Growing up, I owned very little cycling-specific clothing, other than a helmet and mitts. I spent most weekends on the bike making “sick” jumps, racing friends around the block, or on family rides in a pair of old Converse, generic shorts (jeans in the winter), and a band tee. I needed clothes that were suited for shredding on my mountain bike or BMX, comfortable for band practise, meeting up with friends, and chucking on after school because “it takes two seconds to take off your uniform, Jack.” Ugh, fine. It wasn’t until my twenties that I invested in my first pair of cycling shorts and breathable upper layers, and what a revelation. However, I think it’s safe to say that even though cycling clothing feels great on the bike, it doesn’t always look particularly at home ordering a cappuccino downtown (roadies, I’m looking at you). Well, Club Ride Apparel is here to help, offering trendy smart/casual apparel that incorporates discreet bicycle-specific functionality. Finally, I can revert to type, hit the trails, jump some sketchy homemade ramps, play with Legos, nail the intro to “Smoke on the Water,” and spend time alone in the van wondering where it all went wrong without any need for a change of clothing.
Club Ride, founded by Mike Herlinger, is a “mountain lifestyle clothing” brand, designed from a biking perspective but made to be multifunctional. Ten years on, the company has spearheaded the bike lifestyle clothing category, and it’s easy to see why. As someone living on the road full time in a modestly sized Vanagon Syncro, space is at a premium, and I don’t have the luxury of carrying clothing for all occasions. I’m always on the lookout for tasteful, multipurpose apparel that’s comfortable for everyday life on the road but manufactured using technical fabrics that are also expedition-ready. Club Ride ticks all the boxes and does so in style. I was fortunate to get hold of some samples, and over the past month, I’ve lived in them.
Let’s kick things off with the upper body, more specifically, three Club Ride shirts: the Detour, New West, and Motive. All three have an understated yet classy aesthetic, with the Detour (Mallard Green Plaid) and New West (Flame Plaid) offering a classic look and the Motive (Indigo Blue Leaf Print) adopting a more summery/modern vibe. The Detour and New West are made from stretch woven plaid fabric, whilst the Motive uses a lighter dissolvable yarn fabric, but all three are extremely comfortable and breathable (they’re also super compressible, making them perfect for travel). The Detour and Motive offer four-way stretch, whilst the New West provides two-way stretch, although, in reality, all three allow ample freedom of movement.
Living on the road over the past 10 years, I’ve ditched most of my old clothing for mountain-specific apparel (Berghaus has been my personal choice). Thus, what I love about the Club Ride shirts (alongside other products in their range) is the way they seamlessly match innovative sport specifications with classic everyday style. In other words, wearing these garments, I can’t help wondering why you’d choose to spend comparable money on a generic shirt and thus sacrifice so much attention to detail and performance. I’d buy these shirts without an interest in cycling because they look good and offer a level of all-day comfort that’s unmatched by recreational alternatives. The three shirts are wicking and quick-drying, and the New West is the only one that’s not anti-wrinkle. They all feature a hidden rear-zippered pocket, RideLight reflective accents, and a hidden sunglass cleaner. The Detour and New West use pearl snaps, whilst the Motive incorporates flat plastic snaps, but neither popped open when stretched.
On my last extended bikepacking trip, I was frequently riding in 95°F at high elevations with almost non-existent shade, and the exposure was intense. In a climate such as this, sunscreen isn’t always enough (especially when you’re sweating profusely), but the Detour and New West additionally feature UPF 50 (ultraviolet protection factor). I received samples in USA L/Euro XL, which offered a relaxed, loose fit (I think for work/socialising, a size smaller would’ve been better—I’m 6 foot, 2 inches with a 42-inch chest). The shirts retail between $80-90, and I think that’s a great value when you consider the comparable Kitsbow Essplanade Shirt is $155.
The Helios Sun Shirt (my sample was in “Dusty Olive Tapenade”) is less “classic” in its design and is an altogether more futuristic upper layer. I’ve already mentioned the importance of sun protection on the bike, and the Helios takes things to the next level. Manufactured using anti-wrinkle, wicking, and quick-drying four-way stretch dissolvable yarn fabric (body) and plain weave (sleeves and side panels), it’s incredibly soft and loose-fitting. However, as the name suggests, the Helios is all about sun protection and is subsequently UPF 50. This innovative product manages to be almost weightless (it packs extremely small, perfect for bikepacking) with exceptional ventilation, yet offers comprehensive protection thanks to its long sleeves and integrated hood. Additionally, it incorporates two front-zippered pockets and RideLight reflective accents. The Helios is fantastic, providing excellent shielding from the sun and being supremely breathable in hot weather.
Next up is the lower body, specifically, the Joe Dirt shorts, Mountain Surf shorts, and Gunslinger chamois. The Joe Dirt shorts, like the shirts, do a marvelous job of being both technical and everyday casual. The midweight stretch mini-cord fabric is rugged yet also four-way stretch. Additionally, they showcase a gusseted crotch, belt loops (and an internal Velcro waist adjustment), RideLight reflective accents, and six pockets (two front, two back, one change pocket, and one side cell pocket). I’ve spent the last month in my Joe Dirts, working at my desk, walking, riding my bike, relaxing with family, and I love them. They are made to last and are much better quality than my old Giro alternatives. Whilst they are super comfy and non-restrictive when active, the material is heavier than my other biking shorts, and that does make them a little warmer. Nonetheless, due to their loose “comfort” fit and mesh front pocket linings, I did feel there was adequate ventilation for warmer weather.
The Mountain Surf shorts are a lighter option, constructed of two-way stretch woven fabric and fabricated to be a “sport” fit. These offer a water-resistant finish for water and dirt, gusseted crotch, internal Velcro adjustment, RideLight reflective accents, and six pockets (two front, two rear, and two welted side-zippered pockets). The quality of finish is superb, and the shorts wouldn’t look out of place on the bike or downtown. I received the Joe Dirt and Mountain Surf shorts in a US M/EU L, but I found the latter to be much snugger around the waist and crotch (I’m a 32-inch waist). It could just be my proportions, but I’d definitely opt for a larger, loose-fitting size, especially considering these are more “sport” focused.
The Gunslinger chamois are manufactured to be comfortable on mid/short rides whilst also being less noticeable off the bike (they don’t feel dissimilar to my everyday boxer briefs). The 8-millimetre dual-density foam does an admirable job soaking up vibration without being obstructive when walking around town. This product utilizes a five-panel body shaping construction, perforated memory foam, and is anatomically male-specific for optimum comfort. The Gunslinger is super comfy and targeted towards commuting, local rides, and weekend adventures.
Club Ride will be a permanent addition to both my recreational and cycling wardrobe. I’d heard so many positive things about their apparel in the run-up to receiving samples that I was worried I’d put them on too high a pedestal. However, after a month of living in their products, I’m sold. It’s a winning formula: modern technical fabrics and innovation discreetly integrated into tastefully designed everyday apparel. It’s worth noting that my testing was done locally due to Covid restrictions, and I’ll be reviewing these garments on an extended bikepacking trip when possible. That said, it has meant that their usage has been highly diversified, reaffirming their comfort and usability for everyday life. Club Ride has unquestionably created clothing that’s ideal for biking, but I’d concur with their founder, Mike Herlinger, that Club Ride is more broadly “mountain lifestyle clothing.” If you’re investing in premium garments, why not choose a company that offers both timeless style and multifunctional performance?
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