Gore are far from newbies when it comes to specialist sports and outdoor pursuits fabrics, but they’re comparatively new in road clothing terms and so don’t have the history of some more established brands that brings gravitas with it.
Not that you’d know it from the quality of the Oxygen Partial Thermo bib shorts (while Gore confusingly call them ‘Bibtights short+’, they’re bib shorts to you and me). Construction is superb, with all internal seams unobtrusive on the multi-paneled design and finished to the sort of quality you’d expect from a manufacturer like Gore, and for the price. The seams have been shifted so that they sit in less important areas. What that means is that instead of having a seam on the back of the legs, it’s on the side instead, which is a smart move and helps to prevent any potential rubbing.
Internally, they’re lined with a soft Roubaix-style material that sits wonderfully well against the skin and helps to retain body heat on colder days. As an added concession to bad conditions, the crotch and lower back areas are covered by wind and spray-protected panels. The spray protection will obviously only last for as long as the rain/road spray stays light, as when it’s really soaking you’re going to get wet what no matter what you’re wearing on your legs. That is, unless you’ve wrapped yourself in cling film.
The grippers, which are such an important part of shorts, are wide and held onto our leg warmers, knee warmers or skin well, staying in place on multi-hour rides without any need for adjustment. Another feature of quality grippers and shorts is that lack of ‘grabbiness’ and by that we mean that they’ll stay in place while also allowing the legs to move without catching on the skin.
The chamois is Gore’s Oxygen pad, which is where the ‘oxygen’ in the names comes from. It’s dual density chamois designed for long rides. The high density sections are on the main pressure points, and the lower density saved for the areas that don’t have as much continued contact with the saddle. Gore have also built in a central channel designed to prevent any numbness on long days out. Pads as a very personal thing, and the two fundamental features that determine comfort will be the shape/density of the pad, and the shape of you. Personally, I found it extremely comfortable as I did with the shorts in general. As with many bits of bike clothing, you really know a good piece when you can ride in it for hours and not pay any attention to the fact that you’re wearing it, and that was definitely the case with these.
The bibs are pleasantly unobtrusive, although they’re not quite as stretchy as I’d hoped. But they sit well against the skin and there’s no hint of rubbing when you’re riding. The mesh section in the middle of the back – not almost universal across brands – is always an appreciated touch, and allows for a spot of breathability in an area that sweat can easily start to pool.
Aesthetically speaking, they’re pretty no-nonsense. The only colour choice is black (although all cyclists know that no matter what the choice, the only colour for shorts is always black, right?) and there’s little else other than a few reflective details and ‘Gore Bike Wear’ written on the rear. But then black shorts go with everything, so we’re not exactly worried about that lack of choice.
Although they might not be a household name in their own right in the world of bike clothing, Gore certainly have the manufacturing capability and technical know-how to make top-notch clothing. These shorts are a fantastic example of that, and are the sort of top line kit that you’ll want to pull on every time you go for a ride. They’re ideal for early spring riding, or any ride where the temperature’s low and the wind’s picking up. In all honestly, the only real drawback is price, as they’re not cheap by any criteria, but if you’re in the market for a quality pair of early-season bib shorts in this price range then you could do a lot worse than these.