BEST SUMMER CYCLING JERSEY AND BIB SHORTS
After wearing summer cycling jersey and bib shorts combinations from ten companies over a lot of hot miles, here are my reviews and rankings of the best performers.
It’s pretty easy to tell when you are wearing a lousy summer cycling kit. Your bib shorts will leave your rear end sore, bunch up or get tight in the wrong places, and slide up and down your legs. Your cycling jersey will flop in the wind, won’t breathe in the sun, and will get stretched out or fray after a half season of washes.
You know when you have a lousy cycling kit, but do you know when you are wearing the best summer cycling jersey and bib shorts? Do you know how good it can get and how much difference it can make, especially on those hot days when we spend so much of our time riding?
In search of the best summer cycling jersey and bib shorts, I’ve been wearing what many brands say are their top performing racing and endurance kits in a steady rotation over a lot of miles in hot weather. I rode some of these in 2016 and a bunch more in 2017. Blocking out the impressive sounding descriptions, list of features, and tech talk, I’ve figured out from a fellow enthusiast’s point of view and using some real-world roadie criteria, which are the best and why for the kind of riding we do.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
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WHY TRUST THIS SITE AND MY RECOMMENDATIONS
In The Know Cycling is for road cycling enthusiasts like you and me who want to know what gear we should get next and where we can get it at the best prices from great stores. I and my fellow evaluators do hours of testing and analysis on an entire category of cycling gear for each review and incorporate insights from other independent reviewers and riders whose experience I respect. I respond to most any question you have in the comment section of each post, usually within a few hours if I’m not on a long ride or sleeping (Eastern US time).
To eliminate potential bias, I don’t accept ads of any kind and don’t post press releases rewritten as “first look” reviews or articles paid for by bike companies or stores. I buy and keep or sell, or demo and return or donate all the gear and kit I and my fellow testers evaluate. We don’t go on company-paid product review trips, don’t work in the industry, and I don’t charge access to any of the content on this site. My only influence is what I think would be best for my fellow roadies. This is my passion, not a business.
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HOW I SELECT AND TEST CYCLING KIT
Cycling clothing, like a lot of other cycling gear, can be highly technical, style-focused and over-hyped. My approach for this and other cycling kit reviews – apparel, shoes, helmets you can see here – is to find and order top or near top-of-the-line cycling kit from brands that have good reputations for high quality, performance level, well-fitted kit.
For this review, I also looked for combinations of the best cycling jerseys and best cycling bibs from a single brand that coordinates well.
“Best” means either best performing or best value. The best performing cycling kit is often the kit you’ll want to pull out for those big rides where you want to put it all together. The best value cycling kit also has to have good, if not the best, performance for enthusiasts like us who might ride that kit a couple times a week for training and don’t want the kit to detract from our ride or training.
By buying what I’ll call “value kit”, you can save up to $100/£75/€100 on bib shorts and half that amount on cycling jerseys over the cost of the performance kit I wore for this review. Most brands make one or the other. In my experience testing summer, spring and fall kit from a growing range of brands, I find you get what you pay for.
I’m getting closer to having tested something from many of the performance brands that are widely distributed in regions of the world where In The Know Cycling readers live. If there is an enthusiast level piece of kit from one of those types of brands you are particularly interested in or have found to be first-rate but that I’ve not reviewed, please tell me about in the comment section below so that I can go out and get it and review it for an update.
If you are interested in fall and spring kit, you can find reviews on that season’s clothing here.
Once the jerseys and bibs I’ve ordered arrive, I take the tags off, line them up side by side in a couple of drawers, try to ignore the branding and forget the reasons why I picked each kit, and just go out and wear a different one, one after another about once every week or so for a few months to reach my own conclusions. I also mix in bib shorts and cycling jerseys in the rototation that I have reviewed and rated highly in the past to compare to the new kit, especially when the laundry gets backed up.
Rather than go in with a checklist of what clothing makers say is important or what I’ve found matters in evaluating and choosing cycling kit, I try to start fresh and just experience it. I might note down one or two things that jump out at me about them. For example, a pair of bibs were loose around the inside of my thighs, a jersey flopped around my back when I got into an aero position, a kit made me feel like I was Superman, etc. (Especially that last one!)
After a number of rides, I start to notice a lot more things about each and how they differ. For example, some keep me far drier than others on hot days or the leg bands around some bib shorts move with me while another slides around or is too tight or a bit uncomfortable. Some just fit me much better while others seem as though they would fit a heavier version of me. I might get the odd favorable comment about the style of one or two jerseys I wear and find myself instinctively looking for a couple pair of bibs or jerseys to come through the wash to wear them on a hard ride I have coming up or another for a hot, sticky day. Etc.
By the end of the first season that I tested spring and summer cycling kit, I put together a categorized list of what mattered to me most about the jerseys and bibs and started to note down how each performed against those characteristics. For example, I noticed that bibs whose material compressed and supported my quad muscles a bit made a difference in keeping me going on the long rides far better than ones that didn’t. Or that the neck height and body fit of jerseys differed and mattered in how comfortable and aero I felt trucking down the road mile after mile on hot days. And I found that front panel bib height and strap stretch, for example, was pretty darn important in getting quick access to take a pee.
In the end, I organize the notes and write up reviews comparing one kit to another against a list of things that matter most to me, your fellow road cycling enthusiast, and I think should to you, rather than the list of things that those companies making and selling the kit talk about.
WHAT MATTERS MOST IN CHOOSING CYCLING KIT
Here are my list and explanation of what my experience suggests should matter most to enthusiasts in choosing between cycling kit.
Looks – No doubt, I and most of us will initially be attracted or turned off by cycling kit based on how we (or others) think it will look on us. This is the first way a lot of us filter clothing in or out. Fortunately, there were plenty of performance kits from brands I wanted to try that I thought looked fine through my not-very-fashion-conscious nor opinionated view of style. I’m going to note the importance of looks and give you my 2 cents where I think something looks especially distinctive. I have not, however, rated or recommended one piece of kit or another based on looks.
Price – Another filter many of us will use before buying new cycling kit, especially good ones, is the price. For many years, I’d go out and spend about $60 for a new pair of the same brand and model of bike shorts to add to or replace what was in my drawer, mostly because I didn’t know the benefit of paying more. When I started riding more and knew I needed something better, it was a little difficult putting out 2x or 3x that amount for a pair of good bib shorts.
