A quick history lesson on Gore mountain bike clothing for you before we dive into the latest range. After 18 years of PTFE development which started in the basement of Bill and Vieve Gore in the US, the first GORE-TEX fabric jackets appeared in 1976. They launched the bike range another 20 years after that, concentrating on making the most of their top performance fabrics rather than necessarily following fashion. When they have followed fashion it’s definitely more Euro than US/UK/Canadian in feel too.
Gore products have always been fairly priced for the performance and features compared to some ‘trendier’ brands though. The current MTB range is the smallest for a while and we’re sad to see some stuff we’ve loved before or had just got really good no longer listed. The core collection is still very strong though and the Infinium shift has introduced some really good stuff, so that’s what we’ve concentrated on here.
Often almost copied, but never beaten the Phantom has been one of our essential pieces for every sort of riding for years. That said, while the performance and intermediate cut works anywhere the fact it’s got three ‘roadie’ pockets at the back and reflective trim may upset more fashion-conscious off-roaders. It’s not tight like a roadie jacket though and gravellers, XC/trail riders and anyone more interested in hyper-versatile, weather-beating performance will be able to look beyond that and the relatively high price as soon as they start using it though.
The Windstopper fabric gives a great balance of wet and wind protection while still breathing well, so whatever the weather, the worst you’ll get is slightly damp. Unlike a pure shell, there’s enough insulation to keep you warm below freezing with just a thin base layer underneath. There’s a lighter panel across the back to increase ventilation/reduce heat build-up while wearing a backpack. Those three back pockets - plus a zipped phone pocket on the chest give plenty of storage for those who want to dodge a pack too. The cut is excellent for all-round mobility, with enough arm space to avoid pump on punishing descents.
So far, very good but not exceptional. That eureka moment comes when you unzip the sloping front and rear sleeve zips. Unzip a bit and the cold air whistles under your pits and cools you down noticeably. Completely unzip both sides and you reveal short ‘jersey material’ sleeves. No redneck sleeveless look, no bolero yoke weirdness just a really effective spring/summer/autumn shirt to complete Phantom’s all year round credentials. Also available in women’s fit.
This brand-new jacket is a ‘best of’ compilation for riders who need the breathability to go hard on the hills but don’t want to be caught out by proper mountain weather.
Typically for Gore, it’s a really complicated but superbly judged multi-panel fit. Add stretch panels and it manages to stay snug and flap free in a summit storm or dive-bombing for Strava glory. Want details? Then we’re particular fans of the scooped, lightly elasticated, Velcro tabbed cuffs that air-lock onto your gloves and the adjustable under-helmet hood that rolls neatly out of the way. Whether you use the hood or not, the collar comes right up for a really snug draught and drip-free fit, while the double-ended main zip lets you vent from the bottom up.
The ‘Infinium’ slant comes from the fact that it mixes sealed seam Gore-Tex Active fabric over the shoulders, outer arms and lower rear panel (basically the light coloured panels in any of the three different colours available) for durable waterproofing. The rest of the jacket is then untaped Windstopper fabric which isn’t as waterproof but completely blocks windchill and ‘breathes’ sweat away better. This best-of-both-worlds design means maximum protection where the weather hits hardest while stopping you getting soaking wet from the inside out if you’re working hard. This combination means more driven (or just hot) riders will definitely feel drier more of the time. It also makes it quieter and backpack proof and, although it’s heavier than the fully waterproof Gore-Tex Trail jacket (£230), the price is fair for the level of tech. It’s also available in women’s fit.
Gore does a very extensive range of gear for female riders and this super light shell jacket is £30 cheaper than the blokes’ version too. Despite being labelled with an R for Running it works great on the bike.
Gore-Tex Active fabric is one of the most breathable and lightweight cloths in the Gore collection but it’s still ‘durably waterproof’ and a lot tougher than its super light Shake Dry gear. It has made the most of the weight and potentially tiny pack size by keeping the design super minimalist with no pockets or other fancy features. You still get an under-helmet hood for the worst weather though and adjustable hem and cuffs keep things well sealed when storms roll in. The ‘Active’ fit means it works for running and the Active fabric is quieter and softer in feel than most shells too.
