Le Col's HC bib shorts form the bottom half of an excellent kit set with the HC jersey, and while their cost is on a par with the high level of performance, the design means that you'll probably only want to buy them with the jersey.
Pros: Performance feel and cut, quality chamois
Cons: Quite expensive, needs to be matched with very expensive jersey
Why? You've heard of the saying, 'bib shorts should be black', right? Well, while I don't like to blindly perpetuate cycling's fabled unwritten rules, the fact is that this one – on a style point at least – is fairly justified.
Black bib shorts go with just about anything (you can even mix and match brands without too much fuss), but those that are styled like the HC bib shorts usually need a matching counterpart to look decent when out on a ride.
Now, this may or may not bother you, so I'll leave that point there. It's just as well, because the HC bib shorts are right up there in the top tier in terms of performance – which, if nothing else, makes the expensive matching jersey worth a second look.
The Chamois is an Italian Dolomiti model that performs brilliantly for long stints in the saddle. The longest I went was 120km, and I felt like I could have gone another 120km more without much trouble, such was the comfort. It features graded pressure points for those important areas, and the surface is covered in a soft almost fleece-like textile that keeps friction down to a minimum against the skin.
Arguably it's not the most breathable or cool chamois around – there are no perforations in the construction – but I never really had a problem with this in typical UK summer weather.
The overall construction featuring a higher-than-usual density of Lycra also means that the bib shorts excel in cool UK summer temperatures too. They wouldn't be my first choice in a heatwave or on the continent, for example, but the added luxury feel is perfect for the UK's ever-changing weather.
The fit is excellent too, with just enough compression around the legs to ensure a performance feel without feeling restricted, and there's plenty of flexibility in the fabric if you happen to be carrying some serious-sized quads and glutes. I'm not (alas), but those who do will find space to accommodate them here, while rakes won't be burdened with excess fabric.
The legs are held in place by textured gripper nodules that run up the leg (along the 'hex' pattern), with additional nodules around the hem in the traditional spot too. It's a slightly unusual solution to have grippers up the side of the leg, like the jersey that has the same feature on the arms, but it's very comfortable indeed.
Those legs ignore the current trend of bib shorts that extend to just above the knee – these run to a nice mid-point between the knee and mid-thigh, which (for my money at least) is perfect.
Up top, the bib section is a single-piece stretchy band with a light mesh back. Le Col has done a great job of ensuring that the stretchiness of the bands is flexible enough that it can mould to the shape of those with long torsos without adding any undue stress on the shoulders. They give the impression that they're cut a little longer than your typical bib section, but as far as I can tell they not – indicating that they'll fit to size too.
Quality is undoubtedly good too. Flatlock seams seem high quality, while the bib shorts return perfectly from a 40 degree wash despite the 30 degree recommendations.
The bottom line is that these are excellent bib shorts with no real weaknesses on the quality or performance front. In my personal opinion, they only really match with the HC jersey or jerseys of the same colour, which is a shame because that will limit their appeal, especially given the cost.
However, if you want a new high-performance premium kit set this summer, you can do far worse than look at the HC collection from Le Col.
Bib shorts from the top shelf, but the blue colour means it'll be difficult to mix them with other favoured jerseys.
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Le Col HC Bib Shorts
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product is for
Le Col says:
"Our ultimate bib shorts for comfort, luxury and performance
"Designed with one purpose in mind, to be the most comfortable performance Bib shorts available. Our Hors Categorie shorts have been designed from thousands of hours in the saddle and incorporate all our road testing and innovation.
"Our HC Bibs use the top of the range Italian 220g Lycra so the shorts feel luxuriously rich whilst technically performing in a wide range of temperatures and conditions. The HC range uses our top of the range luxury Dolomiti Gel chamois pad, providing that extra support to get you through the ride in maximum comfort with minimum irritation. A special thread and stitch shape down the outside edges of the pad reduces rubbing to an absolute minimum.
"The ergonomic design of the panelling & seam shape ensures the bibs fit to the shape of the rider in the riding position. The specially designed laser cut bib straps hold the shorts in place without cutting into the shoulders, while the shorts themselves feature an innovative silicon gummy gripper design that runs along the entire length of the leg, ensuring a perfect fit with our trademark Le Col leg gripper at the hem.
"In addition, the seams have been flat locked to eliminate irritation and the logos are embroidered to last the lifetime of the product. This HC Bib Short is our Ultimate Bib Short for comfort, luxury and performance. Suitable for the widest range of rides."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Features (from Le Col's website):
- Luxury 220g Lycra, Stretch & Breathability
- Dolomiti Gel Chamois
- Laser cut perforated bib straps
- Flat locked seams
- Silicone leg gripper
- Extra Silicon gummy gripper panel on leg
- Lightweight mesh upper
These bib shorts are finished very nicely - all seams are very tidy.
All-in, the HC bib shorts are fantastic performers. A performance cut married to a great Dolomiti chamois, while the fabric is a little thicker than usual for a luxury feel.
The fabric's slightly extra thickness gives it a touch of resilience rarely seen in summer weight bib shorts.
The fit is spot on here - lightly compressive in all the right areas without feeling restrictive anywhere.
Sizes perfectly. I really like the slightly shorter cut leg than you tend to find these days.
Not superlight, but strangely slightly lighter than the matching jersey.
The small amount of extra fabric provides just that little extra comfort over typical summer bib shorts.
£180 is not cheap, but rivals from Castelli and Rapha (among others) price similarly but objectively offer no better performance, so par for this particular course
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Great - right in the top tier.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Performance feel and cut, quality chamois
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Quite expensive, needs to be matched with very expensive jersey
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes, as a matching pair with the jersey.
Would you consider buying the product? Probably not as I prefer black bib shorts, but it's forms a great performing kit set.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, as part of the set.
Use this box to explain your overall score
These are great bib shorts, but I think their appeal suffers as you'll need the very expensive jersey to really match it with something. If you want to match them with the jersey they are a definite 9 but for me they lose a point because they only really work from a style point of view when teamed with the jersey
About the tester
I usually ride: Canyon Ultimate CF SL 9.0 SL (2016) My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 5-10 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding,