Like buying a jersey, choosing a pair of shorts is no easy task, but at least choosing a colour is simpler: they’re nearly all black.
In this grouptest we’re looking exclusively at bib shorts, simply because they are more comfortable than non-bib shorts. This is down to not having an elasticated waist band, which usually dig in and can be very uncomfortable, the bib approach is highly preferable for anything other than riding to the shop/pub.
Bibs range in price widely, but however much you pay the bit you’ll want to pay most attention to is the Chamois. This is where your bum will be cushioned so a good one is worth paying for. There’s lots of different approaches to getting the best comfort, and most of the ones tested here offer exemplary levels of comfort. Some thing’s are worth paying more for and a decent pair of shorts is right at the top of the list.
Lyrca is the standard material of choice, but there are different varieties of it available. Some thicker, thinner, stretchy, so make sure to have a feel of the shorts you’re looking at. Secondly, the level of fit can be determined by the construction of the shorts. The number of ‘panels’ can dictate the comfort, and usually the more the better. This is not always the case though as some companies are beginning to use fabrics that let them use less panels to get a good fit. And less panels mean less stitching.
Assos T F1.Mille
Since their first pair of shorts in 1976, Assos have produced arguably the best chamois money could buy. The F1.Mille tested here is intended to be the ideal long-distance short, so they should stack up well under pressure on the longer rides, and they do. Several long rides in the Alps confirmed that they are indeed incredibly comfortable. Assos produce four different chamois’, and the one here features five different fabrics all seamlessly stitched together. You can just feel the quality when you’re examining the detail, with extra padding in just the areas that need it. Attaching the chamois to the actual shorts is done via an ‘Elastic Interface Technology’, which essentially means less friction and chaffing, and they conform to your body well. The Type A.360 Spandex fabric is durable and stands up well to repeated use, and the four panel design means less seams for better comfort.
The legs feature microfibre mesh on the lower-thighs which improves the fit and improves temperature control in warmer climes. A large mesh panel on the back provides excellent wicking underneath the jersey. Unrivalled comfort.
Endura have been making a lot of good quality gear for the UK cyclist for a long time. They’re a UK based brand – sunny Scotland in fact – so they know the demands of the UK rider and the demands of the UK climate.
The FS260’s are the company’s entry level bibs, and even though they’re the cheapest on test here they do hold up well. The same Fieldsensor fabric as used in the more expensive Specialized shorts, is comfortable and long-lasting – it’s a little thicker than the Spesh material so manages to maintain some warmth when it’s a bit chilly out. Eight panels ensure a good fit, the sticky leg grippers are faultless and like the Giordana’s, there’s a handy rear pocket.
These shorts are in the same comfort league as the others, but for their price they’re very competitive. The chamois is made from CoolMax material and is shaped a little, but their construction is certainly less advanced than the others on test. For shorter rides though they were perfectly adequate.
Gore Power Bib Shorts
You might wonder why Gore are making bib shorts, as they’re specialists in all things (mostly jackets) of the waterproof variety. Gore Bike Wear is keen to expand their clothing range, so now you can wear all Gore branded clothing.
The Power Bib’s feature a thinnish lyrca which is nice next to the skin. The shape of the shorts is agreeable, gripper elastic at the bottom of the legs keeps them in place. This shorts sit in the middle of the range, the ones at the top get an Assos chamois. Despite the Power Bib’s not having an Assos chamois, the one fitted provides a great deal of comfort – we got on with it really well. There’s mesh between the braces on the back for sweat removal. These are great shorts for the price and the comfort is on a par with the others here. They look great and are available in four colours, white is a bit bling and you need a good tan to get away with it. Our editor liked the pad a lot, so much so that he wore these in the Etape, seeing as most he’s tried have created problems at some point, he was impressed. Not really sure why they don’t do plain black though.
Specialized BG Pro
Body Geometry is key to Specialized’s shorts, saddles, shoes and grips. There’s a lot of science behind it all, and it’s great to see a company putting such effort into making riding bikes a more comfortable affair.
This development shows in the chamois. High density foam is shaped and moulded, so there’s more padding in the key areas, and less in the not so key areas. In use with a BG saddle, they’re a great combo. The Fieldsensor fabric has the nicest ‘feel’ on test, and uniquely there’s less panels on these than the rest here. They also do a top job of sweat removal. They’re so good that we rarely take ours off.
The Overall Verdict
Choosing a pair of bibs is not easy, but one thing we’ve learned from this grouptest is that, although there’s many different approaches to designing a chamois, they all provide great levels of comfort. We were impressed with the materials used in this selection, and the fit was excellent on every pair.
The Endura’s have a great reputation, and are designed right here in the UK. For nearly the same price though, the Gore shorts offer a nicer overall package, a better chamois and they have a little more style – and are available in different colours to match your team jersey. Assos are expensive, true. But it’s also true that their attention to detail is impressive, and the technology in their chamois is out of this world. Their popularity is also a mark of the fact many people are willing to spend the extra dosh on guaranteed comfy shorts. Specialized are putting a lot of time and money into their Body Geometry programme, they’re at the upper end of our price band, but incredibly comfy, and the Fieldsensor material was the nicest.
All these shorts would make a wise investment, but we were most impressed with the Giordana’s. They’re made in Italy for a start, don’t cost all that much, and the chamois is amongst the best here. On top of that, they cost half the price of the Assos, which means you can buy two pairs, even in different colours if you want.