In retrospect, I’m glad I did.
While you can quantify the reduction in watts from wearing great cycling kit (see here), once you’ve worn one, the superior comfort and performance you get are obvious and well worth it especially compared to all the other things you can spend your cycling budget on.
Once you find something you like the looks of and get over the price, I found there are three things that matter in choosing between different performance bib shorts, jerseys or combinations of them.
By the way, I use the term “cycling kit” loosely to refer to bibs shorts, bike jerseys, a coordinating bib and jersey in this review. Cycling kit also includes most any other piece of clothing (jackets, shorts, socks, vests, gloves, shoes, helmets, etc.). For us Yanks who have never had a kid play futbol (aka soccer), a kit is the Euro term for a “uniform” or the combination of things you wear together when you go out on the pitch (uh… field).
A coordinating bib and jersey or “kit” has the advantage of an integrated look and is intended to have a similar set of performance characteristics I describe below. In other words, the jersey and bibs will usually be cut for a similar body type, be made of materials that should breathe similarly at the same temperature, have a stretchiness and compression to give you a similar feel, etc.
That certainly doesn’t mean you have to or should buy them together. Most bib shorts are black and go with any style or color jersey. And jerseys can be like ties; you might pick out a different one based on how you feel that day or the ride or event you are doing. Bibs, on the other hand, can be like the way I wear jeans. You have a few pairs that fit and you grab whichever pair is on top of your pile and hopefully clean. (I do wash my bibs more often than my jeans.)
Most bib shorts and jerseys are available as a coordinated kit. Cycling clothing makers will often give them similar names or display them together. I’m also noticing that the latest bibs seem to have the brand’s logo more prominently placed than in the past.
The price of the bib shorts and bike jerseys that go into a coordinated kit are often coordinated too and some are given the same name so you know they go together. I’ve reviewed bibs and jerseys together for the most part below. The tables that accompany this review does compare cycling jerseys from different companies against each other and the same with bib shorts if you want to buy just one or the other.
Cut – After looks and price, I list cut next for a simple reason. If a piece of kit isn’t cut for your body, it’s not going to fit or be as comfortable as it might be if it were. At the most basic level, cycling kit will typically run standard or slim. Some will fit well on either body type.
When I say slim I’m talking about the width at your hips and shoulders. It’s much the same as when you talk about having narrow feet. I don’t mean “small” which would be both your width and length. Some of the best cyclists have a slim frame or narrow feet but are tall or have the same length as other riders who have a standard or wider body.
A lot of cyclists have slim frames. Not all of us of course and probably not even half of us. But, there is probably a higher percentage of riders built with that kind of frame on bikes than playing golf or softball or soccer or rugby on any given day.
So if you put on a medium, the size I wear, in bibs that are cut for slim frames like mine, it will fit fine. If you were put on a medium bib with a standard cut, you will likely have some room in your chamois or around the inside of your legs or maybe in the small of your back, something you aren’t going to find fully comfortable out on the road. This has been the case with some kit I’ve ordered so I’ve passed them to a fellow rider/tester friend of mine who is a more standard cut medium and incorporate his experience wearing these in my kit reviews.
Clothing makers usually have charts to help you find the size that fits your dimensions best and whether a kit’s cut is suited to your body width. It usually doesn’t work to just drop down a size or half size on the kit you like if it is a standard cut and you are slim or vice versa. Again, I’ll make the analogy to buying shoes. If you have narrow feet and the shoes you like are only sold in a standard width, you may find that the shoes are too short and your toes touch the front of the shoe if you try on a smaller size to compensate for your narrower width.
I’ve tried to go smaller with standard cut bib shorts and it doesn’t work, or at least hasn’t for me. The grippers are too tight around my quads or the straps too short and, darn it, there’s still extra room in the seat.
Fortunately, there’s an ample amount of good performance kit cut both slim and standard. In the table, I’ve noted the cut I found among the brands I’ve worn.
The length of bib legs and jersey sleeves also varies by brand as does the height of the front and side panels on the bibs and the neck on some jerseys. These are differences in design rather than cut. While I’ve also noted these differences, for the most part, I found they are differences in preference rather than performance. If you are carrying more weight than you prefer around your midsection, you might benefit from higher bib panels for added support. Lower ones might dig into the gut or love handles you’ve earned enjoying something to eat or drink after your rides.
While not affecting performance on the bike, your ability to execute a quick roadside natural break can definitely be stymied by bibs whose front panel is too high or whose straps don’t stretch enough to allow you easy access. While close to but not quite a deal killer for me, I’ve noted those bibs which offer easy access or force you take down your straps to get the most basic form of relief.
Fit – Once you’ve picked a jersey and bib shorts with the right cut for you and in the right size, fit comes into play. On the whole, most performance kit with the right cut and in your size will “fit” you in the traditional sense – it’s going to wrap your body without being too tight or loose.
Instead, the difference between how well different cycling kit fits principally comes down to, in the case of bib shorts, how well it moves with you (stretch), how well it supports your leg muscles as they do the work (compression), how unaware your skin is of the kit’s seams as you rub against them, how well your legs are gripped but not strangled by your bibs to keep it in place, and how well your bib straps rest along your shoulders as you move in and out of different positions.
Among the best cycling jerseys, I’ve learned to judge fit by how well your arms are held by your jersey sleeves where they transition from the edges of your kit to your skin (arm grippers), how flat your jersey stays against your body and how well it stretches with you as you move in and out of aero positions especially around your shoulders, upper back, pits, and forearms.
Comfort – With the right cut cycling kit that fits or moves and supports you well, comfort is the final consideration. While each season’s kit has different comfort requirements, summer comfort is pretty demanding.
A good kit should be darn near as comfortable after several hours in the hot sun as it was when you put it on. Sure, you might stink, but good kits won’t and will breathe enough to keep your body comfortable (neither too warm or cool) and remove or wick the sweat you generate while still feeling dry. You’ll run into a load of claims and high tech names and cool graphics about how different kits do this. This is technology and marketing. It either breathes and keeps you dry and comfortable or it doesn’t.
