NZO Shorts Review

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NZOs are a product of New Zealand and a favorite of expedition savvy bikepacker, Joe Cruz. We reviewed the Dobies, Sifters and Women’s Scuffers.

NZO Active is a mountain bike apparel company based out of Rotorua, New Zealand. They’ve been making shorts for the better part of 15 years, and some say they’ve perfected the art. I first saw a pair of NZO’s on the Kokopelli Trail. As it turns out they were Joe’s second pair over the course of 12 years.

Finding the perfect pair of bikepacking shorts has been a goal for sometime, for both long trips and overnighters alike; I had to give NZO shorts a try. Here are thoughts on each:

NZO Active Shorts

Dobies arrived dressed in really nice packaging paper.

NZO Dobies

Characterized by their geometric construction, an elastic waist, and a minimal bit of padding sewn into place, Dobies are the comfortable classic of the NZO lineup. Think function over form. Even though they look pretty good, they’re all about comfort and performance. The elastic waist band, complete with drawstring, isn’t seen much on contemporary riding shorts, but it works in a retro-progressive kind of way. No more worn out velcro straps popping loose or flapping about. The centre section and back are made of ‘Nzonium’, a stretch knit fabric developed by NZO. The side panels are made of ‘NzoFlex’, a quick dry blend of nylon and polyester, which is strong and light, but still a little stretchy.

Designed with versatility in mind, Dobies can be worn over a chamois under layer, with an underlayer, or commando style. Instead of installing a permanent thick chamois layer, NZO chose to outfit these shorts with a minimal sewn in fleece layer to add just a bit of forgiveness.

Dobies have a few other great features, including ‘perfect’ pockets. They aren’t too deep allowing items flap about in the deep recesses, yet not too shallow. There are also two thigh pockets with perforated interior fabric that double as air vents.

NZO Dobies Review - Shorts

  • NZO Dobies Review - Shorts
  • NZO Dobies Review - Shorts
  • NZO Dobies Review - Shorts

When I asked Joe Cruz about his, here is what he had to say, verbatim:

Oh, man, the NZO Dobies. I love those shorts. The fit and look are great, they’re ridiculously comfortable with their thin pad worn “commando” style, and they are basically indestructible. I’ve bought exactly two pairs in my life. I got the first in 2003 and wore them on countless day rides and dozens of trips. Alongside a pair of lycra race bibs, they were the only shorts I had for the 11 months I spent in Asia and were my mainstay for warm weather. By 2010 they were just starting to show some age, so I got a new pair. That second pair has been to Nepal, Southeast Asia, the length of South America and through South Africa. I still reach for them nowadays and I can’t say they look much worn at all. Crazy.

NZO Active Dobies, Joe Cruz

Joe in Nepal in 2007 with the first gen Dobies.
  • NZO Active Dobies, Joe Cruz
  • NZO Active Dobies, Joe Cruz

Dobies are a ridiculously comfy riding short with superior durability. They range in sizes from small to extra-large and retail for $119.00 U.S. More at NZOactive.com.

NZO Sifters

Sifters are NZO’s ‘trail’ shorts. These shorts are designed to be worn when you’re slaying single track, but would be equally at home in the local taproom. In fact, they’re pretty much the ideal short for a minimalist month long dirt odyssey. Made with a similar geometric construction to the Dobies, Sifters have more of a casual appearance. They also add contemporary systems such as a front zipper and velcro tightening. They are extremely comfortable, and built for motion and durability. Honestly, I have never had a pair of shorts that fit better. They move, stretch and flex in all the right places, with burly enough attachments to keep them in place. There is no sag in the gusset to hang on the saddle nose. The velcro tightening system is sturdy and the straps don’t twist or pop off. The front is reinforced with a heavy duty double button closure that has no chance of popping, even in the “fluffier” winter months.

NZO Sifters Review - Shorts

  • NZO Sifters Review - Shorts
  • NZO Sifters Review - Shorts
  • NZO Sifters Review - Shorts

Having searched for a good pair of shorts to replace my Zoics, I am extremely impressed with these and am planning on riding them for many miles on upcoming trips. Sifters are available in sizes extra-small to double extra-large and retail for $119.00 U.S. More at NZOactive.com.

NZO Scuffers (Women’s)

Scuffers are essentially a women’s version of the Sifters. Ironically, Gin took a nice ‘scuffer’ down hill on the Warrior Creek trails, just before this photoshoot. The main differences in the Scuffers and Sifters, aside from the cut, is that the Scuffers have a little color variation with blue zips as well as a single thigh pocket. To sum them up, a quote from Gin, “Finally, a pair of shorts that fit!”

