Blending fashion and function is a challenge that only the very best designers are able to achieve. We’re all familiar with the examples set by luminaries such as Apple and Tesla Motors, but in the mountain bike world function often takes a distant back seat to fashion. Sure, there are great technical fabrics in all high-end apparel these days, and that same apparel is typically made to fit best in the riding position without impeding pedaling efforts; but let’s be honest, how much does that other stuff matter when your kit also functions as a drag chute?
The Troy Lee Designs Ace kit represents a bold step in mountain bike apparel design by offering a far more tailored fit than your average “baggy” kit, while still fitting true to size. This fit isn’t for everyone, but once you try it, you can’t deny how good it works; and in my opinion, it looks great too. While the typical dude-brah will take umbrage with the jersey’s three rear pockets and front zip, the shorts still pair well with a TLD Network tech-T if you want to go that route.
Out on the trail, the thin, well-ventilated Ace shorts function like a second skin without fitting like one. I never overheated or felt that my pedaling efficiency was negatively affected in the slightest. I also appreciated how the low-rise design stayed comfortable across my abdomen on even the steepest climbs. 4-way stretch material on all of the main panels wicks sweat and dries impressively quick. Chances are they dry faster than your favorite board shorts, and that’s no exaggeration.
It should be said however that anytime a short offers this much breathability at a weight this low, you have to sacrifice protection. If you are one of those riders who uses your helmet to take a weekly soil sample, you are better off selecting TLD’s Sprint shorts. For everyone else that puts in 15-30+ mile rides and can keep the rubber side down, you’ll love how comfortable and light these shorts are.
Meanwhile the Ace jersey is just as smartly designed to provide a comfortable fit in spite of all the tailoring at work on this piece. Lycra panels on the shoulders provide a snug, yet flexible fit that doesn’t interfere when assuming a low attack position on descents. A zippered front panel makes temperature modulation easy and the three rear pockets (4 if you count the zippered stash pocket) will hold plenty of gear or food for an extended ride. The pockets are deep and wide and will easy swallow an entire 21oz water bottle or comfortably store a lightweight jacket or vest plus a pile of energy bars and gels.
When you do empty one of those gels, the Ace shorts feature tiny pocket that is smartly designed just for stowing the empty wrapper. This keeps the mess from that finished gel from ending up all over your other food items later in the ride.
The whole TLD Ace package is clearly well thought out, including the Ace glove. A lightweight mesh back paired with a thin single layer palm and a cuff-less design mean these gloves are about as light as you can possibly get. They remain comfortable on the hottest days and are remarkably durable, given their ethereal mass. Care was taken to reinforce the callous-prone area at the base of the small and ring fingers as well as the entire thumb panel. An extra nylon rip stop patch on the thumb tip handles the abuse dished out by constantly pushing shifter and dropper post buttons. Although I typically avoid cuff-less gloves because they often feel insecure, the Ace’s cuff is tight and tailored. Tight enough in fact that they are a little hard to pull on, so if you are one of those riders that likes to take their gloves off to eat or to put on body armor at the top of a climb, you might be better off with the TLD Air glove.
All in all, the Ace kit was just what I’ve been looking for. It’s more comfortable than a traditional baggy kit and it’s just plain faster… everywhere. If you want to experience the future of enduro apparel now, the Troy Lee Designs Ace kit is right on point. If you don’t believe me, take a closer look at the fit of Jared Graves’ kit, or even DH World Champ Gee Atherton’s kit for that matter, their jerseys and shorts are custom tailored to fit like the Ace kit fits right out of the box, but without all of the functionality offered by the lightweight materials, pockets, and overall well thought out design. If you are still dead set on appeasing the mountain bike fashion endurbros, it’s safe to say that anything TLD is acceptable. If it isn’t, just let your riding do the talking and they’ll start listening.