We sample lots of apparel. Every spring, the season's new styles start showing up at the office—full kits from a multitude of brands. It's a tough job, we know, but we try it all. Rarely do we find a perfect kit from a single brand. Some companies make excellent shorts, but can't do a jersey to save their lives. And let's face it, hardly anyone makes a proper chamois.
Eventually we naturally just start reaching for certain items, mixing and matching until we wind up with a dialed setup. Every now and then something will come around that fits so well that I'll even go dig for it in the dirty hamper, when there are ten fresh kits in my drawer. I've done that with each of the following warm weather pieces. Together, they make up the kit I'll be rocking all summer.
Showers Pass Apex Merino Tech T-Shirt | $70
More known for its wet-weather gear, Portland, Oregon, apparel brand, Showers Pass upped its off-road-jersey game this season with the addition of the Apex Merino Tee. Actually, the whole Summer 2018 MTB line deserves a shout out, including the Trailhead Hoodie, which is so cozy you might just end your ride early to get back into it.
The front and back panels of the Apex Tee are 50/50 Merino/Polyester, blending the odor resistance and wicking properties of the natural fiber with the durability of synthetic. The yarn Showers Pass uses here is a polyester core with Merino spun around it. The side panels are 87 percent merino for extra odor resistance.
At 150 grams per square meter (gsm), the material is light and airy, and perfect for soaring summer temps. We've already had some unseasonably hot and muggy days in northern Washington this year, and the Apex has proven to be an ideal hot-weather piece. Showers Pass uses superfine 18.5-micron Merino, so the Apex is nice and soft to the touch. And since the natural wool fiber is against the skin, it's warm when saturated, unlike the cold, wet feel of polyester. It doesn't sag and elongate much, either, which could be attributed to the fact that the built-in stretch of the front and back panels expand side to side, bun not up and down.
Finally, the Apex has a relaxed fit that looks and feels just right on and off the trail. Both the overall length, as well as the sleeve length, is a touch longer than my two other favorite merino tees from Icebreaker and Outlier. And unlike those other shirts, the Apex is cycling specific. The back is cut a bit longer so it doesn't ride up while you're hunched over the bars all day. It's not so long that it looks weird off the trail, though.
What I'm not overly fond of is the zippered back pocket. The Apex is so light that even the weight of my money clip—which on my salary, rarely has any cash in it—makes it feel off kilter. A standalone credit card plus ID for emergency post ride beer purchasing will go unnoticed, however. The mere existence of the pocket doesn't bother me in the slightest, I just find it unnecessary.
Still, the Shower's Pass Apex is my favorite shirt at the moment, period. I don't just wear it riding, either. It's so soft and comfy, I find myself wearing it all the time.
Pearl Izumi Boardwalk Short | $80
These shorts are in such heavy rotation, I don't think they've ever made it into the dresser drawer. They go from me, to the wash, and directly back on again. I'll wear them before the ride, during the ride, and long after the ride is over.
What I love most about the Boardwalk shorts is the simplicity. They're just a regular pair of shorts, but made out of a lightweight, quick-drying polyester. Literally the only bike-specific thing about these shorts are the two subtle reflective strips.
There aren't any unnecessary vents, and there's no convoluted waist adjustment system. They fit true to size, and for me, they're so perfect I don't need any waist adjustment device. For those who might, Pearl Izumi included these things called 'belt loops.' Belts have been working just fine for, like, a long time, and there are plenty of adventurey ones nowadays.
Then there's the button closure. Do any of your jeans have a snap closure? No, they don't. Why not? Because snaps are stupid for this purpose, and literally everyone except bike clothing companies know it. It's nice to see Pearl using some good old-fashioned common sense here.
Another obvious, common sense thing that Pearl included on the Boardwalk shorts is a normal four-pocket layout. If you make a pair of shorts so good that people don't want to take them off, you should definitely put pockets on them. As much as I love wearing my hip bag these days, I don't really want to wear it into the store. Nice work, Pearl.
Rounding out these perfect every-summer-day shorts is their super-lightweight material. It's not just an ideal weight for the heat, it's nice and soft to the touch, hangs freely and is quiet. There isn't much stretch to speak of, which is a good thing, because overly stretchy shorts always wind up snagging on the saddle, even ones with a tighter, tailored cut. Speaking of cut, the Boardwalk shorts fit a lot like a modern board short, and for me, the leg ends just above the knee. For reference, the size 32 has a 13.25-inch inseam.
Assos H.Rallyboxer_S7 | $120
If you ride a lot, it's worth investing in a nice chamios, and nobody makes a nicer one than Swiss-ass-pad experts, Assos. I guess when ass is in your name, you'd better.
I have a few pairs of Assos bibs, which are all amazing. But I've fallen in love with these minimalist boxer shorts, especially when the mercury rises. They're made from a thin material, and they're designed to go under baggies, so they can be super short. The rubberized elastic waist and leg loops are thin and un-hemmed, so the material is just as thin where it terminates, creating an unparalleled next-to-skin feel.
And since the Rallyboxer is designed specifically to be worn underneath shorts, Assos gave it external seams so what's next to your skin is smoother and less likely to cause irritation. The Rallyboxers also feature 8-millimeter-thick, oval-shaped hip pads made from viscoelastic polyurethane—they're $120 so I had to throw in some technobabble. The pads are actually pretty cool. You can take them out if you don't want them (and you're supposed to remove them when you wash the shorts) but you really can't feel them anyway.
The chamois itself is pretty thick, but fits me well enough that it doesn't feel like a loose diaper. Assos only stitches the chamois to the short at the front and back. It allows the chamois to stay put against your skin while the outer material moves. This slip-plane scenario, Assos claims, is one of the things that makes them better.
I'm not sure how much that one thing does, but there's no doubt that Assos makes the best damn chamois around. While the bibs are nice, they can get a bit hot in the summer. That's why an Assos chamois inside a boxer short is the perfect invention.
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