Getting ready to roll – stylishly – into autumn thanks to FINDRA!
<Just so you know…the top and shorts in this post were gifted to me by FINDRA>
Autumn is the best season. All blackberries and apples, crunchy leaves and golden sunsets. Nights drawing in, fires in the hearth, Strictly on the tele.…and now new season cycling gear in which to enjoy the mists and mellow fruitfulness (and the sequins).
The Oransay top with 3/4 sleeves that I am wearing in the image was sent to me by FINDRA (It’s no secret that I am a big fan – I have ridden miles in their gear, and visited the HQ in Innerleithen last year.) It arrived mid-summer so I got to try it out during that ridiculously hot spell (here trying out a new Met helmet as part of a review for Singletrack, hence the goggles!) as well as more recently in into autumn. Don’t be put off by its lightweight look – this is a durable top that is well able to withstand the rigours of a hard ride – and keep you comfortable pretty much all year. Its so comfortable that you can wear it when you’re not riding too.
It’s made of in a ‘merino-lite’ blend (87% merino, 13% nylon!). Merino is the softest and lightest of any sheep wool (it’s more expensive rival, cashmere, is sourced from goats) and has long been considered to be the finest natural fabric for performance sportswear because of its ability to regulate your body temperature. It does this by absorbing any water vapour (sweat!) from your body and moving it away so that it evaporates in the air. This ‘breathability’ helps regulate your body temperature – in short, it keeps you cool when the weather is hot, and warm when its cold. The fineness of each strand of merino wool and its natural elasticity makes it comfortable to wear and good at retaining its shape during exercise. It has less bulk than other wools whilst being just as warm, so you can layer it easily.
What’s more, merino absorbs the odour molecules from sweat so you won’t need to wash it as often as other fabrics (though when you do, it is machine washable).
I love this top – it looks great, and is super practical for cycling with its dropped back hem and wide neck for ease of movement, as well as mesh panels for extra ventilation. Also – and don’t judge me here, the colour matches my bike (if this grenadine shade isn’t for you/your bike is a different colour, FINDRA also do it in Eggplant or Loch Blue).
I am also looking forward to putting in the miles in these FINDRA Padded Leggings. I usually wear loose shorts on a mtb or bib shorts on my road bike and its a while since I’ve worn a ‘legging’ style – but these beauties work equally well on either bike. Made from technical four-way stretch fabric, they are slightly thicker than bib shorts and are a great fit with an ample pad for all-day comfort in the saddle. I like the waistband too, which has an adjustable tie and sits comfortably round your middle, even if you are tall. The soft grey ‘Nine Iron’ shade is a welcome alternative to black, and I think the 3/4 leg is really flattering – even if it does break all The Rules on what to wear on a bike.
As a ‘which bike shall I ride today?’ sort of rider, I love their versatility too. On road rides, they will be great on those days when full length tights are too warm, but it’s a bit nippy round the knees for shorts. On the mtb I will wear them for XC rides when I won’t need knee pads but I do need comfort, breathability and stretch to help conquer the climbs!
My trip to FINDRA Outdoor Apparel HQ and flagship store in Innerleithen to meet the team behind the brand and local riders left no time to ride, but here’s why I will be returning with my bike!
FINDRA Outdoor Apparel is one of my favourite cycling garment brands. I’ve reviewed the kit before, but this was the first time I had gone ‘behind the scenes’ at brand HQ, where I had been invited to speak about how to deal with fear when mountain biking.
FINDRA was founded by Scottish fashion designer and keen mountain biker Alexandra Feechan because she was aware that there was little available for women who ride to wear. Her subsequent – and award winning – range of top quality tops, beanies, neck and arm warmers stands out for its use of colour and cut. The garments are crafted in merino wool, renown for its warmth, breathability, durability and comfort.
FINDRA also have awesome mtb shorts – not only do they look great, but they’re really durable. I’ve ridden miles in mine (they’re the same as the ones Lee Craigie is wearing in the image above) and they’re still going strong. Findra bobble hats are not only super cute, but also knitted by a real Scottish nana. You don’t get much more authentic than that!
Following on from the brand’s success with mountain bikers, Alex is widening the reach to appeal to adventure loving hikers, horse riders, skiers and boarders. She has enlisted an awe inspiring bunch of brand ambassadors to help spread the word including Emily Chappell and Lee Craigie from The Adventure Syndicate and survival expert Meg Hine, whose book inspired my original post on mountain biking and fear (and which was the reason I was invited up to Scotland to speak).
My flying visit didn’t allow time to ride, but by taking the trip and talking to local riders I met at the talk, I gleaned quite a lot about riding at Glentress and Innerleithen. I look forward to returning, this time with my bike!!
This is what I discovered:
- It’s closer than you think – even when you live in Surrey!
From the Surrey Hills trails where I live and ride, you can fly from Gatwick (half an hour drive) to Edinburgh (an hour and a half flight) and then transfer in an hour to the world famous Glentress Forest trail centre. If all goes to plan, you could have (early) breakfast in Surrey and be on the trails in Scotland by lunchtime!
