Mountain biking is fun so why can't the shorts be fun, too? Wild Rye is a woman-owned company that is making full-featured mountain bike shorts in snazzy patterns that look great and perform well on the bike.
What is most notable about the Wild Rye Freel is the patterns and colors which stand out from the crowd (manufacturers, at least recently, seem to think that the only color in the world besides black is teal), making it our top pick for style. However this short is no slouch on the bike, with 4-way stretch, excellent pocket placement, and longer inseam making this a mighty fine technical riding short for all your mountain bike adventures.
These shorts stretch and move with you as you ride.
Fit and Comfort
The Freel is made of durable nylon that offers 4-way stretch and a high level of comfort. The waistband is tall and contoured to fit women's hips and we never felt a gap when we bent over the bike.
The fit guide on the Wild Rye website offers measurements of the shorts themselves rather than the typical body measurements of hips, waist, and inseam. Consequently, we were not sure what size would be the best choice, even after pulling out our favorite pair of shorts and comparing measurements. This would be even harder for someone who doesn't already have a favorite pair of riding shorts to measure and compare against. If you feel you are in between sizes, we recommend going with the smaller one as there is no way to adjust the waist.
We tried two sizes and the smaller size 2 fit, though felt a bit snug through the hips. Fortunately, the fabric offers ample stretch to ensure that we never felt constricted while riding, and the leg openings are plenty wide to work with pads when needed. Sizing up allowed for a looser fit in the legs, as some testers prefer, but with no way to cinch the waist, the shorts were also in danger of sliding down. The Freel is equipped with belt loops, but riding with a belt is not ideal as it adds bulk to the waist, makes the fabric here less breathable, and can also dig into the waist when bent over. We hope that the next version will include a waist adjustment system so that women who like a bit more room in their shorts will have that option.
Slightly snug in the hips, but the legs still offer lots of room.
Despite these issues with getting exactly the right fit, the Freel is really comfortable for riding. The legs do not ride up and the cut is flattering and well-considered for crouching, bending, pedaling, and all the other positions that riders find themselves in.
We like our shorts to be long enough to offer protection from crashes, brush, and weather. The 12-inch inseam on the Freel works well for all of these. It is also just long enough to work with kneepads when we were hitting gnarlier trails. The fabric is tough enough to ward off the dreaded bitterbrush branches without getting snagged.
While we didn't get the chance to wear these in the rain, we tested them by riding through a sprinkler and the water beaded right off. Right on! Breathable and water-resistant are a fantastic combination in activewear.
Long enough to protect against pokey bushes and also viable with kneepads.
With all that stretch, how could the Freel not be pedal friendly? The nylon flexes no matter which way you bend or bob on the bike. Probably our favorite feature is the wide waistband that is shaped to stay flat on our backs, never gapping open to reveal our undershorts. Because of the snug fit, and also the gusseted crotch, we were never in danger of catching any fabric on our seats.
While these shorts are a slightly heavier material than some of the lightest weight options, we never felt uncomfortably warm, and when we did work up a sweat, the quick-drying nylon kept us from feeling soggy. Also, the dirt and dust brush off easily, making these a pretty low-maintenance and long-lasting purchase.
No gap in the back and quick drying on hot days.
The Freel is equipped with two hand pockets and one generous zippered pocket on the thigh that holds snacks, keys, or a smartphone just within reach without inhibiting pedaling. We appreciate that the zipper is on the top of the pocket, so just in case you don't get it all the way zipped, you won't lose your stuff somewhere back on the trail.
The angled zippered pocket makes for easy access to your stuff and it easily holds your smart phone.
While we never recommend putting anything you need to keep in zipper-less pockets, the hand pockets add casual flair that works well away from the trail or for hanging out after a ride. Because of the snug fit, they will hold some items more securely than looser pockets might, and we used the hand pockets to carry small bits of trash that we found on the trail.
The Freel is packed with a whole lot of great technical features, but where it really stands out from the crowd are the patterns that adorn the fabric. Previous years' offerings included pineapples, dinosaurs, and cacti, all in two-color offerings that are really distinctive. We wore the more subdued "Geo Dot," but the lime-green zipper adds contrasting color. They are fun without being loud, and we got all kinds of compliments out on the trails.
These shorts stand out in a crowd (and the forest), and have great technical chops, too.
So many of the details of these shorts stand out: the cut is feminine without sacrificing technical chops, the longer inseam is softened by piping and rounded seams that actually allow for greater movement, and the waistband is wide, comfortable, and contoured to hug hips. They fit in just fine for post-ride libations out on the town as well as the trail. Of course, we wouldn't care about how cute these shorts are if they didn't perform on the trail, and they shred. In a good way.
Extra praise for no velcro anywhere on these shorts. The snaps on the waistband are ample and secure.
While the Freel is one of the more expensive shorts we tested, they have held up really well to a whole lot of wear testing and trail time, which including some abuse from brushy trails and inadvertent slides on rock. If the patterns win your heart you will not be disappointed with the performance and durability and we think they are a good value.
If you can figure out the right size, Wild Rye's Freel is a sweet pair of mountain biking shorts. They stretch, they protect, they dry quickly, and they have smart pockets. Most of all, they add some fun to our mountain biking wardrobe.