NZO Scuffers Review - Shorts

  • NZO Scuffers Review - Shorts
  • NZO Scuffers Review - Shorts
  • NZO Scuffers Review - Shorts
  • NZO Scuffers Review - Shorts
  • NZO Scuffers Review - Shorts

On that note, Gin did find that ordering the shorts was a little bit of a gamble in the size department. NZO shorts are not sized gender-specifically, so relying on her standard “medium” fit didn’t cut it. The sizing chart was a little confusing too. Neither of us has quite figured out where exactly our waists reside. In short, Ginny opted for the small size, although her measurements had her somewhere between the small and medium. Good choice…they fit perfectly. Scuffers are available in Black or Carbon in sizes small to extra-large and retail for $99.00 U.S. More at NZOactive.com.

NZOLAND

In addition to a nice collection of shorts, NZO offers additional apparel as well as a printed magazine and e-newsletter titled, ‘NZOLAND’. The newsletter explores all kind of interesting topics such as ‘how does a bike stand upright?’, to which the owner, Gary Sullivan concluded, “I have owned several that were stable ninety-nine out of a hundred days, but on that other day they put me in the emergency ward.”

NZO Active

  • NZO Active
  • NZO Active
  • NZO Active
  • Eli Jones

    Would there be a US equivalent of this style and caliber…its tough finding the right fit and look cause I’m more of a boardshorts kinda guy.

  • http://www.bikepacking.com/ BIKEPACKING.com (Logan)

    Yeah, I’ve had a hard time finding shorts that don’t wear out in the velcro/closure department. These are the best I’ve seen.

  • Smithhammer

    Zoic ‘Ether’ have been my go-to short for a while now, and they’ve been great, but I need to check these NZO’s out. Thx for the review.

  • Smithhammer

    Zoic ‘Ether’ have been my go-to short for a while now, and they’ve been
    great, but I need to check these NZO’s out. Thx for the review!

  • http://www.bikepacking.com/ BIKEPACKING.com (Logan)

    I haven’t had any luck with the Ether. I find their buttons and velcro seem to wear out and tend to pop open all the time. Also, the bottoms seem saggy and always want to hang on my saddle. Maybe it’s just me.

  • wingo

    If you are a boardshort guy try the shifters,I have had a pair for a year and found like a lot of people, they have become my favorite short.

    The size system worked easy for me, first time perfect, just take a look at it, think about it and work it out.

  • Smithhammer

    Haven’t had issues with buttons/velcro on my latest pair (I have an earlier pair of Zoics that are similar, but without velcro/buttons that are still going strong as well). But I know what you mean about the legs being a little too open and baggy and grabbing on things. A slimmer leg would be better.

  • JHC123

    I have both Sifters and Dobies. Sifters are more stylish so I might use them for cafe rides with the kids but the Dobies have become my go-to shorts for comfort, long rides and all mountain fun. They even work well for yoga classes – trying to sort my flexibility issues after too much time on the bike and found I had the perfect yoga pants already.

  • Tucker

    ok so granted I work in the bike industry, but Dobies are my daily short. Litterally.,. I rotate between 3-5 pairs pretty much every day of the week. Comfortable beyond reproach. I love them.

  • http://asphoto.co.nz/ Andrew

    Are the Dobies reasonably snug on the legs? Flappy, baggy shorts drive me nuts and I prefer something a little tighter. Liking the idea of the minimal lining. Pleased my fellow countrymen are making world class products for biking adventurers.
    Guess you’ve checked out http://www.groundeffect.co.nz/ for more quality NZ biking kit.

  • http://www.bikepacking.com/ BIKEPACKING.com (Logan)

    They are a fairly baggy short, actually. Unless you have massive thighs (I have rather wirey legs though).

  • http://www.bikepacking.com/ BIKEPACKING.com (Logan)

    Nice, Yeah, I am wearing the Sifters quite a bit.

  • http://www.bikepacking.com/ BIKEPACKING.com (Logan)

    Good choice for yoga shorts… nice.

  • http://asphoto.co.nz/ Andrew

    Thanks for heads up Logan. Continue the search for the perfect short (for me).

  • Lewy

    I looked at these but the sizing doesn’t go big enough. I have worn out 4 pairs of aerotech designs shorts in the 42-44in size in the past 5 years and around 26000kms. I really want something that lasts and these seem too, but sizing has me worried.

