Now that shuttles are back on the menu, my interest in downhill-appropriate protection has increased somewhat. It doesn’t need to be ultra-lightweight or ultra-breathable, because, well, I’m not pedaling up hills in it. Of course, it’s nice if it ticks those boxes too, but its primary function is to keep me as safe as possible when my front wheel washes out in that loose corner, or I hug a tree I could’ve sworn wasn’t there before.
SixSixOne, kindly sent along with their best offering for women (there’s a men’s cut too); the 661 EVO Women’s Jacket and EVO Women’s Shorts. Packing a significant number of D3O pads, EVA Foam, and some interconnected features to prevent pad migration, we felt pretty safe testing this kit out on our local downhill tracks. Here’s how we got on with it.
Review: 661 EVO Women’s Jacket and Shorts
Though it may look a bit like a onesie, what you see here is actually a three-piece ensemble; the 661 EVO Jacket, Shorts, and Recon Advanced Knee Pads. They are designed to link up to one another via a PadLock System of poppers.
The idea is that the interconnectivity, between the jacket and shorts, and shorts and knee pads, prevents pad migration both before and during an impact. Fair enough, there’s no point going to such lengths if your knee pads are just going to slip down when you hit the deck, leaving you unprotected.
What protection is on offer?
Between the EVO Jacket and EVO Shorts, there are no fewer than seven bright orange D3O pads, covering the back, shoulders, elbows and hips. All are Level 1 certified. The back protector is broad at the top, reaching across the shoulder blades, extending to the mid to lower back region where it narrows slightly.
Adding to the protection offered by the D3O pads is a bunch of EVA foam, strategically located for extra protection on the chest and sides on the EVO Jacket. On the EVO Shorts these are seen on the rear, near the top of the pelvis, and down the sides of each leg, below the D3O pads.
On the Tracks
There’s no getting around it; this get-up does feel fairly bulky to an enduro rider who only occasionally feels the need to wear this level of protection. That said, it is the D3O pads themselves that make up much of the 1.3 kg combined weight of the SixSixOne EVO Women’s Jacket and EVO Shorts. Weighing the seven D3O pads separately tots up to over 0.7 kg; that weight is essential for this protection to be, well, protective.
The rest of the weight comes from the non-removable EVA pads and the fabric, zip, seams, poppers, and velcro that hold everything together. Credit where it’s due, that fabric of the EVO Jacket is very light and breathable, with varying degrees of perforation on the back panel and chest area to help moisture escape.
What’s the fit like?
On the whole, pretty good. The 661 EVO Women’s Jacket is true to size, with each D3O pad naturally resting exactly where it is meant to. The elbow pad region gets a velcro strap to help cinch the pad down, preventing it from moving around during an impact. I can confirm that it’s fairly essential. On one ride, I’d forgotten to tighten these straps up, something I only discovered when the pad slipped upwards upon impact when I super-manned over the top of a berm having failed to turn the corner.
What about the EVO Women’s Shorts? These get a women’s specific chamois that I can confirm is very comfortable. Of course, I haven’t done any super long rides in these as I consider them overkill for enduro, but the few times I did pedal in them I found the chamois to be perfectly acceptable; quite thick and supportive, without a tendency to fold in all the wrong places. I did have one small complaint, however.
The cuff of the legs have a silicon strip that interfaces with the rider’s skin to prevent the shorts riding up when pedaling. I found this area to be super tight, not quite cutting off the blood supply to my legs, but tight enough to be pretty uncomfortable. I only complain about it as I found the shorts to be a good fit in all the other areas. Considering the elasticated waistband of the EVO Shorts, I probably could have up-sized to get a more comfortable fit at the thigh.
Forgoing the use of the EVO Shorts, and thus the Padlock System, my preference would be for the EVO Womens Jacket to be a bit longer so that it can be tucked into riding shorts; this would make it a lot more comfortable. At the minute, with the jacket, shorts and Recon Advance D3O knee pads combined, there are a lot of seams and stitched joins that are pretty uncomfortable to wear for anything more than a day of shuttling.
At $189.99 USD, SixSixOne’s offering for back, shoulder and elbow protection stands up as relatively affordable when compared the Bluegrass Seamless range, in which the Back and Shoulder protection alone is near twice that at $300 USD. Despite some gripes with the fit of the EVO Shorts and the all-day comfort of the EVO Women’s Jacket, we do consider them a reasonably priced package for those looking for solid protection for downhill mountain biking.
Pricing & Availability
The 661 EVO Womens Jacket is available now in sizes S-XL (US 4-12), retailing at $189.99 USD. The EVO Women’s Shorts are available in sizes S-XL (US 4-12) and will set you back $99.99 USD.