NZO Shorts Review
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:
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.
When I asked Joe Cruz about his, here is what he had to say, verbatim:
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.
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.
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!”
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.
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.”