A couple of years ago, Troy Lee Designs launched a premium race apparel collaboration alongside Adidas for both bike and motocross. Using new fabrics with a strong focus on increased stretch and ease of movement, a great deal of TLD’s athletes were quite happy with them, Brendan Fairclough for example, and eventually the Sprint Ultra line was born. We were fortunate enough to get ahold of a set of the pants from the lineup for long term testing – here is what we thought of them.
- Low-rise waist, articulated and slimmer fit
- TLD Ultra Tech fabric
- Cowhide leather for chain abrasion
- Fabric is certified Bluesign approved
- $185.00 USD
- Size 30, 32(tested), 34, 36
- Three colors – Black, White, Red
A two button closure and a sturdy zipper serve as the front closure.
Plenty of stretch in the knee meant anything from light duty sleeve style pads to DH pads fit just fine.
Above, you can see the angled cut of the waist – this is key for keeping crud out of your pants and not bunching up front. It also prevents the pants from riding up or slipping down.
The silicone branding on the waist band also provides some additional protection from slippage.
There are two velcro tabs at the sides for waist band adjustment.
Fully taped seams for longevity plus stretch.
There is loads of generous ventilation throughout the entire landscape of the pants.
On the trail
Starting with fit, the 32″ was pretty spot on in terms of size accuracy. I’m actually more like a 31″ waist, which means I’m usually cinching up 32″ riding shorts and pants. This means that I’m always getting to be critical or congratulatory of how poorly or how well that apparatus is designed, respectively. In the case of the Sprint Ultra, the velcro tabs at the sides of the waist are well thought out, low in their profile and very effective. Speaking of the waist, TLD nailed the cut with the back sitting substantially higher to keep dirt out of your pants. Up front, they’re lower cut so when in a seated or aggressive position, there are no issues with material bunching up and becoming an irritation or a distraction. On the topic of fit, it’s safe to say that TLD’s inseams were generally on the short side in the past, but with Sprint Ultra that has been remedied with a couple of additional inches in length. Should you find it necessary, you could always hem or cuff pant legs, but you can’t extend them, so moving in this direction was a good call.
Regarding materials, this is probably where Troy Lee scores the highest points. The fabric chosen for the Sprint Ultra is amongst the best I’ve worn. What makes it so great, you might ask? Well, with many of TLD’s offerings in the past, you could expect to see thicker, tougher Cordura style panels mixed with more flexible material with more of a mesh feel to them for flexibility and breathability. The Sprint Ultra have a very tough feel to them, but they’re also unbelievably flexible and stretchy, feeling very much like a high performance board short for surfing.
Perhaps the biggest pitfall of these pants is the fact that they don’t have one single pocket. Yes you read that correctly. Initially designed as super high performance, minimalist race attire, the design team decided to forgo having pockets. After some feedback they have decided to introduce stowage for next year’s Sprint Ultra pant in 2021. Personally, I did find this annoying on pedal powered days – shuttles, not so much. But, because even if I was to ditch my phone on a ride, I would still generally want somewhere to stash my truck key or store a snack. Generally, I just opted to wear SWAT bibs with these pants. Riders who use a hydration pack likely won’t be fussed, but this oversight can’t be overstated enough. Not including a pocket was a mistake and correcting it for 2021 is the right move.
As far as breathability is concerned, I wore these pants for most of the Winter, all of Spring and even into part of Summer for pedal missions. The abundant and rather large perforations are well placed, encouraging air to keep moving through the pants. At speed you can feel the air flowing, which is pleasant on warmer days. I also suspect that the thinner, stretchy material is also somewhat porous, which also aided and helping them run cool. While I tested the black colorway, the red and/or white colorways would likely run even cooler still, although I’m not sure how practical the white ones are, despite looking quite cool. Another feature worth mentioning is the leather panel on the inside of the drive side pant leg running from the ankle to mid way up the calf. This is to prevent premature wear as pants can tend to get roasted by the drivetrain in that area. The fact that the panel is fairly light weight, low profile and non-inhibiting is a bonus. Last but not least, the seams are fully taped inside, which prevents fraying and improves long term durability. Again, on the topic of surf, this is a technique used in high end wetsuits – it’s effective in that realm and proved effective here, on dirt.
If you can forgive the lack of a pocket of any sort, you’ll be hard pressed to find any other shortcoming with the Sprint Ultra. The fabrics used are absolutely impeccable as is the cut and sew. It’s difficult to gauge how durable they are compared to thicker and less flexible offerings, but I can say that have had a few small crashes with no issues. I’ve also seen a handful of TLD athletes and friends have some pretty big diggers while wearing Sprint Ultra pants without them giving way or tearing. Based on their feel in both a tactile sense and on the bike, I think Troy Lee aced it with materials, striking the perfect balance between flexibility, durability and breathability. All in all, they’re damn good riding pants for anything from Trail to DH. If the pocket thing is a dealbreaker, just wait a few more months until the 2021 version comes out.