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Introducing Ocean & San Apparel: Not For Racing

We’re Done Riding Aero To The Coffee Shop.

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Ocean & San recently debuted a short video titled This Is Riding, which depicts two friends enjoying an idyllic afternoon of cycling along the Central California coast. The scenery is stunning – a mix of dense forest, rugged coastline, and dreamy roads. The pair rides swiftly through the grand landscape. They’re fit and capable cyclists who enjoy pushing each other, but they also appear to be in no hurry at all, stopping to meet a beautiful horse, wade across a river, and shoot photos, on film, no less.

Keen observers may notice something else that is a bit different, which is that both riders appear to be wearing t-shirts…more on that later. The video’s narration underscores what it shows, which is that riding bikes is very different from racing bikes. “We’re done measuring watts, kilojoules, and heart rates, and we’re done riding aero to the coffee shop,” the narrator says, in a decisive, relaxed tone.


I’ve probably watched this video a few too many times, mostly because it’s a beautifully produced piece of media and inspires me to ride my bike. But there’s more than just beauty to be found here. Ocean & San is reminding us that cycling is about exploration, not competition. For many, cycling is about creating moments, not saving seconds.

These are ideas that well-established cycling brands tend to avoid, because, frankly, they don’t align well with selling products to millions of people. That’s okay, though – it seems more fitting for the message in this video to be coming from a new, small, and somewhat mysterious brand like Ocean & San.

And what of this California-based cycling apparel company? There’s a lot to like. First, Ocean & San has a minimal selection of products. I like that because it tells me that they aren’t making things just to grab a slice of a product segment. There are just a handful of offerings on the Ocean & San web store, which include unisex socks and hats, the high-performance Signature Bib Short – available in both cargo and non-cargo versions – and the flagship All Day Shirt, in both long and short sleeves.

Aside from a helmet, shoes, and sunnies, you don’t need anything else to ride and have a great time. Every Ocean & San item is available in both men’s and women’s fits, which should be a given with cycling apparel but isn’t necessarily always the case.

Two riders wearing Ocean & San apparel while out on an adventurous bike ride.
With a small selection of products being made in the USA and relatively unique brand messaging, Ocean & San approaches cycling apparel a bit differently. (photo/Ocean & San)

Ocean & San is also likable for what they are not doing. O&S apparel isn’t “fast fashion” that is easy to source and market, but too cheap to last. To paraphrase the Ocean & San site, the founder’s frustration with fast fashion was a big part of the inspiration to start the company. They knew from the start that O&S products would be made in Los Angeles, and they took the time to find the right factories and people to manufacture their products to meet their standards.

Sure, it’s much less expensive to manufacture overseas, but Ocean & San feels that the ability to meet face-to-face with the people involved and manufacturing locally allows them, and their customers, to feel more connected to the products and to the people who make them.

Needless to say, I was stoked when a package of Ocean & San clothing arrived at my house, with some California-esque weather in the forecast. These are impressions after riding about 100 miles in what I received.

The All Day Shirt

Riding in the Ocean & San All Day Shirt
Riding in the Ocean & San All Day Shirt and Signature Bibs. (photo/Bennett Shane)

While it certainly looks more like a “t-shirt” than your typical cycling jersey, I only called it a “t-shirt” in the open so that I can now point out that it is much more than that. The All Day Shirt ($79 no graphic – $86 with graphic) succeeds effortlessly because of its natural, non-technical feel. While it is a DryRelease fabric, comprised of 85% polyester and 15% cotton, it feels just like a cotton shirt that’s been well-loved over the years, but with a much more precise and functional fit. There is no static cling, no plastic-y, irritating nonsense going on with this material. If you wear this shirt all day, that means it was a damned good day. 

The fit is spot-on for the application of road and gravel riding. I’m 6’0”, 165 lbs, and tested a size medium in both short and long sleeves. The torso length is perfect, extending just past my tailbone and resting just off my hip flexors in front while I’m riding. Standing upright, the All Day Shirt is just a tiny bit longer than most casual shirts, but is nicely proportioned and looks great off the bike. 

The graphics are engaging and eclectic in style, giving you a few different vibes to choose from. I love the NFR (Not For Racing) edition because it has an unobtrusive, vintage look at first glance, and a lot of content in the graphic upon closer examination. There are currently six graphic options to choose from along with three graphic-free versions of the All Day Shirt in both short sleeve and long sleeve.

