The 7Mesh TK1 bib tights are very warm, technically loaded and can carry as much kit as a three-pocket jersey. As always, the pad fit may not be to everyone's liking, but if it does suit you these are excellent winter tights for on- or off-road riding.
- Pros: Three pockets, thermal, water-resistant fabric, great cut and fit, supportive straps, reflective legs
- Cons: Innovative pad support might not suit everyone
Canadian firm 7Mesh's "warmest, most protective thermal legwear" has a pretty good pedigree to draw upon. Earlier this year Pat raved about the warmer-weather Mk3 Bib Shorts, praising their 'unique design' and 'incredible levels of comfort'. A key factor here was the 'hammock' design whereby the chamois can move independently from the outer skin of the shorts. Pat found this prevented the need to do the 'cyclist shuffle', whereby the pad needs rearranging, either on or off the bike, to afford comfort.
I can vouch for the comfort of the design, but it may not be for everyone, all the time. Over a few months' riding I did encounter one occasion where the pad seemed to bunch on one side, leading to a small amount of chafing. As this only happened the once, and otherwise I was a happy chap, I'll put this down to perhaps more need to pay attention to – ahem – strategic alignment at the start of a ride, shall we say.
When you're used to grabbing a handful of short and hoicking it left or right to adjust fit, this may not quite work when said short isn't actually attached directly to the miscreant chamois. In my case the issue was made worse by dint of wearing three layers of gloves at the time.
That one adjustment niggle aside, the chamois did the job over some pretty long rides, remaining consistently comfortable.
The TK1 is a masterclass in anatomically-accurate panel cut and assembly. Each leg is a single panel of fabric, cut in what appears to be an impossible three dimensions and sewn up the back of the leg to join the panel that holds the chamois inside.
The legs are shaped around the calf, bent slightly at the knee to minimise bunching when pedalling, and then rounds outwards over the gluteus maximus ('arse') to ensure a fit without stretching and thinning the insulating fabric over this important muscle group.
There are no ankle zips, but then as these are full bib tights, chances are you'll be donning or removing them in a bedroom with access to someplace nice to sit down and slide over your feet.
The fabric that supports the front of the chamois extends up to the hem at the front, meaning you have two layers of material, helping keep your tummy warm from the wind.
Each calf has a large grey reflective logo panel, helping to alert car drivers in the dark to your presence.
The fabric is treated with a DWR coating, and water beaded straight off from new. After a few months there were some spots around the knees where the water didn't bead, but maybe that's to be expected in any non-waterproof fabric subject to tens of thousands of stretch-contract cycles. At the shins things remained splash-impervious, critical in winter leg covering.
The bib straps are a whopping two inches wide, and are soft and seam-free. They come together at the rear yoke, which is also insulated the full length of the back.
On the upper back panel are stitched three pockets, exactly as you'd see on a jersey. The centre pocket measures a modern-smartphone-or pump-swallowing 6x4in, the two side pockets have sloping upper edges and cover about 4x4in – more than enough for a 28mm inner tube (yes, I'm mixing imperial and metric, sorry!) or a few energy bars.
The rationale for pockets on a set of bib tights may not be self-evident, but consider: in really cold weather, does the jersey/jacket combo you want to wear have the right pockets in the right places? If you are needing to carry a fair bit of food or tools, or spare items of clothing such as gloves/headwear, do you have the capacity? Many lighter-weight jerseys may not be able to accommodate a full winter jacket, if you need to carry one – either by itself or with other items in nearby pockets. Likewise, if you're racing cyclo-cross or going seriously gravelly, the risk of ejecting a critical tool or food item over rough ground should make the idea of under-jersey storage attractive. And if you want to opt for a non-cycling top, of course there are no pockets at all. It's all about horses for temperature-and-precipitation-and-terrain courses – as ever, choice is good.