The mix of materials and where they are used in cycling kit differ and might feel more or less soft, stretchy, or “quality” to those of you who know good fabrics and garments. All of this probably plays into the kind of comfort the kit deliver but I’ve focused on the results, keeping you cool and dry, rather than the details of the materials that produced those results. (Hey, I’m a chemical engineer by training and took a lot of surface chemistry and thermodynamics courses so I should be all over this but I’m repressing my technical curiosity in the pursuit of practical simplicity.)
The comfort of the chamois or pad in your shorts is given a lot of attention from both riders and bib providers. Fortunately, I found the chamois or pad of most performance bibs to be very comfortable. This is not the case if you drop down to average or low-cost bib shorts. Clothing makers seem to go wild trying to outdo each other in coming up the best pads, but I found that when you get into the performance priced bibs, most (though not all) are pretty darn good.
There are a lot of different chamois designs – how thick, how wide, how far back and how far forward they go, what materials they use, how graduated they are, etc. Some of this does make a difference and I’ve pointed out where it does. Some of this translates to added comfort; some doesn’t or at least I can’t tell.
For example, the chamois on a couple bibs I’ve tested don’t extend back much beyond your sit bones. If you ride sitting up a lot, they won’t pad you there. However, if you ride the way I’ve read you should with your abs engaged, navel pulled toward your spine, pelvis rotated downwards, etc., you don’t need padding beyond the sit bones.
Some chamois have hour-glass shapes and avoid padding your groin area while others have “wings” or widths that run well up your groin, perhaps for those whose legs rub the insides of their saddles from time to time, another thing that a good riding style and position would avoid. Some chamois provides a nice big pocket of softer material to comfort your private parts, others a narrow one, and still others none at all.
What I’ve concluded, however, after riding different performance bibs from a lot of different brands with different designs is that there are many ways to make a comfortable chamois.
The differences I’ve noticed in bib comfort was less between brands but more between the higher priced, performance bibs and the more moderately priced, value bibs within a given brand. The value bibs either don’t keep you as comfortable over longer rides as the performance ones, or their design is such that I never could get comfortable in them in the first place. They tend to be thinner, not as anatomically shaped, and don’t stay in position as well as performance bibs due to inadequate grippers, straps, compression, etc.
Note that all of this comes from a guy who doesn’t have much fat around my glutes or outside my hips and I prefer to ride a relatively hard saddle. So, I’m going to notice if the chamois isn’t comfortable and I do note in the comparison a few that are more or less comfortable than the rest.
On the whole, however, and in my experience, the marketing around chamois pads and their design differences seem way out of proportion to the performance differences.
With that, here are my reviews of the best and the rest of the current crop of performance summer cycling jersey and bib shorts and where you can get them at the best prices from the best stores.
HOW I RATE THE KIT
ASSOS T.cento_s7 – THE BIBS YOU REACH FOR WHEN IT’S TIME TO DO YOUR BEST
How much more would you be willing to pay for the one pair of bibs you always want to wear? That’s the essential, perhaps even existential question you need to answer to decide whether to buy or pass on the Assos Cento bibs.
Focus just on the performance for a moment and forget the brand and price. I’ll come back to that.
I don’t know how they pull it off but the cut of the Cento bib shorts works well for both slim and standard hip width riders. While I’ve got slim width hips, I compared notes riding alongside several standard width riders who also wear the Centos and swear they are cut for them. Perhaps it’s because the leg stretch is so uniform and seems to wrap around your legs as much as it does up and down them. Or, perhaps it’s because there’s only one seam on each leg, something I’ve not seen any other bib short pull off.
You feel compression throughout your legs. Not too much but certainly enough to know you’re muscles quads and hammies are well supported. At the same time, they breathe extremely well even on the hottest days. It makes for very comfortable and fresh feeling legs throughout a long ride. My legs seemed to tire less, a real plus when you are turning those cranks for hours in a summer century or fondo ride, a couple of which I did in the Cento during the test period.
The grippers are simple and ample with just narrow dashes of silicone running along the center strip. I don’t feel a great difference in the amount of compression between the legs and the grippers and certainly no tighter grip, and yet the bibs stay comfortably in place.
The shoulder straps are thin, moderately wide, elastic, firm, comfortable with just the right amount of stretch. Some bib shorts use straps with breathable, jersey-like material with a stretchy border sewn to them. Others are narrow or stiff or looser all seemingly trying to distinguish themselves in some fashion. These look simple, almost a design afterthought but, in my experience, they just work and work well.
Perhaps Assos saved the design flash for the Cento chamois, a real difference maker for these bibs. The pad is thicker than most and floats or moves with you in the most sensitive section where you come in contact with the saddle between your butt and your junk. They accomplish this by not sewing that chamois section to the leg panels, so the chamois stays with you rather than your underside sliding back and forth across it.
The chamois, with a just-wide-enough pad in the middle, runs long enough past your sit bones in the back to still pad you if you sit up on your saddle or at a coffee shop. It also gives you an ample and soft pocket up front to cradle your jewels and surrounds that pocket with a thin layer of padding that extends the chamois nearly to your waist.
All in, the chamois provides remarkable and unmatched comfort.
Assos jerseys have typically been brightly colored front and back with huge logos on their shoulders. While they continue to feature those big shoulder logos in their current, the colors are mostly on the sleeves or just one sleeve. It always seemed to me that people wearing Assos were making a fashion statement wearing one of these brightly colored, big logo jerseys or jackets. It also seemed that statement included the message which said: “I can afford the best and I’m letting you know it.” Everything of theirs I’ve tested has been first rate quality but I found this aspect of the kit contrary to my roadie sensibilities.
The Assos bib shorts, however, look almost anonymous. They are all black with only a toenail sized, hardly visible logo on them. The Cento, as with all the men’s spring bibs, have a pinstripe thin, white band around the bottom of the left leg gripper. The look seems like the flip side of their jerseys and jackets, almost as if you are free to adopt the identity of whatever brand, club or event jersey you choose to wear with these bib shorts.
The Cento is Assos’ top summer endurance bib shorts. Assos’ also make the Mille bib short, more of an entry-level endurance one without the same level of breathability, compression or overall comfort of the Cento.
