Review: Two pairs of women’s Garneau baggy shorts

These two baggy, knee-length shorts from Garneau bridge the gap between mountain and urban bike fashion for those who prefer something other than Lycra for all bicycle related activities.

Both of these shorts come with a liner that includes a built-in chamois and features wide waist and leg bands to prevent them from digging in. They are also beefy and nontransparent enough to be worn separately. These liner shorts are some of the comfiest I’ve ever worn, and both outer shorts come with a snap loop fastening system to keep them anchored to the liners.

The fit on both of these baggies is slim but not super tight around the waist and hips with extra room on the legs to accommodate muscular thighs and allow plenty of room for movement while pedaling. They come in sizes XS-XXL (I tested size small in both).

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Steeple – $120

The first noticeable thing about the women’s Steeple shorts is the fabric. It’s unlike any material I’ve encountered before on cycling shorts. The Revolt fabric looks and feels like denim, but with all the performance benefits of any other quick-drying, moisture-wicking activewear. Abrasion resistance makes these shorts tough but fashionable, and the Steeple is available in a variety of different colors to suit every style.

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These shorts are comfortable even when wet, and they have become a go-to piece for rainy, muddy days for this reason. The only downside? Mud stains don’t seem to come out of the Revolt fabric as easily as some other fabrics, but that’s not something I get too concerned about. I spend a lot of my life muddy anyway.

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My favorite feature is the stretchy panel on the backside of these shorts, offering extra comfort and flexibility while maintaining a form-fitting waist. Soft, silky material around the waistband adds comfort, and a Velcro adjustment allows for a perfect fit.

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Ample pocket space— five in all—provides no shortage of options when it comes to stashing tools, food or your phone, whether it’s during a ride or at the bar after, and Velcro or zipper closures on all pockets keep the valuables secure.

Whether you’re shredding the trails or riding to the grocery store, the Steeple shorts are a versatile pick for any bike-related endeavor and beyond.

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Latitude – $80

The Latitude is the more “mountain bikey” of these two shorts, with a slightly more casual look and cut. The material is more similar to that which you’d find on the majority of baggy mountain bike shorts. It’s soft and moisture-wicking, but also abrasion-resistant and DWR-treated for water resistance. I found them to be very breathable, and these shorts have been a go-to on hot summer days, comfortable even when sweat-soaked.

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There are four pockets – two zippered ones in the front and two jeanslike ones in the rear that don’t close. While the back pockets were nice for sticking my phone or other small essentials in while off the bike, I wouldn’t want to put anything in them while riding at risk of it falling out. If the shorts hugged my behind a little more, I’d probably reconsider though, so it’s most likely just a matter of fit and preference.

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Like the Steeple, the Latitude features an adjustable waistband via Velcro tabs, but adds belt loops to allow for extra fit tailoring. Bright colors like bright blue and magenta cater to ladies who like a bold look, but they also come in black for those who prefer a more subdued appearance.

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Overall, these are a comfortable pair of shorts for wherever your bicycle adventures may take you.

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How To: Wear with care

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WHAT MATERIALS ARE BEST FOR CYCLING OR OTHER ATHLETICS?

Synthetics are awesome but so are some natural fibers like wool. For us it is choosing the right tool for the job. Polyester is generally hydrophobic and does a be er job on the top than a nylon, however for durability in cycling shorts, we’ll often prefer nylon. And if you want compression, an elastane blend is necessary, however, it makes a top really perform poorly because it will soak with sweat/moisture and stay soaked resulting in a heavy and uncomfortable experience.

WHAT MAKES A MATERIAL WATERPROOF AND STILL BE BREATHABLE? HOW DOES THAT WORK?

Laminates, the layers that are impervious to water, have a microporous structure that has “pores” large enough for water vapor to escape but too small for liquid water droplets to drop through.

WHEN SHOPPING FOR SHORTS WITH A CHAMOIS PAD, WHAT KINDS OF FEATURES SHOULD PEOPLE BE LOOKING FOR?

