The North Face has been in the outdoor equipment game for almost 50 years, still it makes the bike snob in me raise an eyebrow at the idea of a company that has become known for its fleece jackets entering the cycling world. While The North Face is no stranger to outdoor sports, one can worry that they may not “get cycling.” The inescapable snobbery of cyclists has kept this line unnoticed since its launch at Interbike. Though, one may think that transitioning into mountain biking may be an easier egg to crack than road racing, especially with The North Face’s depth of available fabrics and an already existing hydration pack line.
The North Face line offers quality materials at an entry level price. This is especially true with Indylite and Shifter jackets. They are both made of a water resistant material, packable, and under $175. The other highlight to the line is the hydration packs. The Torrent 4, 8, and 12 hydration packs are versatile. After spending two- to four-hour days with the Torrent 12 I am rather impressed with its design, and at $120 it’s at a very competitive price point. All three of the hydration packs come with reservoirs from Source Outdoor. On all Torrent models, The North Face uses the Source WLP reservoir which has a unique doughnut shape, intended to relieve a bit of pressure from the spine. It is a unique design for sure, but unfortunately it does make it a bit difficult to fill the reservoir. Check out this “Super” video from interbike featuring their softgoods line.
Going back to the aforementioned jackets, the Indylite and the Shifter, they could make a useful addition to any mountain biker’s pack as they can be stored easily and would come in handy should the weather take a turn for the worse. The Indylite fits much more like a XC piece while the Shifter is a bit baggier and clearly aimed at the all-mountain rider. Both pack down very small. One bonus to the Shifter is its helmet compatible hood. Should you be bombing a trail, racing to get back to the car, keeping the trail slop from being thrown into the back of your helmet can make a big difference in warmth.
The North Face shorts are basic, though more useful than the average trail short. They resemble The North Face’s hiking and outdoor shorts, but give the added benefits of zippered vents and classic front and rear pockets. The Silicate short are a bit more baggy and longer than the Chizno short. The Silicate have zippered pockets and no venting, making them a bit more of an all mountain rider’s short, and the Chizno an XC piece. The removable chamois liners are nothing special, but at $85 the buyer is getting a durable short that can be worn to the pub on a warm afternoon, or wear your favorite bibs under them for a long day in the woods.
The target rider of The North Face line will be the person who wants subtle clothing without any large logos or bright designs. The clothing is simple and could double as outdoor gear as well as mountain biking wear. The price points of the line are very competitive and it’s clear that The North Face knows how to make a durable, affordable piece.