Race Face Agent Shorts
Size Tested: Medium
- 3-ply waterproof fabric
- 10K/10K waterproof/breathability rating
- External waistband adjustment system
- Waterproof zippers throughout
- Internal weather protecting gaiter system
- Rear ventilation system
Reviewer: 5’9” 155 lbs
Days Worn: 6
Test Location: Whitefish, MT
The Agent shorts are built for cold, wet riding, so when they arrived just in time for a bunch of crappy late fall weather, the timing was pretty ideal. October in Montana brought an uncharacteristic deluge, with over 12 inches of rain falling on some of the local trails. While most of our trails drain pretty well and remain ridable when wet, it’s fair to say that muddy nighttime rides when it’s a few ticks above freezing make for a good test of riding gear.
Features and Construction
There are plenty of shorts on the market (including a few from Race Face) that have a DWR coating on them and do an ok job of warding off a bit of moisture. But the Agent shorts have an actual 3-layer waterproof construction: there’s a soft inner layer, a waterproof membrane, and an outer shell. It carries a 10K/10K waterproof/breathability rating (check out our Outerwear 101 article if you want a breakdown of waterproofing/breathability ratings), which means these shorts are similar in waterproofness to a medium-duty raincoat.
The 3-layer construction makes the shorts a little bit heavier and stiffer than most other shorts that are geared toward warmer weather. They’re not as stiff as a downhill short, and the fabric isn’t uncomfortable to pedal in, but there’s some heft to it.
Aside from the waterproof membrane, the Agent shorts also get waterproof zippers, and a nifty gaiter system at the bottom of the thighs. There’s an extra cuff with an elastic drawstring that can be cinched down just above the knee, which keeps moisture and cold air from blowing up your leg.
While the Agent shorts don’t have the traditional vents on the front of the leg, there is a vent across the back, a bit below the belt line. This actually seemed to work pretty well; it doesn’t let in cold wind from the front, it’s below where a pack would sit, and it helps with letting things breathe a bit.
Aside from the cold / wet weather-specific features, the Agent has the usual adjustments and features you’d expect of a nice short. An external waistband adjustment helps tailor the fit, and a zipper fly with a double snap closure is pretty standard on bike shorts. The Agent shorts don’t include a chamois / liner, so you’d need to buy that separately if you’re so inclined.
I’m 5’9” and~155 lbs. I usually wear a 32 x 32 pant, and for non-numbered clothing, I wear a Medium in pretty much everything. The fit of the size Medium Agent shorts is spot on for me — I’m right in the middle of the waistband adjustment, and they’re comfortably unrestrictive without ever feeling saggy. Due to the construction of the shorts, they’re less elastic than some “summer” shorts, but I actually prefer this — they don’t loosen up on me when they get warm and sweaty.
Lengthwise, I measure the inseam on my Medium to be 15”, which sits at the upper edge of my knee. The leg opening is large enough to fit knee pads without any trouble, which is great because I tend to wear thin knee pads in lieu of knee warmers for cold weather riding.
Other Race Face soft goods I’ve tried out have had a great riding cut, and the Agent shorts are no exception. A raised back panel keeps everything covered while I’m hunched over the bars on a climb, and the crotch is high and tight to keep it from snagging on the saddle on descents.
These shorts pretty much do exactly what you’d want a winter short to do — they’re a bit warmer than a summer short without making me overheat, and the leg gaiters can be used to dial in temperature. Every ride I’ve been on in these shorts has involved a fair amount of mud and moisture, and none of it has made it through the shorts. And since the Agents have an actual waterproof membrane rather than just a DWR coating, I expect that waterproofness to hold up a lot better after many trips through the washing machine.
Riding in the darkness of impending winter on slippery, muddy trails usually involves a little bit of falling over, and the fabric on the Agent shorts is burly enough that it should take a moderate amount of abuse without tearing. So far, mine are holding up well, and all of the seams are nicely finished without any loose ends that could result in some unraveling.
I comfortably rode in the Agent shorts in temperatures ranging from below freezing to around 60°F (16°C). I’d say the Agent shorts would be fine up to around 70°F, but for temps much warmer than that, I’d probably opt for a lighter short with more vents. And for the cold rides I did, they worked well, but I was also working pretty hard the whole time, so staying warm wasn’t too much of an issue. I’d also say that the Agent shorts are ideal for rides in warmer temps when it’s really wet out — they’ll keep you a little drier, which is always more comfortable.
I’m a big fan of lots of pockets — I tend to cram a lot of junk into my shorts. The Agent only has two hip pockets, so I found myself wishing for one or two more. On the upside, the two pockets it has are good ones — the zipper pulls work well with one hand, and the pockets are deep enough that I can stick my phone in there and it doesn’t interfere with my pedaling motion. Race Face also offers the Stash liner and bibs. I haven’t tried them yet, but they seem like a good solution for people like me who feel the need to attach lots of food and tools to their lower body.
It’s worth noting that, unlike some other winter shorts, the Agents don’t go the “flirting with the idea of being a knicker” route. They don’t extend past past the knee, which means I rely on knee pads or knee warmers and long socks for lower-leg warmth. For my purposes this works really well, and is actually preferable since knee pads don’t always play nicely with knickers. But if you’re looking for an extra long short, the Agent isn’t what you want.
Winter riding frequently turns into a battle of trying to have fun in less than ideal conditions, while fighting off the inevitable discomfort that comes with riding a bike in a cold, wet environment. Good gear goes a long ways toward winning that battle, and the Race Face Agent shorts get the job done really well. The highlight of the Agents is definitely their waterproofing, so if your riding involves a lot of moisture (looking at you, Pacific Northwest), the Agent shorts are the best I’ve tried.