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Chapeau's Gravel Shorts are comfortable, stretchy and fast drying, and can be worn over padded liner shorts for all-day comfort. The snug fit doesn't flap around, while still allowing air to circulate and looking decent when wandering about mid- or post-ride.
The rise in popularity of gravel or non-road riding on drop bar bikes has both been enabled by and has borrowed from mountain biking, in first technology and now clothing. It was disc brakes that enabled drop bar bikes to go wider than 28mm tyres (yes, yes, canti brakes – but we're talking decent real-world tech here, not stuff that eats your rims and needs endless faffing). Thru-axles make swapping wheels to use different tyres for different rides child's play, and 1x drivetrains make everyone's lives easier and cheaper.
But what to wear in this new fat-tyred, drop bar paradise? With the emphasis on slower trips of exploration and being present in your surrounds instead of racing through, do you really want to be clad in skin-tight Lycra while mixing with fellow diners, tourists and the general hoi-polloi? Thus the rise of the 'gravel short': not as baggy as full-gnar mountain bike trews, yet affording comfort, breeze and modesty while you peruse the aisles of your mid-ride artisanal wholefood store looking for that perfect Instagrammable sodabread loaf...
So what we're looking for here is shorts that are comfy on a bike, but blend in with general society. Ones that will dry quickly and don't flap about, but can store a wallet/glasses/stuff when needed off the bike. Enter the Chapeau Gravel Shorts.
At 211g they are seriously light for their length, coming almost to the top of the knee on me in a 32-inch waist – and I'm 6ft tall. The fabric is thin yet strong, with a fair amount of give in it to make bending and moving easy, on or off the bike.
The fit is definitely on the snugger side and pretty accurate at the waist, so if you have chunky thighs for your waist measurement they might be a bit tight. The 'medium' is 32 inches, and the XL is 36 inches – which is close to Italian 'cyclists are skinny, yeah?' sizing. It would be good to see Chapeau cater for people larger than a 36-inch waist.
Technical features are minimal. There's a zip fly with a button closure at the top, and belt loops if you want to use a belt; otherwise, there are low-profile tabs at the sides that cinch down for a snug waist fit (the waistband is also a bit stretchy).
The front pockets are zipped, and are plenty deep enough. The two rear pockets aren't zipped, so are best used for temporary storage of non-valuables when off the bike.
The fabric is DWR-coated, and water is still happily beading off a few months and many washes later. Honestly, the fabric is so light I don't think water retention would be an issue even if it were untreated, but it's a nice touch.
The waist is high enough at the back that even with a fairly forward-leaning position on the bike there's nary a hint of plumber's immodesty. I wore them over a pair of minimalist yet fully padded liner shorts and everything felt fine.
On the bike, they do what any good shorts should – disappear, in the figurative sense. Even on four-hour-plus rides they were fine, and I could see them working just as well for multi-day epics where their quick-drying nature means they would easily double as swimming trunks for river, loch or sea dips.
At £60 they are priced pretty sharply – and currently if you sign up for Chapeau's newsletter before purchasing you can get a further £10 off.
Our guide to the best baggies, linked above, points to the Chapeau Gravel Shorts being great value compared with the competition, even the already comparatively low-priced Vulpine Gravel Shorts, which lose marks for being not-that-breathable cotton.
Chapeau also offers what appears to be lifetime free crash replacement with proof of purchase/registration of the product, which, if you're accident prone, could be a deal-maker.
If you're after a reasonably close-fitting lower half that is light, comfortable, sheds water and will dry very quickly, the Chapeau Gravel Shorts should be high on your short(s)list.
Lightweight, fast-drying shorts for the slimmer of leg
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Chapeau Gravel Shorts
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product is for
They are for people wanting a bit more modesty, function and relaxed style than afforded by Lycra.
Chapeau says: 'The Chapeau! Gravel short is a true all-terrain "baggy", built to cross from tarmac, to gravel, to singletrack and everything in between. Presented in a 'classic' fit, it's comfortable yet fitted without any unwanted material to slow you down.'
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
The Gravel short is built with a 4-way stretch Elastane fabric for a perfect fit even when carving your favourite trails. The DWR water-resistant coating will ward off the elements and adjustable waist tabs guarantee they'll fit as well as your favourite bibs. Inner mesh is included to keep you fresh and four zipped pockets (two on the side, two on the rear) will keep your essentials safe.
It isn't a padded short but will fit over a set of our bibs with no bother if you want the best of both worlds.
SIZE WAIST (Inches)
Small (S) 30
Medium (M) 32
Large (L) 34
Xtra Large (XL) 36
Feels well made for a lightweight product.
Comfy, fast drying and fit well. Result.
Time will tell if the lightweight build lasts.
If you like your baggy shorts close, these are the ones for you.
The 32 is pretty accurate, and the slight stretch accommodates too.
Very stretchy, therefore comfy. The zipped pockets might not be to your liking.
At RRP they are well priced compared with rivals, even more so with a discount.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Came up clean every time.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
You forget you're wearing them.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The quick drying and beading.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Really, only the thought that people with larger than 36-inch waists are excluded.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
They compare well, as noted in the review. Chapeau also offers a free 'crash replacement' for registered products, that has no T&Cs at all. So lifetime, I guess.
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 very good: light, fast drying and great value. There's little to want to improve – possibly a small zipped change/key pocket, but the main pockets do the trick mostly. It's a shame Chapeau only caters for up to 36-inch waists, though.
About the tester
I usually ride: Sonder Camino Gravelaxe My best bike is: Nah bro that's it
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, general fitness riding, mtb, G-R-A-V-E-L
Living in the Highlands, Mike is constantly finding innovative and usually cold/wet ways to accelerate the degradation of cycling kit. At his happiest in a warm workshop holding an anodised tool of high repute, Mike's been taking bikes apart and (mostly) putting them back together for forty years. With a day job in global IT (he's not completely sure what that means either) and having run a boutique cycle service business on the side for a decade, bikes are his escape into the practical and life-changing for his customers.