Gore’s Trail jerseys are super silky and very fast breathing for a luxury feel on the trail. They also come in full, 3/4 and short-sleeve options in male and female fit. Despite its claims of high durability the fabric tends to snag easily on passing shrubs etc. The white threads that pulls out of the colourful designs makes any wounding really obvious although, to be fair, it doesn’t get any worse if you keep wearing it.
What does get worse is the general aroma of the shirts, as while they suck the sweat off you really fast for a dry skin feel even on hot climbs, that brews up a stink much more rapidly than normal. Definitely not the choice for multi-day adventures and mates might make you bring a can of deodorant rather than tyre sealant if you’re stopping for lunch.
Probably the most unsung but heavily used piece in our riding kit bag, Gore’s Windstopper turtleneck is a superb weatherproofing investment that we can’t recommend enough. The thermo-stretch fabric breathes fast to keep your skin dry when you’re working hard but still gives a bit of insulation. It’s the stretchy Windstopper panels across the front, the throat, sleeves and even round the kidneys that give you a proper hug of wind and wetness protection. That makes it great for using as an extra bit of protection under a heavyweight outer layer when it’s really windy/wet, or a riding jersey on intermediate days.
Fast folks can even use it as a top in its own right and there’s a crew neck version if you don’t want the collar poking out of your jersey. This level of versatility makes the high price much more palatable and even with hundreds of base layer/windproof jersey options around this would be in our top ten biking wardrobe. Just be careful with sizing though as the arms are pretty tight and will accelerate arm pump if you’ve got some beef about you. Also available in women's’ fit.
Gore was one of the first companies to pioneer combo baggy/skinshort designs but thankfully they’ve evolved a long way since those early half gym-skirt/half junk-show style disasters. The C7’s still look a bit weird, mainly because there’s a thick rolled ‘nappy’ seam where the baggies meet the bibs. The outer legs are short with the bib legs obviously poking out underneath too, so they’re definitely ‘euro racer/gravel’ in style rather than Enduro. They’ve even got a radio pocket in the bib for keeping up on team tactics.
Whatever your aesthetic opinion, in performance terms they’re brilliant. The pad is Gore’s most advanced C7 Pro insert for maximum mileage comfort and the full bib design means no sliding around or excess friction. The super-light, fast-drying fabric has big stretch mesh thigh and yoke vents and the undershorts underneath are mesh too for maximum cooling. The inner thighs and seat are splash proof though with a Windstopper crotch ‘cup’ for support and warmth, so they work impressively well in all weathers.
Gore has culled its ‘normal’ baggy short range down to just three designs for 2020 but thankfully it has spared the awesome C5 All Mountain shorts. They’re not cheap but the cut is excellent, with a stretch-mesh yoke and big velcro side tabs to get the waist sitting just right.
The seat panel and inside thighs are splash-proof for puddle/wet trail comfort and don’t get too sweaty thanks to two more stretch mesh panels that provide air conditioning for your crotch. There’s even a two way, zipped mesh dart down the side of each thigh for airflow control and bulky knee pad fit. That means they pedal great and won’t overheat if you’re the uplift.
The fabric is impressively durable considering how light they are and they’re long enough to avoid the dreaded ‘tw@t gap’ to the top of your armour too. If you’re an XC/gravel/marathon rider who just wants the essential venting and splash protection in a super light, skinnier fit then take a look at the C5 Trail Light shorts too. Both are also available in women’s fit.
Gore was one of the first brands to introduce a waterproof short and, at the time, it seemed like a stupid idea even to semi-aquatic UK riders. Turns out keeping your butt dry through puddles and your quads warm in freezing rain without trousers dragging on pads or flapping into chains was a brilliant idea. Gore is still killing it for marathon/multi-day riders and bikepackers with these PacLite shorts too.
That’s because these minimalist shell shorts (there’s only one zipped thick pocket so they weigh under 120g) pack up tiny for pocketing when it’s dry. Lack of pockets and features mean a ‘barely there’ pedalling feel. There’s enough length to keep you cosy right to the knees (or lower if you’re stood) and the PACLITE Plus fabric is one of Gore’s most breathable cloths so you won’t end up with a soggy pad just from sweating.
They’re definitely cut like an emergency ‘overshort’ rather than a cleverly panelled wear all the time trail short though. There’s no reinforced seat to cope with regular riding in typically gritty, abrasive winter conditions and they’re spendy too, so stay clear if you tend to crash and rip stuff a lot.
Infinium is a new name in the Gore range and it refers to products like these excellent gloves where different fabrics are combined for the best overall results.
