Review by A.J. Barlas // Photography Jon Anthony & A.J. Barlas
Riding apparel over the last number of years has changed. Gone are the long, baggy items, replaced with more form fitting clothing, a move that we feel is an entirely good thing! This isn't to say we should ride in skin tight clothing, in fact, I'm an advocate for the 'no lycra necessary' movement, but wearing gear so baggy that it would catch on your bars, seat, and tree branches as you whiz by is not only ridiculous, it's highly impractical.
Having said that there are still baggier fits available, if you so desire. There are also close to lycra tight cuts available and then there are the items that fall in the middle. Royal Racing's Esquire short positions itself right in this category, with a comfortable, functional fit that will appeal to the majority of riders, not because they're boring, but because it makes the most sense. We've been rallying the trails in the Esquire for the entire BC winter and have now had more than enough time in it to share our thoughts.
Esquire Short Highlights
- 4-way stretch water repellent
- Sweat wicking polyester fabric
- Spandex lower back expander panel
- Mesh vents for maximum air circulation
- Dual 'hook and loop' waist adjusters
- DWR coated
- Non rattle snap lock zippers
- 2 open hand pockets
- Waterproof stash pocket
- Heat transfer logos
- Detachable padded pro-level pant liner
- Bar tacked stress points
- MSRP: $119.95 USD
The Esquire short is a high tech piece of apparel. The materials are top tier, with 4-way stretch fabric making for an incredibly comfortable fit. The vents are well placed down the legs, with some finer exhaust vents appropriately positioned around the back of the short. The lightweight mesh material used for the vents together with the 4-way stretch polyester fabric over the rest of the short result in a very lightweight item - very close to the weight of modern boardshorts (surf or swim trunks to some).
The stash pocket is well placed on the side, up by the waist, and is waterproof (which presents its own problem, more on this below). Unfortunately, this is the only sealable pocket in the short, with the other options for stashing things being the regularly positioned open hand pockets. We've mentioned in the past our issues with the lack of ability to secure anything in these and though very nice for standing around with your hands in your pockets, they're perhaps not the most functional in cycling.
Sizing on the Esquire short is good. The very flexible qualities of the short can leave you wondering if perhaps a size down would be better in some cases. This will depend on the fit that you seek, though generally if you are on the lower end of the size range it may be more desirable to jump down. The waist adjusters are great, they don't get in the way nor do they create pressure points and they allow you to fine tune the fit quickly and easily.
On The Trail
The lightweight materials and flexibility of the short make for one heck of a comfortable item to ride in. We can't comment on breathability in warm conditions, as we were riding it through the winter months, but it certainly seems adequately vented and should not present any issues when the mercury rises. In the wet the short performs well, postponing the dreaded full soak thanks to the use of light polyesters and the (temporary) DWR coating. The 'spandex lower back expander panel' is the only part of the short that presents an issue when riding in the rain. The panel soaks up moisture and starts to sag under its own weight when it gets saturated. For me personally this type of panel is not and never has been a selling feature on shorts, and could easily be left out.
The stash pocket was made a little larger this year (compared to the previously tested Signature short) and now easily fits your phone, your multi-tool, or even both items together! The pocket is also waterproof, which keeps the elements from affecting your valuable piece of digital technology; however, with the heat generated from the body, condensation forms within this space, effectively wetting your phone anyway. It may not be as bad as pouring rain, but it is something to keep a close eye on.
The short is comfortable enough for hours in the saddle and can be worn for trail riding or DH, with the fit being just right for all disciplines. We never had the Esquire short get in the way on technical sections of trail that required awkward moves, and it most often went unnoticed, an indication that it was just doing what it was supposed to.
Long Term Durability
The Esquire short has seen a full winter of riding in BC and still looks as good as new, after rolling around in the mud and countless wash cycles. The only weak point where we see this short potentially breaking down is the spandex back panel, which could lose its elasticity over time. Otherwise, short of snagging it on something (due to rider error/hack skills) the rest of the short will no doubt charge on for years.
Things That Could Be Improved
As mentioned above, the expandable back panel is a waste of material. Shorts without this panel remain equally comfortable in the dry but shoot straight into the lead when comfort in the wet is thrown in the mix. The panel adds weight, soaks water quicker and in our opinion is a weak point in the short's design. The waterproof pocket is a great idea, addressing the fact that many riders will want their phone on them while out on a ride (after all, we can't post blurry photos to Instagram without it). We're interested to see if there is a way to retain the waterproof aspect without creating a pocket full of condensation, once the rider has warmed up. Also, the waterproof waist pocket being the only sealable pocket is a shame, leaving little room to stash items securely when out riding. If you ride with a pack, this is no big deal, but for those that find packs uncomfortable, it could be a problem.
In summary, there are a couple of items that could be improved; however, none are issues that we see as reason enough not to pursue this product, we are merely being picky, OCD, mountain bikers.
What's The Bottom Line?
We're big fans of the Royal Esquire short. Its flexibility and light weight make for a very comfortable item to ride in and we see many hours of saddle time in its future. When being picky, it is not without its flaws, but these are very minor gripes and to this day we have yet to come across the perfect riding short. Simply put, if you require a comfortable short with a small amount of storage, the Esquire is something to include on your wish list.
For more visit www.royalracing.com
About The Reviewer
AJ Barlas started riding as most do, bashing about dirt mounds and popping off street curbs. Not much has changed, really. These days the dirt mounds have become mountains and the street curbs, while still getting sessioned, are more often features on the trail. He began as a shop monkey racing downhill since day zero, only to go 'backwards' and start riding and racing BMX later on. He then came full circle once moving to Whistler. AJ loves riding everything from 8 hour mountain pass epics (bonking) to lap after lap in the park and 20 minute pumptrack sessions at sunset. Driven by his passion for biking and exposing people to the great equipment we ride, AJ started and maintains the Straightshot MTB blog. So long as wheels are involved, and preferably dirt (the drier and dustier the better), life is good.