Review by Courtney Steen // Photos by Brandon Turman
There’s hole worn in this pair of shorts, this other pair is coming apart, this one jersey doesn’t fit well, this other one is stained and has a tear in it… Going through my drawer of riding clothes, this is the common theme. It appears to be time for some new gear. Despite their frequent usage, I have yet to find a pair of shorts or a jersey that really fit the way I want or prove durable enough over time. Enter Race Face, a brand with a deep heritage in MTB and a wide product range including riding gear specifically made for us women – fist pump for the ladies! Among the girly goods on offer are the Piper shorts and jersey. These two items look smart, but the true test would come once I put them to work...
Women's Piper Short Highlights
- Flo Fabric
- 95% Nylon, 5% Spandex Quick Dry
- Rip-Stop, lightweight, stretch
- Zippered front fly with custom snap closure
- Deep hand pockets
- Re-tract waistband auto-adjustment system
- Soft brushed inner waistband
- Zippered cargo pockets
- Belt loops have herringbone fabric detail
- 26cm (10¼") inseam
- Gravel or black color options
- Available in sizes XS through XL
- MSRP $90.49
Women's Piper Jersey Highlights
- Repreve Fabric: 51% Repreve recycled Polyester, 38% CoolDry Polyester, 11% Spandex, quick dry, wash & wear
- Repreve moisture wicking technology
- Stretch mesh paneling
- Flatlock contrast stitch detail throughout
- Hidden zip stash pocket located in side panel
- Faux suede pocket bag doubles as goggle wipe
- Available in sizes XS through XL
- Red or gravel color options
- MSRP $77.49
Fresh out of the packaging, the first thing I noted about the Piper shorts and jersey were how nicely lightweight they are. This ensemble should be quite comfortable for the summer season. Being a bit of a nerd about sewing, occasionally even busting out the machine to fix clothing including more than one pair of riding shorts, I inspected these two items inside and out to see how they were put together. Both pieces appear pretty securely stitched and the craftsmanship is neat with no loose threads hang out anywhere.
Given my past few patch jobs, I paid extra attention to the stitching, especially around the pockets and the seat of the shorts. Blowing out your seams may be when the fat jokes start, but I swear my fixit jobs aren’t entirely the fault of my badonkadonk. They are more the result of constant abuse from time in the saddle, and wearing my shorts for more than just riding doesn't provide them any relief either. The Piper shorts are held together by elastic thread with a short stitch length. The elastic thread stretches just as far as the fabric and doesn't feel like it will snap when the fabric is put under stress. The thin thread and short stitch length also leaves less thread exposed, thus subject to less wear from the saddle, I think. As long as I don’t throw these shorts in a dryer set on high, the elastic thread may well increase their lifespan and help them withstand more saddle time than the non-elastic threaded counterparts I've replaced.
When it comes to the pockets, my most common patch job has been putting the bottoms of my riding shorts' pockets back together after getting fed up with stuff falling out of them. The Piper shorts’ hand pockets are both straight stitched a ¼” from the edge and overlock stitching around the edge as well. The cargo pockets are also straight and overlock stitched, and the bottoms are sewn into the leg seams. I wouldn't expect the bottom of either these pockets to fall out. And given the width of the stitches from the edges of the fabric, I wouldn't expect the fabric to unravel and fall apart around the stitching as I’ve seen before either.
Also worth noting is the waistband of the Piper shorts. It is lined with a very soft material, and a feature I haven’t seen before is the ‘re-tract auto-adjustment system.’ It is a nifty design giving another 2-3 inches to the total waistband circumference. Go ahead and go out for pizza or BBQ after a ride with your buddies, there’s room in these shorts to indulge after a long ride.
My career as a seamstress has thus far not extended to fixing jerseys, and as far as I can tell, the Piper jersey is is not about to change that. The design is nice and clean with mesh fabric of two different weights employed. The side panels and the back keyhole are made from the lighter of the two. These are areas where extra ventilation is very useful. Contrasting flatlock stitching holds all the pieces together, which helps prevent chafing and which I also like the stylized look of.
The bottom hem of the jersey is extra wide and drops lower in the back, which is great compared to my other jerseys that often tend to be shorter and square across the bottom. Along one of the sides is a hidden side pocket with a lens cloth backing to it. I like when my jerseys have these lens cloths and use them on most of my rides. The pocket is big enough for an iPod and has a little outlet hole for a headphone cord. There is also an elastic loop on the inside of the neck of the jersey that, I’m guessing, may also be for headphone routing or for hanging the jersey on a hook.
And so, after thoroughly examining these pieces inside and out, it was time to get them sweaty and dirty – oh boy.
On The Trail
Once the tires hit the trail, the Piper shorts were made for riding. Their light weight and stretchy fabric makes for zero pedaling resistance on those ups, and the slim fit never gets hung up on the seat during tricky maneuvering on the downs. The stretch is also great when moving from standing up to sitting down. There is no extra adjusting needed once back in the saddle to fix shorts being tight where they shouldn’t be. And even in the heat of summer, on those ups and downs, in and out of the saddle, these shorts feel comfortable.
