Historically, women’s riding apparel didn’t exactly kept pace with the number of ladies actually riding bikes. For years, we made do with ill-fitting men’s shorts and jerseys, before limited mediocre options started filling in shop racks. These options generally weren’t designed by or for actual women, and weren’t likely to fit anyone who didn’t have an ‘average’ body type. Riding shorts were never long enough and jersey colors were all wrong, but at least brands started noticing we were there. As the years went on, and brands started to understand the massive missed market opportunity by largely ignoring women, big companies invested more into developing women’s apparel and even the bro-iest of brands offer pretty decent lines these days.
But it’s really just been in the past few years when women are actually leading those brands, or designing the apparel and, girl, what a difference it’s made. With women at the helm, niche brands like Shredly, Machines For Freedom and Wild Rye have prioritized body size and type representation through the apparel they’re making and the communities they’re cultivating. The result is apparel that fits well, works well and, importantly, is flattering not frumpy. This piece from the women-led, Sun Valley, Idaho-based Wild Rye checks all those boxes, and quite a few more.
The $69 Sandia is a short-sleeve version of one of the first tops the five-year-old company ever produced, the long-sleeve Sandia Cycling and Adventure shirt. It’s constructed of a 91-percent Polyester and 9-percent Spandex, so there’s a nice stretch to it. I tend to gravitate toward wool blends with jerseys because I usually find polyester stifling and stinky. But the Sandia somehow avoids the polyester curse that plagues other brands, likely due to the plentiful mesh panels incorporated into the design, which make the shirt extra breathable and moisture-wicking. The entire back panel is mesh, as well as a large swath of the front, but it’s so seamlessly integrated that the difference doesn’t stand out.
From afar, it just looks like a basic crew T-shirt, a plus for anyone who doesn’t necessarily want their riding jersey to scream, “I’m wearing technical activewear!” Most of us want to ride in normal-looking clothes that subtly incorporate performance features, which the Sandia does. I’ve logged many rides in this jersey, and it’s lightweight and comfortable with a barely-there feel against the skin. Even during big days in the southern California heat, there’s ample airflow through the mesh panels and the fabric wicks away sweat like a freshly Rain-X’d windshield.
Aside from all of this packaged in a simple, form-fitting silhouette, it’s the thoughtful extra details that I truly love about this top. The length is slightly longer than a normal jersey, with the back falling about an inch below the front, and there’s a thin rubber strip adhered to the bottom of the back hem to keep the back from creeping up as you lean forward during descents, a truly dreaded jersey experience. The fabric is UPF 50, to boot, and it comes in two nice, neutral colors: Pacific Blue or Charcoal.
Wild Rye is one of several women’s apparel companies that has committed to broader size runs as it strives for inclusivity and thus, the Sandia is available in eight sizes between 0 and 14. The small company is focused not just on profit, but how to be a responsible business citizen, with participation in the Higg Index to gauge its environmental impact, partnerships with factories that ensure fair labor practices and wages, the opportunity for purchases to be carbon-neutral and support of SheJumps, a nonprofit that aims to get more girls in the outdoors. This jersey, and the brand that makes it, is truly proof of how far we’ve come.