SmartWool Bike Apparel Review

Apparel Pro Reviews

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Reviewed by Brian Mullin http://www.gramslightbikes.com/

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SmartWool makes wool apparel for an entire slew of outdoor activities from skiing, hiking, climbing, running, walking and cycling. They make quite a few pieces, specifically for cycling, and they sent along some tasty treats to test out. SmartWool uses New Zealand Merino Wool, which they have tweaked to make it more durable, non itching, with four season functionality and non shrinking (with proper care) properties.

Wool, which is obviously a natural product, has some pretty amazing properties, it’s odor free, highly breathable, with excellent moisture management and temperature regulation. Wool wicks sweat off the skin in a vapor state and is then evaporated, without any condensation occurring, so you don’t feel clammy, keeping you drier and more comfortable for a longer period of time. Its antimicrobial, since that wicking and evaporative process leaves no liquid for odor causing bacteria to thrive on. Wool fibers have microscopic cortices of dead air, which provide a buffering layer of natural climate control, maintaining a stable core temp, so you’re cool in summer, and warm in winter.

UberWoolness!

SmartWool Betasso Shorts

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The Betasso bicycle shorts are comfortable, rugged and even look and wear like a normal pair of baggy’s. They are comprised of an outer short made from polyester, and an inner one made from a SmartWool, and nylon blend. The two pieces connect together with two robust strap mounted snaps, to keep the pants from drooping, although they still liked to slowly slink down. The shorts have two normal pockets, two large zippered cargo pockets, a front fly with a dual snapped closure, and a webbing and buckle system for waist adjustment. The liner is a one piece seamless design, with a plush chamois padding and grabby elastic at the waist and leg hems.

Impressions

Shorts
The shorts were baggy enough not to cause any binding, but not so much to feel like they are flopping around, and the shorts move nicely while riding. The material is fairly thick, so the shorts have been very durable, and haven’t snagged nor gotten scuffed up, and they were stretchy, offering great comfort and conformability. The zippered fly is way too short, so the call of nature can be an act of contortion, and is exacerbated by the front buckle webbing, which doesn’t easily disconnect nor offer enough slack. The large cargo pockets were handy, and the waist fit could be adjusted by pulling on the webbing, though I could never get the necessary fit and feel that I prefer. The adjustable buckle/webbing system for the waist needs to be tossed out, or at least redesigned, since it just doesn’t work in an optimal fashion. Incorporating some sizable elastic sections in the waist band, along with some sort side or front adjustment that pulls father around would greatly help the shorts. Even if I tightened the strap so that I looked like a reject from Revenge of the Nerds, the shorts still would slowly droop down on me, and I was always having to fuss with pulling them back up. The material and the cut is comfortable enough, with a nice fit and finish, and the snap system connecting the inner liner is innovative and secure, but they need a rethinking of the waist system and the short fly.

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Inner Liner
The inner liner has a great stretch and is very comfortable, and the thick chamois offered uber plushness while riding. The entire syste just works incredibly well together, and they have a nice temperature control system, as they are warm when its cold, and cool when it’s hot, and always blend the environment to a proper temperate level. With their great moisture management, I never felt damp, as they absorbed perspiration and quickly transpired the moisture, leaving one feeling very comfortable, and keeping them odor free. The material has been very robust and durable, especially considering that I use them for pretty much every ride, and they get laundered multiple times a week. Their inner liner is the best system I have ever used, and its so darn excellent that I tend to use it with other manufacturer’s shorts. They are a supremely awesome product, that is incredibly comfortable, durable and pleasant to wear.

SmartWool Betasso Shorts – Overall Rating: 3.5 Flamin’ Chili Peppers
Inner Liner – Rating: 5 Flamin’ Chili Peppers

Specs:

  • 2-in-1 mountain short with snap-in liner and stretch woeven exterior short with bias-cut back yoke for increased mobility
  • Front fly with exterior offset adjustable buckle/webbing
  • Front slash hand pockets and angled zip cargo pockets
  • Inseam 10.5″
  • Gender specific to provide a snug fit while allowing for freedom of movement
  • One piece seamless construction, designed airflow, and a covering made from SmartWool jersey offer protection from chafing and moisture management
  • Multi-thickness and central channel in the perineal area to support male anatomy
  • 1.5-10mm thickness. 340 x 210mm (L x W)
  • Inner short: 45% nylon, 39% SmartWool, 16% Elastic;
  • Outer Short: 100% polyester (58% recycled)
  • Color – Carbon
  • MSRP: $150
About the author: Brian Mullin

Brian has been part of the Mtbr team since 2007, where he has become an integral member of the review and test staff, specializing in technical articles. He likes to push the limits in all the sports he obsesses in, whether it's mountain biking, whitewater kayaking, extreme skiing, or sport climbing. He takes those same strengths and a good dose of insanity to his reviewing and writing on mountain biking products, creating technical, in-depth and hyperbolic articles. Whenever he's not on the bike, he might be found watching MotoGP racing, otherwise look for him out on extremely technical singletrack.


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  • jadedbee says:

    Can you purchase just the shorts liner from Smartwool? I love their socks and shirts, and I could always use another non-lycra chamois to wear under my assorted shorts and knickers or even regular pants for commuting. If I’m doing multi-day rides I commonly just switch out the funky chamois and use the same, otherwise clean outer short.

    If you are reading this, Smartwool, please introduce this product. I will buy it. The polyester part isn’t your strong suit anyway.

  • Brian Mullin says:

    I am checking with SmartWool if they can sell the inner liner separately from the Betasso bicycle shorts. If not they should make an inventory item, since that is pretty common with other cycling apparel companies. In addition, their liner rocks!

  • Gregg says:

    Wow…cool stuff from an unexpected name. Nice to see them stepping up their MTB game! Those shirts look really nice. I know quality wool is expensive, but $150 is a lot of dough!

  • Brian Mullin says:

    Yes, $150 for the shorts is pricey, but its right in line with Gore. I use the SmartWool inner liner with my Gore Freeride shorts, sort of the best shorts and the best liner I’ve tested lately, obviously from two separate companies.

  • Danny says:

    Looks really nice. I’ve worn smartwool products for hiking and skiing and they’ve always performed great. Can’t wait to try out some of their cycling gear. Question for Jason: what’s it like playing with someone like Dirk? I know you’ve been on teams with elite shooters (Vince and Richard Jefferson with the Nets) but it’s got to make running the point a lot easier with teams consistently doubling Nowitzki. Also, how do you find the time to test mtb apparel with your hectic NBA schedule?

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