water resistant and warm
–       long fit works well with knee pads
–       lots of pockets

CONS

–       lack of a high waistband at the rear can expose lower back
–       stitching on cargo pocket coming undone after only a few rides
–       thigh vent catches on rear shock valve (bike dependent)

PRICE: £76.95
SIZE: XS to XL
MORE INFO: Race Face
Available from: Silverfish

What Race Face say

Tweedster Fabric:  70% Polyester, 26% Rayon, 4% Spandex, yarn-dyed textured outer fabric bonded to 100% Polyester durable mesh interior. DWR (durable water resistance) treated. 8,000mm; 3,000g/m2 (waterproof/breathability).

  • Zippered front fly with dual snap closure and custom grab tab.
  • Asymmetrical zippered hand pockets.
  • Zippered cargo and rear pockets.
  • Inner waistband adjustment system.
  • Soft brushed inner waistband.
  • Zippered thigh vents.
  • Double reinforced seams throughout.

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