ELIEL EL CAPITAN BIBS – COMPRESSION AND COMFORT
Compression and comfort, a welcome but not always an easy-to-find combination, are the two performance characteristics that stand out in the testing that Aiyana and I did of the Eliel El Capitan bib shorts.
We tested hers and his models of these bibs along with the Ascent El Capitan jersey and share our reviews of them here. While you can see comparisons of these Eliels against other women’s and men’s bib shorts we’ve reviewed, we thought sharing a side-by-side take might give you a fuller understanding of each.
First Aiyana’s review followed by my own. As with all of our gear and kit reviews, Aiyana and I conducted our testing and filed our notes separately without sharing anything about our evaluations along the way with each other, readers, or suppliers.
ELIEL WOMEN’S EL CAPITAN BIB SHORTS – MY SPRING GO-TO BIBS
Available from Eliel for US$280
While comfortable from the start, it took me a lot of rides to conclude that the Women’s Eliel El Capitan bib shorts are my go-to bibs for most any type or length of Spring season ride.
After first putting them on, it was clear that they are built for compression. They fit properly and compress very nicely.
By “nicely” I mean they flatter my shape. The bib’s waist and hip widths are cut narrow while the waist comes up higher than most on my torso. Like many other women’s bib shorts, the Eliel’s chamois coverage extends beyond my contact points but is relatively thin so looks well fitted on my bum.
With seams only down the back of each leg and compression up, down and around my legs, there’s no need for independent grippers. Cut this way, they fit more comfortably on the bike than off it.
When I put on the El Capitan, I sense the leg seams against my butt. I also notice what feels like something sticking to my back. That sensation made me check whether I had a loose tag or another piece of material else in the way the first few times I wore them.
Once on the bike and in my riding position, however, I feel neither of these. Instead, the chamois feels fabulous and gives me the confidence that I can go out on a long ride in these bibs.
I’ve turned that feeling into very comfortable performance experiences on all sorts of rides. A short CX ride on very simple trails and roads. One hour commutes to and from the office where they felt as good on the way home as the way over. Three-hour MTB rides where I love the leg compression, the chamois comfort, the straps that work well, and the grippers that don’t budge.
On the road (right, that’s what they’re intended for!), they’re super comfy on 3+ hour rides on good tarmac. I’ve worn them under leggings and on their own. I really like how the chamois feels relatively thin but does an excellent job keeping all my lady parts happy. And I love the compression. The straps? They aren’t even noticeable.
I feel really strong and attractive in these bibs.
If I’m doing one of these longer rides in warmer weather on roads with some rough patches, however, I notice the effect of the thin padding in the front part of the chamois against my pubic bone. That appears to be the limit of the El Capitan’s otherwise wide range of comfort.
Despite washing these bibs and hanging them to dry just like my others, after just a few washes the outer inch or so of the chamois began to pill where it comes in contact with my legs. You can see this in the photo above and it’s progressively gotten worse. While I can’t feel the pilling when riding, I’m disappointed these bibs aren’t more durable.
While sharing the same name as the bibs, I find the Women’s Ascent El Capitan Jersey (US$180) to be a very different experience and one I don’t care for. It also uses a very compressive material but has a wax paper feel to it.
I think the jersey would be more suited for me if I were racing or doing a time trial. But even in that situation, there are other jerseys I have that I’d choose over it as they accomplish a similarly smooth and aero fit with a more comfortable fabric.
ELIEL MEN’S EL CAPITAN BIB SHORTS – FOR THOSE IN A HURRY
Available from Eliel for US$280
If there were any doubts from the moment you put them on, the Eliel Men’s El Capitan bib shorts and Ascent El Capitan jersey are clearly for those in a hurry.
The shorts portion of the bibs is one piece with seams only going up the back of your legs. They hug and support you with both even compression and ample stretch across your leg and butt muscles.
At my 5’ 10’’ height, the size small bibs I tested have a long inseam, easily reaching just above my knees. On a ride, they stay in position thanks not only to the tall band of silicone beads at the end of the legs (no separate gripper panels) but also to the compression at and above it.
On cooler days, the length is ideal. However, on warmer ones I can pull the end of the shorts up an inch or so to mid-calf length. The fabric regroups, chameleon-like without a wrinkle as if it was always meant to be the same length as you find on most bib shorts. (Eliel also makes the Men’s El Capitan Short Length Bib Shorts if you prefer not to ever wear them long.)
The material feels relatively thin with the slipperiness of an aero stocking but the robustness of a thicker pair of bib shorts.
El Capitan’s chamois comes up high enough and is wide enough in the front to fully protect your junk. The ventilation is good with a half dozen 3mm diameter holes added in that section of the chamois to aid the cooling.
Moving back from there, the padding is on the narrow and thin side. Narrow is good if you are using these to race or ride fast and don’t want anything unnecessary to get in the way of your legs. And thin doesn’t seem to be a problem from my experience on fast, hard rides as it’s sufficiently dense in the right places to cushion my contact with the saddle.
The straps are 45mm, 1 5/8” wide and thin but do the job without a lot of notice. The breathable back panel is as wide as the area between my shoulder blades and attaches to the straps just above them.
These bib shorts are cool, breathable, and definitely suited to warm weather. They feel light and don’t restrict my movements, reminding me of that cliché of wearing a second skin. But, in the case of these bibs, that second-skin freedom comes with supportive compression that keeps my muscles fresh.
For a couple of hours of hard riding, the El Capitan is hard to beat. The leg length options, uniform compression, light and slippery fabric, and chamois comfort compare favorably against the other bibs I’ve tested over the years.
If I’m riding longer than that or at a more casual pace, however, I’d rather be in bibs with a bit thicker and slightly longer chamois that gives me a bit more support when I’m riding in a more upright, endurance position.
The same goes for the Men’s Ascent El Capitan Jersey (US$180). It’s stretchy and fits tight with no gaps. If you’re lean and have good core strength (that’s code for no love handles, muffin top, or even a winter belly), you’ll fit fine and look good in these. If not or you’re out to do a relaxed ride, zip up another jersey.
With a seriously strong and tacky waistband that keeps the Ascent in place, the El Capitan’s short length and high neck make the jersey most comfortable and likely quite aero when you are using that core strength to lean forward and minimize your cda. The pockets also sit higher than on most jerseys, best suited for an infrequent reach for a mid-ride gel by a rider with flexible shoulders.
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First published on June 27, 2022. The date of the most recent major update is shown at the top of the post.