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Gear Shots #57

A full Mace kit and a new full face lid from Kali

Words by Ed Snyder.
August 25th, 2009

Mace Caliber Jersey
True mountain biking jerseys are a bit of no-man’s land these days. In the old days, lots of folks just wore road jerseys as they vented better than cotton and had those handy pockets on the back. Inevitably, the mountain bike style pendulum swung away from the skinsuit look and towards the baggy end of the spectrum. Unless you were a sponsored racer, plain old T-shirts (or jerseys that looked like them) replaced tight fitting tops for regular riding.

So what’s a good jersey to do these days? Well, the same thing good riding apparel always does: offer a solid fit, some functional comfort and a dash of style.

Mace jersey front
Hi girls… come here often? The graphics are clearly in the “take ‘em or leave ‘em” department. You can also see the zipper on the media pocket (rider’s right shoulder) in the closed position. More on that in a minute. || photo: Jim Clagett

Mace’s new Caliber jersey delivers on fit – not too loose while not being constrictive either. The fabric is a lightweight nylon that flows well and has a reasonable amount of stretch if you want to put it over armour. It also features an asymmetrical mesh panel in the back (across the shoulder blades) that makes the already well-vented the top even more breathable. It breathes so well that long sleeves never really seemed like too much to bear even on warmer days.

I was worried about durability of the material because it felt so thin and airy. After snagging it a few times while squeezing under the odd tree limb at speed, my fears were put to rest. Not only did the fabric not tear, it did not even show a mark or a snag.

As for style, the graphics on my “Black-Chili” coloured version are either a “love it” or “hate it” proposition depending on your tastes. The red showed up nicely in photos, which was a bit of plus. I had been wearing the top for a few weeks before one of my riding pals asked, “Do you know there’s a naked chick on your arm?”

Lo and behold, a gal in her underwear and heels (a highly practical cycling combo if ever there was one) does adorn the design across the chest and on both sleeves. Again, that will probably either be a good thing or terrible thing based on who you are. The fact that I hadn’t really noticed in a couple weeks does speak to how subtle the images are, but once they are pointed out you will never not notice them. In the end, patterns, graphics and colours are a personal choice. If you like them, you’ll buy the gear and if you don’t, you won’t. End of story.

Mace jersey back
This jersey is the opposite of a mullet: party in the front and business in the back. Note the large mesh vent (all black) across the shoulders to help keep you cool. || photo: Jim Clagett

My only real gripe with the jersey is the placement of the small audio pocket and more specifically its zipper. I almost always ride with a pack. The head of the zipper rides directly under the pack strap, right on top of your collarbone. It’s uncomfortable. The easy fix is to open the zipper, at which point it slides out far enough to clear the pack strap entirely. However, riding around with an open pocket is about as useful as the proverbial solar-powered flashlight. Moving this small, lined pocket would make the jersey pack-friendly while keeping the iPod-addicted among us smiling.

All in all the Caliber jersey is a keeper. It’s really comfortable to wear all day on the bike, stands up to a bit of abuse and carries a unique look that will get you noticed… whether that is a good thing is up to you. MSRP is CAD$90.

Mace Caliber Gloves
This is the heavy hitter of the Mace glove lineup. It focuses on offering the most protection while maintaining a reasonable capacity for all-around riding. The gloves are well constructed and sharp to look at. They feature the same graphic treatment (sans the scantily clad women) that the Caliber jersey does, so wearing the two together is easy enough on the eyes.

Mace gloves on table
One of the best things about these gloves is the full terrycloth treatment on the thumbs. Remember the rule: one for sweat and one for snot… and don’t mix them up. || photo: Ed Snyder

The fit of the large size was on the snug side right out of the package. To remedy this, I put the gloves on, dunked them in a bucket of warm water and just made fists in them for a few minutes. I peeled them off and hung them up to dry without wringing them out. After this treatment they fit just fine (I’m resisting the “…like a glove” reference with all of my available willpower here).

Mace gloves knuckles
The large carbon cover offers some decent insurance against tree strikes while the gussets above your inner two knucles help keep the fit spot on. || photo: Ed Snyder

The Calibers feature a lot of protection in a fairly slim package. The carbon cap covers your outer (most vulnerable) knuckles while a big patch of Kevlar guards the outside of your palm. You know the spot you always mash during a crash? Yeah, that one.

I had a chance to test that patch when I lost the front end coming over some greasy woodwork on CBC on Mt. Seymour. I put a fair amount of force on my hand running it down the wood and then in to the dirt and rocks, but after brushing them off the gloves still looked new. If my wrists held up as well as the gloves, Ibuprofen manufacturers would be very unhappy with me.

Mace gloves palm
This was before my little “slide test” on the North Shore. The Kevlar patch did its job and I can honestly say the gloves looked just about this good afterward too. || photo: Ed Snyder

I even spent a day in Nelson trailbuilding with the gloves. As it was an unplanned session, they were the only gloves I had along and so they were pressed in to service. While it is not the intended use of the glove, they never winced or whined once and still felt terrific when we rode the new section later that day. There are not too many riding gloves you can expect that kind of durability from.

After a few months with the gloves, I’d have to say I’m fairly impressed. They are in the top rotation of gear I grab for any ride. And if protection is the top concern, they are the first ones off the shelf and in to my bag. MSRP is CAD$65.

Mace Task Shorts
The Mace Task shorts are my new favourite shorts. Notice I didn’t just say “riding” shorts. From the day I got the Tasks, I have spent more time in them than just about any other piece of clothing I own. If they are in the clean pile and it is over 10 degrees, I am wearing them. They are that comfortable.