They also make the two bibs for racing. The Campionissimo is their top racing bib with many of the same material and design plusses of the Cento but with a little thinner pad and lighter overall. The Equipe, like the Mille, is more entry level, without the materials to create the performance fit and comfort of the higher end one. Both of these racing bib shorts are for fit riders without the extra room you’ll find in the Cento.
The price? Yeah, the Cento is expensive. No getting around it. Is it worth the extra 100 or so dollars, pounds, euros over a top pair of Castelli or Gore or Craft or ____ (fill in the blank with your top performing endurance bib shorts)? I think so but everyone has to make their own choice.
It’s pretty easy to spend that amount extra (or several times that) for a better groupset or wheelset or power meter or another key piece of gear. A great pair of bib shorts certainly ranks up there with other things you can buy to improve the performance, comfort and overall enjoyment you can get from your ride. And since I find these the best of all of the bib shorts I’ve tried, they are the ones I’ll look for when it’s time to suit up for the biggest rides I’ll do.
You can get the Cento bib shorts at the best prices at the following recommended stores Competitive Cyclist, Wiggle, Chain Reaction Cycles.
CASTELLI AERO RACE – GREAT FIT AND COMFORT THAT MAKES YOU FEEL SUPER
If there were ever a kit that made me feel like I’d stepped into a phone booth (ask your parents) and jumped out feeling like Superman, the Castelli Free Aero Race Bibshorts and Aero Race Jersey would be it. They wrap and support you in stretchy, comfortable surroundings and show off your cyclist body contours in a way that would make the man of steel, and many made of mere mortal flesh, feel quite strong.
Along with this energizing fit and feel, to my eyes the Castelli kit looks very vibrant and stylish without being loud, mixing different shades of red or grey in the jerseys and adding white, grey, red or green accents in its bib stitching, grippers or leg panels. Of course, there’s also ample use of the Castelli scorpion logo throughout, perhaps their equivalent of the iconic Superman shield with the big red S on the yellow and red diamond-shaped field that adorned the Man of Steel’s huge chest. Ah, but I digress…
This is a kit for racers or riders who like to go fast over relatively short distances (30-50 miles). I rode it on many multi-hour rides very comfortably but did feel the added comfort of other kit made by Castelli suited ideally for endurance rides that I’ve reviewed later in this post. Unless you are planning to go full gas during your ride and looking for every advantage you can find, you don’t need the low collar and near skinsuit fit this Aero Race kit provides and that will save you a few watts.
Have you lost interest yet? Didn’t think so. I want every advantage I can find and some that others can’t just to keep up when going full gas. And, most of my rides don’t go longer than 50 miles and many are a lot shorter.
The cut is decidedly slim with the bib shorts reaching just above the waist in the front and well below the ribs to the outsides of the straps. This provides men easy access when you need a quick pee break enroute without the need to remove your jersey and take down your straps. The straps themselves are made of a soft and breathable fine mesh yet with the kind of control of the bottoms that keep the chamois well in place as you move around on your bike. They do bunch a bit across the shoulders but it’s something I noticed when I took my jersey off rather than during the ride.
The bib shorts fit extremely well and are very comfortable. These bibs seem to have the right combination of panels with ample compression running up your inner thighs, close-fitting yet stretchy ones that run across your midsection and integrate the ample and comfortable chamois, with separate panels made of even more breathable materials that run from your hips down along the outsides of your legs.
The very comfortable yet stay-in-place grippers are about 70mm or 2½ inches tall, taking your bibs down to about a similar height above your knee. This makes the Castelli bibs longer than most, a length I prefer as it covers and supports nearly the full length of your lower hamstrings, IT bands and quad muscles.
In both the bibs and jersey, I always felt cool while underway on a hot summer day and the kit kept me dry even when I had worked pretty hard (and smelled pretty badly).
The jersey itself stretches flat across my upper body with few gaps. I do get a little flapping off my right shoulder only when I’m riding aero in the drops. Not sure why it’s just the right; perhaps more a function of my own anatomy (and 2x broken right collarbone) than the kit.
The grippers on the jersey, like those on the bibs, are longer down the arms, comfortable and a real positive difference maker for this kit. As with the bibs, the combination of panels used in the jersey seems to provide the right feel, a combination of stretch and breathability that is quite comfortable despite the way it hugs you.
Back pockets are regular sized, but the jersey collar is quite low in the front similar to what you would see in a one-piece time trial suit. This took me a little bit to get used to as all the other jerseys I’ve ever worn have higher collars. The collar height and jersey fit (and whole kit for that matter) say you’re not just out for a spin but rather you are a serious enthusiast. If you feel the part, wearing this kit will also make you look it and help you in living it.
All in all, this kit is hard to beat. Maybe I’ll find another one that makes me feel like Batman leaping away from his pole but for now, I’m good riding around my cycling Metropolis wearing the Aero Race kit. The bib shorts and jersey really do work well together but would certainly work well individually.
It’s a higher priced kit but you’ll find that Castelli runs 20-25% off sales several times during the year. I’ve found the best selection of sizes, colors and prices currently for the Free Aero Race Bib Shorts at Competitive Cyclist, Wiggle, Tredz 10% off w/code ITK10, Merlin and for the Aero Race Jersey at Competitive Cyclist, Wiggle, Tredz 10% off w/code ITK10, Chain Reaction Cycles, all stores that also get very high customer satisfaction reports from the independent rating services I use to recommend the best stores for you shop at (and the ones you stay away from). Clicking on any of those links will take you right to the product pages at those stores and buying from some of them will help support the creation of reviews we do here at In The Know Cycling.
CASTELLI SUPERLEGGERA AND PREMIO – GREAT COMBINATION FOR LONG RIDES
While not a coordinated kit, both the Castelli RS Superleggera jersey and Premio bib shorts are well suited to work together or individually on multi-hour endurance rides on the hottest of days.
There are several highlights of this combination which I found unique and make a long ride on a great day even more enjoyable because you’re wearing this kit.
While I tell myself and you, my fellow enthusiasts, not to get hung up on the feel of the material, I can’t resist when it comes to this jersey. The Superleggera material feels as soft as silk while breathing and wicking as well as anything else I’ve ever worn on a summer day. The feel of that material against my skin, without a base layer on a hot day, almost makes me feel like I’m going out to a club for drinks at a beach resort with one of my favorite, super comfortable shirts on. The Superleggera, which translates to super lightweight, is definitely well named.
