New Bib Shorts and Jerseys I Like
I added new bib shorts and jerseys from Assos, Sportful, and Castelli into my kit rotation this spring and summer that I’ve really come to like. They are each best suited for specific riding situations and complement my any day, everyday kit favorites. You can read my reviews of them here and compare them to other bib shorts and jerseys I’ve rated in the post THE BEST CYCLING KIT FOR PERFORMANCE AND VALUE
ASSOS EQUIPE RS BIB SHORTS S9 – YOU SHOULDN’T SAVE IT
Seeing the latest innovations in Assos new Equipe RS Bib Shorts S9 reminds me of the paradoxes built into the new gear secret agent James Bond picks up at the beginning of each movie. Amusing yet ingenious. Hidden in plain sight yet remarkable when revealed. Seemingly unnecessary for a man of his talents yet invaluable to him in key moments.
Compared to all the great Assos bib shorts that came before the S9, the straps are the new ingenious, remarkable feature we should have seen coming.
Whereas straps with different amounts of stretch typically attach at the front and rear waist of the bibs, these new Assos bibs attach there but also another 4”/10cm down where your butt muscles meet your lower back. The design seems to give the straps more leverage to do their work, pulling at a place where the shorts are under pressure when you are in an aero position. By attaching there, the bibs ask less of your shorts to stay in place than when being tugged only from the waist.
There’s also a junction of stretchy straps at the small of your back that seems to distribute or even out the load. You aren’t getting one strap that stretches from the front of your waist up and over your shoulders down to the back of your waist.
Whatever the design or thinking behind all of this, it works to improve an already premiere pair of bibs. I experienced a more comfortable, stable fit when getting aero and when moving out of the saddle. Yes, somewhat like Bond’s gear but for a man of my less-than-Bond talents, it is valuable (if not invaluable) at key moments.
Its predecessor models were already well above the rest in comfort. The materials are as soft, breathable, compressively stretchy with just one seam down the back of each leg in ways I’ve never found even close in other bib shorts. And the cut works for both slim and standard cut hips.
The chamois in the T Equipe Evo introduced in 2018 was the new Bond element that year. Assos added perforations in the front of the floating pad to keep it cooler. The new Equipe RS S9 makes incremental changes with fewer yet larger perforations, a slightly full pad, and fewer seamed areas.
I definitely noticed the cooler bib feeling from the added perforations in the Evo. I can’t really tell any difference with the S9 pad changes.
I did notice and prefer the grippers on the S9. The material is slightly thinner and less elastic. Assos also uses tiny silicone dashes across the grippers instead of the 1″/2.5cm long ones they run along the centerline of the Evo.
Bottom line, we’re talking #1 and #1A here where bibs from most other brands rank in the next tier in performance and comfort.
I find choosing whether to wear the Equipe RS Bib Shorts S9 on a training ride or save them for that group ride or event each week to be the tough decision I need to make when I get dressed. They (and the Evo) are just that much better than the other great bibs I have that I often want to keep a clean pair for when I need or want a little more.
As the summer has moved along, I’m finding it harder to resist. Saving is for savers and these Assos S9 should be ridden every chance I get.
If you aren’t a saver either and can afford them, you can click on these links to find and order them at my top-ranked store Competitive Cyclist and to Know’s Shop for the best prices from other stores I recommend.
SPORTFUL SUPERGIARA – FUNCTIONAL FOR A RANGE OF RIDING
I’ve always found Sportful kit to be comfortable and practical without being as splashy or expensive as others in the performance category of bike clothing.
The Supergiara Bibshort and Jersey adds “functional” to all of that and a bit more stylish if still in a subtle way.
Start with the bib shorts. The Supergiara pad is first rate; comfortable without being overly thick; good coverage without wings that extend out and up and can irritate your inner thighs.
While cut with conventionally straight vertical sections and flat seams, these bibs have a long inseam that fully covers your quads and provides solid and consistent compression. The grippers are an ample 2”/5cm tall, thin and with tiny silicone beads across the entire undersurface to get the job done.
The fabric is breathable and comfortable enough to wear in the spring and all but the hottest summer days. I find the 1.75”/4.5cm wide straps lay flat, hold the bibs up well and provide plenty of stretch for a front side male bio break. For me, the straps aren’t quite soft enough to wear comfortably without a base layer, like what I’ve experienced with other Sportful bibs.
I found myself looking for the Supergiara Bibshort on 50 to 75 F/10 to 24C days and was comfortable with them on 3-4 hour rides in the saddle with temp changes, in and out of the sun.
There are three mesh pockets on the bibs themselves, something I haven’t seen on road shorts. One on the side of the left leg is big enough to hold several hours supply of bars, blocs, and gels. You can also put more of the same in the slightly smaller pockets that fall just underneath jersey waistband.
I, or perhaps I should say my less than fully flexible shoulders especially like the rear pockets since you don’t have to reach nearly as far up your jersey to dive into a rear pocket for some food.
If I’m not on an aero mission, I could see using these pockets for easier access to my in-ride nutrition and to free up the jersey pockets for the bulky supplies that I hopefully don’t need while rolling and allow me to keep to a small saddle bag.
Sportful is promoting the Supergiara as a gravel kit. The extra pockets, the temperature range it suits, and the unique pattern in the Supergiara Jersey suggests it would work well for off-road riding but I’d surely wear it for an early season road century or mixed terrain ride that’s not well supported.
The jersey itself has a taller than normal 8”/20cm center pocket easily suitable for a tire, extra tube or pump. It also sports two 6”/15cm tall and wide side pockets, one with an additional zippered pocket on top of it. So again, a lot of room here for a long outing.
