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Pactimo Summit Raptor RFLX bib shorts – review

Pactimo are still a comparatively unknown name on this side of the Atlantic, but it’s time to sit up and take notice of the Colorado-based firm because they’re making kit that stands up against any of the traditional big names out there.

And that’s not just vacuous superlative, the Summit Raptor RFLX bib shorts are genuinely as good as any set of shorts I’ve worn in the last few years.

The chamois is from Cytech, whose list of pad clients includes some of the biggest names in the sport, and this one is their Endurance Anatomic 2 Carbon Flash. On the surface, that means about as much to me as it likely does to you, but in practice it’s wonderfully comfortable. It graduates from 60kg/m3 padding at the front to 120/m3 padding under the sit bones at the back. It’s difficult to describe just how comfortable that 120/m3 padding really is, but it’s absolutely no exaggeration to say that it’s the nearest to genuine all day comfort that I’ve ever used and to a certain extent can help to mask a less than ideal saddle – not a problem that most people have, as you’re better off changing it, but when testing bikes you can occasionally come across something that just doesn’t suit.

What that means is that the pad is a little bulky at the back (14mm thick underneath the sit bones), but is only 3mm thick at the front, meaning there are no problems with comfort or bunching in the all important perineal area.

The main fabric on the shorts is what Pactimo call ‘Raptor’ – which does make the inclusion of that word in the name slightly less odd. I also like to think that part of the reason for the raptor moniker is that the texture of the material looks a little bike like the scaly skin texture of the dinosaur in those films you may or may not have seen, but that’s beside the point. Anyway, the distinctive patterned texture of the material looks really rather good, and makes a change from the classically smooth look of standard lycra. Plus, to adds function to the form: it’s Coldblack-treated, which is a finishing technology that reduces heat build-up in dark colours as well as providing UV protection. As part of testing I wore these on a three-hour ride in the south of France on a typically hot day in May, and certainly had no trouble with heat build up despite the sunlight being very strong. Not that this in itself is an endorsement of Coldblack technology, but it definitely means you can easily wear a black set of shorts on a hot, bright day with no worries at all.

Another technical feature of the fabric is ‘Silhouette’ engineering. The basic idea behind Silhouette is something that most of us have likely experienced before: that standing up in bib shorts is a bit uncomfortable. Obviously that’s not actually the central point of the idea. The main concept is that these shorts are made for riding, and should be comfortable in the comparatively hunched position you adopt on the bike, so there’s no reason they should be comfortable when you’re standing up and wandering around. I have to say that I haven’t noticed an inordinate lack of comfort with these when not on the bike, but they certainly fulfil their mission to mould to your shape while riding, and there were no issues with comfort at all during hours and hours of testing.

Down to the legs, and the Raptor fabric claims to have compressive qualities which are certainly backed up by snugness of fit. Whether or not that compression manifests itself as anything strong enough to be in any way performance enhancing is another question. But it certainly contributes to the fantastic fit and gives the shorts a supportive feel around the quads that’s higher than your average set of bibs.

Further down are the grippers, 4cm bands of silicone infused fabric that do a great job. Admittedly, the compressive nature of the fabric makes their job slightly easier as the fabric doesn’t tend to move around much at all, but the grippers are similar to the very vest I’ve used from various brands. One smart little twist is the outside of the grippers, which are RLFX fabric. RFLX is Pactimo’s version of the type of fabric which has become increasingly popular over the last year, which looks normal under standard light, but when hit by direct, strong light (such as car headlights) it positively shines. It’s a great little extra and a quality touch on an otherwise all black set of shorts, and it manages to add it without ruining the overall look.

The bibs are made from a mesh fabric that offers plenty of breathability, as well as wicking qualities to help keep you reasonably dry. As ever, I prefer to use bib shorts with a sleeveless mesh base layer, even in the height of summer, but the fabric is easily comfortable enough to sit right next to your skin if you prefer.

Conclusion

Without doubt, Pactimo’s Summit Raptor RFLX bibs are one of the very best sets of shorts I’ve used over the last few years. The pad is fantastic, the material of the shorts is both comfortable against the skin and provides an excellent, supportive feeling around the legs, and combined with the Coldblack treatment they can be used in all conditions. You can’t argue with the classic all-black look, and the high-vis grippers on the legs are an excellent nod to visibility. These are undoubtedly high-end shorts at £130, but they more than back-up that price with first-class performance.

Pros

– Superb chamois with effective, progressive thickness
– Compressive fabric make for a supportive, comfortable fit
– RFLX grippers provide an element of high visibility to an otherwise black set of shorts

Cons

– Not cheap, but they’re worth it

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