In addition to the feel, the jersey keeps its shape extremely well over the course of a long ride. It doesn’t pucker or sweat, it feels like the air conditioning is always on, and it moves well with me as I get in and out of my semi and full aero position for faster sections and pulls and when I get out of the saddle to stretch my legs.
The other unique feature of the Superleggera, at least relative to the jerseys I’ve reviewed for this post, are its pockets. As an endurance jersey, they can be large but accomplish that not by starting higher up on your back or spreading wider toward your sides. Instead, when you want to pack your pockets with more food or a vest or other crap for a long ride, the pockets stretch down to accommodate your extra stuff. They reach over and rest on top of the material that is below where the pockets are sewn in and therefore don’t mess with the fit of the lower jersey and waistband. When they don’t need to stretch for your extra stuff, they sit in regular position, looking for all the world like normal pockets.
The Premio bib shorts also have some unique fit characteristics which I found worked well on those longer rides. First, the inseam or leg length is particularly long, an inch or two longer than most and fall within an inch or so of your knee when you are out pedaling on the bike.
Secondly, the compression you feel with the Premio bib shorts runs seemingly the full length of the legs rather than mostly at the grippers or not at all as in other bibs I’ve worn. With this full-length compression, there is no need for and no separate gripper strip around your lower quad. Third, the straps are such that they hold the back panel securely against your lower back, providing support to your muscles there, something I’ve never noticed in other bibs.
Likely to maintain that back panel support, the straps themselves are sturdy but not very stretchy. Just stretchy enough for a bio break, thanks to the low cut waist. While they are perfectly fine while underway, the straps aren’t terribly comfortable when you are walking around or sitting up on the bike or at a cafe as they feel a bit short. I’m probably average height for my waist size, but if I were taller than average, the strap length and stretch might be a problem
While both the Premio and Aero Race bibs use the same chamois, I found the Premio pad didn’t come up as high as I would have liked in the front. While the Lycra or whatever the material is above chamois is perfectly comfortable, know that your peter rides against that material while you sack is tucked inside the chamois. It’s different but it works.
Like most things Castelli, these are cut slim with both the arms and legs running longer than many summer cycling jersey and bib shorts.
You can find the Superleggera jersey at the best prices from recommended stores Competitive Cyclist, Wiggle, Tredz 10% off w/code ITK10, Chain Reaction Cycles and the Premio at Competitive Cyclist, Wiggle, Chain Reaction Cycles.
SANTINI SLEEK PLUS – BIB SHORTS SPOT-ON BUT JERSEY MISSES THE MARK
Santini’s Sleek Plus cycling jersey and bib shorts make a style statement with their combination of colors, patterns, and graphics. That seem’s like a bit of a head fake, however. Once you put the kit on and start riding, you feel like you should be riding full gas rather than cruising around and stylin’.
The bib shorts give you the feeling of supported freedom, a welcome combination of a well cushioned and anatomically cut chamois with light and quite breathable fabric on the upper legs, thighs, hips, lower back, and straps. By “anatomically cut” I mean that there is the right coverage and the right amount of padding where you need it under your sit bones, in front of your privates and under you perineum and no padding where you don’t or shouldn’t come in contact with the bike.
The bib straps sit comfortably and breathe well, also stretching easily when needed.
There’s just a small amount of compression in the bib grippers, but their ample 2-4 inch height (taller on outside of your legs) and the stretchy, stick-to-you elastic they use in the grippers give your leg muscles the sensation of being engaged without being grabbed. These seem like uncannily well-made design choices between too much and too little payoff in a spot-on bib short performance. They move with you so well with, you feel free to put out a total effort yet also feel quite well supported in doing so.
The Sleek Plus jersey, on the other hand, misses the mark with their size, zipper, and gripper design choices. I rode both the medium and large size jersey to try to find one that worked. Neither did.
The medium, the size that fit me so well in last year’s Santini Interactive top end summer jersey and the size I wear in every other cycling jersey, was too small across the chest and too short at the waist and arms. The large was too large across the chest, around my neck and under my arms, and was quite long.
Neither jersey lay flat on my chest nor did the baffles that cover the zipper. The functionally well-performing arm grippers and waistband, both made of the same material that works so well around your legs, started to fray a bit and turn up at edges after several wear and wash cycles of the medium jersey. The waistband on the large sized jersey also turns up while riding as it fell on me where I bend at the hips. Unfortunately, the undersides of these bands are white so it is quite apparent that the band has turned up and takes away from the look of the jersey.
These issues had little effect on the comfort of the medium jersey. As with the bib shorts, the Sleek Plus jersey is very breathable, stretches and moves with you well and is quite supportive. The jersey arms feel a little shorter than most but grip comfortably as you ride, signal or reach for something in the race jersey sized rear pockets.
The Santini Sleek Plus jersey and bib shorts are available at the best prices from recommended stores Competitive Cyclist, Chain Reaction Cycles.
ENDURA PRO SL – A GREAT SUMMER ENDURANCE JERSEY FOR ALL WITH BIBS SIZED FOR STANDARD WIDTH RIDERS
Despite a name suggesting it might be designed for racers, the Endura Pro SL is well suited for endurance riding. Its deep jersey pockets, long bib short legs, and other features set it up nicely for long rides.
The FS260-Pro SL jersey is very breathable and wicks well. The tall collar makes you feel strapped in for the ride while still being quite comfortable. The zipper and jersey front lay pretty flat and the stretchy fabric yields no gaps no matter whether I’m riding aero in the drops or sitting up recovering from a long pull.
The jersey runs long and has a traditional gel elastic waistband that holds it down well. The sleeves, on the other hand, accomplish their gripping without the use of “grippers”. A stretchy elastic panel of material is sewn in from the top of the shoulders and runs the length of the upper arms, flat wrapping and holding your biceps. Under your arms and running down your sides is another panel that breathes well.
The bright red jersey I rode with is very visible, adding a bit of “high-viz” security along your ride. The rear pockets are deep enough to sink my hand into up to my wrist. This gives you all sorts of room to store food, a rain jacket or light vest, and other gear you might bring on long rides. It’s a jersey I now often reach for when I’m riding with one of my favorite regular black bib shorts on a hot day.
