Large companies don’t have a monopoly on great cycling apparel. That’s particularly true in mountain biking, a sport that has a habit of producing independent, rider-founded brands. Consider Shredly and Wild Rye, two brands of women’s mountain bike apparel that were founded by ripping ladies who love to ride bikes. And who created the fab-looking, high-performing cycling clothes they personally desired.
These days, Shredly and Wild Rye have become established companies that are familiar to female-identifying mountain bikers. And a fresh crop of small, relatively unknown makers of women’s mountain bike clothing has moved into the marketplace.
Peppermint, a women’s mountain bike apparel company from Québec, Canada, just entered the U.S. market for the first time this season. It joins Ripton, a Colorado-based producer of performance denim, and Kaden, a boutique Vermont company that makes all of its bike apparel within the U.S.
In short: You may not have heard of them, but trust us. You want to know these brands because they make some of the best-fitting, best-looking mountain bike apparel now available. Here’s our take.
Peppermint Cycling Co.
Established in 2015, this by-women, for-women company brought its merch to U.S. stores in April 2023. Its line spans road, gravel, and mountain biking, and I tested four pieces built for dirt. The MTB Tech Short ($110), the Bib Liner ($125), the MTB Shirt ($120), and the adorable MTB Overall ($223).
These pieces run small. The sizes that corresponded to my body measurements turned out to be unwearably snug. I had to size up to get the right fit (except for the MTB Overall, which fit as predicted).
Bib chamois that are designed to accommodate bathroom breaks have (thankfully) become commonplace. And Peppermint’s Bib Liner still stands out as one of the best iterations available.
The shoulder straps cross in the back and prevented them from slipping down my shoulders as I rode. And the low-coverage waist felt tolerably cool beneath a jersey, and the pad rocked. It varies in thickness from 12 mm (at the sit bones) to 3 mm and 0.8 mm (at the very front). It was supportive without feeling bulky or overly prominent.
The MTB Shirt uses a midweight polyester (92%) and spandex blend that felt soft and cool during 70-degree F rides. But during one 88-degree F test near Moab, the fabric felt thicker and heavier than I prefer.
Waist straps on hydration packs interfered with my use of the zippered side pocket. So, this shirt functioned best during rides when I carried nothing beyond a water bottle in my bike’s cage.
MTB Tech Shorts
The offset, curving seams on the MTB Shorts were particularly flattering for women’s mountain bike shorts and facilitated full freedom of movement. And the broad waistband fit great, with curved seams to adapt from waist to hip and adjustable Velcro tabs.
My favorite piece was the MTB Overall, which I wore not only on the bike but also for yard chores and trail work sessions. Built like the bib pants that have become my daily uniform for resort skiing, it’s made of heavyweight stretch nylon that’s tough and abrasion-resistant. But it was too warm for uphill riding. I overheated while wearing it for an hour-long XC mission in 65-degree F temps.
It was, however, just right for shuttle and lift-served trails, and the side zipper effectively facilitated bio-breaks. I unzipped, pulled the fabric to the side, yanked down the chamois, and squatted. It’s proved itself to be not only cute but also a rugged and functional piece of women’s mountain bike kit.
Vermont cyclist Chelsea Camarata began Kaden Apparel with hand-sewn women’s mountain bike designs, and then scaled up by using U.S. manufacturing facilities in 2017. Since then, she’s continually refined her fit and fabrics, and Kaden’s 2023 line deserves a look from every dirt-loving lady — including pregnant ones.
Although Kaden wasn’t the first company to offer a maternity chamois (in 2010, I wore a model made by Terry), it has committed to making a product that larger companies deem too niche for profitability. This season, Kaden debuted the Kokopelli Maternity Mountain Bike overshorts ($120) to complement the company’s existing Primo Padded Maternity chamois ($115).
