Club Ride Apparel was one of the first brands to make mountain bike shorts for women that fit really well and the Ventura has been one of our favorites for years. Now they have some competition, but it is still a very fine pair of shorts. This new iteration in plaid is made of a slightly different fabric with a slightly different fit, but it still took home our Best Buy Award. They're breathable, fairly lightweight, and have two good-sized zippered pockets. And they are pretty cute: you can roll from the trail to the beer garden and no one will bat an eye. All for $80.
Hitting the backyard loop in the Best Buy award winners.
Fit and Comfort
The old Ventura had internal buttons to adjust the waistband, which were a favorite when most manufacturers were using bulky Velcro adjusters. There are a lot of innovative new solutions to the waistband adjustment problem, so we are a little perplexed to see Club Ride going back to Velcro for the Ventura Plaid. Velcro has the unfortunate quality of sticking to everything and then not sticking to itself after it collects a bunch of fuzz. While these waist adjusters are fairly low profile, we did notice the occasional sharp edge from the velcro backing inside the waistband. The waist adjustment systems of the Yeti Norrie, Yeti Avery, and Patagonia Dirt Roamer are all much preferred for ease of use.
We dug out an older favorite pair of Ventura shorts that are sized the same and found this pair to run quite a bit smaller, though a tad longer in the inseam. Additionally, this fabric is noticeably stiffer and thicker. That being said, this new version of the shorts feels a little more protective and maintains a flattering cut. They have ample stretch for a comfortable ride and they scored well in this metric.
The Ventura is made of fairly lightweight material that is very breathable, making it a great short for long rides in warm weather. The fabric has two-way stretch and moves well in motion, both pedaling and descending. These are comfortable enough to wear on all-day rides, but we especially like their versatility for the casual ride that ends at the cafe or pub.
A crack in the "NoCrackBack."
The old back panel was lined with a soft, wicking material, while the current version is lined with the same material as the rest of the shorts. We found this new version to be stiffer and it did not lay flat when we were riding, though it is high enough to maintain coverage and they did stay in place. We would assume that the waistband material will not wick as well, but since it buckled up and let air in, we didn't notice. Kind of a silver lining.
For the ultimate in lightweight shorts, check out the Patagonia Dirt Roamer which has welded seams and a barely-there feel that is a top choice for hot summer days.
These shorts are made of durable fabric, but the inseam is not long enough to work well with kneepads.
While the slightly heavier material of the Ventura Plaid feels decently protective against bushes and branches, the 11-inch inseam is a little short to offer maximum protection. These are not the shorts to pair with kneepads for super technical rides. However, the fabric is treated for water and dirt repellency, which is an excellent feature when you get caught in an unexpected shower or encounter a muddy trail.
The Ventura Plaid claims to have reflective accents, and while we didn't have the opportunity to wear these on a night ride, when we wore them in the dark garage the only thing reflective we noticed is a tiny tag on the hip. By no means a dealbreaker, but not something to rely on for extra visibility if you are riding home in the dark.
If you are planning to get rowdy in the rock garden, check out the 100% Airmatic which has a 13-inch inseam that works well with kneepads and burly material that provides excellent protection.
An iPhone fits in the pocket but seriously impedes pedaling. We recommend using it for smaller items.
The Ventura has two zippered pockets at the waist, with plenty of room to stash your valuables. They are large enough to hold a phone, but the positioning on the front on the leg meant that our pedaling was seriously compromised with a phone in the pocket. While perfect for an ID or an energy gel, we do not recommend using these pockets for anything large or bulky.
If you like to have your phone or multi-tool close at hand, take a look at the Yeti Norrie 2.0 which has zippered pockets on the sides of the legs, as well as a couple of hand pockets for a casual look.
These shorts are comfortable and versatile. We love it for hot days.
We do love the Ventura Plaid for its super cute cut and subtle pattern. It is fitted in the hips and relaxed in the legs, making for an easy, wearable style that transitions easily off the trail. The plaid is not overly bold and will fit in at the coffee shop as well as on the bike. These don't scream "I am wearing bike shorts!" giving them a versatility that we appreciate. It also comes in Navy which offers a brighter plaid pattern for ladies that like to stand out in the crowd.
An even more casual look can be found in the Bontrager Rhythm, which has an easy-breezy style, almost more like a board short.
The Ventura will serve you well on any ride that isn't super technical or super brushy. The fabric is light enough to keep you cool on hot days while having enough substance to block wind on blustery days. Even with kneepads, the 11-inch inseam doesn't offer ample protection, so if you plan on doing some downhill or charging through technical terrain, try the Editor's Choice, Yeti Norrie 2.0 which is durable, stylish, and protective.
We voted for the Apparel Ventura as our Best Buy because, for $80, you've got a lightweight, stylish, and comfortable bike short perfect for an all-day trail ride. They're a well-rounded pair of shorts that look great. The Troy Lee Designs Skyline, which also retails for $80, is a close second in this category, however. The Ventura offers more style points, a better fit, and greater versatility, while the Skyline offers four-way stretch and a longer inseam for more protection.
We like to wear Club Ride Apparel when are heading out for the Saturday friend ride. The Ventura is perfect for an all-day adventure of winding singletrack, epic views, and fields of wildflowers, and it also fits in perfectly at the beach party or the BBQ after. While we don't love the change to Velcro waist adjusters or the lack of wicking material in the waistband, the Ventura is still a solid choice and it will keep you comfortable while you focus on the fun.