The Race Face Charlie shorts are a lightweight, casual trail short ready to hit both long days in the saddle and short stops in the cafe.
Women's cycling gear has improved vastly since I began riding, there's lots of choice in the shorts and jersey department nowadays with manufactures finally starting to design kit that is the right combination of fitted and stylish yet hardwearing and comfortable. The RaceFace Charlie shorts cover all of these bases and more.
The Charlie shorts are a light and stretchy trail short designed for all manners of trail riding. The short is constructed from a polyester, nylon and spandex mix making for a pair of shorts that is flexible and figure hugging without being too tight and restrictive. The material takes on a silky feel which means it moves well over lycra undershorts with no snagging or riding up, they are perfect for an all dayer. I've taken mine down steep and gnarly in the wet to flat and pedally racing in the sunshine and been super comfortable in every given situation. They stay in place well and the seamless gusset ensures there is no unwanted rubbing. Whilst being a breathable summer short, Race Face also says there is a DWR (durable water resistant) coating on these shorts and although this will keep drizzle or tail spray off for a wee while, they're not waterproof by any means.
This pair of shorts has pretty much become my go-to pair for every occasion, slip into them and you'll forget they are there. My favourite feature of the shorts is the wide elastic waistband, slightly maternity-esque and a thing usually reserved for the clothing I slouch around in at home. I found it to be surprisingly applicable for mountain bike shorts. Maybe, embarrassingly, as I approach my mid-thirties my affinity for a stretchy waistband is growing! Pull on, pull off and no buckles, poppers or zips to dig into skin or that stop working over time - it's an awesome idea and one that other brands should take note of. It also makes the mid-ride wee stop a quick affair, great if the nearest bush doesn't offer much coverage!
The only improvement that could be made where the waistband is concerned is the thin piece of elastic used to draw the waist in tighter is too skinny which becomes a problem if you are between sizes. I'm a size 10 normally but my cyclist's thighs were too big for the small so I had to opt for the medium and then winch the waist in. Getting the elastic drawstring tightened enough was difficult as the continuous loop wasn't able to be tied easily in a bow. When stretched it meant it ended up a taut, thin band around my waist, annoying on what is otherwise a well designed short.
It's great to see a decent length in the shorts, these sit below my knee, which I prefer as it covers knee pads well and avoids the appearance of that dreaded gap between pad and short. The shorts do taper in a little at the bottom which, although I don't feel is necessary, it doesn't really impact on their performance. If you need more room for bulky knee pads there are two buttons to open up the hem. I'd probably prefer a wider bottom cuff and do away with the buttons which once opened have a tendency to flap.
Elsewhere the Race Face Charlie shorts carry on the minimalist styling with two large mesh lined zip pockets at each hip and two zip pockets at the rear with magnetic closure on the cover flaps - not that useful to me but nicely designed. Features such as the mesh pockets make these shorts even more breathable whilst the casual styling means they are great as casual wear in the pub or cafe post ride.
At £75 the Charlie's slot into the upper end of the price bracket for trail shorts, I reckon should you purchase a pair though, you'll be happy with the return on your spend. I've given these shorts a pretty hard time, I've met the ground a few times, I've raced in two enduro races under starkly different conditions and I've drunk a fair few post ride cuppa's in the Charlie shorts. They have proved themselves to live up to the quality I expect from Race Face kit and to be a hardwearing short that, elastic niggle aside is prominently at the top of my drawer ready for the next ride.