One of the biggest gripes of DHaRCO designer, Mandy Davis, are baggy riding shorts that are covered in a thousand bells and whistles to compensate for average materials. So, she set about designing a new range of clothing that brought the simplicity seen in Australian surf culture to days railing the dirt.
Well thought-out functionality has seen the DHaRCO men’s and women’s ranges become an increasingly common site on Australian trails, as well as in destinations that mountain bikers look to for future trends in the sport such as Queenstown and Whistler. So what exactly is making the company’s apparel stand out from the rest? We put the Ladies Gravity Shorts and matching 3/4 Sleeve Jersey to the test.
Ladies 3/4 Jersey – Trail (AU$65 / £50 / $55)
Ladies 3/4 Jersey – Trail
There’s a lot to like about DHaRCO’s women’s 3/4 sleeve jersey. It’s feminine without being overly girly. It fits snug enough to keep the bugs out in the Australian summer. It’s bright and ‘pops’ in photos. And, given that jerseys rarely die, the colours – aqua, dazzling blue and black orchid – have been cleverly chosen so they’ll look the goods with two or three different pairs of shorts in the range so you can mix and match.
The main fabric provides protection from the sun, and, despite wearing it on days that were so hot and humid I was dripping with sweat, the top itself never ‘felt’ hot. It wicks moisture well, and it doesn’t cling to the body in a way that feels sticky on hot days or unflattering on the front, a quality that is especially welcome if the contours of your stomach don’t give you away as a pro athlete or magazine cover girl.
Out on the trails I was pleased to discover that the material never chafed even on long rides with a pack. As a fair-skinned freckle collector, I liked the protection the 3/4 sleeves provided from the hot, summer sun in comparison with a short-sleeve trail tee. This garment is also better suited to enduro than a downhill jersey as the sleeve length means you can quickly strap on your elbow pads or whip them off with a minimum of fuss and indecent exposure.
The finer details are not forgotten
On top of its fit and performance characteristics, the durability of this AU$65 trail jersey makes it easy to recommend. The only signs of wear are some small rub marks from the straps of our hydration pack, but you have to look close to see them.
It’s hard to fault the 3/4 Sleeve jersey except to say that the subtle styling means riders are probably more likely to buy this to complement the shorts rather than first seek out the range for the jersey in its own right. The comfort and all-season performance means you’ll be glad you did.
This one ranges from S to XL. I normally take an XS in cycling jerseys, but given the loose-fit style of this one, I’d still chose the small size (tested) even if an XS was available.
Ladies Gravity Shorts (AU$115 / £78 / $95)
Worthy of praise, the Ladies Gravity Shorts
The Ladies Gravity Shorts are the show stealer, with their superior performance rendering several other pairs of shorts in my wardrobe redundant. In fact, over the test period we’ve been surprised how many people ask about the DHaRCO Ladies Gravity Shorts, feel the softness of the fabric and then order a pair of their own.
The Gravity Shorts disappear from consciousness while riding, making the cleverness of the design easy to miss unless you’ve fought the limits of poorer products in the past. The secret to their success is in the proprietary material, which the company spent two years testing and developing before launching the range.
Softer on the inside
The material has a soft, wicking quality on the inside, and a water and dirt repellent, and abrasion resistant, outside. Adjustment is taken care of via two tabs at the waist. The rest comes down to the product’s stretch, stitching and cut. Basically, the material stretches effortlessly and imperceptibly as you move through technical trails, and stays close to the body and out of the way.
The left hip pocket is not only deep enough to fit some food, a lift pass, and even a small camera, but it somehow keeps these items secure without needing to use the zip to keep it closed. Another pocket at the rear of the shorts easily fits an iPhone 5, and is a good place for stashing extra food on long rides. This pocket makes good use of a stable space that riders rarely land on in a crash.
Drop in without stress of snagging
Unlike some other shorts I’ve used, they’ve never snagged on the saddle on technical descents. The buttons and zips are easy to do up with gloves on, and I haven’t had any issues with them popping open when they’re not supposed to. They’re also the coolest feeling shorts I’ve used on the hottest of summer days.
They show no evidence of heavy crashes, although the lightness of the material has aged a little quicker than some of the more indestructible designs out there, such as those by New Zealand company, Nzo – which has had to start asking customers to recommend their friends as they never wear out their own shorts!
DHaRCO’s Ladies Gravity Shorts are available in three colours – dazzling blue, deep orchid or black – and range in size from XS-XL. (You’ll see all three colours featured here as I’ve used these shorts prior to this review as well.) The sizing is on the small side, a sign of a brand in its first season rather than a fault of the product itself. I normally wear a small in most shorts, but the medium shorts tested fit best. We’d expect the size guide to be adjusted for future product lines, but for the present we’d recommend ordering one size larger than you would normally select.
At AU$119 the price is reasonable for a pair of baggy shorts, although a large number of more expensive designs include some undie-knicks with a chamois. On a personal note, I much prefer to BYO high-end knicks, especially for longer rides, as the ones that come with baggy shorts rarely offer the same level of comfort or construction as I’d buy myself.
If a zero-compromise pair of knicks is what you’re after, Capo’s Super Corsa knicks (AU$230), for example, are tight where they need to be, have an even feel over the stomach and stay in position while riding. They have a premium quality chamois and the leg length is short enough to stay hidden under baggies and/or out of the way of knee pads. I find that the slippery material of bib-shorts can make baggies tug at the waist and add all kinds of complications when running into the bushes for a mid-ride pee.
Verdict: Well-considered kit that's worth a look
DHaRCO’s designs thoughtfully reflect how mountain bikers actually ride in and wear their threads. They disappear from consciousness while riding leaving your attention fixed firmly on the trails. The products are on the small side, but true to the design brief, they do their job without relying on complicated panels, seams and zips. While this gives them a refreshingly simple appearance among a sea of patterned competitors, the closer you look the more the time and consideration gone into creating that impression quickly becomes apparent.
The range is available directly from the DHaRCO website with free shipping inside and outside of Australia for orders over AU$100. Women’s MTB clothing websites, Dirty Jane and f-riders-inc stock the range for riders in the US and UK and provide domestic shipping in these areas. The store locator on the DHaRCO website reveals an expanding number of stores that stock these products too.