According to my unofficial trailside surveys over the past six months, 78% of UK mountain bikers seem to be growing curious about the concept of riding trousers. Or pants, as we call them where I’m from.
Commuters and XC winter pluggers have long been accustomed to the full-length trouser theorem, but for fashion-conscious enduro shredders and Monster-cap-wearing-dude-bros, the suggestion of eschewing brightly coloured 3/4 baggies and the opportunity to show off the girth of one’s knee pads by wearing trousers has quite possibly been A Step Too Far™.
The thing is, fashion means sweet-FA when you’re covered in mud. Or possibly cow shit. Really all that matters at that point, is that you’re covered in mud and cow shit.
The Pleasure Of Pants
While I too was once was one of these fashion-snowflakes, the first ride in these ION Shelter Softshell pants had me sold. They’re extremely comfortable to wear, but it’s the ability to have your bare skin, knee pads and socks shielded from muddy spray and general trail slop that makes them so practical and such a pleasure to use. Best of all? You can be that smug git in the carpark at the end of the ride who quickly whips off their riding pants before returning to civilian garb cleanly and without fuss.
Made out of a lovely 4-way stretch fabric, the Shelter pants are available in two colours and in five sizes from Small through to XX-Large. ION states this will cover waist sizes from 31in (81cm) up to 43in (110cm), though each size comes with an adjustable velcro waistband for fine-tuning the fit. On top of the men’s sizes, there’s also a women’s specific version of the Shelter pants (previously named the Collision, which Hannah reviewed last year).
Premium Fabric (And Price)
The softshell fabric is soft and luxurious to the touch, though at £129, they should feel luxurious. And they do – I feel a lot cheaper when I’m not wearing them. I’m typically a small size in most jerseys and bottoms, and the fit on the Shelter pants was spot-on for me. They’re close-fitting, though the inherent mechanical stretch in the fabric allows the pants to flex and move around with you on the bike. In the righteous words of Ned Flanders; “it’s like wearing nothing at all!”
The knees are articulated well, and there’s enough room to slip in some thin-to-medium thickness knee pads underneath. Bulkier DH knee pads will struggle to fit, but this is the compromise for having less flappage and a nice snug fit.
I’ve worn the Shelter pants over the top of regular bib shorts, and have had zero issues with any rubbing or chafing. The fabric is breezy enough to get away with during shoulder seasons, and a long zippered vent on the outside of each thigh provides a surprising degree of ventilation when required. Over the colder winter months, I’ve been wearing full-length, fleece-lined bib tights underneath, and this has become my go-to combo.
No, the Shelter pants aren’t waterproof, and ION doesn’t pretend they are. There’s a DWR treatment that copes well with light spray and dirt, but if it’s raining, or you blast through a surprisingly deep puddle, you’re going to get wet. The upshot is that the light fabric dries quickly. In fact, I’ve actually been fortunate enough to have the pants dry out during a ride (to clarify, this only happened once). If the rain persists though (this happened the other 99% of the time), the good news is that the Shelter pants easily dry out overnight. So they’ve been ready to wear the following day.
Durability has been excellent thanks to a reinforced, non-flexible crotch that has stood up to a barrage of Pennine Paste. Even with the saddle coated in wet, gritty mud, the tough fabric is still looking good, and for extra insurance, ION has used triple stitched seams in those high-stress areas. The same reinforced material is used around the inside and backside of each ankle where the pants are likely to brush against crank arms and greasy chainrings. A side benefit of the slightly heavier cuffs is that the pants tend to sit more securely around your riding shoes or boots, with less flapping about.
On that note, there are zippers that run down the outside of each shin, which allows you to open up the pants to help pull them on and off if you can’t be bothered removing your shoes. You also get two zippered pockets, and while good for keys, a credit card and small change, I couldn’t make use of the neoprene phone pouch in the right-side pocket, given that my phone is of the enormous ‘phablet’ variety.
Super comfortable and high quality riding pants for trail riding. They’re flexible and breathable, and while not waterproof, they dry out exceptionally well. If Moto DH style durability and wearing heavy duty knee pads and is more your concern than these pedalling friendly pants, I would recommend looking at something burlier than these. But for riders simply wanting comfort and protection from all that a tyre may fling up onto your body, the ION Shelter pants are a terrific solution.
|Product:||Shelter Softshell Pants|
|From:||ION Products, ion-products.com|
|Tested:||by Wil Barrett for 2 months|