Not every rider wants to clothe themselves in garish neon emblazoned with giant brand names. Enter Kitsbow, a company that is carving out a niche for itself by designing mountain bike apparel with an understated look and a tailored fit. The US$369 Mixed Shell jacket is finely crafted and designed for damp and chilly riding.
- Pros: Excellent fit; great ventilation; thoughtful features
- Cons: Lower vent zippers have a tendency to creep open*
Like the Soft Shell A/M short, the Mixed Shell jacket is made in Vancouver, British Columbia. The chest and back of the jacket are constructed from Schoeller’s stretchy softshell fabric, while a lighter weight Schoeller-USP fabric is used on the arms for better articulation.
The fabrics are wind and water-resistant. Despite the lack of taped seams, the jacket shrugged off afternoon cloudbursts with hardshell-like protection.
The Mixed Shell has a performance fit, with just enough room for a baselayer and a thin midlayer underneath
The jacket has an asymmetric main zipper – something that should be standard on any piece of outerwear – that prevents chaffing and keeps the high collar from feeling to restrictive when zipped to the top.
Breathability is excellent, thanks to the massive zippered vents that run the length of the torso. There are zippers on both ends of these vents so they can be opened from the top down or from the bottom up. When they're open, the perforated mesh liner allows a substantial amount of air to enter the jacket.
The large chest vents allow the wearer to easily regulate their temperature while riding
This vent layout works better than the armpit zippers that are commonly used on riding jackets. The orientation of the vents on the front of the jacket lets more air to flow directly onto the wearer and the vents are much easier to adjust while riding, even with a hydration pack on.
Nestled inside each of these torso vents are zippered stash pockets that are large enough to house a smartphone, wallet or a couple of energy bars. These hidden breast pockets are easy to reach while riding and sit inboard of the shoulder straps. There are no rear pockets, because Kitsbow designed this jacket to be used in conjunction with a hydration pack.
As far as performance was concerned, our only issue with the Mixed Shell was that the vent zippers on the bottom of the jacket had a tendency to open while we were riding. Adding a button closure, or locking zippers, to prevent them from riding up would be a smart addition.
The Mixed Shell is a bit of a mixed bag. Fit and breathability are excellent, and the understated looks mask a number of thoughtful features, and over a season of hard riding we have no reason to question its durability.
Save for issues with the lower vent zippers creeping opening, we feel this is a very good jacket for variable weather riding. Good is not great, however, and when you're paying US$369 for a riding jacket, it had better be flawless.
Kitsbow do ship this jacket internationally, but customers buying from outside the US should factor in a postage cost of US$40-plus.
*Editor's note (March 10, 2014): Kitsbow is aware that some customers have experienced similar issues with the lower vent zippers creeping open. The company is offering to replace the lower vent zippers with YKK’s auto-locking zippers at no charge to the customer. For a zipper replacement, contact Kitsbow directly by calling (415) 448-5246.