Gryla ¾-Sleeve Jersey
For me, Kaden’s home run hit is the Gryla ¾-Sleeve Jersey ($90). I wore it nearly every day this past March, when it served as my go-to baselayer for ski touring around my home in Steamboat Springs, Colo. And I wore it during mountain bike trips to Fruita, Colo.
The lightweight, four-way stretch polyester sucked away sweat and felt unoppressive in the hottest conditions. This included one 85-degree F scorcher in Utah’s Canyonlands National Park. It was also softer and less plasticky-feeling than many synthetics.
My advice: Buy multiples of this shirt because you’ll wear it so much that one will always be in the laundry.
Pinner Mountain Bike Shorts
Similarly versatile is Kaden’s Pinner Mountain Bike Shorts ($120), offered in extended sizing (XS-XXL). Its stretchy, no-fly waistband is smooth and streamlined and includes a tie-front drawstring for gap reduction. It proved to be marvelously moisture-absorbing on steamy rides and sweaty climbs.
The main fabric is lightweight polyester that lent itself to multisport use. I wore these shorts while paddleboarding, road-tripping, and camping. And with a shirt’s hem covering the tech-looking waistband, they appear to be standard-issue casual shorts.
Como Padded Chamois Shorts
The Como Padded ($108) chamois shorts are also offered in sizes XS-XXL, with a high waist that ends above the diaphragm, like a strapless bib short. When I first pulled it on, I feared that the waist might feel too compressive.
But throughout a 35-mile ride near Utah’s Canyonlands National Park, these chamois shorts proved to be perfectly ignorable. Any chamois that lets me forget about my undercarriage earns my highest praise.
I typically paired these with an overshort, but the fabric is dense enough to wear alone while riding roads or gravel.
Ripton & Co. Women’s Mountain Bike Apparel
Ripton is quickly becoming the cool-kid brand among Colorado cyclists, who are increasingly spotted in cut-off jorts made of extra-thin, extra-stretchy performance denim.
The fabric dried faster than standard cotton (still, I wouldn’t wear these on rides where getting wet seems likely). And while Ripton makes clothing for both men and women, its ladies’ line includes extra-fun collaborations with female-owned brands such as Skida.
Denim Daisy Jorts
I tested the Denim Daisy Jorts ($85), a summer ’22 Ripton/Skida collaboration that has established itself as a staple in my summertime wardrobe — for mountain biking and playing cornhole.
I admit that the fabric doesn’t have the smooth, low-friction properties that I count on to avoid chafing on all-day rides. I would not want to submit my skin to this denim for 40 miles or more. On a typical 8- to 12-miler, it was as comfy as I could want. But above around 75 degrees F, these shorts felt warmer than I’d prefer.
The longer inseam of the Denim Daisy and new Women’s Diesel Jorts Long ($69) also suited me better than the thigh-baring 5.5-inch length that’s typical of most Ripton jorts.
These Daisy Dukes look cute, and I’ve met plenty of female-identifying mountain bikers who wear and love them for riding singletrack. But, I personally prefer more skin protection. My legs got scratched by scrub oak and other trailside brush while wearing Ripton’s short-shorts. And I didn’t enjoy the wedgie-picking ritual that I had to undergo every time I stepped off the bike.
Women’s Bike Pant
It’s hardly surprising I became a huge fan of Ripton’s newest product, the Women’s Bike Pant ($120). It turned heads at Steamboat Springs’ most popular mountain bike trailhead. (“Are you riding in jeans?” a friend asked, incredulous.) I was, and I do, anytime the weather isn’t too blazing hot. I was comfortable in this full-length denim pant in temperatures up to about 65 degrees F.
The seams create an ergonomic fit that felt 100% optimized for my position on a bike. The narrow cuffs avoided contact with my drivetrain. I enjoyed wearing them even when I was not riding a bike.
Maybe that was a tad pretentious for me to wear cycling pants just in case I got an impromptu opportunity to hop on a bike. But hey, who doesn’t love a great-fitting pair of jeans? Ripton’s Bike Pant was exactly that, except it fit awesome on the bike as well as off it.