A great pair of race cut bibs shorts that deliver ride supporting technical attributes. Perfect for long hot days in the saddle.
Well balanced chamois
Attention to detail
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If you are a rider of a certain age, you'll remember the old days were there were simply two seasons accounted for in terms of bike kit. Summer, when you would naturally wear shorts, and winter, when you would pull an ill fitting pair of tights over your shorts.
You may be one of the lucky ones who also owned a pair of Nora Batty style leg warmers which you constantly had to re-tuck under your shorts leg ripper during spring or autumn. But in terms of technical wear - that was your lot.
Of course over the past couple of decades, cycling clothing technology has come on leaps and bounds, but having had an upbringing based on ill fitting kit, I'm still incredibly excited when new gear lands on my desk with the ability to do more than simply protect modesty and provide a pad to sit on.
So when the Ale Ibisco women's bib shorts came my way with a long list of 'can do' technical attributes I was keen to get riding.
The first hi tech element comes in the the form of the Eylet carbon fabric the Ale Ibisco women's bib shorts are constructed from. It's a Polyamid and Elastane mix designed to provide muscle compression and high UV blocking properties, while still being breathable and lightweight.
Tipping the scales at 156g means they are very much on the light side of the women's bib short scale, weighing around 10g less than the Assos T.laalalai S7 and on a par with the Sportful Bodyfit P W and only marginally heavier than the dhb Aaron Speed women's bib shorts.
Ale have used body mapping technology with the aim of producing a skin tight race cut to the Ibisco women's bib shorts and with the super wide Serie S30 siliconed backed gripper at the leg, the shorts are firmly secured in place. The 8cm gripper is one of the widest on the market, certainly on a par with the Santini Wave bib shorts.
Up top a simple up and over bib design uses laser cut raw edges to minimise seams and weight, as well as a breathable mesh panel which attaches the two braces at the back. A tacky feeling cross hatch on the inside of the braces has been included to keep the braces firmly in place.
Underneath the Ale Ibisco women's bib shorts use a proprietary Ale 8HF padding, an elastic micro-fiber with high memory padding strategically positioned at the contact points. Ale say the padding that protects the perineal and ischiadic area reaches a maximum density of 120 kg/m³, to ensure maximum protection from shocks and road stresses. A central relief channel has been designed to safeguard the nerve endings.
Pulling on a size small and it's clear that the Ale Ibisco women's bib shorts certainly are skin tight. I'm a UK size 8, around 5"7, and although the lower half of the shorts fit perfectly, the bib aspect was short in length for my torso. My hight is mostly in my legs, so if you are especially long in the middle, you might find they don't fit, while I was aware of a uncomfortable compression over my shoulders. I did try on a medium for a size comparison, but these gaped at the thigh.
The challenge of testing summer bib shorts in early spring in the north of England is that you're left with very little testing opportunities other than a pain cave of a garage and indoor trainer set up. While this might leave the UV credibilities unquestioned, it did certainly place a microscope over the Ale Ibisco women's bib shorts breathability and muscle compression functions.
I have to say I was impressed with Ale Ibisco women's bib shorts performance. The tight bib-straps did give me a bit of a constant reminder that they were there, but a couple of 1:30hr rides over a virtual Stelvio and a pool of sweat on the garage floor each session and the shorts, while damp, were far from uncomfortable. When there's little to take your mind away from the leg pain of hard home session, I was especially impressed with the compression aspect of the shorts. My legs were already sore going in to each ride wearing the shorts, so getting the feeling that my muscles were being cradled by the tight fitting legs was very welcome, and genuinely allowed me to ride harder than I anticipated. I was almost desiring a pair of calf compression socks made out of the same fabric it was so effective.
The padding in the chamois is noticeable. When in the saddle, I was aware of the protection it delivered, and while at first I debated even lowering my saddle slightly, by the end of an 90min indoor training session which finished with around 115/ 120 rpm efforts, I realised that not only had I totally forgotten about the voluminous chamois of the Ale Ibisco women's bib shorts, but my backside was still incredibly comfortable. I had also been concerned about the side wings of the pad when first pulling the shorts on, but again, these only provided additional comfort when grinding the gears, or rev'ving out, and were sufficiently flexible to just move with my body when climbing out of the saddle.
At £155 theres not denying that the Ale Ibisco women's bib shorts are priced at the higher end of the market. They are beautifully made, with exceptional attention to detail in the finish.
In the main the fit is excellent, putting the length of the braces to the side. Considering the effect the shorts had on my ability to train harder than I expected with painful legs, I'd almost put them in the 'training aid' category too. With a chamois pad that is plentiful without being overwhelming, UV protection and breathability to boot, I'd be more than grateful for a pair of these on a long, hot hilly ride.
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