Most skiers can agree that merino wool is the gold standard for winter baselayers. Warm, breathable, no smell. What more could you ask for?
It wasn’t until recently that I got switched on to merino for the warmer months. Last summer, I biked, ran, hiked, and climbed in synthetics—lightweight layers that I figured would give me the best performance and breathability combo. It never crossed my mind to throw on a wool jersey for an 80-degree mountain bike ride.
That is, until I came across Mons Royale’s merino mountain bike kit. I’ve been skiing in Mons baselayers for the past few seasons and am totally in love. Their merino tops are super soft, with lightweight options that are perfect for touring and heavier layers for resort laps. Plus, they look cool enough to wear right into aprés, or a friend’s birthday, or a baby shower, or a company Zoom call.
The mountain bike kit takes the same breathable and performance-oriented merino from their ski layers, updated with specific features that keep mountain biking in mind—like a goggle wipe in the corner of each jersey and extra mesh back panels for hot trail rides. This spring I’ve been riding in the Phoenix Enduro VT Top, Momentum 2.0 Bike Shorts, Phoenix Wind Jersey, Momentum Chamois Shorts, and Sierra Sports Bra, which except for the shorts, are all constructed with 83% merino. Yep that’s a lot of merino for summertime, but after a few weeks of riding in this stuff, I’m totally converted.
I first threw the Phoenix Enduro VT jersey into the deep end on a rare 80-degree day in the Tetons this May. The smooth Merino Air-Con 140 fabric felt silky smooth against my skin, a blend that Mons uses in their lightweight layers, which wraps merino fibers around a nylon core. The result is a breathable and soft feel thanks to the merino, combined with the durability of nylon. Strategic merino mesh panels along the back allow for even more breathability, which is usually where I build up most of my heat while riding. Compared to most of the synthetic jerseys I’ve worn, the Phoenix Enduro VT feels significantly more natural while moving—there’s no stiffness or heat build-up, plus the drop tail keeps it from awkwardly riding up. After riding, I’ve just been tossing it back in my pile of “clean” bike clothes to wear again the next day. It takes at least five rides before my boyfriend suggests it might be time for a wash.
The Momentum shorts use 39% merino wool in the construction, but a polyester micro grid fabric on the outside to ensure durability. Using this much merino in a bike short is pretty unique compared to what’s out there right now (mostly thick, abrasion-resistant synthetics), and it does an amazing job of blending a burly trail short that feels rock solid on the descent with a soft and breathable lining that keeps them feeling light on your body even when it’s hot. They have two zippered leg vents, which definitely cooled me off, although I missed having a side leg pocket to store a phone or snack, since the waist pockets are pretty unusable while riding.
On a grey spring day, I added the Phoenix Wind Jersey, which maintains the same 83% merino construction, along with polyester ripstop chest panels to protect from wind chill. There’s no wind protection on the back panels which makes it comfortable to pedal in without overheating, but if you’re not wearing a backpack it doesn’t do much to protect you from the wind. The Wind Jersey also balls up really small to fit snugly into a hip pack so I’ve found myself taking it along on days where I don’t even end up using it, just because of how light and compact it is.
Underneath, the Sierra Sports Bra and Momentum Chamois Shorts play a huge part in how comfortable this kit is. Just like in skiing, having merino as a next-to-skin-layer makes a huge difference in how I feel during a high-output activity as well as afterwards. The post-ride swampiness of the Momentum Chamois pales in comparison to the synthetic liners I usually wear, and the Sierra bra is supportive while feeling almost invisible. It’s a piece I’ll surely be using well into the winter.
Since the Mons bike apparel is designed for a freeride fit, it’s a little on the baggy side. I’m usually right between an extra-small and small, and have been wearing a small in everything. The long length of the shorts works really well with knee pads and has been great for shuttle laps and the bike park, but if you’re looking for something to perform better on the ascent, I’d recommend sizing down in the shorts.
Overall, the mountain bike kit works really well as a system, but I’d still recommend any of these pieces on their own. If you had to choose only one thing, I’d probably recommend the Phoenix Enduro VT jersey since it’s just an all-around amazing jersey for pedaling, shuttling, bike park laps, and long adventure rides.
Mons Royale took the high-quality merino that works so well in their winter baselayers, and adapted it to slide seamlessly into summer. Plus, like their ski layers, there’s really no reason to change before heading to the bar.