The women's specific Odlo Element cycling shorts are a easy to wear and versatile pair of shorts, that will be a great addition to any cyclists wardrobe. Balancing both comfort and practicality, the exceptionally well made shorts punch well above their price bracket when compared to their peers, making them one of the best non-bib options on the market. A great buy.
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Once upon a time, cycling was simply about propelling a two wheeled vehicle in a pair of shorts and jersey. Fast-forward to the year 2020 and the types of bikes and cycling clothing options mirror the coffee menu in a hipster cafe. Therefore, it can be incredibly refreshing when a simple pair of black shorts turn up.
Made from a polyamide and elastane mix, the Odlo Element cycling shorts have been designed for use either out on the open road or, thanks to the high sweat wicking and drying properties, for use at home on the turbo.
A quick comparison against peers, and on paper they fair very well. Coming in at £50 and 142g, these mixed use shorts are 15g lighter and £15 cheaper than the turbo specific dhb Aeron Turbo Women's shorts and just one gram heavier, but a whopping £45 cheaper than the Assos UMA GT half shorts.
The minimalist design uses six fabric panels which are kept securely in place on the mid thigh by the inclusions of a silicon strip on the inside circumference of the leg hem. I've become so accustomed to extra wide leg collars made from fancy silicon impregnated fabrics, like the Craft Essence bib shorts that I was initially dubious as to how successful the this leg finish on the Odlo Element cycling shorts would be, but I needn't have been. Even when out on a long ride, on mixed terrain the legs held fast, and all concerns were alleviated.
At the other end of the Odlo Element cycling shorts, an extra high nine centimetre waist provides a comfortable and secure mid-section front to back. The back also has a small triangle of mesh sewn in the very centre, where the top of the glute panels meet the waistband. This plays a duel role of not only adding an element of breathability to the shorts, but also extending the back of the shorts by an additional three centimetres, so that when I was bent over in a riding position, there was no risk of a drafty jersey to shorts gap.
This extra wide midriff also gives the shorts a nice length of 43cm, meaning that they had a really decent length to the legs. As a 5"7 rider with long femurs, it's an area that I find many waistband shorts could do with being a couple of centimetres more generous in.
In-between the top and bottom of the shorts is the all important chamois. It's a make or brake area for a pair of shorts, and a real subjective one, with one pad being ideal for one rider, and jolly uncomfortable for another. Thankfully the Odlo Element cycling shorts chamois worked really well for me. In-keeping with the rest of the shorts, the Odlo own brand pad is a simple design, made up of a duel density foam.
Measuring 30cm front to back, with 20cm of thicker foam positioned towards the rear of the whole insert, the chamois delivered that sweetspot of sufficient comfort without over doing it. I would probably want something a little more robust for a long ride, but for up to two hours outside, or an hour on the home trainer they were just the job.
As someone who prefers bib shorts, the Odlo Element cycling shorts are a really great alternative. I found the high waist band really comfortable and secure, and actually preferred it over lots of bib'ed pairs which can come down really low at the front.
The only snag was the overall sizing. I've searched high and low on the Odlo website and can't find any sizing guide. This meant that, on assuming a UK size 8/10 would be a small, the shorts came up a little large. This does mean that if you are particularly petite you might find the extra small (XS) will still be too big, but on the flip side, if you find that most lycra offerings not generous enough, the Odlo options of XS- XL will probably offer a welcome range.
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Hannah is Cycling Weekly’s longest-serving tech writer, having started with the magazine back in 2011. She has covered all things technical for both print and digital over multiple seasons representing CW at spring Classics, and Grand Tours and all races in between.
Hannah was a successful road and track racer herself, competing in UCI races all over Europe as well as in China, Pakistan and New Zealand.
For fun, she's ridden LEJOG unaided, a lap of Majorca in a day, won a 24-hour mountain bike race and tackled famous mountain passes in the French Alps, Pyrenees, Dolomites and Himalayas.
She lives just outside the Peak District National Park near Manchester UK with her partner, daughter and a small but beautifully formed bike collection.
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