- Glentress Forest has 60km of trails from green to black level, and you can hire a bike there too – but book ahead, and be warned that smaller sized bikes appear to be quite scarce!!! Innerleithen – six miles down the road – is renown for its downhill riding so you can easily make a weekend of riding in the area.
- There is also lots of reasonably priced local accommodation – I stayed here and it was great, a spa hotel, and something called a ‘Scottish Breakfast’ – no need to ask if that is sufficiently calorific to fuel a morning on the trails.
- No mountain bike ride is complete without a trip to a great café, and there is an awesome one in Innerleithen – No. 1 Peebles Road (almost opposite the FINDRA store!). I will be making their field mushroom and grilled haloumi on toast for the rest of my life. Possibly every day.
- There is a great community of riders here. Those who came out to hear my talk were particularly amazing a) because they sat and listened to me and b) because the discussion that followed was so interesting and in-depth. It was really moving to hear others’ stories of what caused their fear, and how they dealt with it, as well as to hear from confident, competent riders who wanted to encourage others to feel the same.
Finally this from audience member Ruby made the whole trip extra special. She posted it two days after the talk (note: kudos to Ruby for riding some rather damp looking North Shore on her very first ride!!)
Btw, I will be discussing mental health and cycling on a panel at Look Mum No Hands in London on November 7th. If you’re in or near London, do come along! Details here.
Findra Outdoor Apparel is available online and at 83 High Street, Innerleithen, EH44 6HD.
Here’s four things of which I am a huge fan: armwarmers, merino, mountain biking and Findra, who design women’s mtbike apparel. So I guess we can describe these arm warmers for mountain bikers made of merino from, erm, Findra, as my idea of mtb wear heaven.
Why the perfect gift for the female mountain biker?
Well, here’s three reasons…
1. Despite their rather odd appearance (sleeves with no jumper attached/gloves without fingers), armwarmers are a cyclist’s very best friend when it comes to comfort and convenience. Pop them on when you set off and they keep you snug during the warm-up stage. Then when you start to work hard and don’t want to stop you can simply slide them down. If you remove them you can stuff them in your pocket, where they weigh very little and take up hardly any space. Stopped for a break and got chilly? Pop them back on again. Need to answer the phone/adjust your bike/eat a bit of cake? Not a problem as your fingers are free! Brilliant.
2. Crafting these armwarmers in breathable merino is a double whammy for comfort. If you are new to joys of merino wool, then let me explain: ‘breathable’ is fashion speak for pure wool’s ability to allow air and moisture to circulate so that your body temperature stays consistently – and almost miraculously, infact – comfortable. All wools do this but merino does it best because it is so soft against the skin*. Don’t let the fineness of the knit deceive you either – it packs a lot of warmth for its weight and is hardwearing too. One more advantage of merino’s breathablility – you don’t have to wash it as often as synthetic fabrics as it wont hold on to the sweat that causes body odour. So, it’s easy to care for too (though its best to use a wool-friendly detergent at low temperature when you do wash it).
*cashmere is also good – but super pricey.
3. Findra is a Scottish brand who make bike wear and outdoor apparel specifically for women. The range is ‘ performance driven and fashion led’ – which means you can ride in it and look good at the same time. It’s pricey, but the quality is outstanding. Don’t be deceived by the ‘too good for mountain biking’ appearance of these garments: founder Alex Feechan sent me some shorts to try over a year ago and I’ve ridden in them almost every week – and they still look like new (even after a ride as they are mud resistant!). My merino jumper and neck warmer feel good to wear, fit well, wash well and don’t ‘bobble’ (or pill, which is the official term).
Shop your lovely arm warmers here – see more.
See more Findra loveliness (this time without arm warmers as i didn’t have them at the time!) – below!
FINDRA REVIEW: Muddy fun vs stylish cycling wear.
Performance sportswear brand FINDRA make stylish mountain bike shorts as well as innovative merino outdoor apparel for women riders. Their Ms-Mo Relaxed Shorts look great – but how will they cope with a mud-splattered soaking on a typical winter ride? There’s only one way to find out!
‘Just ride straight through the middle of the puddle”.
I’m halfway along one of my favourite trails, riding it as I have done a thousand times before – only this time I have a photographer in tow – and I’m trying to soak the shorts that FINDRA has sent to me in mud, in order to give them a thorough review. But despite the fact that conditions are distinctly wet, I’m not getting the result I expected.
Ride a slippery, muddy, puddle strewn trail without a mudguard and you end up with a bum covered in mud, right? Not in this case. While the bike looked as if it had been spray painted with sludge, the shorts seemingly refused to get as dirty. And any splatters of mud that did settle could be wiped away. No matter how hard I tried, these shorts resisted. Even by the end of the ride the water repellent fabric was still remarkably mud-free.
While this may be tricky for photography, it is a bonus for mountain biking in wet conditions. A soggy bum is a sure fire way to spoil your ride and it was lovely to be able to get round in comfort instead. So, thumbs up for that – unless, of course, you regard a muddy backside as a must-have badge of honour in which case, and from personal experience, I suggest you try lycra shorts.
