I’ll admit that when I was in my teens and even into my twenties, I didn’t give a lot of thought to appropriate dress. If the occasion wasn’t formal enough to demand dress wear, then I tended to think there were no rules. My parents found that to be one of my less endearing qualities. I’ve learned a thing or two since then. The upshot is that when I show up for a ride, I do what I can to look the part. Lycra for group rides on the road, something normal looking for store runs and on mountain bike rides, something that falls somewhere in between.
So if I’m with other riders, that means I’ve got baggy shorts on. Getting my head around baggy shorts has taken deliberate, concerted, effort. I had plenty of reasons not to wear them. I didn’t see the need to catch the crotch of the shorts on the saddle. I’d rejected regular shorts decades ago in favor of bibs. And why would I want to put anything useful in a pocket that hung near my knee? Still, I didn’t want to show up for a casual mountain bike ride looking like I was ready to pin a number on. Who wants to hang out with a guy who can’t relax?
Then I got some shorts that I could pair with bibs. That made my undercarriage more comfortable, but brought up a new issue. With so much fabric on, it made a ride on a hot summer day even hotter. With a few I tried I noticed that if they were loose enough in fit so they didn’t restrict my breathing, I could nearly slide out of them thanks to the Lycra.
Then one of the more creative engineers I know tackled the problem. Tim Lane, the proprietor of Dirt Baggies, was an engineer at Felt. Among his designs is the original DA, which was a stunningly fast bike, thanks to the patented Bayonet fork.
If you ask Tim about Dirt Baggies, he can go on and on about the little details he bothered to pay attention to make the Dirt Baggies a fresh take on what mountain bike shorts could be. The first time I wore a pair of Dirt Baggies on a ride, I vowed I wouldn’t wear anything else so long as these were clean from the last ride, they were that good.
For me, the difference between Dirt Baggies and everything else comes down to a few key points. First, the Feature inner short—the liner—is a proper bib short. Second, the short has a fly in it to make kidney tapping the opposite of elaborate. Third—and I love this one—he went with Cytech’s top of the line pad, the same pad that Panache uses. He did this in part, he told me, because he’d listened to me rave about it so much. Fourth, the Vent outer short is reasonably lightweight and breathable. Wearing these on a hot August afternoon doesn’t seem vaguely suicidal. If those don’t seem like revolutionary ideas, this one will: Fifth, he invented an adjustable tether system to keep the liner and the outer together.
Tim so thoroughly believes in the need for superior fit and the comfort that can come with it that he went to the trouble to offer both the liner and the outer shorts in nine sizes: every two inches from 28 to 44. I am wearing the 32 bib with the 34 outer short. That combo gives me a great fit without restricting my breathing and keeps the liner concealed beneath the outer.
The Vent outer short goes for $89.99 while the Feature liner goes for $179.99. They are arguably the most expensive baggies on the market, but they so thoroughly outstrip everything else I’ve tried, I believe the only reasonable way to frame their superiority is to say that these are the Assos of mountain bike shorts. They’re that good.
I could go on about the amazing pocket designs. Ones in the bib straps can hold your phone or an iPod while the thigh pockets on the outer shorts are big enough to hold a 24-oz. water bottle without preventing you from pedaling. Impressive. But really, while details like those are great, they aren’t why I recommend these, why I’m devoted to them.
Given the time of year, it’s worth mentioning that Tim has a Kickstarter campaign going right now for thermal bibs and thermal knickers. You’ve got about two weeks from this publication date to get in on a set. Because the project has already reached its funding goal, if you pledge, you’re assured to get a set. You can find the Kickstarter here.