Do you really want to look like you’re on the start line of a motocross race every time you hop on your bike? For some folks, the answer to that inquiry is an emphatic yes, and there’s a heap of riding gear that follows that aesthetic. If you would prefer to ride in the same clothes that you wear to the office and pub, cozy flannels are a compulsory piece of that outfit.
You can certainly pedal in any flannel you find at a second-hand shop, or upgrade your office and pub attire with a higher-tech flannel that’s designed with the trail in mind. We rode around in a bunch of tech-flannels to share the good word of their benefits, best attributes, and temperature considerations. A few of these shirts were previously reviewed and are rounded up here for your convenience, but this is a fresh season debut for three of them.
While the rich history and Welsh origins of the textile term “flannel” runs deep and storied, our use of the word refers to any longsleeved plaid, check, or tartan button-up shirt that’s intended to keep you warm while passing for a faux-lumberjack.
Alpinestars Andres Tech Shirt
Along the spectrum of plain-old-plaid and super-tech-flannel shirts, the Andres Tech Shirt from Alpinestars leans heavily toward the tech end. Its poly-cotton blend shell is a mid-weight layer that works well with various base layers in temps between 4°C (40°F) and 16°C (60°F) and can be used as a layer on colder rides. The shoulder and chest panels are lined with a windproof jersey material to cut the chill, and the snapped front of the shirt overlaps well to regulate heat however you like.
The athletic fit of the Andres Tech Shirt is long in the waist, maintaining good coverage in an aggressive riding position. The chest is slightly tighter than some flannels so be sure to check the company’s measurement chart. I tested a size small, and my 97cm chest measurement is squeezed between a small and medium. The shirt fits well now, though in the fall it will likely be tighter following a long season of “trail pushups.”
In addition to the windproof liner, the Andres Tech Shirt is splattered with thoughtful features. The elbows are covered in an abrasion-resistant print and the armpits have a pair of embroidered vent holes to let the sweat out. A snap pocket on the left breast is ready to store your snacks and a second zippered pocket at the shirt’s rear right-hand has space for a cellphone and lift pass. Finally, if you like to pedal in the dark, Alpinestars has included a rear light hanger on the left flank and a reflective chunk of fabric on the same traffic side.
My one complaint about this flannel is that they only made it in a couple colors, whereas if there were more I would buy them all. The Andres Tech Shirt retails for $99.95, and is available online at Wiggle and Amazon.
Cascada Land Wool Shirt
Italy’s Cascada All Road Apparel has collected a special mix in their Land Wool Shirt. The wool cotton blended layer is as much a jersey as it is flannel. The lightweight fabric stretches all four ways throughout, and it breathes well enough to forego armpit or back vents. I have found it comfortable in temperatures between 8°C (46°F) and 18°C (65°F), and I’ve used it as a layer when the snow was flying. Given its chillin’ aesthetic and relatively lightweight packability, the Land Wool Shirt could be an ideal companion on bikepacking trips where you plan to dip into town for dinner.
The external material has a “pre faded” look that gives the shirt the appearance of a typical comfy flannel, hiding its jersey-esque breathability and soft overall feel. Unlike most ride flannels, the interior of this one is soft enough to wear directly against your skin without feeling like you are being sanded.
The sleeve cuffs fit like the elastic on a traditional sweatshirt, making it easy to pull them up over your forearms as the day warms.
The Land Wool Shirt is available in three colors, retailing for €110 on the Cascada website.
Club Ride Shaka Flannel
Reviewer: Jeff Barber
The Shaka Flannel from Club Ride epitomizes what the brand does best, which is to design mountain bike clothes that don’t look straight out of a race peloton. Constructed from 97% polyester and 3% spandex, the specs say “performance” while the pattern and brushed snaps say “regular clothes.”
In addition to providing excellent wicking ability, the polyester fabric also does a good job insulating on cool days. Even in the fall and winter, heat management is important for comfort, so Club Ride has built in strategic ventilated panels in the underarms. Not only that, since the jersey is a button-down, the front of the jersey is naturally ventilated between the snaps, and can easily be opened up when temperatures rise.
My sample is size medium, which fits me well both in terms of length and girth. In the past I’ve found myself wearing a size too large in Club Ride clothing, so if you’re in between sizes or unsure, I suggest going with the smaller size. The Club Ride Shaka jersey retails for $89.95 and is available in sizes small through XXL. The brand also sells a women’s flannel called the Liv’n.
Kitsbow Icon Shirt
Kitsbow Cycling Apparel has made a name for themselves as one of the few trail-textile companies manufacturing their gear in the USA. Their Pendleton wool Icon Shirt is a testament to the brand’s high quality craftsmanship and material selection. I have owned a pair of Pendelton flannels for nearly a decade now, and this MTB version from Kitsbow looks just as well made as those relics.
The main differences between the Kitsbow flannel and a traditional shirt from the northeastern Oregon wool manufacturers are the abrasion-resistant shoulder and elbow patches and the vent holes at the shoulderblades that allow the sleeves to extend forward naturally while riding. A mesh layer across the shoulders encourages air circulation between the two rear openings.
The size small shirt fits me perfectly, and the dropped tail covers my lumbar nicely. Like the front closure, the sleeves snap shut, allowing them to be rolled up by a fold or two.
The Icon Shirt is warmer than any of the other flannels I have ridden in. I have not been able to keep it on during rides over 13°C (55°F), and it has warmed many a pedal below 7°C (45°F). Given its clean cut and decidedly trail-focused features, the Icon is a symbolic way to say “I’m a mountain biker” when you belly-up to the bar — if that’s your jam.
The Icon shirt is available in ten different colorways and in a regular or relaxed-athletic fit. Find it on the Kistbow website for $220.
Pearl Izumi Rove Flannel
Reviewer: Matt Miller
The Pearl iZUMi Rove shirt is another flannel/jersey hybrid, made from 100% Polyester. It has a drop tail, button snaps, and reflective accents. The sleeves felt a little long for me on the medium, but otherwise it has a nice, relaxed fit for easy fall rides, and won’t require a change of clothes for the pub. MSRP: $80 (available at REI). There is also a women’s version available.
Zoic Rove Flannel
Reviewer: Matt Miller
The Fall Line flannel is a long-sleeve jersey that varies in fabric depending on the color option. The blue plaid (pictured) and red and grey plaid are all Polyester while the red and grey actually have 2% Spandex. Both options are 170g, while the Night Plaid color is a mix of cotton and Polyester and weighs 190g.
The flannel has button snaps for quick dressing and a zippered rear pocket for stashing your goods. It is not too heavy and feels best on cooler rides. MSRP on the Fall Line is $72. There is also a women’s version available.
We would like to thank the above brands for sending these flannels to keep us cozy, and for review.