Performance in mud aside, I also love the look of these shorts – and not just because the orange contrast zips coordinate with my bike (actually that’s not quite true – it’s a major reason why I love them!). I also love this navy blue shade – a really nice alternative to black. They are also available in Chocolate (the colour, not the confectionary!), and Indigo Denim with white contrast stitching. The branding is subtle but stylish, which makes a welcome change compared to the gear offered by many mountain bike ranges.
The two-way stretch fabric feels quite lightweight but is plenty tough enough. I will layer these shorts over tights in the depths of winter, and then wear them as they are for the rest of the year. The stretch makes them very comfortable to ride in and there is plenty of room to pedal.
The cut is streamlined – they are not all baggy, so no chance of looking like a 12-year old school boy in them – and shaped at the hip for a more tailored look. Lengthwise they finish at the knee but fit over my knee pads easily. Finally a word about the tailored waistband: it is super smart compared to an elasticated version, but, thanks to the stretch, just as comfortable.
Like many mountain bike shorts, Ms-Mo Relaxed shorts are not padded. I wore mine with padded pants (link) but you could just as easily wear a padded liner beneath.
Verdict? Best looking mountain bike shorts I’ve seen, with performance to match.
£90, exclusively from Wiggle.
Read my review of Findra’s merino range (and see more images of the shorts!) here.
Photos: Paul Mitchell
Is FINDRA mountain bike clothing for women really too good to ride in? Let’s find out.
FINDRA is a mountain bike clothing brand exclusively for women. It is designed and made in Scotland by fashion designer (and mountain biker!) Alex Feechan who invited me to review the range here. It is really refreshing to be able to ride in such lovely gear.
FINDRA is designed for women who ride and, while being fashion led, it is performance driven.
The range is based upon high quality Italian merino wool, legendary in sportswear for its softness, durability and natural wicking properties that help keep your body temperature comfortable during exertion. Other sportswear brands use it of course, but it is style and thoughtful design that sets this range apart. Frankly, I’ve never looked more stylish on my mountain bike.
When I started riding it was about a trillion years ago. Mountains were bigger in those olden days, of course. Some still had dinosaurs. And bikes were way more basic. A dropper post was something that happened when your quick release had gone wonky. Rear suspension was provided by your knees. Little thought had been given to the ‘what to wear’ question. Full on lycra? Too roadie. Moto-cross inspired ‘downhill’ baggys? A sure fire way to make any woman look like a slightly awkward school boy. Mix roadie shorts with a downhill top (or vice versa) – and listen for the echo of the squirrels’ laughter, ringing around the hillsides.
But just look at me now: super-soft Caddon merino cowl neck cycling jersey with extended length and cut for a female shape? Check. Betty merino neck warmer, which can be worn over your nose on cold days, or round your neck while you’re warming up? Check. And don’t forget the Ms Mo Bike Short in French Navy with stretch and contrast zip pocket THAT MATCHES MY BIKE! (the shorts are so good that I’m saving the review for a later post).
But how will my outfit stand up to the rigours of a sweaty, muddy bike ride?
Temperature control is a big issue for sportswear because feeling too hot or too cold can ruin your ride. This jersey passed the test – a chilly autumn day – with flying colours: I rode up and down hill, and never felt uncomfortable. Its light enough to wear alone on cool days, and then I would layer with a vest or jacket when temperatures really drop. It is seam free for comfort, and features longer length sleeves with integral thumbholes to keep the chill off your wrists (not a substitute for gloves though – I think the fabric would wear pretty quickly against the grips, and obviously you don’t get the level of protection that mtb gloves offer).
I love, love, love the cut – really flattering and easy to wear. And the extra length meant no gapping between my top and shorts. Another nice attention to detail – the sleeves are loose enough to be able to wear lightweight elbow pads beneath.
A merino cowl is aleady a winter ride essential for me: I’ve had a similar one by Rapha for some time. They are just great at keeping you comfortable during the warm up phase of a ride, or keeping your face warm on a really cold day. The FINDRA option is not only cheaper, but it also comes in nine colour options.
This kit also will also keep you warm when you stop for a post ride coffee and inevitably end up sitting outside either to keep your eye on your bike or to avoid dropping a trail of mud across the café floor. The striped Betty beanie hat made from 100% British lambswool comes into its own here too – a great way to keep warm and hide your ‘helmet hair’, and small enough to carry in your pocket when you’re riding (and nine design options!). Refreshingly you’ll also look like a stylish rider rather than a woman who has been dragged through a hedge backwards. Call me superficial, but I’ve had way too many years of the latter.
Finally, the wash test: Merino is tougher than it looks and it doesn’t mind getting muddy (though steer clear of brambles, which will shred just about any fabric that isn’t chain mail). But you do need to wash with a little care if you don’t want to end up with a top that will only fit a toddler and to maintain its durability. So, machine wash on delicate/wool setting at 30C, and I always use a wool wash detergent. Admittedly I’ve only washed this top once so far, but it came out like new.
Then get out there and enjoy some happy – and stylish – riding!
This post is a collaboration with FINDRA.
Photography Paul Mitchell