They also have never really felt sweaty, which must be due to that ‘Quick Dry’ feature. On one ride in the Utah desert, I got caught in a torrential rainstorm. Even though these shorts were thoroughly soaked, they didn't feel weighted down and pedaling was just as easy as when they were dry. I didn't give them the chance to dry on me to see how long that would take though. I was hammering the whole way home to outrun the lightning and get out of the gusty winds. It was freezing!
I never put anything in the hand pockets of the shorts because I didn’t find it very comfortable. I only use hand pockets on riding shorts when I have no other option. Riding with a tool and my phone in hand pockets feels like I have saddlebags hanging off my thighs. The cargo pockets were my favorite for stashing things. My phone lives in the right one and a multi-tool and tire levers in the left. I don’t notice my phone at all and occasionally feel the multi-tool moving around while riding. I soon forget they are there.
The jersey is also plenty comfortable and cool. When reaching cruising speed, the keyhole back vent does feel refreshing. Of all my jerseys to date, I like the length and style of this one the most. The extra wide bottom seam provides a pleasant surprise. That bit of extra girth on the jersey around the hips keeps it from riding or rolling up towards the waist. Even with a pack on, this jersey stayed cool and stayed in place. Woot woot for zero shirt adjustments on trail.
The jersey’s hidden pocket remained that, hidden. I never used it. If I still had the mini MP3 player I lost in college, that would have fit in there nicely, and I would have jammed out on more rides. I thought of fitting my iPod or phone in there but it was just too bulky. At least the lens wipe wasn’t bulky. Serving as the backside to the hidden pocket, it was stitched down on all four sides to the jersey. This is a major plus, as lens wipes that are only tacked down on one side like a flag just wander and fold up wherever they want too.
Things That Could Be Improved
A major improvement I would suggest for the jersey concerns the hidden pocket. It doesn't make sense being one and the same as the lens wipe. If there is something in the pocket, you can’t wipe your lenses without emptying the pocket. The two features should be on different sections of the jersey. The pocket itself could also probably be more comfortable if it were placed in a different area, either more to the front or more to the back rather than right smack dab on the side.
If I am to really nitpick, Holy Shirt Tag Batman! A four-inch long tag for indicating size, fabric composition, and washing instructions seems excessive. After confirming the washing instructions and documentation for this review, that baby got the ol’ snip-snip – problem solved.
I really don’t have any complaints about the shorts. Given the size I ordered, I am comfortable in them but need to wear a belt. I’m not sure if the ‘re-tract auto-adjustment system’ would keep the shorts on someone else with more hips without needing a belt. The waistband is a bit big around my slightly narrow hips but the fit around my thighs is perfect. Full disclosure: my figure from hips, chest, and waist measures across M, L, and XL (darn it, I’m not built like a bikini model), so I choose my shorts based on the largest value – XL. They fit the ol’ thunder thighs comfortably but over my narrower hips, they fit a bit too loosely. Thus, the belt to keep them on. I prefer that to a muffin top or the button coming unsnapped when I bend over. They may fit just fine on someone with thinner thighs and wider hips than I have. If they don’t though, perhaps a stronger elastic material for the ‘re-tract auto-adjustment system’ would improve the system.
Long Term Durability
No heavy carnage occurred in the testing period of the Piper Shorts or Piper Jersey, so their ability to hold up to a crash cannot be commented on. I can say that the other day when I failed at an uphill tech maneuver in Arizona and tipped over off the trail into the suburbs of Cactus Town, the shorts proved themselves to be not very cactus proof, but then again, what is?
The cactus spines came out of the thin fabric quite easily though, certainly way easier than my leg. Yowch! Both the shorts and jersey are well constructed, however, and I have confidence in their ability to take a day-to-day beating and to keep coming back for more. They have held up so far, and I have worn them all over for more than just mountain biking.
What's The Bottom Line?
The Women’s Piper Jersey is a good, lightweight jersey, comfortable for summer riding. I appreciate the cut and construction of the jersey, especially the length and thick bottom hem that keep it from wandering around. The color blocking on the red jersey with the black panels up the sides is a flattering design every lady will love. Also, the contrasting flatlock stitching pattern on the jersey gives nice contouring so the wearer doesn't look so square or broad through the shoulders. Girls who shred can still rock their curves!
The Women’s Piper Shorts are very comfortable and great for riding, as well as wearing every day on the street. In fact they are so comfortable and stretchy that they are also my uniform for yoga when I take a break from the bike. With the re-tract auto-adjustment system in the waistband, they can fit a variety of figures. Even though my personal measurements force me to use them with a belt, these are my new favorite shorts and the Piper jersey is my new favorite jersey. I wouldn't mind having several pairs of them – one for every ride between laundry days.
For more information, check out www.raceface.com.
About The Reviewer
Courtney Steen has been hitting the dirt on two wheels since 2007 when she started riding mountain bikes in college. She raced alongside her collegiate cycling team in every event from XC and short track to downhill and mountain cross, scoring several podiums, fist pumps and shiny medals along the way. A dream trail for this girl would have lots of down, some fast and flowy, and like the sprinkles on a cupcake, some fun technical sections to keep her on her toes – we’re talking mountain biking after all, not cruising a sidewalk. Courtney currently lives on the road with her boyfriend in a 5th wheel toy hauler loaded with bikes, traveling from one mountain bike mecca to the next in search of the best trails North America has to offer. Anytime she's on a bike and in the dirt, she has two thumbs up and a big smile.