If you’re shopping for bike shorts, look for a quality pad. If you’re buying at a bike shop, ask if anyone at the shop has used it. If they haven’t, ask them how they know it is good. After that, look for quality leg finishes that will last, and a weighty enough main material that will be supportive over time.

Thanks to: Sam Foos, Bontrager

WHAT KIND OF FIT DO YOU RECOMMEND FOR CYCLING?

Whatever you are comfortable in! Range of motion is key. Comfort is most important. I would not bring a knife to a gunfight, so if it’s race day and you’re comfortable in Lycra, by all means go for it. The Lycra should have strong compression and the fit around the crotch and legs should be snug but not overly tight. For most road rides that are mildly competitive, training oriented or racing, I choose Lycra kits. For casual all day rides, touring or general casual mountain bike rides I choose baggy shorts and a loose fi tting top for comfort, airflow and breathability.

WHY THE VARIATION IN PRICES OF ACTIVEWEAR AND OUTDOOR GEAR? SOME OF IT IS CRAZY EXPENSIVE. WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE?

First, there is a large range in fabric qualities and trims. Fabric quality is very important when it comes to the cost of a garment. The higher the quality and additional treatments you have, the higher the price. Also high tech trim pieces such as waterproof zippers and seam welding will add to your end cost as well.

When it comes to fabrics the main difference in quality comes down to the yarn and weaving or knitting level. Higher quality yarn increases the price but also increases the hand feel, comfort, performance and longevity of the garment. The weaving process has a part in this pricing formula as higher quality weaving of yarns facilitates good structure in the finished fabric and affects the hand and the life of the yarn.

Lower quality coloring processes result in a lack of color fastness and promotes fading early in the life of the garment. Quality of craftsmanship also plays into this. Most clothing items are man-made. Very low price garments are mass produced and we mean MASS. The quality on these pieces is very hard to control.

Thanks to: Becky Lamphier and Mia Stearns, Club Ride Apparel

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HOW OFTEN SHOULD I BE WASHING MY CYCLING GEAR?

For base layers and things that you are sweating into, wash them as regularly as you would your gym clothes. A technical cleaner for base layers will help remove embedded odors (you know what I’m talking about!), as well as enhance the wicking ability of your next-to-skin gear. First, be sure to empty pockets, as washing lip balm into your clothing creates quite the mess! Then zip all zippers, and close all Velcro. No need to turn inside out. Really hot water can be good for getting things clean, but can also be bad for elastics, so be mindful of what the care label allows!

Hang dry if possible, and never, ever use fabric softeners, including dryer sheets, as they will leave behind a gunky residue which will reduce the performance. For outer layers, cleaning regularly with a technical cleaner will make sure they perform their best as well. If you notice visible dirt, then it is time to clean.

If your jacket is “wetting out” or absorbing water, that is also a great time to clean it. It is very important to use a technical cleaner meant for water-repellent items, as household detergents leave behind a residue that attracts water—not what you want in a jacket that’s supposed to repel water!

DO I REALLY NEED TO HANDWASH EVERYTHING OR ARE THE WASHING MACHINE AND DRIER OK?

Always read the care label, but most items are fine in the washing machine. Usually tumble drying on low is fine, too. Again, check the label.

WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO REMOVE STAINS FROM MUD? FOOD? BLOOD?

The best way to get out a stubborn stain is to pour a small amount of undiluted cleaning product directly on the stain and scrub it gently with a soft-bristled toothbrush. Let it sit for a few minutes, scrub again, then throw it in the wash. This technique works well on stubborn stains on cuffs and zipper areas.

Thanks to: Heidi Dale Allen, Nikwax North America

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IF YOU GET A TEAR IN YOUR GEAR OR APPAREL IN THE FIELD, WHAT’S THE BEST THING TO DO UNTIL YOU CAN HAVE IT REPAIRED? SLAP SOME DUCT TAPE ON THERE?

Duct tape is a decent quick fix for outerwear, but folks need to remove the tape as soon as they can. If left in place too long the adhesive residue from the tape will stay on the fabric even after the tape is removed. This leaves a sticky mess which is difficult to remove when it comes time to make a more permanent repair.