The blend of 78% nylon and 22% polyester comes out feeling almost like a soft cotton tweed, but lighter. The inside is lined with a thin nylon mesh that floats underneath the main body of the shorts and keeps everything moving well. The outside is coated with a DWR (durable water repellent) finish, so despite their soft feel water still beads up and rolls off… to a point. If you take a dive in to the pool (or a puddle) wearing them, you’ll still get soaked but if it it is drizzling out you are fine.

Mace shorts front view
The Mace Task shorts in their deafult postion since I got them months ago: on me. The are really comfortable and are versatile enough to easily double as trail shorts and BBQ-wear. || photo: David Ferguson

The Task shorts feature a multitude of pockets that stay out of your way amazingly well. The front hip pockets are deep enough to keep your keys or phone from spilling out when you sit down and pedal. There is a zippered cargo pocket on the left thigh on top of a more traditional cargo pocket. On the right thigh is a combination cargo pocket that features two smaller outer pockets on top of the main pocket that is secured by both a snap and a hook and loop closure. All that adds up to plenty of storage for a ride or a post-ride trip to the corner store for recovery beverages.

Mace uses a combination of the features to make sure these shorts fit great and are comfortable on or off the bike. The first is a large durable stretch panel in the back that flexes to keep the shape of the shorts intact when you squat down (or pedal).

The second is a an adjustable elastic belt in the back that attaches with hook-and-loop closures on both sides. It runs through the existing belt loops and helps you fine tune the fit. In the winter, you can let a little out to wear the shorts over other gear and in the summer you can trim them up to keep the fit perfect when worn solo. Very handy indeed.

Mace shorts side view
The elastic strip in the belt loops is adjustable and the stretch panel below them makes pedalling in these “sag-free”. All the pockets are placed well the only problem is remembering which one you dropped your keys in. || photo: David Ferguson

The other comfort feature that I though was a gimmick turned to be one of the best features included on the shorts. There is a bellows style opening that runs down the forward facing seam of the pockets on the front of both thighs. The mesh backing keeps anything from flying in but lets the air flow freely through these gaps. The effect is noticeable. While the shorts are fairly long and made from slightly heavier material than normal, the vents balance things out nicely and allow you wear them even on longer rides and warmer days.

Mace shorts vents
These vents work really well. Maybe a little too well. When you are strolling through the beer aisle your knees get cold. || photo: David Ferguson

After months in the shorts, a few small issues have popped up. The stitching around one of the button holes above the zipper worked loose. This started catching the button and making them hard to open, but a quick trim of the threads fixed the problem. The zipper on the left cargo pocket is a little sticky as well, making opening it a two-handed operation instead of one-handed like it was when the shorts were fresh. Other than that, they look and work great. The fabric shows very little pilling; a nice benefit of the DWR coating is that the fabric resists stains better than it would without.

These shorts are the full package: comfortable, good-looking, fully featured and durable. They are well worth a serious look if you are in the market for new pair of bottoms for riding our just hanging out and hitting the end of the BBQ season. MSRP is CAD$110.

Kali Durgana Full Face Helmet
Kali Protectives is a new company founded by an aerospace engineer who used to make his living designing high tech military aircraft. It comes as no surprise that their main focus is making protective gear that will not only hold up to serious abuse but that is also very light.

They make a full range of both bicycle and motorcycle helmets and the Durgana is their full face offering for the pedalling set. The technology that Kali hangs their hat on to create this lighter breed of protection is called Composite Fusion. In the case of the Durgana, it means a different way of making helmet altogether.

Kali helmet side view
The Durgana was equally at home in a light drizzle on the Shore or dusty rips through Nelson’s hills. One of the nice small touches is the plastic bug catcher in front of your mouth. It won’t rust like some of its counterparts on other helmets. || photo: David Ferguson

Most helmets have two main parts: a hard outer shell and an inner liner (usually energy absorbing foam). These parts are made separately and then joined together using glue, tape etc. Kali’s process actually fuses the foam into the outer shell as an integral piece during manufacturing. The end result is a lighter (1120g for the large size) helmet where the inner and outer pieces are inseparable. Another helpful by-product of the process is the elimination of any small gaps between the liner and the shell, which can be problematic during energy transfer (think crash: when your helmet hits the ground and that energy is headed for your skull).

Beyond its interesting “bones”, this is pretty sweet lid. The graphics and colour scheme work well together and definitely warrant a second look from riders on the trail. There are 14 vents to keep your dome cool and the adjustable visor is held in place by two aluminium screws on both sides. Even the included storage bag has plush microfiber inside and nice nylon cord closure system to keep everything tidy. In a nod to what has become the standard, the liner is removable and washable so you can de-mank it when necessary.

Kali helmet on the North Shore
The Durgana features a nice wide viewing port that make focusing on your line easy. This colour scheme shows up pretty well in photos, too, which is a solid bonus. || photo: David Ferguson

So what’s not to like? The answer is not much. I used the helmet shuttling/hiking/pushing in Nelson where the functional ventilation paired with the light weight were huge pluses. It has carried me safely through laps (and photo shoots) on the Shore, too. The field of vision is good and the shape of the shell holds your goggles firmly in place. Kali even added a small snap at the end of the strap that usually dangles down. Once you secure that strap through the D-rings, you just double it back on itself and snap it down so it’s up and out the way. A very nice touch.

Although I (thankfully) have not tried out its most important feature (protection for your noggin during a fall), everything else has been first rate. If your lid is older than you care to admit or you just can’t get that stubborn smell out of it, take a look at Kali when you start the replacement process. For such a fully featured helmet that remains surprising light, it comes it at a very reasonable price.

Kali’s Durgana is available in five sizes ranging from XS to XL and MSRP is CAD$175 CAN / US$149.

Ed Snyder

Think carbon knuckles are for sissies or the best thing since sliced bread? Light up the boards right this way…