The ArmaUrto Vipar Bib Shorts are a pretty unique, offering motorcycle levels of impact protection as well as abrasion resistance. Although the protective inserts were noticeable when I first pulled on the shorts, I soon forgot about them once I started riding. At just 4mm thick, the inserts are also pretty discreet and really don’t stand out, although you can see if them if you know where to look. The one downside is the chamois, which I found to have far too much padding at the front.
Built in abrasion and impact resistance
Wide leg gripper
Chamois is quite bulky at the front
By Stefan Abram
Descending down a steep hill, it’s quite easy to reach speeds which are comparable to those reached on a motorbike, which makes it really quite surprising that the only element of protective clothing most of us wear is a helmet.
This is largely down to the fact that the requirements a cyclist has from their clothing are a lot more exacting than those astride a motor-powered vehicle. Breathability, unrestricted flexibility and lightness are quite difficult features to marry with impact and abrasion resistance.
But having gone through the experience of a cycling accident which left him with broken bones and various abrasions, Exeter-based Chris Battin founded ArmaUrto with the intention of providing cycling kit that can both perform and protect.
Vipar Bib Shorts: Construction
The most important element of these shorts is surely the inserts. These are 4mm thick and can reportedly dissipate up to 80% of impact energy – meeting the standard for an EN1621 rating, which is the system used for assessing the protection of motorcycle clothing. This does make the Vipar Bib Shorts quite unique, because as far as I’m aware, there’s no other bib shorts on the market that meet this standard.
Total coverage would be quite restrictive and as lightness and pedalling efficiency are still a priority, the inserts are only present on the hips as this is the area that most impact and injuries occur. Although not tested as part of the EN1621 rating, the abrasion resistance is also very high, being able to withstand a run-in with a palm sander without much trouble.
The leg grippers are very wide so as to distribute their force evenly and not to cut in. In terms of leg length, I think they are spot on for my personal aesthetics, not following the trend of extending right down to the knee but sitting at a happy mid length.
Interestingly, I’ve been told that there is a plan to also produce some knee warmers that bring a protective covering to this vulnerable joint. Working this feature into a set of ¾ length tights was decided against, as shorts make a better option for maximising the conditions that they can be worn in.
Immediately when I pulled on the Vipar Bib Shorts, the solidity of the inserts against my skin was noticeable. But once out on the open road, their presence quickly passed from my mind – it was genuinely easy to forget that these were protective shorts.
The inserts are quite low profile, so although you can see them if you know to look, I really didn’t feel like I stood out as wearing body armour.
The fabric was nice and compressive and also fleece lined, which has been very welcome riding these through the winter, although could be a little warm come the summer. The back is a nice wicking mesh which never felt clammy against my skin, even when I’ve misjudged the weather and gone out way overdressed.
The wide leg grippers did a good job at holding up my leg warmers and stayed firmly in place themselves, never creeping up my legs. I didn’t have any issues with them cutting in either, they really were faultless, as leg grippers go.
Unfortunately, the chamois does let these shorts down. It felt like it was shifted too far forwards, with a lot of the padding covering an area at the front which I really wouldn’t be resting my weight on. When on gravel bikes with particularly high front ends, I also found that my weight was resting at the very back of the pad at the rear interface with the shorts.
The fit isn’t so bad as to put me off using these shorts in contexts where I would really value a bit of extra protection, such as on technical off-road rides or in fast-paced circuit races. But it does mean I would be less likely to use these shorts for day-to-day riding, which is a bit of a shame because I find that accidents tend to happen when I least expect them.
Although I have had a couple of spectacular falls – along with some embarrassingly minor ones – while riding on the slippery chalk and roots that are the foundation of the South Downs, unfortunately I wasn’t wearing the Vipar Bib Shorts for any of them.
There aren’t many shorts on the market to compare the Vipar Bib Shorts to. The closest match I’ve found is the Alpinestars Paragon V2 Bib Short, which are £150 and have more of a mountain bike focus, with bulkier padding and back protection, which could be a bit much in the context of road cycling.
The next closest alternative are the Santini Impact Bib Shorts, which present something of a misnomer as the shorts only offer abrasion resistance rather than impact protection. As a result, these are closer to a set of normal bib shorts that the Vipars but do sacrifice some of the safety. At £170 RRP, the Santini shorts are also significantly more expensive.
We haven’t yet tested those other two shorts, so can’t vouch for their performance. But as the Vipar Bib Shorts do perform well on the whole and are a little cheaper, the value is quite high.
Starting off riding mountain bikes on the South Downs way, he soon made the switch the road cycling. Now, he’s come full circle and is back out on the trails, although the flat bars have been swapped for the curly ones of a gravel bike.
Always looking for the next challenge, he’s Everested in under 12 hours and ridden the South Downs Double in sub 20. Although dabbling in racing off-road, on-road and virtually, to date his only significant achievement has been winning the National Single-Speed Cross-Country Mountain Bike Championships in 2019.
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