  • http://www.bikepacking.com/ BIKEPACKING.com (Logan)

    Shifters come in XXL and the Donors do as well but they are out of stock… I think they may even have XXXL for the dobies

  • Lewy

    Yeah the XXXL is only 102cm and I need about 105cm to be comfy. I could just stop eating so much :-) It may be worth trying some when I shed a few more kilos.

  • Gary Sullivan

    Hi! This is Gaz @ Nzo. Because of the design XXXL Dobies will go 105cm no problem. We will post availability in our newsletter. cheers.

  • Tucker

    as a “larger build” Aussie (hey Giz), I fit the original XXL Dobies with no probs. The elastic waist is a great forgiver of food choices… and the Nzo fabric is stretchy all over. So super confy even for my fat ass…

  • Marcel

    I don’t know how NZO can make money as I have two pairs of dobies, one of which are close to 10 years old and thank goodness I have not grown out of them as they are still fully functional just a tad faded. With so many products around having built in obsolescence it’s refreshing that the team at NZO seem to still believe in making the best. Guess they prefer pride in product to an income stream…

  • darelldd

    Love the Dobies… and now I’m kicking myself for not picking up some Sifters as well. I’m right between a Med and Large on the size charge (naturally… nothing is ever easy for me). I ended up with Large as the elastic waist was just too constricting in the Med. BUT… I fit the Med Cruise Liners better than the larges, so go figure.

    I find it amusing to hear people talk about the Dobies as being form over function. It just so happens that the form follows function, and I find nothing more attractive than that!

  • Hoz

    I’ve got some Dobies and they are very comfy. But they are fairly baggy around the lower leg. Imagine that is to accommodate kneepads. I love mine, but find they flap about a bit much on gravel rides on my CX bike. However, It’d be worth sending Gaz (from NZO) a message about your needs. He’s a top fella and open-minded. I’m about to buy some Sifters for mtb riding, but I’d love to have a pair of ‘slim-leg cut’ shorts myself to wear over my bibs while gravel-bashing and bike-packing. Maybe we can convince NZO to develop a ‘streamlined short’ that is not like lycra nics or a baggy DH short. Ground Effect used to have compression straps on the lower legs of their baggy shorts, and they worked really well. It’d be great to see that type of design make a come-back for gravel-bashers!

  • Rich

    For those who are looking for a short with a tighter leg, check out the Gore Alp-X.

  • Rich

    What’s the inseam on these?

  • http://asphoto.co.nz/ Andrew

    Cool, thanks for your ideas on this Hoz.

  • Lewy

    Cheers. I signed up to your newsletter a few days ago.

  • mikeetheviking

    Dang, both of these look like the beez neez, I finally blew out a pair of hurly board shorts after 10 years of abuse. Those Hurley’s ran circles around 5 other top brand board shorts, however they were “no stretch” shorts, and having a shoestring tie sucked. I recently tried some stretchy KUHL shorts…. I loved they way these looked and felt however they began pilling within weeks and they were sticker magnets to boot (i must have sat on the porch for hours pulling out stickers) I am currently using a pair of 20 dollar 4 way stretch Tony Hawk shorts from Kohls. They have held up remarkably through 2 rough trips, i’ve been wearing em most every day for the past 2 months, no issues so far. These NZO’s look dope as hell, Thanks for sharing Logan

  • http://asphoto.co.nz/ Andrew

    I ended up getting some Dobies after a bit of a round trip. I went for the Gore Alp-X first. they were a great fit but I lucked out on the quality. I got 2 pairs and both started to come apart in the sit area after only a few rides. So, Dobies were the next logical choice. Turns out they are the best shorts I have had! I just finished a 390km adventure and they are so comfortable. My biggest likes are the minimal padding and how quiet they are. The endless swish. swish of fabric on legs drives me insane but the fabric these are made of is soft and comfortable. My legs aren’t beefy but the Dobies are a great fit. Should have tried them years ago!

  • http://www.bikepacking.com/ BIKEPACKING.com (Logan)

    Good to hear; I am wearing mine right now in Uganda!

  • Brian Sims

    I can’t say enough good stuff about my shorts from LA-based Swrve. Their black label line is made in LA. I tour, commute, mountain bike, and do yard work in mine. http://swrve.myshopify.com/products/lightweight-wwr-shorts?variant=677700325

  • Ashley Gardner

    I have been using two pairs of Dobies since 2006 when I arrived in NZ and they are still going strong…. I have no need to replace them yet. They have faded a little bit, but the NZ sun is strong and fades everything anyway…. I would definitely recomend these shorts……tough as….

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