This certainly isn't a new concept, and Rapha, Specialized, Sportful and Nukeproof have sold 'storage' bib shorts or tights for a few years. Stu recently reviewed the Sportful Supergiara tights and came away impressed. I'd say these are currently the closest competitor to the TK1s on function and price, but you don't get the DWR coating, which is a real boon if it's wet out there. And the Rapha Explore Cargo ones are £240, making the 7Mesh look positively bargain-basement.
On the road or gravel for three to four hour stretches, the TK1s felt great. There was no feeling of bunching around the knee, and the snug fit meant everything stayed put, including the cargo in the pockets and the ankle, which, lacking a footstrap or elastic hem, is reliant on the natural fall of the fabric to remain in place.
Breathability-wise, they never pooled sweat in the back or around the stomach, or at the back of the knee – like Baby Bear's porridge, everything was just right.
Going full-sus multi-discipline, I wore the TK1 bibs under a pair of 7Mesh's waterproof baggy mountain bike shorts. I didn't want to take a hip pack on the sub-two-hour ride, and more-casual mountain bike tops and jackets don't usually rock rear pockets. In this case the TK1 bib pockets stashed a few critical items for a lightweight, luggage-free ride while keeping my legs nice and toasty. This is a boon for mountain bike riding, where there's usually less chance to sit at a constant high work rate and therefore keep generating body heat.
Overall, the TK1s are great winter tights, in my case ousting the rather excellent Pearl Izumi Pro Pursuit bibs that have been my winter mainstay the last two years. The combination of amazing fit, luggage capacity, warmth and waterproofness makes the TK1s serious contenders for The Last Winter Bibs You'll Ever Need To Own.
Great-fitting, water-resistant thermal bibs with three-pocket storage – highly recommended
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road.cc test report
Make and model: 7Mesh TK1 Bib Tights
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product is for
They are for people wanting to ride far in rubbish weather, carrying stuff in a way it won't get lost.
"The TK1 Tight is our warmest, most protective thermal legwear. With DWR material it manages moisture on the hard face nylon exterior while a cozy brushed fleece provides next to skin comfort.
"The tight features tension free, buttery soft elastic bib straps and our Anything Series three-pocket rear storage system for maximum versatility. Unique patterning and articulation prevent fabric bunching at the back of the knee while enhancing freedom of movement throughout your pedal stroke. Large reflective details ensure visibility on the road no matter how inclement the weather.
"All-day ride comfort comes courtesy of an Elastic Interface Performance Force chamois."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Body: 85% nylon, 15% elastane with DWR Chamois: Elastic Interface Mens Performance Force
Inseam - 29' / 73.5cm
3 Pocket storage system, overshort compatible
45mm soft elastic bib straps
Mesh chamois hammock lining
Clean Finish Construction
Soft brushed knit bib strap junction
Large reflective details
Clean cut leg hem
The one niggle with the wayward pad aside, I really, really rate these.
There's a bit of pilling where they brushed against Velcro, but most Lycra will do that.
The panel design makes for a skinsuit-like feel.
The mediums were bang on for me, just right.
For thermal tights with pockets it's pretty good.
Brilliant. And after four hours all over the gravel and hills, still the same. Just get the pad set right first.
Compared to the offerings from Sportful and Rapha, with a DWR, £150 is pretty good.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Washed up from muddy rides fine.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Made wintry rides carrying kit an enjoyable experience. No drawbacks, only upsides.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The pockets and the cut. The fit is sublime.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The pad fixing, if anything. But that's always going to be personal.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes, for the first hour or so.
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
I can only mark the TK1s down on price compared to other thermal bib + pockets options like the Sportful Supergiara, but they don't get the DWR coating. The TK1s are £90 cheaper than the Rapha Explore Winter cargo tight mind.
About the tester
I usually ride: Merida Ride 5000 Disc My best bike is: Velocite Selene
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo cross, club rides, general fitness riding, mountain biking, Dutch bike pootling.