Warm, waterproof thermal bib shorts for cooler conditions, but the fit could be improved
Madison’s RoadRace clothing range has been designed with input from the Madison-Genesis pro riders and is built to handle the rigours of racing – and that means some obvious advantages for us everyday riders too.
We’ve previously tested the RoadRace Light men’s bib shorts, which we found perfect for hot days in the saddle, and the RoadRace Optimus shorts are Madison’s equivalent option for the shoulder seasons of autumn and spring. That means a waterproof, thermal softshell fabric – which is also windproof – on the front and rear panels.
The bib shorts costs exactly the same as the RoadRace Light, at £99, but does the performance match up? They are certainly warm, and did a really good job of keeping wet and cold weather out, which given the recent cooler temperatures on my early morning rides was most welcome.
However, though the shorts are pre-curved, which should offer a good, race-ready fit on the bike, I found the soft-shell fabric was a little baggy and bunched up. This could have been down to the stretch of the soft shell itself, and it felt unusual to have shorts not fit closely, and actually notice them when riding.
The soft shell fabric does run up into the bib straps, however, and feels great around the stomach and kidneys where the chill can hit when riding in cooler conditions. The side panels are crafted from Italian Roubaix Lycra, meanwhile, and help to keep additional warmth in.
Up top, the shoulder straps are made from a mesh fabric with well finished edges – no problem with the fit there – and they also offer a degree of wicking if the temperature does increase a little. Personally I never found myself riding in anything above 15 degrees, however, as these are very much for cooler or wet weather riding.
On the legs, the grippers utilise two methods to hold the shorts in place. First up is a wide gripper, which feels almost like neoprene but features small holes for wicking, stretch and, in really heavy rain, for water to escape and prevent a build up. Secondly there is the more traditional silicone grip pattern, which does the main job of keeping the shorts in place. I did find there was a degree of rub, just above the area behind the knee, however, which was a little irritating and could be distracting.
Without doubt the best feature though is the chamois, which proved comfortable from the first pedal turn and remained so on long training rides. It doesn’t pack down or twist when riding, and it doesn’t hold much water in heavy downpours either. If we’re being picky a little perforation could have improved this even more however. Finally, there is a great stretch to it, so its sits well when you stand up with little sagging.
Looks-wise, the shorts are a simple, understated black number which is always a safe option. Small, subtle logos and some reflective dashes are the only extra details, meaning they pair visually with most, if not all, jerseys and jackets.
For the price, I’d have wanted a more refined fit, and it’s a shame as the thermal and weather-proofing properties are top notch. If the fit could be improved, they’d be a really good bit of kit for our spring and autumn seasons – especially when paired with knee or leg warmers to increase their usage.
Softshell fabric does a good job of keeping you warm in cool riding conditions
Supremely comfortable chamois, comfortable from the first pedal stroke
Warm and protective around the stomach and kidneys too
Awkward fit, with some bunching where the softshell fabric is used
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