As I mentioned in my round-up of my Top 11 things of 2020, I had been holding out against the increasing popularity of MTB trousers for a few years.
But the combination of enthusiastic reports from friends, a very muddy autumn and travel restrictions which prevented me going anywhere less muddy eventually persuaded me to give them a try.
Being very fond of my Madison Zenith shorts, and spying a sale bargain, I picked up a pair of the British company’s full-length trews just as my local trails were reaching peak slop.
Sizing things up
I usually find Madison garments a bit tight in the waist, so I chose the size large. This was partly because the discounted medium ones were sold out, but these do seem to come up a bit bigger than my Zenith shorts. With my 33in waist, I’d probably have been OK in a medium.
However, the trews have Velcro cinch adjusters on the hips and can be adjusted so they don’t fall down – while the extra leg length just bunches up a bit at the ankles (which have Velcro cuffs to keep them out of the way).
The Zenith trousers seem well made, and feature pop studs and a zip fastener at the front, with two nice-sized hip pockets plus a thigh vent zip on each side – which I found useful on my first warmish-but-wet autumn rides in them.
But for me, the real standout feature is the waterproof bum panel, which is generously sized and does a pretty good job of keeping rear-wheel spray away from my liner shorts. That material extends down to the inner thighs and there are also patches of it on the knees.
The rest of the trousers are made from a four-way stretch polyester with a DWR coating applied. It’s not fully waterproof but it shrugs off a bit of rain or splash and dries quickly.
The trousers can still get overwhelmed in heavy or consistent rain, or if you’re ploughing through loads of standing water (e.g. a summer ride at Penmachno).
On the bike
As I’ve said, I may be wearing a slightly-too-big pair, but the trousers still have a decent cut for riding. They feel unobtrusive and are lightweight but appear to be durable.
I’ve already had quite a few unplanned dismounts and there’s no visible damage.
They don’t snag the saddle too much normally, but when I’m wearing a hip pack, it can start to push them down – so I have to remove a hand from the bars (usually while climbing) and hoist them back up.
Again, this is likely a sizing issue.
When I included the trousers in my “best of 2020” feature, I mentioned the catchphrase I’d kept hearing from other riders: “It’s just nice to finish a ride and have clean legs.”
And that’s something I can wholeheartedly agree with, but I’d also add that it’s nice not to have had to wash my kneepads for the last six rides either.
In summary: Highly recommended, but try both sizes if you may be in the middle.
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