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The Bontrager Ballista bib shorts are expensive but they're an example of the old adage, you get what you pay for. With a comfortable pad and a performance orientated fit they are a top choice for the racer or rider who likes to put the power down.
The inForm synthetic chamois is a good 'un. It's narrow in section and has the padding positioned exactly where you need it. Increasing layers at the sit bones towards the rear of the chamois offer comfort when you're in a more upright position without causing any bunching once you slip into the drops.
The frontal area follows the same ethos, with padding where you need it and none where you don't. Designed with the pro racer in mind it's no surprise that the Ballistas feel more comfortable when crouched in an aerodynamic tuck.
The Profila Power material is shiny to the touch and has a huge amount of stretch to it, which gives a compressive feel to your working muscles. This also means a great fit as once you've got them on they don't move at all, with the legs only needing minimal grippers to keep them in place and therefore no pressure points.
The rear parts of the bibs are made from mesh for breathability, though the actual straps are made from the same material as the rest of the shorts. Again the huge amount of stretch means the shorts easily move around with you as you go from seated to standing without pulling tight over your shoulders.
A neat little touch is the radio pocket on the rear of the bibs; okay, so not a lot of us need to speak to our following team car, but it's the perfect size for an mp3 player, cash or a key.
As far as fit goes it's much the same size as most Italian clothing. Basically, go up a size unless you want things super-tight or if you are tall, as you'll need the extra length in the bibs.
Thoughts on value are individual to each and every consumer; some will baulk at spending £140 on a pair of shorts, but if I had and then got off the bike feeling as fresh and comfortable as I did in the Ballistas, then it's money well spent.
They don't feel as fragile as a lot of top end shorts, either. The material is strong and you can really yank them on without tugging a seam or anything, so they should last well, too.
Overall, the Bontrager Ballista bibs are designed with the top level racer in mind and it's that quality of cut, fit, material and comfort that comes through when wearing them. You don't need to be a sponsored pro to wear them, but you'll get the same benefits.
Simply, you get what you pay for: pro-level performance for us mere mortals
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Bontrager Ballista Bib Short
Size tested: Medium, Black/Mint
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Bontrager says: "A performance bibshort designed and developed for use by athletes at the highest levels of cycling."
I'd be inclined to agree. They feel lovely, the type of kit you could ride in for hours plus the compressive material adds to the performance effect.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
*Mesh bib straps
*RXL inForm pad
*Made in Italy
*Sizes XS - XXL
Look great and it's nice to find a lightweight, expensive pair of bib shorts that you aren't scared of pulling too tight to get on.
Stunning compression feel from the shorts while you are wearing them, and the pad can be ridden in all day, hard!
The material and stitching feel robust.
They certainly feel lightweight when on.
Fitted and compressive, but the material is smooth and moves with you.
£140 for a pair of bib shorts is expensive but the Ballista bibs are up there with some of the best shorts I've worn.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The compression fabric; fitted without being restraining.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The price is quite exclusive.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
The Ballista bibs are truly brilliant shorts that offer basically everything I would look for in a pair. Performance, comfort and a great fit plus little extras like the radio pocket, an ideal cash or iPod stash. That price, though... don't get me wrong, compared with a lot of the similarly priced competition they'd still come out on top, but it comes down to whether you can justify £140 for one piece of kit.
About the tester
Age: 37 Height: 180cm Weight: 76kg
I usually ride: Kinesis T2 My best bike is: Mason Definition
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,
With 20 years of road cycling and over 150,000 miles in his legs it's safe to say Stu is happiest when on the bike whatever the weather. Since writing his first review for road.cc back in 2009 he has also had a career in engineering including 3D-CAD design and product development, so has a real passion for all of the latest technology coming through in the industry but is also a sucker for a classic steel frame, skinny tyres, rim brakes and a damn good paintjob.
His fascination with gravel bikes is getting out of control too!