The Chapeau Thermal bib tights are part of the Devon-based firm’s debut winter range and they’re off to a good start.
The tights have some well thought out features and represent good value for money, though I found the chamois to be decent rather than spectacular.
Chapeau have two pairs of tights in the range and these are the more affordable at £89.99, though Chapeau are running a 20 per cent off sale until the end of January which brings the price down to £71.99. The more expensive Repel tights are £160 (£127.99) and use a wind and water resistant fabric.
Back to the Thermal tights, and they’re made from a Super Roubaix fabric. It’s a fabric common in winter tights, with a brushed fleece lining which serves to insulate and trap warm air next to the skin.
The fabric isn’t windproof per se but its density ensures that not too much air passes through. It works to good effect and the tights are plenty warm enough in ‘normal’ British winter conditions, with temperatures in the single figures. Much lower than that – or if you particularly feel the cold – and a wind resistant tight, like the Repel or alternatives from many other brands, will provide additional protection.
The Super Roubaix fabric is used everywhere except on the bib straps and back panel, which are made from a mesh material. That improves breathability in an area otherwise protected by a base layer and jersey/jacket. The straps themselves are wide enough to sit supportively on the shoulders without bunching.
Chapeau have opted to use a short 11cm zip at the front of the tights, which means the Super Roubaix fabric can be extended a little higher – the bib straps don’t start until midway up the chest – thus adding extra warmth without making comfort breaks unduly difficult. The zip also has a ring pull which makes it easier to grab when wearing gloves.
The legs on bib tights are typically finished in three ways: with a closed hem lined with a silicone gripper, a zip (with the hem also often lined with silicone gripper) or a foot loop. There are pros and cons to all three options. Our favourite Sportful No-Rain tights, for instance, have a closed hem which requires care when pulling the tights on, but which provides a secure fit around the ankle and no potential irritation from a foot loop or zip.
Chapeau have chosen to use foot loops and these are the best I’ve tried. Some foot loops can be irritating when pedaling, particularly if the loop itself becomes bunched under the sock, but these loops use a flat, welded fabric which is comfortable and completely undetectable while securely holding the tights in place. Chapeau.
Fit varies from rider to rider – we’re all different shapes and sizes – but the cut is very good, with a high number of panels, including a heavily shaped panel around the back of the knee. Beware, however, that like a lot of Chapeau kit, the tights come up large compared to many cycle clothing brands, so consider ordering down a size, particularly if you’re of an athletic built. I’m a medium (180cm, 71kg) in most brands but typically take a small when it comes to Chapeau.
All that’s left to mention, then, is the chamois. An Elastic Interface Fiandre HP pad is stitched into the tights, with a multi-density construction and anti-bacterial qualities – as you’d expect from most quality, modern pads. It’s billed by Elastic Interface, an Italian manufacturer used by many clothing brands, as an “endurance pad for rides beyond three hours” but that proved a little generous for me. It’s quite a shapely pad, 12mm at its thickest, and I prefer a thicker, more generous spread of padding on long, steady winter rides – but that’s personal preference.
Chapeau bill the Thermal bib tights as “designed and tested in the UK by real cyclists” and the best features of the tights – the cut, high front and excellent stirrups – stand up to that. While the pad wasn’t perfect for this reviewer, plenty of riders will find a lot to like and the tights offer a level of warmth suitable for general winter riding, though not the very coldest days. The tights also represent fair value for money, particularly at their current price.
Price: £89.99 (£71.99 until January 31)