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Alé PRR Ponenté winter bib shorts – review

Now you may be thinking ‘a winter shorts review in spring, that’s madness!’ and, granted, on the surface it may seem that way. But even though they’re billed as winter shorts, Alé’s fleece-lined PRR Ponenté bibs are actually more suited to the milder conditions of a British spring.

While Alé market these are winter apparel with a claimed temperature range of between 5-10 degrees, personally I don’t think they quite cut it at the lower end of the range. But the great thing about that is that these work fantastically well as a set of spring shorts, with enough warmth to ward off the pre-summer chill on an early ride, or cope with the variable temperatures throughout everyone’s second favourite season starting with ‘s’.

Admittedly, I do tend to feel the cold quite acutely on the bike either because I’m a wimp (probably), or I’m a bit more sensitive to it than most (read: wimp). But spring and sutumn are the harder seasons to dress for on the bike because you don’t have the ‘all-on’ option for winter, or the choice of stripping down to the bare essentials when the weather warms up in summer. But pair these with a long-sleeve jersey or jersey/arm warmers combo on cooler days and you can happily pedal along with just the right amount of insulation in all the right places.

Internally, the shorts are lined with a fleecy Roubaix-style fabric designed to retain body heat and it does a good job although, in my opinion (remember, everyone feels the cold differently), perhaps not quite a good enough job to make venturing out in them when the temperature hits five degrees a viable option.

The elasticated bibs are interesting. They’re Alé’s ‘free system bibs’ designed to give an optimal amount of support without verging on constrictive. The texture of the straps has a slightly sticky feel to it and they certainly stay in place very well whether you’re riding with or without a base layer. They strike a good balance between tight and too tight as well, not slipping around but never causing discomfort which is just about all you can ask for from a set of bib straps, to be honest.

The mesh section between the straps contain what Alé call ‘carbon fabric inserts’ which sounds brilliant but, in reality, it’s pretty difficult to tell whether they make a difference when you’re riding. Alé reckon that carbon inserts in the fabric should improve breathability and anti-bacterial qualities, but both are very hard to empirically test, so all I can say is that I’ve had no issues with breathability or smell with these, even after riding in them for hours and hours so far.

Stitching is flatlock throughout, and that’s a fairly standard feature across bib shorts now. It shouldn’t be underestimated though, because the nature of bike kit is that it’s designed to fit close to the skin and anything left raw can definitely rub you up the wrong way. I had no issues with chafing/rubbing with these at all, and although that could potentially change depending on your body shape, and therefore overall fit, there’s nothing on here that’s a glaring error in comfort terms.

One of the best features of the shorts are Alé’s leg grippers. They’re a six centimetre section of elastic with silicone woven in. They don’t feel super sticky to the touch, but the elastic is strong and once you get them in place there’s little to no room for movement. The grippers are exactly the same design as those used on the inside of the bibs and they do just as impressive a job in both places. Part of the beauty of the leg grippers is that they don’t snag when you’re trying to pull the shorts on, and make it a lot easier to adjust the hems of the legs to exactly where you want them. They also work just as well over leg/knee warmers which is good because given that they’re ostensibly winter shorts, you’ll probably want to pair them with some kind of extra leg protection as some point.

The pad is Alé’s 4H, the medium distance model in their range behind the long-distance 8H and above the – you’ve guessed it – 2H. It didn’t take Fibonacci to figure that one out. It’s made from an elasticated micro-fibre and combines 90kg/cm2 padding in the important areas, namely the ischial and pereneal. We’re assuming that 90kg/cm2 is the name Alé have given to the pad because density is actually measured in kg/m3, and 90kg/m3 foam would still be pretty dense. Check out an explanation here. But for the purposes of this review the point is that the chamois is pretty thick. There’s a channel down the middle of the chamois to relieve unwanted pressure, and it uses a fast drying, wicking material to make sure that you stay comfortable. Compared to, say, the pad in the Castelli Volo shorts I tested recently, the 4H seems to have fewer techy features, and certainly doesn’t feature the multi-density sections of its Italian counterpart, but in use it was every bit as comfortable.

Looks-wise, the shorts heavy on the fluo colours and, like the rest of the Alé range, right up there in the ‘super Euro’ category in terms of all-round aesthetic. You can also buy them with the highlight colours in red, blue or green if you don’t want to join the high-vis yellow brigade but still fancy a bit of Italian flair in your life.

Conclusion

The £90 price point is actually very competitive when it comes to fleece-lined bib shorts. Most of the major manufacturers have a set that come in around this price, and it’s the point where returns definitely start to diminish quickly. There’s no doubt that £90 is a lot of money for a set of cycling shorts, but Alé’s PRR Ponenté winter shorts are an excellent set for cooler weather and will also prove valuable for anyone who, like me, feels the cold on the bike.

Pros

– Good fit and excellent grippers
– Comfortable and dense seat pad

Cons

– £90 price tag means they’re not cheap for something you can’t use year-round

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