Tested: Royal Racing 2019 Gear

Royal Racing made its first product in 1999, which means that the brand that was co-founded by Steve Peat is celebrating 20 years in business this year. 20 years is an eternity in mountain biking, and during that time, Royal has evolved several times over. To celebrate this impressive milestone, Royal has rejuvenated their logo to reflect what the brand wants to stand for today – clean looking and modern apparel for life on and off the bike. Of course, they’ve also taken a long hard look at the products themselves, and they’ve come up with a broad yet focused catalog of goods that combines their racing roots with a more casual approach to everyday shenanigans. We’ve taken a deeper look at a few 2019 samples, read on to find out what we think of it all. 

Strengths

Weaknesses

  • Race pant is very tough yet very comfortable and flexible
  • Lightweight, hi-tech materials used throughout the range
  • All items are highly breathable and comfortable
  • Cuts that work really well on the bike
  • Competitive pricing
  • No liners available with the shorts
  • Internal short phone pockets are too small/awkward
  • Waterproof pocket would be a nice addition to the shorts

Race Pant Highlights

  • 4-way stretch Micro Rip-Stop fabric
  • DWR treated for water repellence
  • Raised rear panel with stretch yoke
  • Laser perforated venting
  • Ratchet closure
  • Two zip pockets
  • Elastic waist band with internal silicone grippers
  • MSRP: $134.95 USD

Heritage Jersey and Short Highlights

  • 4-way stretch, wicking fabrics (short)
  • Internal waist adjustments (short)
  • 3 pockets, one zippered (short)
  • Tri-Blend moisture wicking fabric (jersey)
  • T-shirt cut (jersey)
  • MSRP: $79.95 USD (short), $49.95 (short sleeve jersey)

Core Jersey and Short Highlights

  • 2-way stretch, lightweight “Quick-Wick” fabric (short)
  • Adjustable belt included (short)
  • Two hand pockets (short)
  • Two rear pockets with Velcro closure (short)
  • Technical quick drying fabric (jersey)
  • Relaxed fit (jersey)
  • Printed graphics (jersey)
  • MSRP: $69.95 USD (short), $39.95 USD (jersey)

Initial Impressions

Whether it’s because the brand and the people behind it are growing older and more mature or because of the distinctly British heritage, Royal’s style has certainly taken a turn towards more subtle colors and designs over the last couple of years. That trend continues for 2019 with a range based on a very calm palette and simplified graphics, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that the gear is any less elaborate these days. First of all, these designs do not do themselves justice in the catalog photos, and they certainly do not lack in technical features either.

The Race pant is all new for 2019, and Royal has gone all-in with this one. Based on a new “Micro Rip-Stop” fabric that is woven in a similar fashion to Kevlar, the pant appears incredibly sturdy at first glance. The weave is designed to produce a very tough outward side while remaining very soft to the touch on the inside, and it is also 4-way stretch to make sure it can follow your movements. The pant is tall in the rear and there is an extra elastic yoke to really make sure you never have to suffer from builder’s bum syndrome out on the hill. There are two generous, zippered pockets, a ratchet closure over the zip, elastic bands in the waist, silicone grippers inside the waist on each side, and the whole pant is DWR treated to help it shed mud and moisture. The overall design is low-key, with just two pieces of branding on the lower leg reminding you who made the pant.

The Heritage short is pretty much the culmination of everything Royal knows about making riding shorts, and it shows. The fabrics used are light yet sturdy, and the cut is distinctly bike-specific with long hems and room for kneepads. There are internal waist adjusters to help keep a clean look, and three pockets ensure you have enough space to store your essentials. The Heritage jersey complements the short with a polyester-based “Tri-Blend” fabric that is both breathable and soft to the touch. There is an elastic strip behind the neck to perfect the fit and further improve comfort.

The Core short has been part of the Royal catalog for years, and for 2019 it evolves to become the lightest short Royal has ever produced (pretty much the lightest short we’ve come across to date, full stop). Core by name, core by nature – it may be light but it’s meant to offer everything you need for a full day out both on and off the bike. 2-way stretch “Quick-Wick” fabric keeps you feeling comfortable and dry, and 4 pockets make sure you can haul all your on-person gear with ease. The cut is classic, with belt-loops provided for that ultimate gentlemanly look (there’s even a nylon belt with a trick aluminum buckle included with the short). The Core jersey is the perfect companion to the short, its T-shirt appearance hiding a technical fabric that looks and feel like cotton but dries out four times faster. A 50to01 logo version is there to remind you that Ratboy and his merry crew are part of the Royal family these days.

