Pick up the Shield Softshell bibs and there is an air of quality about them. The weight is immediately noticeable; not heavy but certainly not light. The substantial feel of the bibs is no doubt due to the use of combination of a waterproof and windproof softshell, paired with an Italian thermal Roubaix fabric with a DWR (durable water repellent) finish.
Pull the tights on and the lack of the zips at the ankles is immediately noticeable. Personally, I like zips but I know others feel differently and cite how irritating they can be. Horses for courses but I find it easier to get tights on when there’s a zip to open. Instead, there are foot stirrups and that, combined with the absence of zips, means there’s no chance of unwanted drafts around the ankles.
With my legs in it was then time to get the bib straps up and over. The straps themselves are broad and provide a comfortable fit, with no issues of them digging in. Off the bike and the bib straps on the medium tights feel a little short for me – I’d like to think I’m fairly average; a shade under six foot tall and with a 32in inside leg – but on the bike, where the riding position naturally frees up a little material, then that is less noticeable.
Instead I found the legs to be too long, which led to the excess material bunching up behind the knees. Thanks to a multi-panel construction, the fit is really good around the body and legs (which are pre-curved for an anatomic fit), just not length-wise, even though in most brands I wear a large, rather than the medium on test here.
The tights use different weights of material across the various panels to maximise comfort and protection, with a thicker, Italian Roubaix fabric on the front of the legs and up and across the chest to offer plenty of warmth. It works, too, and the DWR finish means that when riding in light rain the water just beads up on the fabric. There’s also a lighter weight material on the back of the legs, and mesh up the back and over the shoulders, for increased breathability. The thoughtful touches continue with a decent length zip at the front to make life easier when nature calls.
On the bike, the 4G-RACE gel chamois pad, which is made from an anti-bacterial fabric, was comfortable enough, and certainly less bulky than some of the inserts I’ve been riding with recently. The multiple layers used in its construction put the maximum padding where it’s need most and tapers away where more movement and flexibility is required. I’ve certainly no problem spending time in the saddle on it.
I really want to like the Sportive Shield bib tights. For the money they represent great value especially given their ability to shrug off bad weather. It’s obvious that a great deal of thought has gone in to the design of the tights, but it’s a size thing. If you like the sound of the tights – and why shouldn’t you? – then it’d be wise to go to a bricks and mortar store to try a pair for size to make sure the cut suits you, and not just take the chance of ordering a pair online.