The Assos Equipe RSR S9 Targa bib shorts are very comfortable and very light. The main body material is different from basically any other cycle clothing I've used, but provides good compression and a race-ready fit. The chamois is exceptional, the bib straps are wide and flat, and the price is very high.
The RSR S9s are claimed to be the fastest shorts that Assos makes, and this new Targa version has been redesigned to further reduce weight. They now weigh 166g for a size medium, which does make them a fair whack lighter than other top-of-the-range shorts. The MAAP Pro bibs we've just reviewed are 213g, for example, a whole 22 per cent heavier.
Now, not many people go and buy a new set of (very expensive) bibs just because they're light, but this is a bit of a giveaway that they're a bit different from other shorts. The material, for starters, feels more like an Olympian's swimming jammers than cycling clothing; the easiest way to describe it is that it rustles, though thankfully not while riding along. Assos calls it 'type.701kompressor' fabric and it's a 68% polyamide, 26% elastane and 6% polyester mix. It's really rather compressive, too, so expect a tight and performance-focused fit.
Assos says the fabric is abrasion resistant, blocks UV rays (UPF50+), and resists odours while actively cooling. I've been wearing the bibs on a recent warm weather training camp and did indeed find the compressive support comfortable for long days in the saddle. I didn't find them unnecessarily warm, which was a worry when I first saw the fabric, but did find that they were quite susceptible to getting white marks from salt when I did start sweating heavily.
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Areas around the crotch get a more breathable and less compressive 'Ossidia' fabric, and this combined with the vented chamois that we'll look at in a minute – it has holes in each layer – help the shorts to dry quickly and reduce clamminess.
The S9 Targas' 'aeroFit' is more aggressive than the 'racingFit' that you'll find on the Equipe RS line, such as the Spring/Fall bibs that Liam tested a few years ago, and that in turn is more aggressive than the 'regularFit' you'll find on the Mille GT line of products. What this means is that other than being tight, the RSRs are long in the leg for maximum aero benefit.
At the bottom of the legs, you'll find a polka dot pattern of silicone grippers that REALLY hold the shorts in place. I have never come across grippers quite so effective, and at the end of rides these need physically peeling off your legs.
To be honest, I'm not sure the shorts are going anywhere anyway, but the overkill grippers mean you really don't have to worry about the legs riding up while pedalling along.
One of the most visual changes separating the S9 range from other Assos shorts is the bib straps, which extend further down the shorts at the rear. Assos of course has a fancy name for this – 'rollBar' – and says that it helps to keep the seat pad in place. In use, the bib straps were easy to ignore, which I guess is a good thing; they have a good amount of stretch to keep the shorts up, are nice and wide and flat to prevent pressure points on the shoulders, and with just enough weight and structure to not bunch together under an aero jersey.
The only negative I do have about the straps is that because they stick out the bottom of a jersey, immature riding buddies might find it tempting to flick them on their way past…
The pad is Assos' S9 Sundeck, and while it's not the largest, it does provide excellent comfort. Assos uses a huge number of different pads in its bibs, tailored to the shorts' specific purpose. The S9s are designed for WorldTour racing so need to balance the comfort required for day after long day in the saddle without so much material that it bunches when hunched over the bars trying to get as aero as possible.
The result is spectacular. I've done countless six-hour days in the shorts, and I've found it to be one of, if not the best pad out there. I ride in quite an aggressive position and as such have found that many pads are simply too large; the main section of foam is just 9mm thick in the Targas and yet I've had no sign of aching sit bones and the large Sundeck Superlight upper (the bit against your skin) prevents any chafing.
Assos uses its familiar goldenGate technology here, too, stitching just the front and rear of the pad to the shorts, leaving a gap on both sides that is easily big enough to get your hand into. It means the pad moves with you, instead of with the shorts/saddle. I've been a big fan of this, and plenty of brands have started to adopt a similar idea, for example in the Velocio Concept bibs.
Value and conclusion
And then there's the less attractive feature of the RSRs, the price. At £255 these are the third most expensive pair of shorts we've ever tested. It's too early to tell for sure, but I am confident that despite their low weight the RSRs will be durable as the stitching is very strong and the material does appear to be more tear-resistant than standard bib shorts. You also get a two-year warranty with Assos kit, so you can be confident that it's not going to be a manufacturing defect that results in premature obsolescence.
But even expensive shorts such as the Velocio Concept shorts I mentioned above cost less – the Velocios are 'just' £228 and the MAAP Pro bibs £235 – and there are plenty of other excellent shorts that are still considered premium and will set you back a fair bit less, such as the Castelli Free Aero RCs for £175.
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For most riders, the cheaper Equipe RS bib shorts (£175) will probably be the better buy as they still get the goldenGate tech and very similar bib straps and chamois.
If, however, you are an avid racer looking for aero gains, compression and light weight, then the RSRs are an excellent pair of bib shorts that provide exceptional comfort and performance.
Exceptionally comfortable, light and expensive bibs for WorldTour-level performance
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Make and model: Assos Equipe RSR Bib Shorts S9 Targa
Tell us what the product is for
These are for riders who care about speed, weight and comfort on long rides whilst in an aggressive position.
Assos says: "A foundational redesign of our fastest bib shorts. The EQUIPE RSR S9 TARGA pushes second-skin aerodynamics, hyperlight construction, and race-tuned engineering beyond even WorldTour standards.
"We saw an opportunity to increase comfort and decrease weight without impacting compressive performance or aerodynamic properties. Targeted increases in stretch and support let us further dial the aerodynamics and compression while reducing pressure on sensitive areas, and the new construction dries faster, limiting perspiration's ability to add weight by soaking into the textiles."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Composition: 68%PA 26%EA 6%PL
Ultralight XBIB straps
Zeropressure low profile waist
SkinGrip silicone grippers
Type.701 Kompressor material (main body)
Ossidia material (crotch area)
S9 sundeck chamois
2 colours available
Rate the product for quality of construction:
Rate the product for performance:
Wow. These are a really nice pair of shorts to wear. All-day comfort, unrestrictive pad, no movement from the legs, quick drying, aero, light... the full package.
Rate the product for durability:
Early days, but stitching is resistant to tugging and pulling, and the material also seems very tough and hard to tear, but I haven't crashed in them to find out – sorry not sorry.
Rate the product for fit:
These are unapologetically for racers; they're tight and compressive, and long in the leg. If you're of WorldTour build then these will fit very well.
Rate the product for sizing:
Sizing appears accurate, as long as you're of athletic/lean build.
Rate the product for weight:
Rate the product for comfort:
Rate the product for value:
You can buy much much cheaper shorts that will do the job very well. However, these are better in terms of quality, performance and comfort than basically anything else out there.
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
These shorts put in an exceptional all-round performance.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Comfort on long rides.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The low bib straps are tempting to flick.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
As mentioned in the review, these are some of the most expensive bibs we've tested. They are, however, also some of the lightest and most comfortable.
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 overall score
They're an excellent product: light, comfortable and well made. If I was a WorldTour pro then I'd be choosing these. They are extremely expensive, though, and whether the levels of compression and claimed aero benefits are worth the premium over other excellent bibs, only you can decide.
Age: 23 Height: 6ft Weight: 74kg
I usually ride: Specialized venge pro 2019 My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Under 5 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, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, mtb,
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