Giara translates to “jar” in Italian, though I’m told it means “gravel” in the Northern Italian dialect. You could view all these functional pockets as a big or super jar capable of carrying a lot of stuff out on a gravel ride. At least the name makes more sense than a lot of kit names from others.
The front of the Supergiara Jersey I wore has thin grey and black horizontal lines varying from light to dark shades on a white background. There are also black and green background versions. They look different than most jerseys I see out on the road and suggest a more rugged look than the fine finishes and prints of a wide range of tarmac tops.
Despite this look, the jersey is very breathable, comfortable and well fitted. The neck is short, maybe 1”/2.5 cm and neither stretchy, loose or tight. The body fit me, still a surprisingly slim 150lb/68kg guy for all I eat, as snug in a medium as most other Italian cut jerseys. As you can see from the photo, it’s got a tall waistband that you can pull down as little or as much as you want to give you the right amount of space in the midsection.
Sleeves are all mesh, light, comfortable, and reach fully down your forearms. The side panels appear to be made of the same fabric as the sleeves and have the same feeling. While heavier and perhaps more rugged, the back material is perforated throughout and breathes for me as much as I need it too.
There’s a lot this kit offers and adds a highly functional, well-performing option to my long ride choices on spring and cooler summer days. If you are looking for something to slot into that category, you can click on these links to price and order the Sportful Supergiara Jersey and Bibshorts at recommended stores Competitive Cyclist 10% off one-time for In The Know Cycling readers with code ITKCC19 and Chain Reaction Cycles. You can also get them by linking here to the Sportful site.
CASTELLI AERO RACE – A WINNING RACING KIT UPDATE
Castelli updated their top of the line racing kit this year and, if you are a racer, it’s a winner. The Aero Race 6.0 Jersey FZ or Full-Zip and Free Aero Race 4 Bibshort are a combination of body-hugging, compressive/supportive, highly breathable, light, and great-looking kit that motivates me to want to go fast in a group of other riders.
True to the “aero race” name, this is clearly a kit for racers doing races where aerodynamics are critical. If you are doing a crit, TT, triathlon or 1-2 hour road race in the summer months and looking for every advantage, this is a kit for you.
The Aero Race 6.0 Jersey feels like a second skin. It stretches with me without even thinking about it. The material is thin and highly breathable, so much so that I don’t even realize I have it on, save for when I reach for a gel in one of the rear pockets.
Along with that goes the reminder that this is a summer kit, best worn above 70F/21C and on sunny days. Anxious to try out the kit when I first got it in the spring, I wore it on a couple of breezy spring days and it was just too cool. A couple of months later and in the warm sun, it was gloriously comfortable
The Aero Race zipper goes up and down easily, lays flat, and the baffles don’t pucker. A mesh panel section makes the back comfortable and breathable. And while it’s taken me a while to get used to low collars, the cut of the Aero Race’s collar seems to wrap my neck like a good shirt, neither too loose or tight.
Aided by a 1” tall rear stretch band and a similarly sized tail below it running the width of your low back, you can easily pull the back of the jersey into place and it stays there holding against your bibs when you are in an aero position.
Of all the things I like about this Castelli Aero Race 6.0, it’s the sleeves that really stand out. Running from the shoulders down to just above the bend of my elbows, the sleeves wrap your upper arms in a stretchy yet soft material that feels (and looks) incredibly comfortable and breathable. This is the ultimate alternative to a traditional “gripper” with sleeves to keep in place and without the sensation of rubberized bands at the end of them.
The jersey’s three-color options each have a subtle diamond pattern on the torso with solid, darker sleeves and a contrasting white or red stripe down the back. While I’m no fashion hound, I think the steel blue color the jersey and bibs I wore look distinctive and sharp.
Castelli has made some big changes to the Free Aero Race 4 Bibshort and left other parts of it unchanged.
First, the chamois comes up far enough in the front to support all of your junk rather than end seemingly half-way up as was the case with the Progetto X2 pad in the last Free Aero Race shorts. Unfortunately, you really have to love your seat as the new pad doesn’t extend back far enough to support your sit bones when you are sitting up.
Remember though, this is a racing kit so you shouldn’t plan to be sitting up until you come across the finish line.
The panel sections are also cut differently in this new model and allow the more breathable fabric to wrap further from the inside to the outside of your quads without being interrupted by seams. This gave me the sensation of more freedom and support.
I also liked the new grippers as they both hold better and seem less grippy than the earlier model and most bibs I’ve worn. They are about 3 inches tall and have pinstripe thin silicone beads running vertically on a stretchy material that wraps your legs.
The seams appear more pronounced than they need to be and certainly more so than with the earlier Free Aero Race model. This may be more visual than functional; I didn’t feel any rubbing coming from the seams. Hard to know whether or how much the aero performance is affected.
While still minimalist and lightweight in keeping with the goals of this kit, the straps have a vertically oriented stretch pattern that holds them in place and makes access for the pre-race pee a simple task.
While I don’t race, this Castelli Aero Race kit makes me feel like I should. With the great aero fit, stretchy and breathable panels, and the chamois encouraging me to stay in an aero position, wearing it certainly makes me focus on riding faster.
You can click on these links to my top-ranked stores Competitive Cyclist 10% off one-time for In The Know Cycling readers with code ITKCC19 and Merlin Cycles or to Know’s Shop to find and order the Aero Race 6.0 Jersey at the best prices from the best stores.
For the Free Aero Race 4 Bibshort, click on these links to Competitive Cyclist 10% off one-time for In The Know Cycling readers with code ITKCC19 and Merlin Cycles or to Know’s Shop to find and order them at the best prices from the best stores.
You can also get both by linking here to the Castelli site.
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