We put Sportful's high-end shorts through their paces
If there’s one piece of clothing that it’s worth spending a bit of money on, it’s your shorts, and you could do a lot worse than spend £110 on the Sportful R&D SC bib shorts. That price puts them one from the top of the Italian company’s range (the top spot is taken by the Sportful Super Total Comfort bib shorts), so as you’d expect they are very good shorts.
At the heart of the Sportful R&D SC bib shorts is the excellent TC Pro chamois, something which is also found on the water-resistant Sportful Fiandre Light NoRain bib shorts and the more summery Sportful BodyFit Pro bib shorts.
If you’re not up to speed with those shorts, then all you really need to know is that this is an exceptionally comfortable pad that is designed for the demands of pro riders, meaning that it these shorts are a pleasure to wear whether you’re smashing it for one hour, or cruising for seven.
The chamois has varying amounts of padding deployed in different areas to create a comfortable pad that is comfortable without being bulk. In the crucial areas supporting your sit bones there is 14mm of high density foam, but this slims down from 12mm to 9mm down the central channel and just 4mm around the edges of the pad.
Watch: buyer’s guide to cycling shorts
Add to this the seamless design and the neat join between the pad and the shorts, and you’re going to have to go on some pretty long lines if you want to get the slightest pangs of discomfort from the Sportful R&D SC bib shorts. I’ve embarked on a couple of seven hour rides in these shorts, and it’s only been for the last half an hour or so that I’ve found myself lifting my backside up in search of a little relief.
Aside from the pad, there’s plenty else to like about the Sportful R&D SC bib shorts. Perhaps the most eye-catching feature is the “double step leg opening”, which basically means that there is a layer of mesh that is placed over the leg openings of the shorts. The thinking behind this is that it helps to keep the shorts in place without the need for silicon grippers.
Thankfully I didn’t have any problem with the shorts riding up my leg while pedalling, although admittedly I can’t be sure whether this is entirely thanks to the tech on the R&D shorts as I’ve never had any such problems from any of Sportful’s other shorts. Up close it looks a little odd, but take a few steps back, and it just looks as though Sportful has given its shorts coloured hems.
Everything else on the Sportful R&D SC bib shorts is just as impressive. The lycra is what Sportful calls its “Sensitive Power” fabric, which feels much denser and with slightly less stretch than normal lycra. This might not sound like a good thing, but it means a comfortable, compressive fit that gives a really high quality feel.
I was also impressed by the straps of these shorts. They’re nice a wide so they don’t dig in to your shoulders, and are also joined together just below your shoulder blades, meaning that the straps pull your shorts directly upwards rather than slightly off to each side.
The final good thing about the Sportful R&D SC bib shorts is that they are available in no fewer seven different sizes, and unlike some other Italian brands, the sizing doesn’t come up small, so if you usually wear medium shorts, you can place your online order for a medium in peace.
For more details visit the Sportful website.
The Sportful R&D SC bib shorts certainly justify their £110 price tag. They're comfortable in whatever position you're riding and have the sort of high quality feel you'd expect from a pricey piece of kit.