Named after one of the coolest downhill races in the world, the annual Downieville Classic at Lake Tahoe, the new bike short from The North Face goes up as well as it goes down. (The Downieville race has a descent of 5,000 vertical feet in 17 miles.) And if you do go “down” while pedaling, the durable Cordura fabric on these shorts will likely be none the worse for wear when you hit the dirt. But when the trail points upward again, just unzip the dualing crotch-zip vents to stay comfortable with a breeze.
Designed to be worn over downhill mountain-biking armor, these $90 shorts are on the baggy side. But they’re not so baggy that you look like an unpainted member of Insane Clown Posse when you’re wearing just your skivvies underneath. A high-top, “anti-crack” waistband on the Downievilles ensures you protect your dignity when passing riders on a crazy descent.
I was surprised to find a key clip in the front pocket. Don’t DHers ride with packs (with ample space for a set of keys)? More importantly, isn’t a pack a better place for keys because you don’t have to worry about falling on them? Just me.
Well, in my use, I did end up wearing the shorts plenty of times without a pack, and I appreciated the key clip in the end. Another thing: The zippered cargo pockets are well placed and just large enough. (They can fit a flip cam or a few energy gels.)
Caveats: These shorts are on the heavy side — both weight-wise and fabric thickness — so they are not meant for super aerobic sessions. They can be hot on the legs. Also, there is no chamois or padding in the seat. TNF expects the Downievilles to serve as the outer short (with armor or a padded/chamois-equipped thinner short underneath).
If you’re looking for a new pair of MTB shorts — or signed up for the namesake Downieville Classic race itself this year — check out TNF’s smart new downhill offering.
—Stephen Krcmar is a writer based in Mammoth Lakes, Calif.