It is pretty easy to come down on a pair of $240 shorts ($410 when the liner short is included) for being too expensive. And I’m not going to argue with that. But in a world of $10,000 bikes, there is a market for these shorts, and I’m pretty stoked someone needs to review things like expensive shorts and bikes.
And really, most of us have a hobby or activity that we justify spending inappropriate sums of money on. For some people it is a new $40,000 car every few years. For others it is a huge home. And we all know America’s favorite past time: a huge flat screen TV and enough cable channels to keep a family of four glued to a couch for an embarrassing amount of time.
So, go ahead and call these short too expensive. For a lot of people, they probably are. Fortunately there are dozens of options for good shorts at lower price levels that should keep most everyone happy.
Parts and Pieces
Part of the expense of these shorts is in the fabric choice—Schoeller fabric is expensive, but everyone I know who owns something made with Schoeller raves about it. This particular fabric is treated with 3XDRY, a finish that repels stains, dirt and moisture from the outside, but allows the inside of the fabric to absorb perspiration.
Along the sides are small aluminum alloy hook/buckles that allow for an inch of adjustment in the waist. Each leg has a pocket about midway up the thigh with a zipper closure. These pockets are mesh lined to double as vents, and are well placed and sized to hold a cell phone or pair of gloves when performing trial side maintenance. Mesh stretch panels at the hips and lower leg allow the shorts to fit snugly without binding.
For the full Kitsbow experience, the shorts were matched with the Ventilated Liner ($170). The liner is designed to wick sweat and breathe well, and they deliver on that design intent. The lycra is Aenerigia, a nylon and elastane blend that is design to maximise wicking when stretched. The pad is designed for the more upright riding position of a mountain bike, and is micro-perforated to keep the swamp-ass at bay. Mesh panels in the shorts line up with mesh panels in the liners for increased air flow.
Can I use the term seamless to describe the riding experience of a pair of shorts without causing a collective sigh due to a poorly executed pun? No? Too bad.
On and off the bike, these are excellent shorts. The cut and fit is distinct, as I had a few people ask me if they were Kitsbow, which is surprising, given the lack of logos and the understated looks.
With stretch fabric and stretch mesh panels, the shorts have allow for plenty of unrestricted motion without the need for a baggy fit, and didn’t snag on shifters, saddles, bottle cages, seatpost binders, or any other bits on the bike or trail. The liners kept me noticeably drier, and I had no issues with the chamois pad, even on long rides. It is an excellent compromise between the full-diaper feel of thicker pads, and the “why bother” thinness of a minimalist chamois.
The wide elastic band at the bottom on the liner keeps the legs from riding up and doesn’t try to pull out my leg hair. It is supposed to be heat activated somehow, I didn’t notice it getting any grippier as I wore that shorts. There is also a patch of plaid fabric at the bottom of the left leg. It does seem to serve a purpose other than to look classy, which it does quite well.
Complaints? The liner is super comfortable, but I’d like to see a bib option, and even better, a bib option with pockets. The $88 Specialized SWAT bibs have a decent pad, are well ventilated, and have a ton of useful pockets, and often get pulled out of the drawer instead of the Kitsbow liner when I wanted to roll without a pack.
Also, the small leg opening on these shorts isn’t ideal for knee pad compatibility. Kitsbow is working on a short that should work better with pads, but in the meantime, I end up wearing something else when the odds of a bad crash tip me in favor of wearing more protection.
Kitsbow makes no bones about it, these shorts, and the rest of its clothing collection are for (well-heeled) obsessives. From material selection, to pocket location, to the tailoring, these shorts have a distinct style and profile that I find appealing, although I don’t think of myself as obsessive (or well-heeled).
But this review isn’t about my wallet. Kitsbow has created a premium product here, which is deserving of a steep price tag. And let’s not forget first world wages are being paid to Canadian workers to make these shorts. I can say these shorts live up the the high-end price. Only you can decide if they fit into your budget.