As you are reading this, I am somewhere several thousand feet in the air, probably knocked out with sleeping pills, on the 22.5 hour (over 1.5 days) on my way to South Africa, for Race the Wild Coast 2016.
If you have just come to the blog recently, let me brief you: I will be riding 350kms, swimming horses through rivers, running down steep rocky cliffs, and camping in some of the most remote and beautiful country of South Africa. So as you can imagine, picking gear to get me through this adventure was a bit of a trial and error. Thankfully, the great folks at FITS Riding have offered up a few options for me to try. Lets take some time to go through my process and review the options!
I often tell people, once you get a pair of FITS, you will never need or want another pair of breeches again. 3 years later and it’s still holding true. In fact, I wouldn’t ever consider wearing another brand for this adventure – whether they sponsored me or not!
Ok, so I already owned these guys, and they are the reason I reached out to FITS earlier this year. They are the greatest pair of riding pants I have ever owned. I get a lot of people asking about them, and if they know FITS, they tend to sneer about the price tag – particularly in my endurance world where expensive things are reserved for those frilly folk in the hunter/jumper/dressage world. Yes, these are on the upper price range when you peruse the rack at your local tack shop, but hear me out, I have saved so much money thanks to these breeches!
Why? The quality is superb. Yes, I can buy a pair of decent riding tights for 1/3 of the price and they are OK, but do you know what happens to those ones? I will tell you! My beef is mainly with one mainstream brand… I wont mention who, but I have had 2 pairs of tights rip when dismounting, 1 wear see-through on the butt, and 2 wear holes through the knee patches. Not a single pair of these tights could take my abuse for more than a year (in fact one pair ripped only on their second ride). Total bill about $600 since I started this sport a little over 5 years ago.
I have had these all-seasons now for 3 years and they still look brand new. They came to the Mongol Derby with me, they have thousands of training miles, and are my first pick for every endurance race I enter. Cost of my FITS breeches? $269. That’s some serious savings!
If that is not enough to convince you, just try on a pair. Seriously, try it, you will like it! You will instantly notice the quality is far superior to other brands. The material is thicker without being hotter, but they still manage to keep you warmer through spring and fall seasons. There is more stretch and compression than their competition – I can actually FEEL the difference the compression gives, allowing me to perform better, longer, and feel less sore/tired following my rides. Plus, compression = more flattering fit, and the cuts and details in these pants make it hard not to check myself out in reflective ponds or in ride photos. Instant confidence boost when you ooze into a pair of these.
Lastly, the deerskin leather is wonderful. It seriously sticks when it needs to (like when Bentley pulls a 180 spook), but it doesn’t restrict my movement in any way. The deerskin can also be machine washed which is a MUST in my household. The design of full seat – with those lovely butt cheek circles, keeps everything tight to my body without rubbing – as opposed to standard full seats which have a tendency to droop and shift on my particular body type.
Pros: Superb quality, fit and comfort
Cons: The up front cost is quite high at $269 USD (but they pay off over the years)
While I am seriously in love with my all-seasons, swimming in salt-water could prove uncomfortable and damaging for them. This was my main reason behind contacting FITS to discuss some other options. The next pair that they sent me were the Free-Flex full seats. The seat is synthetic, so it would be more suited to frolicking on the beach than the deer skin. Everything else is pretty much the same – the compression fabric, the cut, the mesh panels etc. but it does have two hip pockets instead of one, and a front-zipper in case you have trouble squeezing into a pair of pull-ons (particularly difficult when you are wet or sweaty!)
I was a little skeptical at first with the full seat, worried that because it wasn’t the standard circular patch, I would still have some drooping. I was thrilled when I tried them on, they hugged me just as well as my beloved all-seasons, and wow, did I ever look good! Put on a nice belt and a polo shirt, and I looked like a professional jumper rider! Clean me up and take me out!
My first ride saw some epic spooks from Bentley, as he faced off with some baby deer. I sat these leaps and twists like a hula figurine glued to the dashboard of an outrageous taxi driver. These things have serious stick! When I hear riders say “I wish I could just velcro myself to my saddle”, I will now tell them this is the next best thing!
Unfortunately, for me, the stick was actually a bit of a downside. This race in South Africa will have me running down hills, and running in these pants had my thighs sticking together uncomfortably which caused some chafing. There are no perforations like the deerskin had, so I could feel some moisture (sweat) building up behind the panels on my leg. Add salty sea water to that, and I knew I would be in for trouble.
These are some seriously wicked pants, but I am going to reserve them for times when I need extra security in the saddle… jumping and working on greenies. I do want to try hunting this year, and these would be perfect for that. I would highly recommend these to jumpers or those who need the confidence that comes with extra stick. Its nice to have these in the tool-kit!
Pros: Same comfort as the all seasons but with extra stick, more traditional appearance
Cons: Not suited to swimming or running (if you need to do that), or long hours in sweaty/wet conditions.
Would you like to win a pair of Free-Flex’s? Go to the ESRR Facebook page and shoot us a message. We are raffling off a pair to help fundraise for my adventure. Ashley and Solstice can sell you tickets and/or you can come visit us at an upcoming event to buy tickets.
These are the ones that are JUUUUUSSSTTTT RIIIGGGGHTT for me. Again, I found the quality, fabric and fit to be impeccable. I would say they are like a second skin, but my skin isn’t this tough while still being soft! The two main differences here are that instead of the deerskin, we have silicone grips, and there are no mesh panels near the ankles.
First off, I didn’t miss the mesh panels. I will be riding without tall boots or half chaps, so the lack of mesh is actually bonus… less chance the nasty bugs will get me. However, it is a nice feature on the other models to keep things light under the boots.
Next, the silicone is not nearly as grippy as the deerskin or the synthetic full seat. I am also quite alright with that. It will make it more comfortable for me to run along with my horse (and I tested this by doing essentially a half marathon RNT in these last weekend), and keep me pretty mobile in the saddle, while still being grippier than many of the competing breeches and compression garments. Yup, just right!
They are comfortable enough to sleep in, and I was amazed at how quickly they dried during my test rides (2 days back to back – ride N tie, then a set speed). Despite being soggy all weekend, I didn’t have any chafing, minimal rashing, and really only felt wet when it was actually raining (as far as my pants go that is!).
One other thing, there is a large cargo pocket on the one leg. Perfect for a phone or treats. I prefer this pocket to the ones on the other models (located more on the hip) as its easier to access and can fit more stuff without pinching.
These also have a significantly lower price tag at $129 USD. Any other silicone grip pants I have seen and tried are about the same price. Maybe a few bucks cheaper, but nowhere near the quality of FITS.
Pros: Great price and value, cargo pocket, pajama like comfort.
Cons: Not as grippy, I can only find these in US stores (though have seen the winter versions on shelves here).