Kitsbow’s mantra is “Impeccable mountain bike wear for obsessives”. This is expensive sounding language, but it captures much about what makes Kitsbow stand out from the rest of the mountain bike apparel crowd while remaining tastefully understated.
There are no garish colors to be found in the Kitsbow catalog, mostly grays and blacks and blues, all finely tailored and sewn from expensive materials in British Columbia by folks with years of experience manufacturing high end outdoor garments. Kitsbow is headquartered in Larkspur, Calif., having been founded by two friends with background in mountain biking and clothing design.
Long Sleeve All Mountain Jersey – $265
The real key to this jersey is the fabric, a woven blend of Cordura and merino wool, with the tough Cordura facing out and the cozy wool facing in. As much as I love 100 percent wool jerseys, they don’t stand up to hard off road use, and often end up with lots of holes and stretched out after a season of hard use. The tough Cordura outer is more sturdy than many jackets, and stands up well to minor crashes, branches and thorns, and the dryer.
Instead of the typical three rear pockets, there are two side pockets, which in theory should help with access when wearing a pack, but anything with a waist belt is still going to be wonky to get stuff in and out. That said, the pockets work well for small stuff like snacks and electronics. There is an inner, zippered pocket on the right with a key fob and an audio port. It is perfect for a phone or keys, but not both. A chest pocket has what I thought was a pen slot, but it was revealed to be a eyewear dock, a pretty handy feature. The chest pocket also has a tethered glasses/google/lens wipe in its own little zipper pocket.
A full length zipper makes for easy layer changing and as much or little ventilation as needed. The fleece-lined collar zips up to mid neck and has a small arc of reflective piping, but only on the left side? A size medium fits my almost six-foot self like it was made for my 155 pounds, and there is room for wool jersey and base layer underneath without feeling restrictive.
The Cordura outer sheds splashes and dirt, but it isn’t a softshell, so pack accordingly. It also isn’t as insulating as a jersey with higher wool content, but I’ll take that for the hugely increased durability. The wool content and tight knit nature of the fabric repels stink, meaning multiple rides without the need to wash.
After months of use from late fall into winter, I’ve put this on my list of gear to pack if I was leaving tomorrow to ride around the world. It is comfortable, sturdy and cut well, has a low profile on and off the bike, and would look fine with a T-shirt and jeans
Soft Shell A/M shorts – $269
Baggy shorts are often just that—a baggy mess of extraneous fabric, oversize pockets and various mechanisms to adjust the waist size. Kitsbow takes a different tact, with nine sizes, 28-34 in single inch increments and 36 and 38. The fit is tailored but unrestrictive.
Schoeller fabric is regarded by many as the finest available, which is why Kitsbow uses Schoeller-dryskin for these shorts. A hard-wearing soft-shell fabric, it offers stretch, weather resistance, and moisture transfer. All seams are flat-stitched and the interior fabric is much more comfortable than the burly feeling outer would suggest. The inseam hits me mid-knee, and leg diameter works with kneepads, but it wouldn’t be my first choice for all day in armor.
The zippered pockets ride along the side-seam and disappear when empty and zipped up. The pockets are lined with stretch mesh, so they work quite well as vents when left open. They are big enough for a wallet and cell phone, which makes them handy for post ride pub-use. I’d rather not have stuff in those pockets when riding though, even if these are better placed than most. The waist closes with a YKK zipper and a fancy Italian Slider Snap—no chance it will pop open under hard pedaling, or hard eating.
The fabric is too heavy for use much above 70 degrees, but between that and the freezing point, these are pretty swell. The fabric is awesome in any kind of damp weather, repelling water and dirt, and drying quickly when wet. The gusseted crotch may be the best I’ve ever used in keeping the saddle snags at bay, although maybe some of that credit goes to droppers posts? Whatever it is, they are comfortable, and work well with and without a chamois, which is not included. Use your own or splurge on the Kitsbow Merino base short ($215).
I’m not going to try to convince you these are “worth the money”, as that is too subjective to be worth arguing. Instead I’m going to tell you this clothing is the result of a dream, hard work, good design, incredible materials, excellent manufacturing techniques, and hours upon hours of saddle time. What is that worth to you?