Welcome to the first installment of the new RoadBikeReview.com Women’s Test Team. This is our attempt to address what we believe is a substantial void in cycling journalism: product test reviews on women’s cycling gear and apparel conducted and written by women.
As you’ll see on page No. 4 of this debut installment, our quartet of testers possess a wealth of knowledge, experience and expertise. All four have worked in the cycling industry and all four are passionate cyclists who ride and sometimes race.
You’ll also see that they don’t always agree — or have nice things to say. But that’s arguably the most important aspect of this new project. The RoadBikeReview.com Women’s Test Team will be offering honest and unvarnished opinions about the products they use — no biases, no bull.
In this first review, we examine an item that is perhaps most indicative of the differing needs of women cyclists: bibshorts. We’ve taken a close look at fit, fashion and function. Or put another way, how easy is it to go to the bathroom while out on a ride? First up are offerings from Hincapie (below), Pearl Izumi, and Assos. Check back soon for additional reviews on options from Castelli, Capo, Panache, Primal Wear and Rapha. Have a read, then let us know what you think — and what other kinds of gear and apparel you’d like to see featured here.
Hincapie Power Bibshort
Sizes: XS to XL
More info: www.Hincapie.com
What The Manufacturer Says
Highlights include a unique buckle attachment on this bibshort that is ergonomically designed for women. It also has moisture-wicking AT2 Force Lycra Power construction that hugs and moves with the body. Proprietary Schoeller coldblack finish technology reflects heat away from the body to regulate temperature and provide SPF50+ UVA/UVB protection. Also the saddle area is reinforced with abrasion-resistant ABR Resistor Lycra that’s moisture-wicking. The chamois is anatomical Hincapie Women’s Power GT model with E.I.T. Max fabric and perforated, high density foam inserts. A comfortable, quick-drying VelociTek mesh upper wicks moisture away from the body, comfort-flex leg bands don’t bind, and they have reflective treatment for better visibility.
Tester: Elizabeth Train (Size Tested: Small)
Function: It’s mentally difficult to head out for a solo ride (or a ride with a bunch of guys) knowing that you’ll need a wardrobe assist if you need to make a pit stop. But getting these bibshorts fastened without help and/or a mirror was nearly impossible for me. Also, the plastic clip in the back doesn’t feel great on a bony spine and makes it nearly impossible to wear these with a hydration pack.
Fit: I really like the fit of these shorts. The legs are a good length, they’ve got great support, and overall, they’re very comfortable. That clip didn’t start bugging me until several hours into a long ride… and then again when I slumped into a chair during the post-ride beer portion of the test.
Materials: I really like the mix of materials in these shorts. They have nice stretch, good breathability and an interesting look. While the idea of a sun-reflecting UV protector in a short seems nice, I didn’t really notice a difference between this material and ordinary Lycra. I like this chamois. It’s simple, low-profile and super soft.
Fashion: These shorts look good and fit well. And the varied fabrics make them subtly distinct.
Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Tester: Kate Powlison (Size Tested: Small)
Fit: These bibs have a standard fit and fit me just fine.
Function: The rear plastic clasp is poorly designed. Not only does it require upper body acrobatics or outside help to snap, but when I commuted in these, my backpack caused the clasp to dig painfully into my back. The rear clasp design means riding with a backpack or hydration pack is a no-go. It’s also tough to remove these bibs without removing your helmet — a major deterrent for riders who want to make speedy bathroom stops.
Materials: I like how the panels alternate between a smooth and a ribbed fabric. The chamois is a little wide but didn’t cause any issues.
Fashion: These bibs are pretty plain and nondescript.
Overall Rating: 2.5 out of 5
Tester: Liz Barcheck (Size Tested: Medium)
Fit: The length of the short fit well (mid-length of leg). The straps do not have an adjustable feature, and I found that they didn’t quite fit right. They sagged in the front and fabric collected in my lap as I leaned forward on descents. These shorts have the same elastic band around the base that held in place, but weren’t too tight.
Function: The chamois fit alright, I didn’t really feel like I could do a long ride in it. I felt like it was placed too far back. I found these bibshorts to be the most inconvenient to get out of, mostly because the clasp is in the middle of the back and it was awkward to get it open and closed. I basically have to take off everything including my helmet to get these shorts off.
Materials: I’m not in love with the way these shorts feel, the material feels a bit scratchy. I did appreciate the mesh in the back for airflow, though.
Fashion: The seams are not particularly flattering.
Additional Comments: My least favorite pair out of the first three. There is nothing special about these shorts. I don’t like the straps because there is no option to adjust and they attach only in the back. I don’t really care for the design of the single strap in the front and the circle of fabric hugging my neck.
Overall Rating: 2 out of 5
Tester: Lisa Sumner (Size Tested: Medium)
Fit: The medium is a larger-sized medium which led to bunching of material around my stomach and legs. Leg length is a little long for my liking, but I like the looser fitting leg bands. They have some elasticity but aren’t so tight that my leg muscle/fat bunches. Straps are a good length.
Function: For me, the chamois was located so far back that I literally can’t say if it’s comfortable or the right thickness because I literally didn’t use it. As for the plastic buckle in the middle of the back of the bib, it takes a bit of contorting to get it unclasped, but once off I was able to use the restroom fairly easily without disrobing. The design is not flawless but gets the job done.
Materials: The Lycra is loose fitting, but it breathed well and wicked away sweat. Some seams are smooth, but others protrude out from the bib. However, I was never bothered by this.
Fashion: Very basic. Simple, sleek, all black.
Additional Comments: As a result of the semi-loose fit and poor chamois placement I was not comfortable riding in these bibshorts. Also there is no gripper material on the leg bands for when you need to wear leg/knee warmers.
Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5