A good set of bib shorts or tights can be a cyclist’s best friend. You spend a lot of time sitting in them with your legs moving so, the right pair is a good investment. A bad pair can be your worst enemy.
From Rivelo rrp: £130
price paid Sportpursuit: £49.99
Mountain biking is a funny pursuit, especially in winter. I go out riding in horrible conditions: dark, cold, wet, windy or a combination of all four so keeping warm is vital, especially as I suffer from Reynaud’s phenomenon. At the same time, it’s a hobby where you are doing endless sprints and high intensity activity so venting excess heat is often just as important.
It’s that second part that separates us from our tarmac-dwelling cousins on their road bikes with constant cadence and measured effort.
Thus, any pair of shorts or tights needs to keep you warm enough to stave off hypothermia and yet be good enough at venting heat that you don’t boil in the bag. It’s a difficult balance, one that I find best achieved by ¾ length tights (I refuse to describe them as knickers, seriously). They are what they suggest: tights that stop between the knee and the ankle. Those bare shins allow me to vent heat, whilst keeping my knees and thighs warm. It’s only in the depths of winter I go over to full tights.
I found these in the autumn of 2016 on Sportpursuit, because I was going on a road trip to Scotland. They Describe themselves as being made of thermal fabric perfect for autumn and spring. This translates as being a brushed lycra, ideal under a pair of baggy shorts for much of the winter in the South Downs.
I was wary about buying something that’s from a company that’s clearly roadie-specific (their clothes are all named after famous road locations in Britain) and that I’d never heard of. I had visions of style-over-substance expensiveness. This turned out to be unwarranted, though the lovely box they come in seemed a little unnecessary (I have now found a use for it).
I’m tall and slender, which usually often means clothes aren’t long enough (or are too baggy): a previous pair of ¾’s only just covered my knees. They were spot on, they came a decent way below the knees. They fit really well. They’re snug in all the places they need to be, with room in the place where there needs to be some. Another neat touch is the mesh on the back of the knees which allows more heat to escape from a locale that can get clammy. It also means that the knee doesn’t runkle or get unsightly when standing up off the bike. The top half took a little while to bed in, feeling a touch too compressiony to begin with, but fine after a ride or two. It also features an odd keyhole back allowing better breathing under a rucksack (though that’s probably not what it was designed for).
Down and dirty
It’s all very well and good posing in front of the mirror at home, but they are riding tights and that’s where they would succeed or fail.
They have been flawless for two winters, going well under baggy shorts and they don’t runkle under a rucksack. They have a seamless pedalling action, never getting in the way of my pedalling or, crucially, moving about out of the saddle. They’re utterly invisible on the bike, which really is the best compliment I can pay them.
They have just the right amount of warmth and are great for riding in temperatures right down to freezing and probably beyond. I’ve not had cold or boiling legs, regardless of the conditions. The mesh upper means that my core, generating large amounts of heat, can vent effectively. They’ve been out in the rain, the wind, the mud and (eventually) the snow. They have performed admirably in all of them. They’ve gone through the wash umpteen times, with wilful disregard of the washing instructions, and come out fine. They are beginning to show signs of age from encountering the Velcro tabs on my baggy shorts in the washing machine, but nothing to write home about.
They have become a mainstay of my riding wardrobe, they’ve become my go-to base garment for three seasons. I bought another pair in autumn 2017 so I could have a second pair for while they were in the wash. Pretty much every ride I did in the winter was in one pair or the other. I cannot find a fault with them.
Ok, the rrp of £130 is steep, but I didn’t pay that and they seem to be in stock at Sportpursuit all the time. So I’m going to disregard it. For the price I paid, they are incredible value.