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Gear Closet: Fall Mountain Biking Must-Haves

Make the best of our favorite cycling season with new shorts, shoes, and a sipping system.

By Cindy Hirschfeld September 21, 2016

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Image: Jason Dewey

With fall’s moderate temps and vibrant patchwork of scrub oak and aspen, there’s no better season for mountain biking in places like Sky Mountain Park or on Emma’s new Glassier Trail. This trio of gear picks—MTB shorts from a brand-new women’s apparel company, clipless-pedal compatible biking sneaks, and a new hands-free drinking system—can make your ride that much more comfortable.

 Vapur DrinkLink Hydration System 

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Ever thrown your hydration bladder to the ground in frustration after being unable to contain a leak, then stuffed a bottle in your pack and ridden off, only to finish your ride somewhat dehydrated? (We happen to know this very scenario went down just last week.) A better option may be a new accessory from Vapur, known for its collapsible plastic Anti-Bottle, that quickly turns the bottle into a bladder. Simply fill the bottle, click a tube into the regular screwtop opening, and insert the bottle upside down into your pack—you’re good to go. Only one opening means far less likelihood of leakage; the tube connection has stayed solid during our testing. An easy-to-operate bite valve delivers a good flow and amount of water. Bonus: the bite valve also attaches on its own to the bottle for a third type of drinking scenario. (Insider tip: the collapsible bottle easily tucks into your ski jacket for hydration during hikes up Highland Bowl later this winter).

 A 1.5-liter Anti-Bottle with the DrinkLink system is $30; you can also buy the accessory separately for $17 if you already own a Vapur bottle.

 Buttermilk Apparel Whitney Short 

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Founded by two active women with backgrounds in the outdoor industry, Buttermilk Apparel (the name comes from a range in the Eastern Sierra, not our local ski hill) launched last month with a four-piece performance mountain-biking collection. Additional pieces will be introduced this winter, as the company continues to fulfill its goal of designing and manufacturing technical women’s clothing with a standout sense of style.

The knee-length Whitney short has quickly risen to the top of our go-to pile (along with shorts from local company Shredly); what sets them apart is the lightweight, stretchy, abrasion- and water-resistant Schoeller fabric—it also dictates the $129 price, as material from the Swiss-based textile company doesn’t come cheap. In addition to great mobility for riding, we love the design details: overlapping cuffs at the side; the peach-colored diagonal zip on the handy side stash pocket; and those small white polka dots—which can look pretty bad-ass if you pair them with downhill MTB gear for riding off the Elk Camp Gondola. One caveat: the fit runs big, so you may want to order one size down than usual (though we didn’t mind the roominess of the medium-sized short).

 Five Ten Kestrel Lace MTB Shoe

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This year’s Kestrel Lace ($150) is a more flexible version of the popular Kestrel all-mountain, clip-in biking shoe—and it’s also available in a women’s-specific model. The shoe is crafted around Five Ten’s super-sticky Stealth rubber outsole for solid traction off the bike—hello, giant root on Buttermilk that some of us walk around—while the cleat works with all types of SPD pedals.

Though the shoe has a lace-up closure—with a Velcro top strap—the fit is snug, thanks to a form-fitting heel pocket, and the rigid sole delivers efficient pedaling power. And ride through all the mud puddles you want; the PU-coated synthetic upper fends off moisture. That said, a series of mesh-lined small holes over the forefoot adds breathability.

We also like the low-key styling; these could just as easily pass for casual kicks. Plus, they’re easier to walk around in post ride than most clip-in compatible bike shoes.

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