These top-end Santini Photon 2 Bib Shorts are exceptionally comfortable, with a C3 padded insert that is ideal for longer rides, and a great fit and fabric construction.
These shorts make use of high-quality fabrics and the latest thinking in terms of panel shaping and construction.
Santini points out in a video on its website promoting these shorts that the measure of a good chamois is you don't notice it when cycling, and with the C3 padded insert in these shorts, that is certainly the case. For me, it's right up there with the very best padded bib shorts from the likes of Assos and Castelli.
The padded insert achieves this impressive comfort thanks to gel inserts located under the sit bones, along with two layers of overlapping perforated multi-density foam, which provides a slimline pad yet with the comfort you need for rides in excess of four or five hours. It's impressive that the padded insert provides such generous comfort without excessive volume; you notice the lack of bulk immediately you get on the bike.
Furthermore, the shorts use an amusingly named 'soft shell conch' at the front, which provides extra protection for your man parts. There is no irritation from the edges of the pad due to the seamless bond between it and the shorts fabric, and the shorts provide the necessary breathability to stay dry during hot rides. The C3 pad strikes the perfect balance of cushioning and a slimline fit.
The padding impressed, then. But so too do the shorts and the fabrics used. The front, bottom and back of the shorts are made from Thunderbike Power fabric, which is light and elastic and holds its shape very well. Eschler side panels provide a level of compression and good breathability, ensuring these shorts cope when the mercury rises. The fabric also has an anti-UV treatment to protect skin against harmful rays.
Many top-end shorts these days have moved away from traditional stitched and silicone-lined hems, and instead use a raw cut opening. That's the case here, and a wide band of elastic material grips the legs securely with no pressure or discomfort, all while ensuring the shorts don't slide up and reveal your tan line...
The wide and flat bib straps provide excellent comfort over the shoulders and are a generous length and stretch to prevent any undue pressure. The straps sit very wide at the front and the back panel is narrow, minimising the amount of extra material on your back, with a mesh panel boosting breathability.
There's so much choice in the cycling bib shorts market these days, and it can be harder than ever to justify spending the sort of money Santini is asking for these, but they are a noticeable performance step above most cheaper alternatives. They obviously can't compete with BTwin's £50 Aerofit bib shorts for value (I haven't worn those so can't say how they compare for comfort), but the fit is fantastic, comfort is up there with the best, and the quality of the materials and the construction marks them out. I've been really impressed with these shorts.
Excellent comfort and fit – these bib shorts are up there with the best
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Santini Photon Bib Shorts
Size tested: Medium
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?
Santini says: "The PHOTON bib-shorts are designed with an aerodynamic cut and made with Thunderbike Power fabric that helps reduce muscle stress due to its light compression and Eschler fabric inserts on the sidebands. Raw cut, anti-sliding elasticated leg cuff cover the muscles like a second skin. Innovative braces, made of seamless jacquard elastic, are completed by a single elastic mesh insert on the center of the back to allow for greater breathability and perfect fit. Thanks to the innovative C3 chamois with protective shell, multiple-destiny padding and Ergonomic 3D surface, the Photon shorts are exceptionally comfortable and suitable for long distance riding."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Compressive Thunderbike Power fabric construction
Elasticated Bib - breathable rear and side inserts - anti-UV and thermo-regulating Carbon fabric
Raw cut leg grippers
Innovative C3 chamois - breathable - multi-density core
Fit of the size medium tested was perfect, with no excessive tightness or compression, and good comfort for long rides.
The comfort, both from the padded insert and the construction of the shorts, is right up there with the best.
They're certainly not cheap but you can still pay more than this for shorts that probably don't offer any more comfort.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Very easy to look after.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Provides good comfort for short and long rides.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The padded insert and the feel of the fabric on the legs, and the seamless leg openings.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The branding around the legs is quite bold.
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
I have no hesitation in recommending these shorts, they're highly comfortable and the fit is excellent.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
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: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, mountain biking
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.