POC Essential XC Shorts and Zip Tee are designed to cover a wide range of riding styles. Somewhere between the company’s gravity oriented enduro gear and pure-XC Raceday line, the Essential apparel is intended to meet the everyday riding needs for anything from a quick after work ride to all-day epic sojourns.
After months, and a couple hundred off-road kilometres of testing the Essential Zip Tee and Essential Shorts combo, it is fair to say POC has done an excellent job of creating a set of clothes that could easily meet the demands of a wide swath of mountain bikers needs.
The key to the Essential garments is their minimalist, lightweight design. Clean aesthetics, which are stylish without being loud or overly branded, also contribute to the Essential jersey and shorts broad appeal.
POC Essential kit at home in the woods
POC Essential XC Shorts
POC’s Essential XC Shorts only come in black but, since black matches everything, these shorts have seen a substantial amount of abuse over the test period. I’ve worn them for everything from enduro races to cross country marathons and all-day alpine rides. The Essential shorts are lightweight, but tough enough to survive daily abuse.
A slightly off-set clasps keep POC's shorts comfortable while seated
POC's placement of the side pockets is comfortalbe while pedalling, with enough space to carry what you need
Short in the back to stay out of the way while pedalling
While extra length on the front provides more coverage
Since POC intends the shorts as a more XC-oriented short, the knees are cut long in the front and rise up in the back of the knee. This avoids bunching or rubbing while pedaling, making the shorts quite comfortable for long rides and extended climbs. The lightweight stretchy fabric remains comfortable on the hottest of days and, on especially muggy outings, the mesh-lined side pockets double as vents for a little extra air flow. I’ve tested the shorts limits on a couple 30-degree race days, each with over 1,500m of climbing and both times the extra material of wearing shorts over bibs was barely noticeable even when I was really suffering.
While the shorts are light, they aren’t paper thin. POC has done an impressive job of making a very light feeling pair of shorts that will put up with daily abuse. I have slid out on rocks, rubbed up against trees and put the shorts through all manner of abuse, and they show no signs of wear. At one race I slid into a pile of loose rocks and, while my knee and arm came away with solid gashes, a quick brush with my hand (not the bloody one) and the shorts looked no worse for wear.
POC’s Essential shorts are water resistant, so they’ll keep you dry for a while. But don’t expect to spend a hours in a west coast downpour without getting wet. When they do start to soak the material is light enough that it doesn’t absorb much moisture or become annoyingly heavy.
A set of velcro straps on each side of the Essential shorts waist allows you to make smaller adjustments in the shorts fit. While the velcro straps work great and never came loose while riding I did find that they provided a small range of adjustment. I could make them fit, just.
POC Essential XC Zip Tee
Designed to pair with the Essential shorts, the POC Essential XC Zip Tee treads a line between casual fit and performance function. The cut is more relaxed than a race-cut XC jersey, while not being so loose that it moves around during more aggressive riding. The two-tone aesthetic comes in a range of colours, from a muted black/grey to a brighter pink, allow you to match your style, bike or personality without changing the minimalist look.
A concealed "safety pocket" within the middle pocket keeps more important items secure while riding
Three main pockets are generously sized to carry whatever you need for a good day out on the trails
A sizeable elastic band keeps your items in the pocket where they belong
POC Essential XC Zip Tee
Minimal branding adds to the jerseys clean aesthetic
On the trail, the Essential XC Zip Tee is lightweight and breathable, while still feeling more substantial than a more XC-race oriented spandex fabric. The roomier cut stays put during more aggressive riding, thanks to an elastic and slightly grippy hem around the bottom of the jersey.
Three rear pockets are generously sized to carry whatever you need for longer rides. A fourth “safety pocket” hides within the middle pocket, to keep more important items secure.
POC outfits the Essential Tee with a full length zipper, which is appreciated on hotter days, especially while climbing. The extra fabric at the neck does a great job of keeping the zipper from scratching when slightly unzipped. The jersey’s longer sleeves are also appreciated, as they give a more comfortable fit and more protection on more casual trail rides.
As mentioned, I did crash in the POC Essential jersey/short combo. While the shorts came away unscathed, the jersey did start to suffer from multiple hits. The jersey’s main fabric remained intact. But, after sliding out a few too many times, the hem started to unravel. I’m quite hard on clothes, and this may just have been back luck falling on the wrong spot. Riders who aren’t as tough on clothing, or who are better at staying upright, shouldn’t be concerned.
POC Essential XC kit
Overall, POC Essential kit is a stylish and comfortable option for everyday riding and more casual racing. The Essential Shorts especially are an impressive combination of lightweight yet quite tough construction. POC’s Essential XC Zip Tee is quite comfortable for those that prefer a pocketed jersey style top, without a XC-Race cut.