These are excellent bib shorts that offer compression, comfort, breathability and high wicking in all the right places. They became a regular component of my cycling wardrobe and I'd often choose them over any other. The hole in the back of the bib confuses the base layer conversation and a full body that didn’t require quite such a robust neck strap might be an improvement. The WH FREE creation is a good start, but it feels like Alé has overcomplicated the design somewhat - which is a real shame since everything else is so spot on.
Compressive fabric at the quads
Wide leg grippers
Neck strap is quite sturdy and a bit tight
Most cycling clothing brands can now provide bib shorts for female cyclists which incorporate some sort of ‘comfort break mechanism’, and Alé joined the party for 2017 with its Future HD bib short.
The women's bib shorts feature a selection of technical fabrics, designed to offer pro worthy ride comfort - but they're coupled with a unique design that comes with some pros and cons.
WH FREE SYSTEM
Whilst most men's bib shorts follow a fairly standard pattern when it comes to the upper body, women's bib shorts differ greatly between brands. Alé has added one more version to the market, with what they call the ‘WH FREE' system.
The WH FREE system features a halter strap around the neck that can be looped over the head, and under the jersey, allowing easy breaks without leaving women stripping off in bushes all over the countryside.
Abandoning the traditional Y-shape bib, Alé has opted for a fuller coverage, with the body finishing just below the bust, and a thick strap around the back holding it all in place.
Alé calls the fabric used over the stomach panels 'Meshdragon' - which makes it sound like it has to be good. Effectively it’s a more breathable fabric which provides an extra layer of road rash defence and wicking technology without causing boil in a bag syndrome.
At the sides, a more sturdy fabric is used, offering light compression - with an extra hole cut out the back to offer further breathability.
Providing a full body usually negates the need for a base layer - but in Alé's case, even when combined with a sports bra a slice of skin is left exposed by the hole at the back - an area that's often caught up in road rash, leaving the discussion over whether to wear a base layer even more open.
All this said, on an incredibly hot day, all extra ventilation can be considered a bonus - especially for riders prone to overheating.
The WH FREE system is easy to use. Unfortunately the strap is somewhat robust - perhaps made necessary by its placement below the bust. Though I didn’t notice it mid ride, I did find it made its presence known when off the bike.
The fabric used around the quads and lower back looks like a plain black construction from a distance –but look up close and the futuristic element comes to the fore.
Compression and aerodynamics are aided thanks to Aero G.250 fabric. This mimics the surface of a golf ball to give an aerodynamic boost, and compression is designed to improve circulation. This is difficult to prove, but the bibs did indeed feel supportive in use and soon became a favourite pair as a result.
The grippers are wide – at 7.5cm – and dotted internally with silicone to keep them in place. The width of the band means they don’t create any unsightly shapes, maintaining confidence on and off the bike.
The chamois itself is a Fondella WH4 Shammy that provides plenty of padding in a women’s specific design. I found it perfectly adequate both on longer rides and when spending a lot of time in the drops on my track bike.
Read more: The best women's bike saddles
Around the chamois, Alé has used ‘Serie S 41’ woven fabric, which aims to boost breathability whilst also being abrasion resistant – a plus on a pair of £140 bibs.
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