If someone wants a quick and more effective long term repair than duct tape, we recommend using Tenacious Tape Repair Tape made by Gear Aid/McNe Corp. It comes in a small 3 inch x 20 inch roll (or pre-cut shapes) and can be cut with scissors to a shape that suits a specific need. They also make it in multiple colors and works great on tents and outerwear. We prefer the colored versions over the clear because the colors are made of fabric and seem to hold up be er in most situations that the clear.

The only downside with Tenacious Tape is that it can be even more difficult to remove that duct tape, so if someone uses it, they should plan on keeping it in place for a long period. Gear Aid also makes a number of small outdoor gear repair kits that include sewing related supplies and the right ingredients for repairing a leaking sleeping pad.

MY RAIN SHELL DOESN’T SEEM TO BE AS WATERPROOF AS IT USED TO BE, WHY IS THAT?

Dirt, oil, sweat and detergent residue can mask the waterproof coating. Also, over time the water repellent finish will wear off. When either of these happen, you will notice water absorbing into the outer fabric of your jacket. Luckily, in the former instance, cleaning with a technical cleaner is all you need to restore the water-repellency.

If, after cleaning, your shell is still “wetting out,” then it is time to apply a waterproofing product like Nikwax TX Direct Wash-in, a Durable Water Repellant (DWR), which is a chemical finish that most technical fabrics have on them when new. The original DWR tends to wear off over time from normal use and then water will no longer bead up and shed off the fabric.

I find that the trick with re-applying DWR is to throw my jacket in the the dryer for about 10 minutes on medium to high heat after the wash cycle in order to better “set” the DWR onto the fabric. Doing this is probably not recommended by most outerwear companies because most pieces of outerwear these days have welded or bonded construction as well as seam tapes that are applied with heat. Always read the garment label for recommended drying suggestions or contact the manufacturer.

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WHAT ARE SOME TIPS FOR KEEPING YOUR APPAREL IN GOOD CONDITION FOR THE LONG HAUL?

Regular washing of outdoor apparel and equipment is probably the most important thing people can do the extend the life of their gear. Body oils, sunscreen and other contaminants can do long term and irreversible damage to technical fabrics. Zippers also benefit greatly from frequent washing. Fine dust and road grime gets into zippers and can wreak havoc on the way a zipper functions. Essentially that fine dust becomes an abrasive and every time you zip or unzip that tent zipper or jacket, the dust starts to damage the teeth and the zipper slider.

For technical garments, tents and sleeping bags we suggest using only a front loading washer (top loading agitator columns can damage tents) and a two-cycle wash. On the first cycle use Nikwax Tech Wash to clean the items, and then using Nikwax TX Direct Wash-in for the second wash (only the first cycle for sleeping bags). To dry a tent we suggest hanging it up by the stake-out loops in a garage or basement for a few days. Always make sure your tent is completely dry before packing it up for storage, otherwise you may find mold and mildew the next time you take it out, and that often is not something that can be fixed.

To dry a sleeping bag (or puffy jacket) you’ll need a decent-sized dryer. Put the dryer on low heat and check regularly to see if it is dry. If it is a down insulated bag or down jacket, toss 5-8 tennis balls into the dryer with the item being dried. The tennis balls will bounce around and help break up the wet clumps of down and the bag will dry faster. Resist the temptation to turn up the heat setting or you may find that you have melted the fabric of the item you are trying to maintain.

We also suggest storing a sleeping bag in a hanging position much like they have them hung up on a retail floor of an outdoor store, or at the very least in an oversized co on stuff sack so that the bag is not always compressed. Keeping a sleeping bag compressed all the time will reduce its temperature rating and won’t keep you as warm in the long run as it did when it was new.

For panniers or bikepacking bags we suggest washing them in the bath tub or utility sink with Nikwax Tech Wash and make sure to use an old toothbrush to clean out the teeth of the zippers that might have dirt or dust in them as well as any tough stains. Hang these items up and let them air dry.

Thanks to: Ma Menely, Mountain Soles & Outdoor Threads

 

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