Only the other day I discovered that one of my pals has for years been riding with underpants under his bib shorts. While many of you will guffaw heartily at this blunder, it might not surprise you to learn that he isn’t the first person to admit to it.
The other time was years ago when during a ride near South Woodham Ferrers in Essex, another riding buddy complained about his discomfort. “Ouch, these keks are riding right up,” he said, or words to that effect. When we informed him of his error he swung into someone’s driveway and liberated himself of his Calvins behind their hedge. How he didn’t get arrested I’ll never know.
The reason for the most recent use of pants under bibs was in order to “not wear them out.” That’s the bibs. He hadn’t even considered that cycling bib shorts are designed to be ridden with nowt beneath, commando, so they say, and have been developed specifically for this purpose. That includes the use of antibacterial treatments.
That said, and assuming you are already wearing your shorts as the manufacturer intended, comfort can be something of a lottery, although a lot of the time, you gets what you pays for.
Even some of the more highly respected brands leave a little to be desired when it comes to bibs. We have tested garments that threaten to cut off the circulation at the thigh, or swim around like an oversized nappy. One pair of bibs was so tight in one area that it felt as if our bowels were being squeezed out of our belly button.
These are thankfully few and far between but it does make you appreciate the better designs that much more.
Ashmei have been quite vocal about their bibs. This is a UK company which launched last year with a capsule collection catering towards three segueing sports: running, triathlon and cycling. The cycling collection consisted bib shorts, a softshell jacket, merino jersey, socks, hat and beanie.
A year later and the collection still consists of those pieces although the next stage of Ashmei’s plan is beginning to crank into operation. This will involve more garments and some collaborations.
Founder Stuart Brooke was from the outset very insistent that Ashmei would always be about the quality of the garment over and above everything else, and that includes cost. He basically wanted to produce the best kit money could buy and to hell with the affordability. The bib shorts we tested retail at £235 - that’s almost double the price of a pair from Assos - which by Stuart’s measure should make them second to none.
For your money you do get something quite unique. This is a pair of bibs fashioned from a highly water and wind resistant, lightweight woven fabric that has been ultrasonically welded together in order to eliminate any possible areas of friction. The shoulder straps are made from merino and ooze comfort and there is nothing in the way of grippers on the legs - nothing at all - which leaves you wondering how they are not riding up like a pair of hotpants, but they don’t, somehow.
This is apparently to do with the tightness of the weave, which allows for a “far greater elastic recovery” to traditional knitted spandex. Therefore, the material actually hugs you. Another bonus from this weave is the water resistance. It just bobbles on the surface, nowhere for the molecules to go, and this remains the case even when you give it a good dunk. It’s no wonder they made the tri suits out of the same stuff.
But we all know what matters the most when it comes to shorts, especially seeing as there is nothing else between you and the saddle. And this is where the padding comes in. Ashmei has developed a chamois that offers padding only where it is required and it is made of a foam rather than a sponge. Ashmei says this eliminates the “cold nappy” water retention of other pads which is something we haven’t actually experienced and we’ve tried them all pretty much.
This doesn’t alter the fact that this padding is supremely comfortable, to the point where you forget you’re wearing it.
That’s where I begin to wonder if my pants-wearing pals might have been onto something after all.
Summary: The most expensive shorts on the market for very good reason. All the cost here has gone into design and manufacture and there are ground breaking technologies at work, which is what you should really be thinking about for your backside. Also, don’t worry about wearing them out - they look like they will last for years. Believe the hype. These are worth the money.
5 / 5