2XU's Women's Sub Cycle Bib Shorts have a fantastic chamois that has the potential to keep you comfortable for even the longest of rides. I found the fit really good, though the leg grippers take some getting used to – and the design might not appeal to all.
I tested these shorts alongside 2XU's Sub Jersey (full review to come) – good job, as the unique design was hard to match with other kit in my wardrobe. In a market swamped with primarily black shorts it's really refreshing to see 2XU trying to be different with blue ones, but for someone who is a little OCD about having shorts and jerseys that match, or at least look half decent together, I can see that this kit is not a mix-and-match contender. Buy the shorts and you really need to buy the top too – discuss...
Aesthetics aside, I was impressed with the chamois in these shorts. 2XU calls it the STELVIO chamois; dimpled fabric enclosing strategically placed 120 density foam. It's neatly oversewn at the edges so there is no ridge that could potentially chafe skin. The foam is cut smaller than the dimpled fabric to avoid a sudden increase in bulk and it is stitched over (like a quilt) to create tear shapes at the rear of the pad. These allow it to flex, which certainly makes it feel and look better off the bike. On the bike, I did a nine-hour ride in these shorts and not once did I feel uncomfortable. I didn't overheat in the shorts either – okay, so I wasn't belting along, but it was at the height of our mini heatwave.
The shorts come up as I would expect for a medium: not too big, not too small. I didn't really sense any level of compression, though this is a hard thing to judge. 2XU rates the Sub Shorts as 'medium gauge for stability'. To me, they fitted no differently to other brand mediums around the hips and lower waist – snug but not restrictive.
The bib straps have a good cut and sit comfortably to the outside of the chest, though I would have preferred that the bib's mesh panel stretched a little further down the back to promote air flow.
I was baffled by the positioning of the interior label. None of the photos show this but looking at the side view, Tass's hand is in line with the label. It is a big label with hard, fray-resistant edges that irritates like hell. The simple answer is to cut it out – and don't worry too much about the instructions to wash on a cold cycle, iron on a cool setting (who irons their bib shorts?) and dry out of sunlight as they are prone to fading... I resorted to washing the shorts (and the jersey) on a 30 degree cycle; cold just doesn't get them smelling fresh.
The leg grippers are a wide band of dimpled silicone and it's highly effective; there is no movement once the shorts are on. This means you really do want them in the right place when you set out – they are so wide and grippy that they are not easy to adjust on the move. I also found that the band gaped a little on the underside, as you can see in the photos. I had thought this might worsen with washing and wearing but it hasn't. Indeed, the shorts are showing no sign of wear or fading, even with lots of use and – shhhh! – drying outside in the sun!
Despite the label and the washing/drying dictates, I really loved testing these shorts. The chamois is seriously good – and ideal for someone who enjoys longer rides. The price tag is also comparable to most of the big manufacturers – in fact they are 30 quid cheaper than Santini's Volo Shorts that Ashia recently reviewed, though a tenner more than Sportful's Diva bib shorts.
If the 'Navy/Pink Shapemania' design appeals I'd say 2XU's Sub Shorts (and jersey) are a decent investment if you enjoy long, leisurely rides. They're not cheap but the pad is seriously comfortable. If you're looking for shorts that can be mixed and matched with other kit, you might need to look elsewhere...
Hours in the saddle are made easy thanks to a great pad, though the unique colourway might mean buying the jersey too
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road.cc test report
Make and model: 2XU Womens Sub Cycle Bib Shorts
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product is for
2XU says, "Engineered with SBR Power fabrication, the 2XU Sub Cycle Bib Shorts offer optimal durability and endurance. High performance yarns and engineering for muscle support and stabilisation."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
2XU tells us about three main features of the shorts...
1. Superior power, durability and strength. Mid-level gauge for stability, impressive muscle stabilisation.
2. Premium Italian engineered silicone gripper for a secure fit and comfort.
3. 2XU's new Italian engineered STELVIO chamois, utilising dimpled fabric technology and 120 density foam for maximum breathability and comfort.
Main Fabric - SBR POWER - Built from 70D elastane, SBR POWER offers superior power, durability and strength. Featuring high denier nylon yarn for impressive support and moisture management, plus a mid-level gauge for stability. Impressive muscle stabilisation through action is also assured.
ICE X - Engineered from high filament cross section polyester, this impressive heat management fabric delivers unbeatable moisture wicking properties. Excellent stretch and recovery memory to move with the body.
SENSOR MESH - Utilising a nylon-LYCRAÂ® fibre matrix with high filament hydrophilic nylon yarn and optimal airflow engineering, SENSOR MESH provides the ultimate in moisture management, and LYCRAÂ® fibre from INVISTA provides unparalled durability.
Snug fit and very comfortable chamois.
Leg grippers may gape more with wear and washing but they are still okay after a good test period.
Spot on in length for me – not too short, not too long. Snug but not constrictive elsewhere.
As would be expected – I normally wear a medium and these fitted perfectly.
Excellent chamois, but the leg grippers take some getting used to. Also, the label – why?! – it became slightly less irritating with washing, but I'd suggest cutting it out.
Pricey in comparison to own brands, but comparative to leading manufacturers.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Stated it should be a cold wash but didn't come out smelling so fresh (though not as bad as the jersey), so I resorted to a 30 degree cycle and they have been fine.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Great for long rides thanks to a very comfortable chamois. I personally didn't feel any compression or 'muscle stabilisation'.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Positioning of the label and the advice to use a cold wash. Difficult to team with existing kit.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes, label whining aside, they are great – a really comfy pair of shorts.
Would you consider buying the product? Probably not because of the design, though I would definitely invest in other shorts with a Stelvio chamois.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? If they liked that design, yes.
Use this box to explain your overall score
The shorts are great for long rides. They aren't perfect, and the price is quite high, but I reckon the comfort of the pad makes them worth an 8 overall.
About the tester
I usually ride: Road My best bike is: Carbon road.
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, club rides, general fitness riding, getting to grips with off roading too!
Emma’s first encounters with a road bike were in between swimming and running. Soon after competing for GB in the World Age Group Triathlon Championships in Edmonton in 2001 she saw the light and decided to focus on cycling.
After a couple of half decent UK road seasons racing for Leisure Lakes, she went out to Belgium to sample the racing there and spent two years with Lotto-Belisol Ladies team, racing alongside the likes of Sara Carrigan, Grace Verbeke, Rochelle Gilmore and Lizzie Deignan. Emma moved from Lotto-Belisol to Dutch team Redsun, then a new Belgian team of primarily developing riders, where there was less pressure, an opportunity to share her experience and help build a whole new team; a nice way to spend her final years of professional racing.
Since retiring Emma has returned to teaching. When not coercing kids to do maths, she is invariably out on two wheels. In addition to the daily commute, Emma still enjoys getting out on her road bike and having her legs ripped off on the local club rides and chain gangs. She has also developed an addiction to touring, with destinations including Iceland, Georgia and Albania, to mention just a few. There have also been rare sightings of Emma off-road on a mountain bike…