We'd love these – if only they weren't waist shorts. But if you're not a fan of bibs, you should probably put a pair on your shopping list
Bibless cycling shorts present a problem for me as a reviewer.
Most of the brands I’ve spoken with confirm that the lion’s share of sales in women’s shorts are waist varieties. Bib wearers are still, I’m told, in a minority. I know they’re popular and that’s why brands make them, but by the time you’ve tested a myriad pairs of bib shorts it’s really hard to find any reason to revert to waist shorts.
Yes, bibless shorts make comfort breaks easy, but with the halter, clasp, droptail, and other options on the market these days, it’s easy with bib shorts too. Plus surely you spend more time on the bike than visiting the little girls’ room or local foliage, so really on-bike performance matters more in my opinion.
Although we all have our individual opinions, there’s a reason the pros (not who we have to emulate, but who do spend a lot of time in the saddle) prefer bibs.
Still, when Assos, the brand affectionately known as ‘the short people’ confirmed that its only new shorts for summer 2018 were indeed a waist version (don’t worry, the T.laalalai S7 bib shorts do continue into 2018), it seemed high time I gave waist shorts one last shot.
With its UMA GT shorts, Assos has made it impossible for me to begin my review by making a quip about its garbled naming conventions, which typically resemble the sounds that come out of a toddler’s mouth in the early days of speech.
It also had me ready to go on a ‘new shorts diet’ when I pulled them out the box. I’ve never seen adult shorts look so tiny, and hardly believed I’d get them on – but actually I was surprised to find that they stretched to fit perfectly.
The base fabric is Type.439 Diadema. It utilises two rates of four-way stretch and Assos says this material requires “great expertise to maximise the elasticity of the fabric on the cutting table,” but that it results in performance, comfort and durability.
It would be pretty impossible to dispute this. Held up and off the body, these shorts look like they’d suit a six-year-old, but put them on and they’re compressive without being restrictive, ticking the comfort and performance boxes wholeheartedly.
Elsewhere on the legs, you’ve got iceColour too – a treatment that reflects light to keep you cool – though I didn’t really notice the effect of this.
The fit itself is female-specific ‘regularFit’, meaning it’s body mapped to be less agressive than the aptly named ‘racingFit’. I tried both a small and a medium, and to be honest they both fitted on the legs, the medium being just a little large on the waist (sizes go from XS to XL).
It still felt like a pretty race-specific fit to me, but no one wants saggy Lycra anyway. The legs did stop around mid-thigh, whilst Assos’s racier models tend to end closer to the knee in true pro/Euro style.
At the stomach and leg grippers, Assos has used its aeroFit warp knit – a stretchy structure that aims to provide ventilation and unrestricted movement.
The waistband, as expected, is what let these shorts down. In both the medium and small shorts, I found I was repeatedly made aware of it, like a restrictive barrier at my stomach.
I could usually forget about it during a ride, but would be jolted back to reality when it occurred to me that I might be exposing my back when my pockets jumped on a climb.
Not only that, the front of the shorts dips down. Aesthetically, this is quite nice (assuming you’re standing up and breathing in) – but paired with a short cycling jersey (like Assos’s own UMA GT short sleeve jersey), it doesn’t leave a lot of room for reaching up without exposing bare stomach or base layer. Sure, skin exposure is not likely when in the cycling position, but it’s rare we go out on the bike and spend every second of our kitted-up time pedalling.
At the legs, the aeroFit warp knit was excellent – holding the shorts in place without a hint of over compression, whilst the gradual wave shape lends a pleasant aesthetic.
A pair of cycling shorts without a quality chamois is about as useful as a time triallist caught up in a match sprint, and by now the cycling industry pretty much understands that Assos bosses it here.
The UMA insert is narrow at the front, to reduce bulk, and comes with 8mm of memory foam and that lovely ‘Assos waffle’ – a three-layer foam that’s soft and breathable. The Golden Gate technology has been used, too, which means the chamois is not fixed in the middle, allowing the short material to move independently and the insert to partner more with the body.
I can’t say I’ve ever felt the need for a Golden Gate, nor that I feel the difference. But Assos’s waffle kept me comfortable all winter in its Habu Laalalai S7 tights and memory foam is welcome anywhere – I was always comfortable when riding in this chamois.
At £95, I couldn’t even claim that you’re paying an Assos premium for these shorts. Though you can find waist shorts much cheaper, once you get into this sort of performance territory the sub-£100 price point is rare.
On first wear, I pulled these shorts out reluctantly. However, I've since been wearing them on a regular basis. The material feels excellent, I feel confident in the compressive fabric and the chamois is second to none. Assos has not nailed the waistband – but I don't believe any brand has. That's why, in my opinion, you're better served by bib shorts. However, if a bib upper is simply not on your shopping list, then you'd be hard pressed to find a pair of waist shorts better than these.