Despite Alex’s informative series of articles on cold weather riding, you won’t find me out braving the near-Arctic chill of Utah’s winters on a bicycle. My Wabi Classic will retire to the corner of my office for the winter, and if I do ride in the snow, it will be on a 24″ BMX. So this is my final bicycle gear review of 2011, but I’m going big, with two different pairs of shorts from Aero Tech Designs.
All Aero Tech Designs cycling shorts are designed and assembled in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania, with the majority of their raw materials sourced from other US manufacturers. Naturally, their workers are all local too. I mention this, because I have a growing appreciation for the small businesses that support their local communities through wages and tax revenue. Of course, that wouldn’t mean much to most people, unless the product compared well to imports. But I’m sure that when Aero Tech provided a pair of their padded MTB shorts, and their Commuter Multi-Sport shorts, they knew we’d be reviewing them in that context. (Alex compared their $59.95 bib shorts to others costing $180-$300 here) I’m happy to state that neither of us were disappointed.
The Padded Mountain Bike Shorts are designed for casual riders, so the emphasis is on comfort. They’re soft yet durable, with excellent wicking/drying properties. For anyone not familiar with the construction of casual cycling shorts, these have the typical left/right front and back panels for the outer shell, each cut to provide movement while riding, along with a seamless crotch panel that runs up the inside of one leg, and down the other. While the main panels are nylon for abrasion resistance, the wide crotch panel is comprised of nylon and polyester, along with a generous 10% spandex, to offer excellent moisture control without restriction. Inside is a mesh short with flat seams, leg grippers, and a crotch pad that Aero Tech describes as “comfortable and shock absorbing!”. I tend to agree. Unlike some other shorts I own, the properties of this pad won’t change with use, so you’re not left with an uneven, lumpy pad after a couple dozen rides. It’s also stretchy, does a great job of wicking moisture away, and is antibacterial. Exactly what you want in that area.
Trying them on, the first thing I noticed is that they truly are comfortable. I think I’m a bit fussy about fit, but these had a nice cut, and they give in all the right places. This was helped by the black stretch insert that goes across the rear, from pocket to pocket, allowing for additional movement and ventilation. On my bike, the shorts felt a bit “looser” than my usual shorts. Not so much a sizing issue, as maybe the shell being proportioned differently. The crotch pad, with its varying thickness and density, was agreeable on the bike, but not so thick as to deter me from wearing the shorts when going for a short run. While casual riders may not spend all day in the saddle, this pad would probably make that a breeze. Although I don’t generally like to carry stuff in them during a ride, the deep pockets will keep your wallet, keys, and phone handy when you stop for Mexican food after another epic ride. Overall, they’re shorts that should win you over with their comfort, price and durability, rather than fancy logos and graphics.
Aero Tech’s Bicycle Commuter Cargo Multi-Sport Shorts have a long name, befitting shorts designed not just for cycling, but hiking, the gym, or anywhere you’d wear these simple yet stylish knicks. Comprised of an 88/12% nylon and spandex mix, they boast a handful of our favorite adjectives – comfy, durable, soft, lightweight, and quick-drying. They’re not padded, but stretchy enough for cycling, and even include a loop on the back for your blinkie light. With such a high nylon content, you can splash through a stream while hiking, and they won’t hold any water. In addition to two smaller front pockets, there are another four large pockets with zippers. Unlike regular cargo shorts, which generally have the pockets sewn on outside the shell, these pockets are all internal, giving the shorts a sleek look, yet still offering plenty of storage when needed.
At first glance, I didn’t know what to make of these shorts. It’s only after putting them on that you can appreciate how brilliant they are. Whether cycling, stepping over logs and big rocks while hiking, or practicing your Kung-Fu high kicks, they move with you, without any binding or threats of seams coming undone. But they look nice enough that I could pull them off (not literally) for a casual Friday at the office during the summer. Wearing them while riding a single speed or fixed gear may not give you any hipster cred, but they certainly wouldn’t look out of place either. The nylon belt and buckle seemed like an odd choice, but you can forgo the belt when you’re not carrying much in the pockets, and you’ll appreciate it when you are. No matter what I did in them, I couldn’t get over how relaxed they felt. If I was putting together some warm-weather outdoor adventure vacation clothes, I’d definitely include a few pairs.
One of the nice things about testing gear is that we get to treat it much rougher than we would if we bought it ourselves. No one’s going to take their brand new shorts and start tugging on the seams, trying to tear the stitching. But that’s exactly what we do when testing clothing and camping gear. All the stitching on both pairs of shorts were uniform and tight, with the exception of the logos. The round and semi-circular stitching wasn’t perfect, but that’s cosmetic, not structural. On the inside, where most garments have a lot of sometimes sloppy overlock stitching, the quality of the finishing compared well to imported shorts costing twice as much, a testament to the pride in workmanship not found in overseas factories.
After reviewing these shorts, it just seems like a no-brainer to support companies such as Aero Tech, which turn out a product as good as any made overseas, while keeping Americans employed.
To see the full line of Aero Tech Designs cycling clothing, visit aerotechdesigns.com