In a world, where consumerism runs rampant, customization is king. Cue dramatic music.
People know what they want. Exactly what they want. And some companies have been changing their approach to better cater to the picky customer. We have seen it with consumer-direct bikes, and now mountain-bike apparel.
NWT3K (Northwest Tech) is all about apparel. If it’s possible to be all about more than one thing, they are also all about customization. You’ll have to design your own gear if you want the company’s product. And when you do, the brand pulls the fabric and sews each piece individually. Which makes shipping times a little longer (up to 21 days), but it isn't every day you get to craft your own kit.
For bike apparel, NWT3K offers a jersey and a short. The interface on the NWT3K website is intuitive and responsive. Choose an option, and an image of what the garment will look like updates to reflect the new configuration. If you are customizing both a jersey and a short, you can see what they will look like together, front and back. It is easy and fun. Try something crazy, or go all black. It’s your world, NWT3K is just living in it.
The jersey is not dissimilar to many other mountain bike jerseys on the market. It is a four-way stretch material, has a drop-tail lower back and wicks away sweat and moisture. Where the difference comes in is the customizability. And there is a lot of that.
You can't change the material, and you can't change the enduro-inspired, somewhat-baggy fit, but you can change just about everything else. The jersey is available in short-sleeve, three-quarter length, and long-sleeve options, of which you can by any of seven colors. If symmetry isn't your thing, you can make one sleeve a different color than the other. Although they do have to be the same length.
The body is made up of two different panels, a lower and an upper, both of which can be their own color. The logo is also printed on the front and on the drop-tail rear, and can be either white or black. It does have to be represented though. So if you don't want your mountain bike jersey to be screaming NWT3K, this might not be the jersey for you.
For an extra 10 dollars, you can also add a small stash pocket in the lower right if the back, with four different colors for the waterproof zipper.
I went with three-quarter length sleeves and added in the stash pocket. When I first pulled it out of the packaging I was surprised by how stretchy the fabric is. When NWT3K says four-way stretch, it is not kidding. The jersey is as stretchy as a pair of leggings or yoga pants.
Once on, the fabric sits casually and is neither too tight or too loose. The extra stretch does offer unconstrained movement in any position, but I do wonder about snagging it on trailside obstacles. Here is Southern California I don't have many trees or branches to contend with, and thus there isn't much for my clothing to snag on. But if I were to wear this in a forest with encroaching twigs, I could see how the extra stretch combined with the loose fit might be more prone to snagging than a stiffer material. Of course, there is a trade off. The stretch means the jersey is less likely to rip if it does snag.
The last thing I will say about the fabric is that since it is so stretchy, the stash pocket becomes somewhat unusable. For any heavier objects such as a phone, the fabric is too stretchy and the jersey too loose to hold the phone in place. Riding around, my phone would move and bump against my back. For lighter objects, the pocket is serviceable, but ultimately I never used it over the pockets on my shorts. And that is the great thing about NWT3K. Don’t think you will use the stash pocket? Don’t get it.
Moving around on the bike, the jersey is comfortable and breathable. I had no problems with overheating or excessive sweating while in the jersey. But like any synthetic material, it doesn't take much to make this jersey smell. Wear it often and wash it often and you will be a happy mountain biker.
Like the jersey, the shorts are equally customizable. The main body can be one of six colors. Those same six colors can be applied to the rear yoke as well. The shorts have no shortage of pockets either. Five to be exact. All with waterproof zippers that have four color options. The short's inseam can also be adjusted two inches shorter or longer depending on your body shape.
Like the jersey, the material of the shorts is four-way stretch, but the shorts are a burlier material. They could almost pass for DH shorts. The stronger material seems to cut down on some of the stretch found in the jersey, but the shorts still offer total freedom of movement. The one downside I found is the amount of material below the zipper. The crotch extends a little longer than I liked, and while I never caught it on my seat when dropped and descending, I would often catch the crotch on the saddle when sitting down after a burst of standing up to climb.
Climbing or descending, the five pockets on these shorts are great. The yoke pocket is the perfect size for my iPhone 6, although anything bigger probably wouldn't fit. The pocket holds my phone snug against the small of my back and I don't even notice it is there until I need it, and then it is only a quick zipper away. The rest of the pockets are also placed in areas where movement is minimal. Car keys, snacks and small multi-tools alike did not cause discomfort while riding. Plus, with five pockets I can forgo any pack as long as I have a water bottle on the bike.
Together, the shorts and jersey work great. And look great. Or at least I think they do. If you don’t, it doesn’t matter. Because your jersey and short combo can look completely different.