23rd June 2021 / Comments (0)

Machines For Freedom ‘Versatile Off-Road’ collection review

Launched in April to cater for the growing MTB and gravel markets, radical American brand Machines For Freedom’s ‘Versatile Off Road’ Collection immediately piqued our interest. Here I give you my thoughts on the new collection including the Foundations underwear, having been extensively testing them over the spring and early summer months.

Who are Machines For Freedom, anyway?

Founded in 2013, Machines For Freedom is an inclusive high-performance women’s cycling brand based out of California. Women-founded and lead, Machines is achieving its mission in representation and body positivity not only through product design and branding but through storytelling of women cyclists.

I’ve long admired Machines’ work, and that of founder Jenn Kriske. As she put it, ‘Every place that an active outdoor woman plays, Machines belongs’, so their new ‘Versatile Off Road’ collection is not just for MTB and gravel riding, but for commuting, running and hiking too.

The Key Short 5.5″


If I told you I’ve almost exclusively worn these shorts for the last few months, that should give you an idea of how ace they are. Casual, walking, gravel or bikepacking, these have been my spring go-to and they really are as versatile as MFF claim.

The Key Shorts are shorter than typical bibs and more casually styled. Photo: James Stockhausen

The sizing options are ace, with a wide range on offer and small increments, which means you can get the perfect fit, and they do come up true to size. This is important, as apart from the belt loops, there is no waistband adjustability.

The shorts secure easily with a clever sliding popper, which is both secure and easy to undo in a hurry. The colour-matched quality YKK zip has stood up to use just fine, too.

Made entirely from polyester, the material is stretchy enough to give a full range of movement while still retaining its shape well, and thin enough to be breathable without being fragile.

There’s plenty of space for stashing small items, both on and off the bike. Photo: James Stockhausen

Moving towards more casually styled cycling kit, I really enjoyed wearing these both on and off the bike. Active women like me LOVE pockets, and with no less than five to choose from: two jeans-style on the front which were good for a mask and phone off the bike, two on the bum that zipped close which I used while on the bike, and a smaller zipped waistband pocket for valuables or small items.

There’s also a longer 11″ leg available if you prefer a longer short. Photo: Michael Drummond

Even after some harsh use, including getting filthy, scraping against brambles and many wash cycles, they still look like new.

They ain’t cheap, but if they last anything like current indications – with zero signs of wear after a solid few months of use – then they should last for a very long time.

The Key Short was a rare 10/10 from me. Photo: Michael Drummond

Short sleeve technical tee

  • $78
  • Sizes XXS-XXXL
  • Black, cobalt or pink


Complementing the Key Short, Machines released technical tees in both short and long sleeve cuts, with a ‘boxy’ style. There’s a slightly dropped hem on the back, wide square fit that’s loose, and generous, loose-fitting sleeves. When I first put it on, I thought it felt more like a silky going-out top than a bit of cycling kit!

The silky fabric and baggy fit is a real delight

The soft material can be attributed to the natural fibre blend, using Micro Modal, derived from tree pulp, blended with 10% elastane for added stretch. The sleeves on this black colourway only are meshy.

I’ve worn the tech tee on some really hot days and I can attest that the Micro Modal fabric does wick sweat really well, and feels delightfully breezy with its loose cut that allows the breeze to flow through. Even after many washes, it’s still silky smooth and soft.

Mystic Felines Tee

Dioscvri X Machines Short Sleeve Mystic Felines Tee

  • $78
  • Sizes XXS-XXXL

The Mystic Felines tee is the same great cut as the technical tee, and released as part of the Machines For Freedom collaboration with DIOSCVRI.

A tiger stepping on a snake. A panther with wings. A two-headed jaguar. Since ancient times, felines have represented power, savvy intellect, strength, and agility. All concepts which can be linked to the powerful athletes, adventurers, and change-makers who make up this community.

On the prowl?!

Like Machines For Freedom, Dioscvri is a women-owned and operated business, an art studio based in Alameda, California. Sustainable fashion is a major concern for the brand, and the collection was made from 100% organic cotton.

If you adore this print like I do, there is also a cycling cap, bandana scarf, bottles and long sleeve to choose from.

Adeline models the cotton neckerchief

The only downside for me here was the use of cotton. It felt heavier than the technical tee, creased more, and crucially wasn’t as breathable, leading to a sweaty back. I do however really enjoy it as a casual tee, and pedalling around town rather than for anything more serious.

Foundations liner short

Designed to have a slimmer chamois pad than regular cycling shorts but more than pants, the liner shorts from Machines’ Foundation Collection are short-legged waist shorts designed to be worn under the Key Shorts. If you’ve ever worn tri shorts, that’s the kind of chamois you should expect.

I had a little trouble sizing up right for these. I initially plumped for the size small according to the online chart, but had to reorder in a size large after these were much too small.

The shorts feature the same Nylon/Elastane blend material as the Foundations Sports Bra, and also some subtle mesh panels to increase breathability.

The legs feature a raw-cut finish and diamonds of silicone to help keep them in place. The waistband is really wide – just like you might find on some really comfy yoga pants – and also has a small hidden pocket in the back, although this is open-topped rather than zipped.

Overall, I found that the Foundation Liner Shorts did the job on shorter rides well, but the legs peeped out from under the 5.5″ Key Shorts unless I hoiked them up considerably. Perhaps these are best suited for use with the longer 11″ Key Short.

Foundations Sports Bra

  • $68
  • Sizes XXS-XXXL
  • Cobalt or black

The generous coverage and compression of the Foundations Sports Bra almost puts it somewhere between a bra and base layer, with its high cut top and long length. A wide, secure but non constrictive elastic holds it in place around the ribcage, while the top chest panel and upper back are constructed in mesh to aid breathability during hotter weather or more intense efforts.

A little tight to get on due to its nature as a compression material, the bra is supremely comfortable and I’ve even worn it three days on the trot on a bikepacking trip with no chafe or soreness. I do really like the additional coverage too, especially when getting out of dirty kit into casuals in a MTB trail centre car park!

Although very soft against the skin, the fabric is thick enough to hold the bust in place (36B, for reference) and not make things too nipply when cold!


Like what you see? Check out more from Machines For Freedom from their Versatile Off Road, Foundations and Mystic Felines collections.

Last modified: 23rd June 2021

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