The weather during the initial test period was ideal for riding in the All Day shirt, in the high 70s to mid 80s with low humidity. The only time I can ever recall feeling very warm wearing it was while I waited in the direct afternoon sun at a huge traffic crossing. Whenever I was moving, the polyester blend fabric and relaxed fit kept airflow plentiful and what little sweat did transfer to the All Day shirt actually seemed to help with cooling, instead of feeling wet or clammy, like cotton, or even itchy, like some “technical” fabrics can.

At the same time, the All Day Shirt is just heavy enough to prevent it from flapping around like mad above 20mph. This was especially true of the sleeves, which stayed put close to my elbows and didn’t ride up my triceps the way most t-shirts will at high speed. The long-sleeved version of the All Day Shirt is better for slightly cooler conditions, with temps topping out in the high 70s. 

Riding in the Ocean & San All-Day Shirt and Solution Bibs
Despite not being skin tight like most cycling jerseys, there is surprisingly little flapping in the wind and the sleeves of the All Day Shirt tend to stay down on the arms. (photo/Bennett Shane)

I can make only one tiny nitpick of the All Day shirt, related to its three rear pockets that mimic a traditional jersey. The middle pocket is zippered, which is a good choice, as it’s the most functional of the three pockets. It’s the most functional because unless both outside pockets are loaded with equal weight, the All Day Shirt will shift toward the heavier pocket given its looser, more casual fit.

So, I put my (old and small) iPhone in the center pocket and was able to situate it lengthwise, so it wouldn’t shift around. Now, I had to remove the case to do this, which is fine. However, I suspect that most smartphones are too long to sit upright or sideways in this pocket while also utilizing the zipper.

Is this a big deal? To me, not really. First of all, cargo bibs, like the Solution Cargo from Ocean & San, are great for storing your massive pocket computer, and many other things. And of course, there are endless other places to store stuff on bikes these days. So, to conclude my only small critique, I hope that maybe an updated All Day Shirt of the future will have a middle zippered pocket large enough to accommodate big phones plus their case, or something else substantial like maybe a sandwich. 

If you’ve always wanted a more casual shirt for riding, but were put off or disappointed by offerings from other brands, I implore you to give this idea another chance as the Ocean & San All Day Shirt nails the execution and it is especially successful in the most important criterion, which is comfort.

Solution Bib Shorts

Riding in the Ocean and San Solution Bib Shorts
The Ocean & San Solution Bibs are top-quality bib shorts that fit great and have you covered for any and all types of riding. (photo/Bennett Shane)


Ocean & San offers the Solution Bib Short ($245) as well, and while these complement the All Day Shirt nicely, they also take a different approach, fully embracing materials and technologies that apply to all styles of riding, including racing. While I hope that eventually, O&S offers a more casual short of some kind, I hold that bib shorts are one cycling garment that needs to be technically robust, because, after all, we’re still riding far and fast(ish?) and need the anatomical support and protection of a legit pair of bibs.

The fit is excellent, with the ideal leg length for just about anyone to look and feel good. I have extra-long femurs and the shorts end about 6” above the top of my patella, right where they should. Folks with shorter legs might have the bottom of the leg a bit closer to their knee, but it shouldn’t create a fit issue. The pad is a luxurious triple-layer elastic interface comparable to what you’ll find on any bib in the mid-$200s price point. The straps are minimal, soft, and have a nice balance of stretch and hold and lay perfectly flat across the chest, shoulders, and back. I was particularly keen to examine the straps because this system of All Day Shirt + Solution Bib Shorts seems designed for riding with no base layer. I was happy with how the straps felt against my skin and had no irritation from them at all.

The Solution Bib Short is available in both cargo ($255) and traditional/no-pocket styles, with two color options – navy and black, in both men’s and women’s. They’re great bibs with no shortcomings that will have you covered on any type of ride whether you’re hopping locked gates and making friends with horses or not. And, having tested many of the best cycling bib shorts on the market, I can confidently say that they’re a great all-’rounder that’s competitive with offerings from all the major players.

In Clothes-ing

While I didn’t get into any riding as glorious as the Central California Coast, I have enjoyed all of my time riding in Ocean & San tremendously, in large part because of a feeling of relaxation and patience brought about by riding in clothing that is #NotForRacing. Friends wanted to talk about the All Day Shirt and I may have converted a couple of them to the laid-back West Coast riding philosophy that the narrator of the This Is Riding video espouses so convincingly.

“Let’s not forget, the ride is meant to be enjoyed.”