While the jersey’s cut and stretch will allow it to fit either a slim or standard shoulder width rider, the bib shorts are best on a rider with standard width hips. I tried them in both medium and small and my slim hips and skinny bottom couldn’t fill either of them up. To get a “full bottom” review, I passed the mediums over to my medium sized, standard hip width fellow rider and group leader David who, a couple years ago, did his own testing of a half dozen different bib shorts to select the ones he would ride on a 6 week, century-a-day tour from the west to east coast a couple summers ago.
In the immortal Garth’s words and in light of those credentials, “I am not worthy” as a rider and perhaps a tester, but I continued to ride the small size and offer here my observations and then David’s evaluation.
Unique to Endura, when you order these bib shorts, you can specify the chamois width you want. They give you a table of saddle makes and sizes with the corresponding chamois width size for their bib shorts that lines up the padding with your sit bones. That seems to make sense to me. In my case, for example, my bike fitter has me on the widest of the three options of the Specialized Romin Evo saddle (and it fits me very well) even though I’ve got narrow hips and a bony arse. So I ordered the wide version of the Endura Pro SL bib shorts in first the medium and then the small size.
It’s too bad that saddle width was the only or chamois measurement that mattered. As I mentioned in the What Matters section above, chamois thickness, length and internal width also matter when they are outside the norm. In the case of the chamois on these Endura bib shorts, the padding doesn’t run past your sit bones. So if you ride sitting up or even in a moderately upright position much of the time, there’s no padding in the chamois to help you out.
Also, the padding extends further out in the center section of the chamois toward your inner legs than most any I’ve ever worn. It feels as if your inner leg or groin area has padding which, of course, you don’t need and can create a bit of rubbing which you don’t want. I’ve worn standard sized bibs before (e.g., Gore, Pearl Izumi) but not with such a wide inside pad.
David found the chamois fit and bib shorts’ stretchiness to be the best part of the bibs. He found they “fit like a glove” and felt no rubbing between his skin and the chamois, thus no chaffing.
It just goes to show how difficult it can be to try to offer a custom solution, as Endura is with their chamois width choices, and have it work so well for some and not for others. Perhaps realizing this or just bullish about their bib shorts, Endura offers what they call a “no quibble” exchange or refund within 90 days of when you buy them.
The straps are very supportive, stretch easily, lay comfortably and breathe well. There’s a nice elastic section that stretches across your stomach and gives those of us needing a bit more room a bit more room. It can make them a little warmer on a hot day, but that’s a tradeoff you have to consider.
The roughly 1 inch, 2.5-centimeter tall silicone leg grippers sit in material panels roughly three times that height across the leg bottoms provides a largely unnoticeable feeling, which is a good thing considering the options of being loose or constricted.
You can find the Endura Pro SL jersey at eBay, Chain Reaction Cycles and bib shorts at Amazon, Tredz 10% off w/code ITK10, Chain Reaction Cycles, Wiggle, recommended stores that have the best prices on this kit.
SPORTFUL SUPER TOTAL COMFORT BIB SHORTS AND ITALIA CL JERSEY – GREAT COMFORT AND STYLE AT A GOOD VALUE
“Super Total Comfort” is an over-the-top name but comes pretty close to describing my experience with Sportful’s bib short. The chamois is the highlight. It has the sensation of being thin and light while seemingly covering every area you could possibly want padded. It never sticks or feels warm despite the temp and almost feels like it’s refreshing your skin rather than compressing it.
Physically, the chamois is as thick as the Assos, the thickest pad I’ve worn under the sit bones. This cushioning makes a difference on long rides. It maintains that thickness directly under your perineum. Most other chamois save for Castelli either thin out or have no padding down this anatomical centerline. It’s a non-issue if your saddle is cut-out in this most sensitive of areas. If not, this bib shorts’ extra padding is quite helpful.
The chamois thins out as it goes back beyond your sit bones, outbound to your thighs and up past your privates. The entire chamois is dimpled, perhaps enabling the air that flows through the bib material to keep your bottom cool and the blood circulating.
A stretchy waistband runs below the belly button in the front, angles up along your sides toward your back, and reaches up to fully cover your lumbar and lower back muscles. This seems to combine a lot of things that I like – easy access in the front for the occasional readjustment or quick pee, keeping the love handles from overflowing along your sides, and good back support.
I even found a pocket in the back waistband, for what I don’t know. It’s too small for a cell phone, probably just right for a race radio, and a good place to put your car key fob or other small valuables that you absolutely can’t afford to lose.
The STC (what I hope they call it at Sportful to save time and the embarrassment of having to repeat Super Total Comfort several times a day) is cut and uses material stretchy enough to fit a slim rider like me and a standard size rider as well. The grippers compress well to keep the shorts in place while also giving you some leg support. The material used throughout is breathable even on the hottest days.
The only part of these bibs that aren’t supremely universally absolutely totally comfy are the straps. They are wide, stretchy and have lots of perforations to help them breathe. I found the material a little rough though, and it bunched at my shoulders. This certainly wasn’t enough to put me off these bibs and wasn’t an issue at all when I wore a base layer. It was only on the warmest of days when I didn’t that I wished the straps were a little softer.
The only other comfy enhancing suggestion would be to put a soft section in the front section of the chamois as some others have done.
Among the couple months of riding I did with this kit, I wore it for the Mt Greylock Century, a 100 mile, 10,000 foot/3000 meter day of climbing through the Berkshire mountains on a quite warm day. This was one of the toughest rides I did all summer but one I can’t wait to ride again next year. The bibs were a pleasure to wear, not something I could say about many bibs I’ve worn for hours grinding uphill.
Choosing the Sportful kit for this ride was not motivated by the bibs, though I was expecting the good outcome I described based on prior, shorter rides. Instead, it was the hope that the Maglia Rosa colored Sportful Italia CL jersey would help propel me along this Giro-like route to new heights (literally and figuratively) or at least make me feel like I was dressed for this mountainous occasion.
While not as light as the Endura FS260-Pro SL or Castelli RS Superleggera, the Italia CL breathes well on hot days. It has a little extra material where the sleeves and torso meet, allowing for a wider rider than slim Steve to fill it out but without making me feel like it’s too wide. I did find I had to pull the waist down a little more often than I do with other jerseys (and should have for the photo shoot) but, again, not so much as to be an issue.
