Extremely comfortable bib shorts, made from a soft fabric with a chamois that sits between the bulk of endurance models and the limited protection of race options. I'd rather swap the central clasp for a filled in, base layer style - and the price is an understandable deterrant - but I've still been reaching for these shorts every time they've come out the wash and they come highly recommended.
On the pricey end
Central clasp doesn't serve much purpose
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Every cyclist should own an extremely comfortable pair of plain black bib shorts, and the 'Sophie' bibs from Café du Cycliste are a worthy contender for the most recommended award.
The French brand started life as an actual café before swapping flat whites for flat stitching - and the result is a line of clothing which aims to combine comfort and performance with understated style.
The Sophie bib shorts, available in black and navy blue, are new to the range. Unlike the brand's other women's offerings they provide a comfort break friendly design.
Café du Cycliste calls this a 'quick release design'. There is indeed a clasp across the chest, however, you don't really need to use this in practice, in fact I barely touched it. When stopping for that all important pee break, you can pull the halterneck over your head and shimmy the shorts down, or simply pull the back down. This is simple, effective, and I didn't find the halter pulled on my neck or otherwise negatively impacted the ride.
The primary fabric in play is made up of 78 per cent polyamide and 22 per cent elastomere. This is extremely stretchy and feels soft against the skin, and the size small I had on test fitted exactly as expected.
There is some compression on offer, but these don't hug the legs as tightly as more race orientated shorts, such as those I've tried from Assos and Specialized. That's not necessarily a criticism, these provided a little more give which will suit some riders more than others.
The grippers were one of the major USPs for me - the brand has used an 'integrated gripper' - there's no harsh elastic to cut into your legs and no stitching to chafe, yet these stayed put with no riding up.
I have known grippers in this style eventually begin to curl at the bottom after around a year of use - after many washes these are showing no signs of wear.
The leg length was just right on me (I'm 165cm) - though this comes down to personal preferance and of course height.
Up top, a dual dual mesh system keeps the bibs in place, and provides plenty of breathability.
Other halter bib shorts that I've worn have come with a filled in front - Giro's Chrono shorts are an example, and I do prefer that approach, as it provides you with an in-built base layer and makes for a less awkward unzipped experience when riding long climbs abroad. However, though it's not my ultimate preferance, the style Café du Cycliste has opted for was comfortable and breathable.
There are reflective flashes at the thighs, and the only branding is a subtle 'Café du Cycliste' logo on the quad - keeping this simple means these pair well with any jersey which is a plus.
Of course, the chamois is the most important element of any pair of bibshorts. In this case, you're getting a pad from industry experts CyTech which features the manufacutrers Elastic Interface Technology, offering plenty of stretch which follows the rider's movements.
Whilst race shorts sometimes feature fairly thin pads, and 'endurance' shorts often come with bulky inserts, the provision from Café du Cycliste felt like a real Goldilocks discovery - offering a happy medium between the two. I wore these shorts on long, four hour rides as well as hard and fast 90 minute training sessions, and was happy and pain free in both instances.
I tested the shorts alongside the 'Micheline' jersey (£127), which is designed to perform over long days out. The two paired well, and this kit as a duo is a nice compromise between all-out race ready gear and relaxed fit options which sometimes sacrifice performance.
Coming in at £183, these shorts are rather pricey. Whilst I'd absolutely recommend them, and they've become a firm favourite within my riding wardrobe, it's not necessary to spend quite this much for a comparible performance - even Assos, which is known for its top end pricing, charges less at £165 for its 'T.LAALALAISHORTS_S7' bibs.
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