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First Ride: ION Outerwear 2022

Good gear will make or break a ride, in particular during the wetter and colder months. Physically exerting yourself while battling the elements puts extra stress on your clothing, since it will now need to deal with rain and wind on the outside and perspiration on the inside. New for 2022, ION has launched an outerwear collection designed for inclement weather, and we’ve had it out on the trail to see what gives. Read on to find out!

ION Shelter Jacket 3L Highlights

ION Shelter Pants 4W Softshell Highlights

ION Bike Tee S Logo Drirelease Jersey Highlights

  • 4-way stretch fabric, breathable and water repellent (20000 mm water column and 20000 gr/m/24h breathability)
  • High gauge knit construction enhances comfort
  • Self-adjusting, helmet-compatible hood
  • 2 zippered chest pockets
  • 2 zippered underarm vents
  • Bonded seams
  • Articulated, angled sleeves
  • 75% Polyester 25% Polyurethane
  • Women’s version available
  • SIZES: S-XXL (men) / XS-XL (women)
  • MSRP: € 249,99 EURO
  • 4-way stretch fabric
  • Strategically placed abrasion patches in the seat area as well as on the outside of the legs
  • Triple stitched seams
  • DWR (Durable Water Repellency) C6 treatment and the coating of the non-flex material make these pants comfortable and easy to clean on those wet days in the dirt
  • Two zip front pockets, one with an internal neoprene pocket to protect your mobile device from light impacts
  • Adjustable waistband
  • Zipped ventilation slots on the outer thigh
  • 75% Polyester 25% Polyurethane
  • Women’s version available
  • SIZES: S(30)-XXL(38) (men) / XS(34)-XL(42) (women)
  • MSRP: € 169,99 EURO
  • DriRelease Eco & organic cotton - a mix of recycled PET waste (Repreve Technology) and organic cotton combined into a soft-touch material that also dries 4 times faster than regular cotton
  • 81% Polyester (recycled) 14% Cotton (organic) 5% Elastane
  • Women’s version available
  • Sizes: S-XXL (men) / XS-XL (women)
  • MSRP: € 59,99 EURO

Initial Impressions

ION has always impressed us when it comes to overall design and finish, and the new outerwear collection is no different. Both the jacket and the pant are made with care, with several nifty features that point to good attention to detail during the R&D phase. The Shelter jacket is constructed from a 3-layer fabric with very good water-resistance and breathability metrics (20000 mm water column and 20000 gr/m/24h breathability will get the job done in all but the very worst conditions, typically). Bonded seams and waterproof zippers ensure minimal leakage, while the “self-adjusting” hood is meant to be worn over a half-shell helmet.

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There are zippered vents under the arms, and the cuffs have been given an angled cut to provide more coverage towards the outside of the hand without bunching up and getting in between your palms and your grips. One of the design objectives for the Shelter jacket was low weight, so ION went with a minimalistic approach to adjustments. There are two small elastic loops that can be used to cinch down the lower hem, but other than that the jacket is “made to measure” so to speak. The hood features elastic straps around the opening and out around the back of the hood to allow it to adjust itself to the volume and circumference of your helmet. There’s a small cloth made for wiping your goggles attached via an elastic string in one of the pockets.

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The Shelter Softshell pant is not fully waterproof, rather it was made to withstand the occasional rain shower and mud splatter from the trail. It’s constructed from a mix of 4-way stretch fabric and heavier-duty, abrasion-resistant patches in the seat area as well as around the inside of the shins. There are two zippered pockets, one of which features an extra internal phone compartment made out of neoprene for a little extra protection. There are also two zippered vents on the outside of the thighs, as well as zippers at the bottom the hems to allow you to put on and remove the pants without taking your shoes off. A pair of Velcro straps provide adjustability around the waist.

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The Bike Tee S DR is made from a Drirelease fabric, a blend of polyester and cotton that retains much of the softness and comfort of cotton but dries out a lot faster and does not hold moisture in the same way that cotton does. The environment gets a nod from ION too here, as the polyester component is derived from recycled PET bottles. A low-key and no-frills design, the only extra feature on the Bike Tee is a tiny pocket down the inside left seam of the main body which can securely hold a lift pass (provided it is no bigger than a credit card).