The white zipper is solid, lies flat and has Italian green and red seams running astride it. The Italia badge and five gold stars on the front of the pink jersey give it a classic look and is a nod to the number of world and Olympic championships won by Italian athletes while wearing Sportful kit. The jersey comes similarly adorned in a bright Italian green or purplish blue to keep with the bold overall theme.
There’s more room in the pockets than you’ll find in a racing jersey but not as much as in some of the dedicated endurance ones I’ve worn for this review. For a well-supported century, I found there was certainly enough space for all that I needed to carry.
The price discounts available on this kit make it look even better. You can find the Sportful Super Total Comfort bib short at the best stores for the best prices by clicking through to Competitive Cyclist, Wiggle and the Sportful Italia CL Jersey at Competitive Cyclist, Amazon, Wiggle, Chain Reaction Cycles.
REDWHITE THE BIB – A BASIC PAIR OF BIB SHORTS AT A GOOD PRICE
RedWhite, a brand I’d never heard of before doing this review, makes a few basic bibs with even more basic names including The BIB, The BIB (WMN), The RACE, The STEALTH, etc. Basic pretty much describes the performance I found wearing these bibs but the quality construction and relatively good price make it worth considering if your budget is limited.
There’s a good deal of stretch in these bibs so while a standard width rider would likely fill them up more than I did, they did fit my slimmer frame. That stretch assures continuous contact around your inner thighs, something you won’t always feel in bib shorts that don’t fit well either because the material doesn’t stretch well or the pad is too wide or stiff in the middle. The inseam length is also longer than most, providing good coverage further down your legs.
Perhaps because the RedWhite BIB is made of a material that conforms and stretches so well, it lacks the resistance to provide much compression. I didn’t feel resistance along my leg muscles or even at the grippers. The net result was a pair of bib shorts that didn’t move with me as I changed positions on the bike as well as most of the others. Indeed, I felt like I was sliding around in them.
The front straps are wide, sit comfortably and stretch well. The back panel also breathes well in the heat. The straps and back panel are seamed along the edges and attach to the shorts higher up than most, perhaps limiting their ability to help hold the shorts in place in favor of holding your midsection inside your bibs. Not a bad option if you welcome that kind of support but it shouldn’t come at the expense of keeping the shorts from sliding.
While The BIB looks well made and has held up well through multiple washes, there are more seams in these bib shorts than most and the stitching bumps up beyond the material it is holding together on both the outside and inside of the material in most cases.
Once in place, I found the RedWhite BIB breathed adequately and the chamois was comfortable. There’s a good deal of padding under the sit bones (though none further up your rear), a comfortable section to rest your perineum, and the front of the chamois reaches a good way and has a softer material cut-out for your shaft. It’s not the most comfortable pad of the group but is clearly The BIB’s strongest performance area.
The BIB’s price – one of the lower ones in this review – sets it apart. You can get it directly at the RedWhite Webstore at one of the stores that carry it.
Despite good pad performance, I found its inability to move well with me and provide compression to be real shortcomings that prevent me from recommending it.
dhb AERON SPEED – GOOD LOOKING AT A GREAT PRICE BUT NOT PERFORMANCE LEVEL KIT
As the in-house clothing brand at the large online retailer Wiggle and Chain Reaction Cycles, dhb sells kit that’s a good deal less expensive than the well-known cycling clothing brands. The question for me was would dhb’s best summer jersey and bib short offer performance close enough to the best from the more expensive brands to recommend you save your money and go with a nearly as good kit.
In short, the answer is no but, beyond the price advantage, there might be other reasons to have the dhb Aeron Speed Bib Shorts and Aeron Speed Short Sleeve Jersey in your summer kit drawer.
First and foremost, this kit has an attractive style that is quite different from most of the other kit I’ve seen. My own eyes tell me so but it’s been the number of people either close to me (like my wife) or that I don’t really know (like a server behind the counter at a café I stop at) that have, unprompted, told me they really liked the look of the kit.
The dhb is clearly a break from the standard colors or styles you see in most performance kit. While it’s not quite Rapha styling, it certainly is different and a nice change of pace from most of what you’ll wear.
The Aeron Speed kit is a standard cut. It’s probably somewhere between a standard and wider cut, likely to fit you best if you are a large framed rider or one that is 10kg/20lbs above your ideal riding weight but fine about being there.
As with the other kit I wore, I did order the right size and it fit my dimensions right. It’s just as a rider with a slim frame, there were a lot of gaps I don’t find in a slim cut kit.
You’ll find plenty of stretch in the bib panels though no compression to speak of. There’s also a lot of room and give in the midsection and inner thighs that would allow the kit to expand or contract as you do. Unlike most bibs, the front area between the straps is higher than that on the sides but the stretchy straps allow you to lower the panel to provide quick access for a bathroom or roadside break when needed.
I don’t find the bibs very comfortable. While plenty wide and long, the chamois felt a little thin. The material used in the shorts is the same throughout and has a stiffer, rougher and less breathable feel than others I’ve worn. The grippers work well in holding the shorts in place and are longer than most with good coverage of my leg muscles, but the edges started to fray a bit after a half dozen washes.
The jersey, with its nicely coordinating colors, seems as though it was otherwise designed by a different team. The sleeves are shorter than those on most jerseys, usually resting in the middle of my biceps as they have no grippers to hold them further out my arm. The material used in the jersey’s front and back is quite light and soft and really feels good against my skin. A different material is used in the jersey’s side panels that run from your waist, under your pits and out to your arms is very breathable. I only wish the bibs had the same comfortable and breathable panel design as the jersey.
All in all, a good looking kit that’s probably best for shorter, more casual rides on a day that’s not too hot. You can get dhb Aeron Speed Bib Shorts and Aeron Speed Short Sleeve Jersey through this link at Wiggle.
HINCAPIE VELOCITY PLUS – A GOOD, BUT NOT PERFORMANCE LEVEL, CLUB KIT
If you belong to a cycling club, you’ll likely be wearing a kit with its logos on group rides. Since many enthusiasts buy a complete club kit as one of their first coordinated jersey and bib shorts combinations, I thought I’d evaluate a top of the line one to compare against some of the best kits you can buy at retail and that I’ve evaluated elsewhere in this post.
