The Santini Women's Volo Bib Shorts are comfortable – once you get used to the leg grippers – and have a great fit, allowing you to spend hours in the saddle through the spring and summer months. Having tested the matching jersey and found it excellent, I must confess I was a little less enthused by these, but nonetheless enjoyed riding in them.
Let's start with the key feature of any good shorts: the pad. The C3W chamois is light and compact. It doesn't feel bulky or irritating when off the bike and relaxing at the cafe. On the bike, it stayed in place as I shifted around in the saddle and was comfortable for over four hours of riding.
The wide bib straps are super-stretchy and laser cut (along with the entire bib section) for minimal seems and maximal comfort, which they certainly provide. The butterfly cut design features multiple mesh panels for breathability and comes up higher at the front than most of my shorts. I found this design incredibly comfortable with the straps sitting in place well so that I barely noticed them while riding.
In its search for ultimate comfort, Santini has done away with elasticated leg grippers and instead, the inside of the shorts is peppered with small silicone dots which adhere to your skin to hold the shorts in place. While these microdots do stick to the skin very effectively to hold the shorts in place, I found that it took me a lot of adjustment during my first few rides in the shorts to sit the grippers in a comfortable position around my legs. This was followed by further mid-ride adjustment because of some rubbing from a seam on the inside leg. However, in the past couple of weeks my legs seem to have grown used to the grippers and I've had no more issues.
The predominantly black design of the shorts means they'll match just about any of your kit, but colourful stitching and mesh panels in the bib are designed to match the lovely Volo Women's Jersey. Both are available in three colour options of orange, blue or the violet I tested.
According to the Santini size guide I'm somewhere between a small and medium (a UK size 8/10 in most shorts) and the medium fit me well (it's not me modelling in the photos). Santini kit does generally come up small so if you're unsure then sizing up is probably sensible.
The fit around my legs and bum is just right and the stretchy bibs hold everything securely in place with no excess material. I don't like my shorts too long in the leg, especially as I don't have very long legs myself. These are a great length for me, finishing a good few cm above the knee.
An RRP of £125 is the sort of price I would expect to pay for a really good quality and comfortable pair of shorts, but I have worn more comfortable ones than the Volos that are also cheaper. That said, while these haven't quite lived up to the comfort claims, I would still consider buying a pair – especially if they were on offer.
If you're looking for some quality, comfortable shorts, I'd suggest you also check out the Rapha Women's Core Bib Shorts which are £25 cheaper at £100. In the other direction, maintaining their title as the best pair of shorts I've ever had the pleasure to ride in are the Assos Women's T.laalalai S7 shorts which I reviewed a couple of years back. You'd need to be prepared to spend a little more, though, as they cost £160.
A good pair of shorts with a comfortable pad and great bib section, but the grippers take some getting used to
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Santini Women's Volo Bib Short C3W Pad
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product is for
Santini says: "Taking comfort to new levels. Constructed from state-of-the-art Thunderbike Power with minimal seams, the Volo bib-shorts are cutting-edge technology. The revolutionary design has no elastic at the bottom of the leg. Instead, the inside of the shorts are peppered with silicon microdots, so they adhere perfectly to your skin at every point. No pulling, no stretching."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
MUSCLE COMPRESSION FABRIC Sidebands made from Thunderbike Power compression fabric.
ENHANCED COMFORT Butterfly cut braces and advanced C3W chamois for total protection and lightness.
NON-CONSTRICTIVE Silicon dots for gentle grip at the bottom of the legs.
A mixed bag: good chamois and I loved the bib section but found the leg grippers took a few rides to get comfortable with.
£125 is the sort of price I'd expect to pay for a good quality pair of shorts but these just aren't quite as comfortable as I'd hoped.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Washed on a cool cycle absolutely fine.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Didn't quite 'take comfort to new levels' for me, but I did quite happily spend several consecutive hours riding in them.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The design and comfort from the bib section.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The 'revolutionary' leg gripper design took some shifting around to get comfortable.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes – but if you'd asked me after the first couple of outings, I'd have said no.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
They're good shorts, and while they don't completely live up to Santini's claims of revolutionary comfort, I can't deny that I have really enjoyed riding in them and would certainly consider buying a pair.
About the tester
I usually ride: Planet X London Road My best bike is: Bowman Palace:R
I've been riding for: 5-10 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, commuting, club rides, track
Ashia is a Maths student at the University of Bath and has been riding and racing bikes for the past 6 years after a track taster session at her local velodrome had her hooked. Most weekends, she can be found out racing, be it track, road, criteriums, time trials, triathlons, or cyclocross. Whilst she is fiercely competitive and loves to race, she is still on the look out for anyone hiring a "full time cafe rider" when she graduates.