If you don’t fancy lycra or traditional jerseys for your mountain biking, but want something practical and technical, then trail t-shirts are a versatile piece of kit to go for.
Essentially a t-shirt made from performance fabrics, they look casual and relaxed while still keeping your temperature regulated, and wicking sweat away from your body.
The bonus element is that off the bike they just look like (stylish!) t-shirts, so if you are off for a weekend riding or a longer trip, and need to minimise what you bring, they’re perfect. They can also double up a short sleeved base-layer for the colder months of the year.
More and more companies are beginning to produce them, including a number of home-grown businesses.
We’ve had a closer look at four trail t-shirts, made by howies, Trail 42, Whackjob and Broken Riders. Not only are these t-shirts performance wear, but they feature natural fabrics and environmentally friendly production processes.
Howies you may be familiar with, as we’ve featured a number of examples of their beautifully made cycle-specific kit before. Trail 42, Whackjob and Broken Riders are all small independent companies, set up by passionate individuals – if you haven’t come across them before, they’re worth checking out.
[part title='Whackjob Women’s Flow Tee']
A deep burgundy colour t-shirt, the Whackjob Flow Tee fits well with plenty of stretch, a good length which keeps your lower back covered, and hangs really nicely – a top I’d be more than happy to wear for every day as well as out on the trail.
The distinctive blue and orange ‘Flow’ graphic on the t-shirt aims to capture the essence of mountain biking in a visual form, and I did like the flowing, abstract print which uses environmentally friendly water-based inks.
The fabric of this t-shirt is the thicker than some of the others tested, which means a bit more insulation in the cooler weather ahead, and felt fine and soft against the skin. Size medium equates to a size 12, with a loose fitted feel.
Verdict: A great technical tee for warmer autumn riders, perfect layered over a long-sleeved base.
Favourite feature: The cool and distinctive graphic – it certainly stands out from the crowd!
Sizes: Small, Medium, Large
Colours available: Aubergine (but there are other designs available in other colours)
More information: Whackjob
With an emphasis on ethical and ecologically sound products, Whackjob t-shirts also feature distinctive graphics that make them stand out from the usual MTB clothing out there.
What Whackjob say
The Flow Women’s Tee is made using 70% organic bamboo, 30% organic cotton, ethically sourced and printed using sustainable processes and water-based inks. Because it’s bamboo, it is perfect for riding as well as for casual use. As with all Whackjob Women’s Tees it has a fitted cut with wider neckline, and uses a finer grade of the fabric to produce an incredibly soft garment that hangs and moves beautifully. All this plus the benefits of bamboo, so when you’re bored with just looking good, you can hit the trails and it’ll perform every bit as well as that nylon jersey you won’t want to wear any more…
[part title='Trail42 Women’s Classic Tech-T']
If you are looking for a comfortable, understated tee-shirt that performs excellently on and off the bike, then the Trail42 Classic Tech-T is for you.
The first thing I noticed was the length; as a fairly tall woman, I sometimes find that t-shirts and jerseys run a little short, but that wasn’t a problem here as the Trail 42 trail tee sat comfortably over my hips, and covered my lower back while leaning forward on the bike.
The beautiful soft fabric is a mixture of bamboo and organic cotton, and performed well – several spins round the course of the Brighton Big Dog race saw it keep it’s shape without chaffing or rubbing, it dried off quickly afterwards, and remained smell-free.
I loved the deep aubergine purple colour; it’s an unusual shade to see on bike gear, and the contrasting stitching is a nice detail. The slightly scooped neckline is a flattering and practical level; low enough too look good and give you some ventilation, high enough to keep your chest covered, and stop bag straps etc rubbing.
The medium sized t-shirt was a great fit on my (upper end of) curvy size 12 frame.
Verdict: Great cut, great performance, and a great understated style
Favourite feature: There’s lots to love in the thoughtful design of this shirt, but I particularly love the length of this tee.
Sizes: Small, Medium, Large, Extra Large
Colours available: Aubergine
More information: Trail 42
Based near the Forest of Dean, Trail42 was set up by Ruth and Rich Hallett, keen mountain bikers who saw a need for practical, ethical performance gear for riding.
What Trail42 say
Our women's technical t-shirt is made of natural fibres. On its own it keeps you cool in the summer or can be used as a base layer in the winter. It’s casual look and resistance to odour means it can be worn both on the trail and in the pub!
[part title='Broken Riders Logo short sleeve bamboo tee']
We were forced to check the price tag of Broken Riders t-shirt because, having experienced its luxurious Bamboo fabric first, we assumed it was going to be a pricey affair. This felt the softest and finest fabric of the t-shirts we looked at.
Bamboo fabric – as we’ve found out cycling EVERYWHERE in this t-shirt, to work, to the gym (in the gym), to the pub – is a natural fibre with a sublime soft feel, and more importantly for a cycling t-shirt had amazing wicking and antimicrobial qualities.
It was cut well, long enough to keep my kidneys warm and everything out of sight. The stretch in the fabric added that extra level of comfort and I liked the way that after a couple of washes I wasn’t left with obvious dents that so often appear in the chest area. Size small fitted my size 10 frame perfectly.
Verdict: Amazing value, simple style and super soft fabric that delivers. This is our favourite from the test!
Favourite feature: I’m a bamboo fabric convert, that says it all
Sizes: Small, Medium, Large
Colours available: Black, Blue, Charcoal, Eggplant, Red
More information: Broken Riders
Set up for the people who aren’t racers, superstars and looking to be number one, but ride because they love it. Broken Riders pay close attention to the sustainable production of their t-shirts, from start to finish, including wind- and solar-powered energy used, solvent-free inks, and fair wages for growers and producers.
What Broken Riders say
Regular fit, fantastic quality, kinder to the planet.Bamboo has excellent moisture wicking properties, helping to keep you cool. FairWear certified and EarthPositive® guaranteed climate neutral. Printed using water based PVC inks.
[part title='Howies Group Tee women’s cycling t-shirt']
The fabric is delightfully soft next to the skin, it’s lightweight, wicks away sweat efficiently and dries in super fast time.
The fit is loose with a long rear, and all in all it’s very flattering for women’s curves. The scoop neckline isn’t revealing when bent over on the bike, which is always good. Inside the neck and around the hem is a divine bike print, a subtle way of showing your love of all things two-wheeled. If you’re reading this howies – please do more with the print and stick it on the outside too!
I’ve used the Group Tee for much more than riding my bike, it doubles up as a running top, is perfect for travelling and I’ve even played tennis in it – well you have to do some cross training!
Verdict: Great technical t-shirt with a casual fit and fabulous wicking properties.
Favourite feature: Dries in an instant!
Size: Extra Small, Small, Medium, Large, Extra Large
Colour options: White
More information: Howies
Welsh company Howies have a long track record in producing sustainable, practical clothing which performs well with understated, cool style.
What Howies say
Moisture-wicking DriRelease cotton tee with a bike part print inside the neck and hem. A warm back is a happy back and the scooped tail keeps you covered. Unlike regular cotton, DriRelease cotton wicks sweat away from the skin and dries 4x quicker, making this tee perfect for pedalling across town. Soft against your skin and feels just like regular cotton.
Based on the test by Bex Hopkins. Read the full review here.