The end of the road season means one thing... mountain biking! Over the last month I've been enjoying hitting the trails and getting muddy again on the mountain bike, and in the process I've been testing out some cool new kit from a great British company Intrepid Apparel.
The Freedom Gilet (RRP £69) and the Campaign Shorts (RRP £85) are perfect for Autumn mountain biking; robust, warm and designed to cope with the English weather. They've been a great bit of kit to pull out of the cupboard and throw on when it's time to rip up the trails.
The Freedom Gilet is quite easily one of the most robust and well designed gilets that I have tested. It is made for hours of use and abuse on the trails, with some very cool and well thought out design details.
The gilet is made of a breathable softshell fabric, with a warm microfleece lining. Thicker than other gilets I have used, it is perfect for wearing with a long sleeved jersey on a cool morning and is very effective at keeping your core well insulated from harsh autumn winds.
The softshell fabric is my preferred choice for gilets; it is wind-proof and water-resistant, yet it breathes well to avoid uncomfortable moisture build up under your layers. The fabric is also impressively robust, go screaming down a bramble covered trail and the gilet brushes off all the overhanging branches without tearing a thread or showing any signs of damage.
Aside from the fabric choice, the design of the Freedom gilet is also impressive. The chunky contrast colour zip on the front promises years of service. The secure zip chest pocket with rubber fir tree tag is a nice place to put your lift pass or other light objects. Then, the larger rear pocket with internal phone holder is ideal for keeping things safe even when the trail gets rough.
The Freedom Gilet is a product designed to cope well with the elements. Its styling is great for both on and off the bike because of its relaxed fit and sensible colour scheme. For £85 it is a great piece of kit, certainly when those frosty mornings on the trails become all the more frequent I will extremely glad to pull it on over my jersey.
Baggy mountain bike shorts can be a hard bit of clothing to get right; all too often they are loose around the waist, cause uncomfortable friction, or are too warm for warm weather riding. The Campaign Shorts have made a very good attempt at eliminating any chance of such criticisms.
The fabric choice is perfect for all-mountain shorts in my opinion; it is a three way stretch material, with rip-stop properties. Highly breathable and with the added benefit of front thigh vent zips, it has stayed cool even when the temperature has warmed up on Autumn mornings. The fabric seems to be hard wearing, showing few signs of many miles in the saddle on the normally weaker patches such as the seat area.
In terms of fit and styling the Campaign shorts are also impressive. The cuffed hems are comfortable on the knees and the ratchet waistband adjuster was useful, as the 'medium' I had on test (normally a 32 inch waist) came up a little big. The fly zip and popper buttons secure the waistband very well, and there are even belt loops if you need them. Overall, the fit is cycling specific enough to stay put even with enthusiastic pedalling, but also highly functional off the bike.
Onto the added features of the Campaign shorts, and there are plenty to impress. The fleece lined pockets with magnetic fasteners are a really nice touch. The zippered cargo pockets with a phone pouch and a key clip inside are another. There is also a fleece lined rear pocket and very nice embroidered logos. Certainly with the number of pockets on these shorts, if you combine it with the Freedom Gilet you barely need to take a hydration pack with you for kit storage.
Baggies are hard to get right, but Intrepid seem to have pretty much nailed it with these in my opinion. They are good for keeping you protected, warm, comfortable, and for holding plenty of kit both on and off the bike. The fit is slightly on the generous size, but that is easily overcome with the ratchet waistband adjuster, and apart from that I can't fault the product. Built for life both in and out of the saddle.