SOMBRIO JERSEY & PINNER SHORTS REVIEW
Review by Dario DiGiulio
With a proud history in the Canadian freeride scene, Sombrio has long aimed to fill the gaps in athletic apparel that tend to miss the athletes on the pointier end of things. As mountain biking has evolved, the distinct camps that once existed have started to blur a bit, but Sombrio’s catalog still contains a lot of pieces one wouldn’t typically see. On test here we have two of those items, the Pinner Short and Chaos 2 Jersey. In an increasingly saturated market, and with mountain bike style shifting as quick as high fashion, do they stack up?
Sombrio bills the Pinners as a freeride short, and they sport an appropriately tough 4-way stretch fabric that feels burlier than many of the more XC-oriented shorts out there. That fabric is finished with a DWR treatment, which I find to work pretty well against light rain and wet trails, plus it refreshes well after a run through the wash. In order to mitigate too much heat buildup because of the heavier fabric, Sombrio included a long-zippered heat vent on each thigh, which should help let off some steam on a long climb. There are two front pockets that are essentially the same, save for one having a lift pass leash, and in my experience, they carry a phone, bar, or multitool very nicely. At no point did it feel like the contents were jumping around, and things remain accessible even while riding. The hollow snap waist connection makes for a super secure clasp, and there are elastic Velcro bands on both hips to help dial in the fit.
The Chaos 2 is a simpler affair, with 3/4 length sleeves and a silky smooth fabric known as Cool Wik. It has a drop back hem, which helps prevent the dreaded mid-climb plumber’s crack, as well as providing a bit more real estate for the understated sublimated graphics. The whole garment has an antimicrobial finish that should ward off any unwanted stank, and keep the jersey smelling clean for many washes to come.
I have a tall and limby build, standing 6’3” and around 180 lbs. That usually puts me in a medium/32” pant, and a size large shirt. This kit from Sombrio fit those standards bang on. The Pinner shorts fit me better than any I’ve tried on in quite a while, due in large part to the close and secure fit of the waist and butt. Once on the bike, they pedal nicely, only brushing the seattube slightly as they pass, which is simply due to the wider than usual leg opening. I never ride in a chamois, and after a few weeks of consistent pedaling in them, I have no hot spots or discomfort to report. The fabric stretches enough to move with you as need be, but not so stretchy that it can catch and snag on your saddle, which can be majorly disconcerting when you’re navigating something steep and spicy. My only frustration in the comfort department are the thigh vents. Not only do they seem a bit unnecessary – don’t shorts vent out the bottom already? – but they also necessitate quite a bit of extra fabric on the inside, which you feel rub up and down your leg as you pedal. If you’re wearing kneepads, it’s less of a problem, but on a long pedal I’ve definitely noticed the sensation here and there.
The Chaos 2 Jersey has a nice fit on the looser side of athletic, and with enough stretch to fit a friend in there with you. I tend to sweat a lot on rides, like full-on juice the helmet after a climb sweat, so the jersey got a solid test in just a couple warm spring days here. Like many athletic fabrics, it dumps heat when you’re moving, and seems to feel warmer than you’d expect when you’re still – I like this effect, as those moments of stillness are when you might otherwise have to break out a jacket to keep from going cold. After a few rides, stink is minimal, and the treated fabric should keep that at bay for seasons to come. I noticed that one of my buddies was wearing the original Chaos on a recent ride, and he had nothing but good things to say of the longevity; he’s been riding in it for four years, no tears, no stink, no problem. As someone who tends to just don a cotton/poly t-shirt when the weather gets warm, the idea of a top lasting years instead of months is pretty compelling.
In the durability department, I jumped right in and put the shorts to the test. My first ride with them was on a glorious spring day here in Bellingham, and the dirt was close to ideal. I decided to pull for an awkward sneaky step-down, and landed right on a wet polished root, which sent me straight into a baseball slide. Despite the slam and some body skidding, the shorts were unfazed, and after a quick brush off they even looked clean. Wish I could say the same of my body, but luckily skin grows back.
Long term use should be measured in years, not weeks, but already I can tell the construction bodes well for the survival of the Pinners. Unlike so many cycling shorts I’ve had, the zippers are of really high quality, seem to be snag-proof, and even pull cleanly with only one hand. I think this is a hidden benefit of that heavier fabric, as the zipper essentially has a better structure around it to support my frantic efforts to try and grab a granola bar out while bonking on a climb. The velcro on the hip adjusters is high quality, and is pretty well protected from trail grit that tends to shorten the lifespan. As far as front snaps go, these are about as skookum as they get, so I foresee no issues there.
My only gripe with this kit comes down to the value, and the relatively high price of both items. Coming in just shy of $180, the Pinner shorts are among the most expensive on the market, up there with brands like NF and Kitsbow. Both those brands come with the value of being made domestically (Canada and the US, respectively), while Sombrio’s kit is manufactured in Cambodia, a textile industry known for very low wages and poor working conditions. By no means is this mountain bike clothing review meant to be a broad critique of global trade, but when you’re spending nearly $300 for some new riding clothes, it’s good to consider where your money is going.
The Wolf’s Last Word
With a unique set of features and a very high finish quality, the Sombrio Pinner shorts earn top marks for a bit of kit that will last and survive some pretty burly riding. They wouldn’t be my first choice for a mid-heatwave ride, but the durable fabric and finishing touches should endure many seasons of use. The Chaos 2 jersey is a pretty typical piece of kit with a relatively high price tag, but if you want the slick graphics and super-soft fabric, it ticks the boxes. Both items have clean graphics and an understated look that lets your riding do the talking.
Chaos 2 Jersey – $103.99
Pinner Short – $178.99