The back of the gloves and thumb use three different Windstopper fabrics of varying design to give a snug but lightly insulated, wind chill beating performance. Breathability is awesome, they shrug off showers pretty well and stay warm when wet too. That means they stay comfortable in all iffy weather but won’t melt your hands on changeable summer days, offsetting the high price with excellent versatility. The only potential problem is that the adjustable cuffs are trail length rather than extended for a better sleeve connection so your wrists (and the blood flowing through them) can be left exposed to the cold.
Otherwise, the fingers use a boxed tip to reduce clumsiness and they’re thin enough to retain excellent trail feedback for their level of protection. The multi-panel reinforced palm keeps them tough with small silicon details for extra grip. They’re smartphone compatible and they come in up to 3XL sizing. The C5 Gore-Tex gloves are great if you need full waterproofing without excess bulk too.
The Gore Range Explained
Gore is fundamentally a science and fabric performance company with a massive multi-industry portfolio that its bike gear is only a tiny, tiny part of. That’s why its text and presentation tends to have a similarly sciency feel, but thankfully it’s easy to decipher without a needing a doctorate.
Gore gives a number and letter code to every garment and whether you’re looking at the MTB range or the road riding range if it’s primarily a Cycling product it gets a ‘C’. Unsurprisingly the running range gets an R but it has some useful kit for riding in too, so have a good rummage round the whole Gore Wear website.
Each piece of clobber then gets an odd number after the letter. 7 is for ‘Experts’ so you’ll generally find fancier, faster-breathing fabrics and a tighter fit. 5 kit is for ‘Advanced’ riders so while it still has top quality fabrics and attention to detail, it tends to have a slightly looser fit and features so you don’t look a dork walking the dog. Level 3 is listed as ‘Active’ so it’s baggier again in cut and less geeky in terms of features. Both the ‘3’ graded pieces here - Phantom and Gore-Tex Active jackets - show it’s definitely still proper ‘Euro sporty’ rather than ‘athleisure’ in styling though.
GORE-TEX obviously has a very strong household brand name and it protects that with a very specific language. Here are translations of the keywords MTBers need to know.
GORE-TEX Active: Extremely fast breathing and light but with a <40 denier fabric that’s still durable enough for wearing a bag over or blasting through bushes. The inner backer textile is laminated into the GORE-TEX membrane for a quieter, softer feel too.
GORE-TEX Paclite: Unsurprisingly Paclite is designed to pack down small and light. It’s durably waterproof and very breathable but has a carbon inner face rather than a fabric backer, so it feels more plasticky against the skin.
GORE-TEX Shakedry: Shakedry is an incredible fabric that basically leaves the GORE-TEX membrane fully exposed so water just rolls off, it breathes amazingly well and it’s as thin and light as bin bag material so it packs to nothing. It is incredibly fragile in terms of tearing on the trail or wearing out under bags though which is why we don’t recommend Shakedry for MTB. Ace for the road though.
Windstopper: Rather than using a GORE-TEX membrane sandwich, Windstopper uses a ‘Durable Water Resistant’ surface treatment. That means it’s not waterproof but it slows down moisture enough to be comfortable however wet it gets. It breathes super fast and there’s more insulation than a fully waterproof GORE-TEX shell jacket so it’s more versatile, particularly for riders who work hard and get hot. There are different weights of Windstopper from thin, max performance to thicker and cosier so make sure you pick the right one.
Infinium: Confusingly, this isn’t actually a fabric but basically a change in Gore philosophy. Previously they’d never mix fabrics in a garment, they had to be either entirely one sort of GORE-TEX fabric or Windstopper so buyers knew exactly what they were getting. Infinium garments pick and mix fabrics from the whole cloth collection to create ‘best of both’ results like the C5 Gore-Tex Infinium Hybrid hooded jacket.
Support and Ethics
All full GORE-TEX fabrics are covered by Gore’s 'guaranteed to keep you warm' program under which 'If you are not completely satisfied with the waterproofness, windproofness or breathability of your product, then we (Gore) will repair it, replace it, or refund your purchase price.' There are repair centres in most countries too.
Gore guarantee all its fabrics meet the BLUESIGN sustainability standards and its manufacturing complies with Fair Labor Association guidelines. The company is aiming to remove ‘PFCs of Environmental Concern’ from its range by 2023.