Hincapie is one of a handful of cycling clothing companies focused more on making kits for clubs and teams than for retail stores. My club offers riders Hincapie’s top performing Velocity Plus bibs and short sleeve jerseys. If you order a decent number of each (about 30 pieces), the prices run about $125 for the bibs and $100 for the jersey. The club I belong to ordered over 100 this year and that dropped the price about $20 each. That’s a good deal less than the list prices of many of the brand name kit.
The Velocity Plus is a standard cut kit, something I’d expect to suit the variety of riders you find in a group. For the slim framed me, this was only an issue across the rather generous chamois. However, my standard cut club teammates tell me that the chamois bunches up for them as well. The rest of the kit had enough stretch in it and was cut right so that no gaps developed.
This is also a summer and late spring/early fall “shoulder season” kit rather than a dedicated summer one. Since club rides happen during all but during the winter (and maybe I’m just ignoring those ride calls), I like the long season aspect of the kit. It doesn’t breathe as well as dedicated summer kits and will get a little warm in the full midday summer sun (or if you are working extra hard pulling out front a lot rather than enjoying the draft and lower watt output tucked away in the bunch). Like most groups, we’re usually out in the cooler early hours and back by late morning so getting overheated is seldom an issue in this kit unless you are pulling a lot.
The bibs swoop down below your belly button, stay below your ribs on the sides and stretch about halfway past your mid-calf and up from your knees. The straps are wide, lie flat and give you enough stretch to move where you want to go. They don’t hold your chamois in position as well as some of the better bibs but the chamois is larger than most and provides good coverage so it still feels good for those long 65 to 100-mile rides. The latest generation of grippers do the trick holding your shorts in place.
While not offering any compression panels, the Velocity Plus bibs and jersey stretch with you well and seems to be cut with a good knowledge a cyclist biomechanics. The fabric combinations they use also have a sensation of high quality – the right weight and level of elasticity without feeling restrictive. They’ve held up well in the washer for a couple years of at least 40 wash cycles per year.
The jersey has diamond mesh in the side panels and in a section that comes down from the width of your shoulders to the narrow small of your back. I especially like the cooling that panel brings when I’m in an aero position trying to close what seems like the re-occurring gap between me and the leaders charging away at the front. The collar is taller than most and doesn’t quite lay flat. Unless I’m racing for the line, I usually have the zipper down to aid in the summer cooling
All in all the Hincapie Velocity Plus (available here) works well as a club kit but isn’t at the level of fit or material performance as a top summer kit.
PACTIMO ASCENT 3.0 – WELL FITTING, COMFORTABLE SUMMER EVENT JERSEY
As with Hincapie, Pactimo is another brand that makes custom cycling apparel for teams and events. For the last three years, I’ve ridden in their Ascent model jerseys for a 134 mile, 215 kilometer June ride from the Boston area and through 8100 feet, 2469 meters of mountains running through New Hampshire and Vermont called the B2VT (Battlefield to Vermont).
Since the pride associated with completing this ride increases, and pain decreases, the further I get from it, I also wear the jerseys from time to time during the summer.
For the 2017 ride, we (myself and another 900 or so sick b*st*rds) rode in the latest model Ascent called 3.0, a big improvement in fit and comfort over the earlier models. In the 80F+ temperature of this year’s ride, it breathed well, obviously a great asset for long summer rides anywhere but certainly in the mountains.
The current model fits me well as a slim but I could also see that it fit wider riders, of which there were more than a few in this ride. The jersey stretches and wrapped me up quite comfortably yet with extra room residing mostly between my pecs and pits, I could how could expand to fit a wider rider.
The jersey breathes quite well with a fair amount of air running through it. Unlike many jerseys that have more open mesh fabric in the side panels than the rest, this Pactimo has pin-point sized mesh hole fabric in the sides and front and slightly larger pen-point mesh holes in the back.
The zipper is modest and the pockets are only average sized despite the length of the ride it was chosen for. (Note to self: Don’t carry extra stuff that you have to tote uphill when there are plenty of rest stops and support cars en route!)
The sleeves run longer than most and have wide, comfortable grippers. The silicone elastic waistband holds the jersey in position well and the jersey lays more or less flat.
A more direct comparison to the best performance kit in this review would likely be Pactimo’s Summit line. But as endurance and charity events go, this is one of the best jerseys I’ve worn, good enough to keep in the rotation with my other top kit.
In club or event quantities, you can get the Ascent 3.0 for $80-85. You can also buy them individually or in smaller quantities for $100. You can see and order the Ascent Collection and other Pactimo gear at their site here.
SUMMER GLOVES AND BASE LAYER
Here are a couple of other kit favorites of mine that complement my summer cycling jersey and bib shorts. Time and priorities prevent me from doing a comprehensive write-up and while I wear others, these are my favorites.
Santini Gel Mania Summer Mitts – Since I began wrapping my bars with cushiony tape, I’ve found that heavily padded gloves aren’t necessary. I really like these lightly padded ones that also reach past my wrists and fit comfortable while holding in place with thin elastic grippers with mini silicon dots rather than velcro straps. They are light, inexpensive (around $30/£25/€30) and the backs come in high-viz green, red, royal blue, white, and black to match your kit. Available at best prices and great stores Tredz 10% off w/code ITK10.
Castelli Seamless Baselayer – When the weather gets warmer, I always have this internal debate about whether or not to wear a base layer. While I tested all the jerseys in this post without one, I found this base layer from Castelli can provide good airflow between my jersey and core on hot days, cooling me further than the jersey alone. The base layer essentially raises the jersey away from your body just enough to allow air to pass between them.
This “seamless” baselayer (though it looks like it has seams) is tubular, extremely stretchy, form-fitting and slightly compressive. That last bit is a nice little adder, providing some welcome support to torso and back muscles in the same way some bibs provide them to the legs on long days in the saddle.
Castelli also makes a “Core Mesh” summer base layer that has seams (but looks like it doesn’t – crazy, right?) and isn’t quite as stretchy or form-fitting. It is more the feel of a regular base layer but offers no compression. I haven’t tried as I’ve been quite happy with the Seamless Baselayer. They both come in sleeveless and short sleeve options
You can find it at best prices/best stores from Competitive Cyclist, Amazon.
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