On The Trail

Starting off with the Race pant, we’ve been very impressed from the get-go. As discussed in the previous section, this pant is made with a new type of weave that manages to combine a very sturdy outward facing surface with very comfortable insides. The Race pant still remains fairly light, but more importantly, it also breathes a lot better than first impressions would suggest. Thanks to the DWR treatment but also the nature of the fabric itself, the pant does not retain a lot of moisture even when you drench it in sweat, and it comes out of your mashing machine’s spin cycle almost dry and ready to roll again.

When it comes to the cut, once again Royal proves that they know what they are doing. The Race pant runs true to size and the overall shape is extremely well suited to the on-the-bike position (this tester has a 33.5-inch inseam, measures 1m84/88kg, and the size L was spot on). The lower legs are tapered off just right, not too tight but certainly never at risk of getting snagged in your drivetrain. There is enough room for any type of kneepad under the pant, and the ratchet waist adjuster provides enough range to accommodate any burger-related fluctuations in your mid-riff circumference. The two zippered pockets are roomy enough to hold your essentials, and their position works out well once in action. The laser cut holes do their part to further improve breathability, without taking away from the overall protective capabilities of the pant. Definitely one worth considering for long, demanding days on the bike in a wide range of conditions (check out the Storm pant for those really wet days).

We have been fans of Royal’s riding shorts for a long time, and the new Heritage short did not leave us disappointed. The proportions between overall length, inseam, and waist just seem to hit the sweetspot when you are on the bike, and the lightweight and stretchy fabrics do their part to help further improve comfort. The internal waist adjusters provide good range and help keep a clean look on the outside, while the three pockets make sure you can carry your essentials and then some if you want to ride without a pack.

The Heritage jersey has the looks of a classic polyester jersey, but the fabric is a lot softer to the touch and it also retains far less moisture than those heavy, clingy items of years past. The cut is comfortable on the bike, and the generous overall length makes sure you keep your gaps and cracks covered at all times.

The Core short is almost unnervingly light when you pick it up, but so far the lack of heft has not translated into any fragility that we can detect. The cut is very functional, with a slightly shorter overall length than the Heritage short discussed previously. There are plenty of pockets for storage, including two pockets in the rear that will also handle your wallet as you head to the pub for post-ride refreshments. The included belt works well to adjust the fit, just remember to hook it up or remove it for washing, as it tends to work itself loose and grab onto other stuff in the washing machine.

Who doesn’t like the fit and feel of a classic cotton t-shirt? Until you start to sweat in it, that is. Well, Royal’s new Core jersey retains that simple, airy t-shirt feel but with a fabric that does not hold in much moisture and that dries out super-fast if it does get wet. We’ve quickly adopted it as a go-to riding jersey AND every day item even as the temperatures soar, won over by the simple but good looking design and the high comfort factor. There’s also a long-sleeve version if your summers are less balmy than ours…

Things That Could Be Improved

Coming up with any weaknesses requires some nitpicking, but that’s what we’re here for so we dug deep and found a couple of small things: there is no option to purchase any of the shorts with a chamois liner, the internal phone pockets/dividers are too small for many smartphones, and we’d love to see one of the pockets be made waterproof to keep your phone protected from sweat or sudden downpours. The Heritage short only features one button over the zippered fly, is that a potential weakness down the line? Speculative, but like we said, we're nitpicking. Overall, there's really not much to report here.

Long Term Durability

This is just a First Ride type of review, so we don’t have enough miles on the trails behind us to have a definitive opinion when it comes to durability. We have had great success with Royal’s gear throughout the years, and judging the 2019 products by the materials and workmanship evidence, we have no reason to think this would change going forward. As always, we’ll keep using the stuff and report back at a later date if we should uncover any issues down the line.

What’s The Bottom Line?

It’s no easy task to reinvent oneself, and when it comes to apparel, the ever changing winds of fashion can quickly blow you all over the place if you are not careful. Royal takes a more measured approach to design, and even as they celebrate their 20th anniversary with a fresh new logo and an entirely new collection of gear, the subtle and down-to-earth look means that much of this stuff will look still look the part in 5 years’ time. That’s a good thing, because there’s an excellent chance that you’ll still be using it by then.

More information at: www.royalracing.com.


About The Reviewer

Johan Hjord - Age: 46 // Years Riding MTB: 14 // 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 Nils Hjord and Johan Hjord

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