If you’re turned off by the fit and feel of more traditional cycling apparel, Ocean & San offers something a little different that is worth checking out. (photo/Bennett Shane)

In my role as a contributor to BikeRumor, I receive a lot of kit to test, review, and keep. Most of it ends up being given to friends because I’m super picky and don’t have a ton of space to store things I’m not using regularly. Furthermore, I have begun to embrace the idea of minimalism in my cycling wardrobe.

So, I’m giving away more stuff that is good, but not great, or maybe just doesn’t get me excited to ride when I see it in the closet. I’m keeping a small number of things that I reach for again and again because they work perfectly for me and make me happy.

That’s the right way to build a wardrobe, in my opinion – with things that reflect who you are and what you value, and that make you the most comfortable version of yourself. I think Ocean & San is going to be one of those brands for me. When they launch something new, I will at least consider adding it, because I know they have a real inspiration for creating it, and that it will be of the highest quality.

oceanandsan.com

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Alan
Alan
1 month ago

I’m totally in favor of having casual technical wear, but they are missing the most crucial part of that ensemble…shorts. I deliberately didn’t say “baggies” because there are plenty of those out there and someone riding on the road or gravel, or commuting or running errands, would usually be better served by something more fitted. A loose t-shirt with snug bib shorts is an odd, unbalanced look, but a fitted T-shirt and shorts go a long way to avoid the dorky all Lycra off-the-bike yet still remains functional on the bike.

Bennett Shane
Bennett Shane
1 month ago
Reply to  Alan

I agree, Alan. Technically advanced, but casual-looking shorts with a pad would complete this look. It seems that even the best casual cycling shorts like the Mission by Ornot, among many others, are a bit bulky and warm for sprited riding, especially when they require a liner short to be worn underneath.

Perhaps a pair of race bibs with a cosmetic layer of super-breathable but natural-looking material bonded loosely to the exterior could work?

Marc Smith
Marc Smith
1 month ago
Reply to  Alan

this is hilarious for my prostate.

Don Carboneone
Don Carboneone
1 month ago
Reply to  Alan

Yeah. Lycra shorts are just.. meh. No thanks.

mud
mud
1 month ago
Reply to  Alan

You need spandex shorts when riding, just to keep your nuts tucked out of the way and the chamois in place. I like the ones without silicone grippers cause they make my skin itchy. There are some liner shorts that are supportive enough to do the job. So where does that leave outer shorts? I think they’re redundant. It’s only for style cause some guys don’t want to be seen in spandex.

T shirts work for me in the summer, but pocket tees are stupid.

nooner
nooner
1 month ago

Whatever happened to Nema?

Mike Franke
Mike Franke
1 month ago

The folks over at The Black Bibs cover a fair bit of these points with their existing product line. Being one of those with very short legs, I’m appreciative that they offer an option that provides a good fit for me. Their pricing is also excellent, although I doubt it’s US-made product.

Ben G
Ben G
1 month ago

There is a place and a time for full #aerodork and also for #casualiscool. And there has been a lot more focus on the former and not the latter. O&S is making some really cool items, I hope this type of category continues to grow.

Ricky
Ricky
1 month ago

I’ve been riding in their jerseys for some time. I like the fit (I’m 6’1″ and 215lbs, so not a racer). I take a 23 mile ride on my lunch break each day and might get in a 65 miler on the weekend, but I gave up on the clubs and the racer-competition ethic that sucked out the joy. I bike solo, stop for pics, eat lunch. Even when I join up in a charity event and start with the “A” group, I wear their jerseys. I’m not a racer, I don’t want a race kit, plus I look like a sausage.

I’ve been a pass on the bibs. I wear bibs for those fast days or for the longer rides, but I like mountain bike shorts (padded liners, dry fit cargo shorts) for the lunch rides. I think some shorts would be better for their mark, as my bibs (PI, LG) are pretty good and have lasted me.

TypeVertigo
1 month ago

A missed opportunity to engineer a drop tail into the shorts IMHO, especially since the PI ones that do have it cost just an additional $10.

Zimmy Zim
Zimmy Zim
1 month ago

I wish they made hi viz yellow. The muted colors look great but since i live in a state with no medians and rumble steps alongside the road I’m a couple feet out into a lane of traffic when i ride. A bright yellow shirt can be seen further away than even the brightest of blinky lights.

Slowrider.
Slowrider.
1 month ago

I’ve only worn my O&S once. I like it. My nitpick is why the front pocket? I quit smoking 14 years ago so don’t need it for my fags and it’s annoying that it gets blown open when cycling.

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