Mountain Biking vs Road Apparel

Loosen up! Mountain bike-specific apparel sports its own fashion sense.


My sporty girlfriends and I were recently chatting about fashion differences between road runners and trail runners. Look at running race photos and you’ll see a generalized look for pavement pounders: ankle-high white socks with minimal inseam shorts or colorful tights, each paired with a perfectly matching tank. Trail blazers gravitate toward taller colored socks, longer shorts with a non-matching tee-shirt style top, capped off with a visored hat. Neither is right nor wrong.  It’s just a differential between two sports that have essentially the same premise but with separate style and functional communities.

The fashion difference between road biking and mountain biking is similar. While both athletes ride a two-wheeled machine, there are camp divisions between what is acceptable in both style and function. Here’s the scoop on differences between road and mountain biking apparel. 

Because of its very nature, mountain biking begs for its own function-based apparel. A fat tire bike moves around under the rider much more independently than a road bike. The rider herself is actively moving in multiple dimensions: arms out, piston-like knees splayed, elbows pumping. This motion alone welcomes a looser silhouette. The Uberall, pictured, is a perfect example of this style. It covers the padded baselayer (my guess is the model is wearing a Glamour Panty underneath!), yet is loose enough to allow for a wide range of motion on the bike. Loose doesn’t mean sloppy – look at how cute this bib is while allowing for a relaxed fit.

The terrain factors in next. Mountain biking – or MTB for short - is often played out on a remote, rugged, nature-made landscape over long stretches of time. You need to carry tools, a pump, lots of water and food, a first-aid-kit, and extra apparel for weather changes. For this cargo alone you need a backpack. Due to the pack, a cycling jersey with typical rear jersey pockets doesn’t work well; the pack grabs onto the pockets and hitches up the fabric. Therefore, the MTB pockets that work the best are like the ones She Beest offers: a nice flat profile against the rider’s back. She Beest made them even better with a little top flap to keep contents from falling out. Full front zippers aren’t ideal, either, as waist straps can push the zip against your skin.  Function, meet design. Design, meet the Bella Goat Jersey. A quarter-length zipper allows a pack’s waist strap to be snug without pinching, while the slim volume rear pockets won’t create a hitch in your giddyup!

MTB shorts have come a long way down the sports catwalk, especially for women. Thank heavens we moved away from the men’s version of super-baggy, cargo-pantsy, unfashionable shorts of the past. Consideration of working with a female shape paired with the desire to actually look like a woman - even while kicking butt down a gnarly rock descent - we now have more options in MTB shorts than men. Super cute and technically functional shorts are available. Thanks Shebeest! Pockets are common thanks to all the fuel and tools needed. MTB shorts tend to be longer as the saddle is knocking all around your inner thighs. As part of the need for free body movement, super baggy isn’t necessarily better – many a rider has had her short cuff catch on the nose of the bike seat only to throw her off balance mid pedal stroke. Check out the Skinny Americano, for instance. It has stretchy fabric for movement, allows a baselayer chamois to be worn comfortably underneath, and looks rockin’ on a wide variety of body types thanks to a fitted silhouette. This was a favorite on my team’s kit options this year.

We’ve talked enough about function. What about fashion? Like trail runners, MTB tends to attract a crowd that walks on the wild side. Bold colors? Bring it. Fun patterns? How about a short covered in kittens? Intentional mis-matching is not only allowed, it’s encouraged. It’s cool to incorporate fashion sass to match your riding skills. If you’re going to be noticed riding, you may as well give them something to look at! Have fun, and get loose!

1 comment
- Dirty Jane

LOVING the Uberall! So unique. I would wear that around town too it is so cute!

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