Subtle compression on the legs and mesh venting along the spine are two key features of the Gore Xenon Race Bibtights.
Why You Want
You're looking for a high-end, lightweight pair of race-ready bib shorts designed specifically for long road rides - and you're not scared off by the $220 price tag.
The best thing you can say about a pair of cycling bib shorts is nothing at all, as in I rode all day and never thought about them. With Gore's top-tier Xenon Race Bibtights, mum is indeed the word. During several months of springtime testing in a variety of weather conditions (hot, cold, wet, on road, off road) there was no chafing, no numbness, no flapping, no digging, no binding and almost no complaints.
Subtle printing on the inside of the hem keeps the shorts in place without pinching or trapping sweat. Mesh around the abdomen and up the middle of the back improves moisture management and increases ventilation. Gently compressive fabric provides support without being constrictive. Reflective graphics on the sides, front and back improve visibility.
The shorts' centerpiece is a well-placed male-specific chamois (sorry, ladies) which features a channel running down the center of the pad. This isn't necessarily a revolutionary idea, but it's executed well and kept numbness at bay. Gore also claims the shorts, with their three foam densities, actually helps dissipate road vibration. I can't say whether there's much truth to that claim. More likely credit goes to IsoSpeed decoupler on the Trek Domane Classic Edition road bike we rode during much of this test session. But there's no denying the comfort of these bib shorts. And by using a multi-density pad versus something thicker, there's less heat build up and they dry quicker.
Legs are held in place via patterned grippers on the inside of the hem. A channel through the center of the men's-specific chamois keeps numbness at bay.
I wont go so far as to call these shorts ugly, but there's something undeniably plain about the look of our test pair. Flat black with basic red print and simple graphics just doesn't grab the eye. (Gore also offers a slightly more inspired red/black/white version which you can view in the photo gallery below). But buying bib shorts on looks alone is like choosing a house because you like the mailbox. I also struggled to get the straps to lay flat. But again this was more an aesthetic nuisance than a comfort issue. Even when slightly twisted, the straps didn't dig into my skin.
Finally, the $220 price tag can't be ignored. While in line with comparable offerings from Assos, Pearl Izumi and Castelli, it's still a significant chunk of change. My advice here is simply to ask yourself what need you're trying to fill. If your longest rides are 1-2-hour spins, you could probably get away with a less expensive option and never know the difference. But if you're a serious cyclist who logs big miles, there's no denying the value of a top-flight pair of bib shorts, and the Gore Xenon Race Bibtights are top-tier in every way.
RoadBikeReview Final Take
Gore's marketing spin asserts that they spent two years in the lab to create a bib short perfect for five-plus hour rides. We can't confirm that lab time, but can confidently say these shorts deliver on their promise of all-day ride comfort and performance.
Sizes: S, M, L, XL, XXL
Colors: Black with red; Black, red, white
More Info: www.goreapparel.com