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On The Trail

We’ve only had this gear out for a handful of rides so far, but our impressions have been very positive. The jacket runs a bit on the tight side, ION recommended we size up and we’re glad we did – this tester typically wears a size L in most brands, the Shelter jacket in XL was perfect. Not too tight, not too flappy. The waterproof fabric is very soft to the touch on the inside, and the light weight helps the jacket make itself forgotten. Water will pearl off it easily, and you’ll stay dry on the inside even in a prolonged downpour. The jacket also breathes surprisingly well – sure, there will be a small amount of moisture build up at the top of a long climb, but even that evaporates quickly after you stop pedaling. Here are a few clips showing the jacket and pants in action:

 

The cut works really well on the bike, and the jacket never feels bulky or like it would get in your way. The “self-adjusting” hood functions exactly as advertised, and the diagonal shape of the cuffs is also a useful detail. Comparing the Shelter jacket to a couple of key competitors, it’s somewhat lighter and less feature-rich than the Fox Flexair Neoshell 2021 jacket, while the fabrics of those two are very similar in weight, feel, and performance. Royal’s 2021 Matrix jacket is made from slightly heavier duty fabric, and thanks to the addition of an internal mesh it will keep you a bit warmer as well. Out of these three items, the Royal jacket is significantly more affordable (but it is made from a slightly less “advanced” fabric with a lower waterproof/breathability rating, to be fair).

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The Shelter pant runs true to size around the waist, while the inseam is among the longer we’ve tested – those who usually complain about riding pants leaving their ankles bare will be well served here. The cut works great on the bike, and there is plenty of room for kneepads without the pants feeling too loose or baggy. We never felt restricted while pedaling and the pants stayed in place during the descents too. The pockets sit in a good place, and the internal phone pocket holds the phone in a position where it's both fairly well protected and out of the way when pedaling. Note that it is just about big enough for an iPhone 11 Pro or similar, anything bigger will not fit.

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The overall feeling is light, but the construction is confidence-inspiring and the addition of the abrasion-resistant patches in the seat and inside shin area bodes well for longevity. A really solid choice for all kinds of riding and a pant that’s easy to clean. The Shelter is not waterproof, and the DWR treatment wore off pretty quickly on our pair. The pant doesn’t get too clingy when wet, but it would not be the first choice if it’s going to rain a lot. Think of this one more as a comfortable option for bike park days or any kind of riding where you want the full-leg coverage and extra mud-resistance, without needing a full-on waterproof fabric (note that the DWR coating can be renewed as required, which will boost wet-weather performance).

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If you have never tried riding in a Drirelease jersey before, you need to get with the program. These newer fabrics are a full departure from those shiny polyester shells of years gone by, and we can’t say we miss those one bit. Drirelease feels just like your favorite, soft cotton shirt but unlike pure cotton, it will not turn into a cold and wet rag that never dries out as soon as it gets exposed to a bit of moisture (internal or external). The ION Bike Tee tested here will do a great job for all those transition season rides, where the sun is still out but there’s a chill in the air – or pair it up with a base layer and a wind or rain jacket as tested here, and it can accompany you well into the darker months. Down to 60F (16C) temperatures and a bit of wind this long-sleeve version worked great by itself, colder than that and this tester would add a base layer. Other than that, the comfort factor is high and we really dig the subdued mélange look (this 6'0/1m84 tester is wearing a size L here FYI).

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What’s The Bottom Line?

While there’s no shortage of good rain and rough-weather gear these days, ION is surfing the recent wave of innovation in the technical fabric sector to good effect as they join the fray with a collection of their own that hits the nail on the head. The Shelter rain jacket is light, comfortable, waterproof and highly breathable which makes it an ideal companion when the skies plot against you. The Shelter pant shrugs off most punishment short of proper downpours, and it does so without adding any unnecessary bulk to the equation. Round off this versatile get-up with the Drirelease Riding Tee to keep you both comfortable and snug – you’ll look pretty sharp too, which is always a bonus.

More information at: www.ion-products.com.


About The Reviewer

Johan Hjord - Age: 48 // Years Riding MTB: 16 // Weight: 190-pounds (87-kg) // Height: 6'0" (1.84m)

Johan loves bikes, which strangely doesn’t make him any better at riding them. After many years spent practicing falling off cliffs with his snowboard, he took up mountain biking in 2005. Ever since, he’s mostly been riding bikes with too much suspension travel to cover up his many flaws as a rider. His 200-pound body weight coupled with unique skill for poor line choice and clumsy landings make him an expert on durability - if parts survive Johan, they’re pretty much okay for anybody. Johan rides flat pedals with a riding style that he describes as "none" (when in actuality he rips!). Having found most trail features to be not to his liking, Johan uses much of his spare time building his own. Johan’s other accomplishments include surviving this far and helping keep the Vital Media Machine’s stoke dial firmly on 11.

Photos by Johan Hjord

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