These shorts are the product of extensive research and the resultant chamois could be a game-changer for some women. Unfortunately, it's not a 'one size fits all' solution, it's worth really understanding what kind of pain you're experiencing on the bike before investing. The leg grippers spread pressure well and the droptail design works really well, but racers might want to add a light baselayer to protect their back.
Extensive chamois research could end pain for some riders
Chamois isn't suited to all riders or all saddles
Base layer or no?
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Saddle discomfort (opens in new tab) is a major issue for female cyclists, putting many women off and even resulting in pros (and some amateurs) opting for surgery. Not content with the current market provision 0f women's cycling shorts (opens in new tab), Endura enlisted the help of former British Cycling physiotherapist, Phil Burt, to create a saddle system charged with overcoming the problem.
The Endura Women’s Pro SL EGM Bib shorts (opens in new tab) are the product of extensive research; the manufacture of 250 chamois samples as well as prototyping for a group of 15 women from a range of backgrounds. Endura, and Burt, have really put the work in here looking to technologies outside of those traditionally used within cycling.
The resultant pad is somewhat heavy duty. It wasn't quite perfect for me, and I wouldn't recommend it for all riders, but it could be a real game-changer for those experiencing ride-ruining pain.
Endura Women’s Pro SL EGM Bib shorts: construction
Endura and Burt's research told them two important truths: women's soft tissue varies more than men's, and women have a combination of wider hips and narrower public rami, which results in a tendency to roll forward, causing pressure to soft tissue.
In order to address this, Burt looked to advances in medicine, eventually opting for the medical-grade silicone elastomer used between an amputee's artificial limb and stump. Unlike traditional foam, this doesn't 'bottom out'. It also doesn't wick sweat very well, which is why the silicone was embedded in liquid form into pockets within Endura's existing continuous variable profile (CVP) pads.
The elastomer is distributed at key pressure points, whilst the foam provides a smooth transition and also sucks up sweat and funnels it to the outer layer.
Of course, a good chamois in a bad set of shorts won't see the light of day. Endura embedded the pad into a well-fitting housing, with a Zipless Dropseat function, which allows the back to be pulled down for comfort breaks.
The front portion features a white mesh, with a rather elegant looking cross-strap rear, whilst the leg grippers have raw edges and silicone to keep them in place.
Endura Women’s Pro SL EGM Bib shorts: the ride
Wiggling into these shorts for the first time isn't the standard procedure, and the printed instructions that came with the shorts did help. However, once you've got the hang of stepping through the straps it's easy, and not dissimilar to low backed-evening dresses.
The pad does immediately feel different when compared to a traditional construction - it's much less malleable, and doesn't fold as easily as standard foam.
On the bike, I had very mixed experiences with the chamois. Riding on the Specialized Oura women's saddle (opens in new tab) (now discontinued), I found I was sitting very comfortably. However, on the Specialized Romin Evo saddle (opens in new tab) (unisex, replacing the Oura), which is usually my go-to perch, I found that the chamois was far too hard. The Oura cut-out has a slightly more ovalised shape, and the edges are softer - by design and also through wear. Effectively, on the Oura, the cut-out housed the relevant soft tissue so that the chamois wasn't pressing against my skin whilst on the Romin Evo the hard pad was acting as an unwelcome interim layer and creating pressure all of its own.
I also tested the shorts on the Specialized Power saddle on my track bike (I do seem to use mostly Specialized saddles!). There, the central pressure was fine though in this aggressive position the front of the pad was quite wide. Burt said that Endura is looking at developing a TT option in the future.
Pressure mapping provided to me by Burt shows that for some women, this chamois clearly reduced discomfort. Having discussed the shorts with other women who have tried them, some (like me) said they found the chamois far too hard, whilst others said it was a truly game-changing comfort revolution. It really depends on your shape, and the issues you're having.
Whilst I can't adjust my body shape to suit the test, I would hazard a guess that those who frequently experience labial pain and swelling (often called 'flap mash') may find these shorts a very positive investment. For me personally, pain tends to be more central, and I don't get on with anything hard pressing against the skin. I had exactly the same experience with the Specialized MIMIC saddle technology - for some women, it's revolutionary, for me, it was uncomfortable.
Any what of the body of the shorts? No complaints here. The leg grippers don't squeeze or cause discomfort but stayed in place.
The low back is a nice touch and the droptail design works well, there's plenty of stretch for comfort breaks and this far surpasses the previous zip design which always had me in fear of riding home like an escapee hospital patient. At the front, the mesh upper offers breathability and modesty should you wish to unzip on a climb.
My only negative point would be that the use of a high front and low back confuses the 'base layer' question - some racers like to wear one as an extra layer against their jersey, which can help reduce road race in the event of a crash. That said, I can't see adding a light sleeveless baselayer adding too much extra heat.
Endura Women’s Pro SL EGM Bib shorts: value
At £129.99, Endura is pitching these shorts right at the middle of the market. They are cheaper than competitors also on test this spring, such as the Assos T.laalalai shorts_s7 bib shorts (£165) (opens in new tab) and Rapha Classic Women’s bib shorts (£170). (opens in new tab) If you're looking for something more value-orientated, check out the likes of the dhb Aeron women’s bib shorts (opens in new tab) (£75) which we rated highely.
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Michelle Arthurs-Brennan is a traditional journalist by trade, having begun her career working for a local newspaper, where highlights included interviewing a very irate Freddie Star (and an even more irate theatre owner), as well as 'the one about the stolen chickens'.
Previous to joining the Cycling Weekly team, Michelle was Editor at Total Women's Cycling. She joined CW as an 'SEO Analyst', but couldn't keep her nose out of journalism and in the spreadsheets, eventually taking on the role of Tech Editor before her latest appointment as Digital Editor.
Michelle is a road racer who also enjoys track riding and the occasional time trial, though dabbles in off-road riding too (either on a mountain bike, or a 'gravel bike'). She is passionate about supporting grassroots women's racing and founded the women's road race team 1904rt.
Michelle is on maternity leave from July 8 2022, until April 2023.
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