Review of the Downieville Colab Short by The North Face

By Vince Hempsall

In the past few years The North Face has been tiptoeing into the mountain bike clothing market to cater to the off-season whims of their pro ski athletes, such as Sage Cattabriga-Alosa. Then, at Interbike in Las Vegas, the company jumped in with both feet by announcing a partnership with Pro-Tec and unveiling a line of padded apparel. The centerpiece is the rugged Downieville Colab Short which incorporates a padded inner chamois featuring Pro-Tec’s proprietary flex panels. The whole concept behind this short is to withstand as much abuse as you can throw at it, which is exactly what I did on a recent rainy ride. More than once my tires slipped out around a corner and I landed on my hips. And in one memorable instant I naively rode through a creek with water levels up past my knees and endo-ed onto the far bank. In every instance I was happy to have the added protection of the Downieville Short. The North Face has spared nothing in its design: the outer short is made from bombproof nylon that can literally be hosed off after a ride and is good to go again. (I know this from my muddy experience.) The legs are cut below the knee and are wide enough to accommodate knee pads and the back of the waist is extra high for added protection (and to prevent the dreaded biker’s crack). The camo pockets are water resistant (again I know this from experience) and there are zippered vents in the front to allow for more airflow. The waist band has adjustable Velcro cinch straps and there’s even a goggle wipe sewn into the front hand pocket. As for the inner chamoix, it features Pro-Tec flex padding in the tailbone, hip and thigh areas but, unfortunately, there isn’t any crotch padding – for those riders who like a bit of cushion under the tush, you’ll have to supplement with padded underwear. Also, it needs to be said up front that these shorts ain’t cheap – at $190 they’re more expensive then my bike’s crank set.

Shorts Features

• Dual-snap and Velcro front fasteners
• Goggle wipe in the right hand pocket
• Mesh on the lower back and front hand pockets to allow for more airflow
• Seamless crotch panel
• Double needle reinforced stitching throughout gusset and rise seams
• Outer shell is 180 g/m≤400 denier with 450 PU coating
• Zippered front thigh vents with mesh backing
• Adjustable Velcro cinch straps on the waist band

• Pro-Tec liner short with removable, dual-density, expansion-molded EVA concussion padding

• Two cargo pockets, one with zipper and flap and one with just flap for easier access

VERDICT:
The North Face Downieville Colab Short is, quite simply, the best pair of mountain bike shorts I’ve ever worn – and for $190, they should be. They’re so rugged I expect to be wearing them for years to come but they include so many well-designed features, that I’ll be comfortable in them for years as well. Aside from the tough nylon exterior, my favorite features are the zippered front thigh vents with mesh backing – my local trails require riding up logging roads through cut blocks and it can be hot, sweaty climbing sometimes, but the extra venting in these shorts ensures I stay cool. I also like the Pro-Tec padding on the inner chamoix shorts and can attest to the fact they really do protect you. Expect to see similar partnerships cropping up all over the outdoor soft-goods market as clothing manufacturers strive to offer fashionable active wear that help save your body from a beating. My only criticism regarding the inner shorts is that they should have incorporated crotch padding as well to avoid groin numbness. (You’ll have to supplement with padded underwear.)

PROS:
• Super-tough nylon exterior that’ll repel everything from water to mud
• Comfortable inner chamoix with padding over the tailbone, hips and thighs
• Excellent cooling via the zippered front thigh vents

CONS:
• Expensive at $190
• No crotch padding on the inner chamoix

RATING:
Overall        9/10
Innovation        2/2
Function           2/2
Aesthetics        2/2
Features           2/2
Quality / Price   1/2

SPECS:
• Price: $190
• Size: S-XXL
• Color: Black

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