A long-term favourite that just keeps getting better – we check out the 2017 version of the Women's SL Pro bib shorts from Specialized
The Specialized Women’s SL Pro women’s bib shorts are a top-end option and so they come with a selection of named and patented features.
The two key fabrics used are VaporRize and Cold Fabric. The former is a lightweight, moisture-wicking material, while the latter is used specifically on dark-coloured fabrics to help keep core temperature low while allowing for the coverage of a deeper hue – something we all want in bib shorts unless we’re channelling our inner world champion.
Deflect UV50+ treatment keeps skin safe from harmful rays.
One of the most notable features of the Specialized Women’s SL Pro bib shorts is the HookUp design. Which does not, as it turns out, have anything at all to do with tinder.
The HookUp features a magnetic clasp at the rear of the bibs which unclips in seconds to allow for quick bathroom breaks on or after a ride. The clasp tends to be a bit tight on the first couple of uses, but soon loosens up.
The bib straps have been updated for 2017 with a lighter and more ventilated material that also looks a little more premium. There’s a nice yoga band-style crossover at the stomach too – not that you’ll need it to alleviate pressure when wearing bib shorts, but it’s kinda stylish.
At the cuffs, Specialized has gone for a very wide, fold-over leg gripper. In the 2016 editions these featured tiny silicone dots, which this year have been replaced by a slightly more robust treatment along the entirety of the cuff.
The pad is the Body Geometry SL Pro Women’s Chamois – which features multi-density padding that’s been placed to look after soft tissue and nerves.
The key thing that has always set the Specialized Women’s SL Pro bib shorts apart from any other offering is the leg grippers. Indeed, they can hardly be called grippers since what’s so special about them is that they don’t ‘grip’ and create the hated sausage-leg look that no rider wants.
Therefore, when I noticed that Spesh had adjusted the short gripper this year, I was concerned.
There was no need. The wide fabric band still sits comfortably both on and off the bike. If anything, the new style is an improvement as former iterations did tend to ride up a bit and these don’t do that at all.
The cooling treatment does seem to be work – I’ve worn these on sweaty hot climbs and have always felt that my clothing was working with me rather than against.
The HookUp is user friendly and makes taking a comfort break a breeze – even if your pockets are loaded. I have heard complaints from other riders about the magnet digging in when riding with a backpack. However, as the name would suggest, these are racy shorts for ‘best rides’ so I’ve never felt the desire to pair them with a backpack and I therefore don’t feel the clasp at all when riding.
The chamois is fairly race orientated in that it’s notably thinner than most, but I’ve used these shorts for rides of up to six hours with no more discomfort than that which is par for the course.
My only criticism is that there’s no plain black option available this year – and the Cobra Blue (which we tested), Turquoise Fade and Team Red options really do require a matching jersey unless you’re happy to accept the ‘6 day cyclist’ mismatch with pride.
Having worn last year’s version in black with a club stripe on my top half, it’s a shame this isn’t an option this year.
Nothing good comes for free, and these do come in at £140. However, if you’ve got the available cash they’re an excellent pair of bibs that will see you riding in comfort for many moons to come.
Excellent bib shorts that provide a confidence-inspiring fit and make for hours of comfortable riding. It would be nice to see a plain black option on offer again to add a little versatility to the range.