Freezing weather wasn't enough to put me off testing these Galibier Liberté gravel shorts; I loved them. Read on and find out why – or check out our guide to the best baggy cycling shorts if these aren't doing it for you.
Just as the Easter Eggs appear in the shops some time during the January sales, so summer kit turns up at road.cc Towers as the snow lies deep and crisp and even. Galibier describes its Liberté gravel shorts as being comfortable 'no matter how high the temperature rises', which caused a hollow laugh to escape me. Nevertheless, I pulled them on over my warmest winter tights and I've actually got out on several frozen rides and had a nice time.
> Buy now: Galibier Liberté gravel shorts for £43.66 from Galibier
The best I could do for warm-weather testing was to wear them on a visit to my mother-in-law's where the temperature is kept at a steady 32˚C, and found them ideal. They're as pleasant to wear off the bike as on, the fabric feeling surprisingly okay against the skin, for a synthetic.
For all the nods to great French alpine climbs in Galibier's designs and product names, the company is based in Northern Ireland, and the Liberté shorts are put together in Spain.
First impressions from the bag were of some very sharp looks, with minimal detailing and nothing surplus to requirements in terms of features. The bottle-green looks great and makes a change from black, though it's the only colour on offer.
While the stitching doesn't draw attention to itself, the even panel joins, seams and hems speak of a well-constructed garment.
Galibier has used what it describes as 'Ever Nylon Stretch 4 Way', which is 85% nylon and 15% elastane. This helps ensure the shorts fit just so. Being skinny, I don't need a lot of give, but more generously proportioned riders should find these fit well too.
Despite the light weight (the whole package comes in at a mere 207g), they seem reasonably resistant to abrasion, so perfectly suited to outdoor adventure, including the more cross-country end of mountain biking.
The fabric is slightly noisy if you rub it against itself, but the good fit meant these trousers gave a quiet ride, and the less baggy cut prevented the limited thigh-rub in post-ride activities, so they won't drive you crazy.
The trousers fasten with a sturdy YKK zip, a robust hook-and-eye arrangement and two poppers, which is a nice touch as I sometimes find single poppers ping open under stress.
The waist can be adjusted by means of Velcro-back straps on each side. Their effectiveness is slightly negated by the highly elastic nature of the waistband, but not enough to cause the shorts to slide down over my snake hips in use, which many do.
There are two more popper fasteners sewn into the inside waistband. These are to make them compatible with Galibier's own snap-in liner shorts, available separately at just over £28. This might be helpful if you find your shorts tend to slide down while riding.
At the back, a rising waistband prevents the lower back from becoming exposed in a riding position.
There are two zipped mesh pockets, one on each thigh. These are tidy, if simple. The zips are neatly sewn in and sit flat when you are wearing the shorts. There's enough room inside for a mobile phone, some keys or a wallet, but I'd avoid putting anything sharp or abrasive in, to preserve the life of the mesh liners.
Where pockets should be placed on touring shorts is a matter for debate. Some people prefer them at the hip rather than on the thigh, where the contents can bump against the leg, but I found the cut of these shorts prevented that annoyance.
Crotch room was spot on: not too tight and not so slack that the saddle would get caught. While the seam runs right up between the legs, it's flatlock stitched where it matters so didn't make itself felt, and the same goes for all the other seams and hems which were neat and tidy.
I often pull on a pair of shorts over my tights at this time of year, for a bit of extra wind and weather protection, but I find a lot of mountain bike-specific ones far too baggy, the seat snagging on the saddle and the legs flapping around my weedy thighs. They're often too short for me as well. The Libertés, being cut more with gravel and touring in mind, are less enduro influenced and the cut is much slimmer and cleaner, which was very much to my liking.
The medium size sent for testing, recommended for people with 32in waists, fitted me perfectly and came to just above my knees. The leg length increases as you go up the sizes, too, though I suspect I may be the last man left in England whose inside leg measurement is greater than his waist. Because there's plenty of stretch you don't need to worry about the legs being too snug in the thighs for your waist size, though I noticed the fabric stretched more vertically than it did horizontally. Shouldn't that be the other way round?
The fabric is treated with a water-repellent coating. I used the shorts on a properly miserable day and they did wet through, but it seemed to me they weren't as wet on the inside as the outside, so they do offer some protection. They dried quickly as well. Another good feature is that they don't wrinkle in the wash, which is a boon for touring.
Strangely, Galibier doesn't separate its garments into male and female on its website (though some of its products are marked as 'female specific') and there's no indication as to whether these are meant to fit the ladies, but my guess is that they might well, especially the racier-built, given the built-in stretch and because they go down to a petite 26in waist.
Value and conclusion
Looking around for similar garments to compare them against, Chapeau's Gravel Shorts, tested by Mike in 2021, tick many of the same boxes, though in a narrower range of sizes and at around £16 more (though currently reduced to £36).
Vulpine also does some shorts aimed at the gravel rider, though their cotton construction makes them slower to dry and they're a bit more expensive at £70.
So Galibier's curiously precise price of £43.66 makes the Libertés very competitive.
All in all, they're jolly good shorts, particularly for the slighter built rider who finds it hard to get baggies that fit properly.
Sharp-looking, well-made, lightweight touring shorts that go down to some small sizes – a quality garment at an excellent price
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Make and model: Galibier Liberté gravel shorts
Tell us what the product is for
From Galibier.cc's website:
"A technical pair of lightweight shorts designed for riding in the lanes and mountains.
Our Liberté is a 4-way stretch short built for bikepacking, gravel and all-road adventures. Made with a soft double-weave face for durability, the adaptable short wicks fast and won't feel clingy, no matter how high the temperature climbs. A standard cut removes excess material, provides ample room for the rider to move freely and promotes a casual aesthetic in the post-ride, coffee stop.
For trail-side stops and evenings by the campfire, you'll find easy-in dual side hand pockets, zippered for security and big enough to stow your smartphone and light snacks. The pockets allow for unrestricted pedaling, and a barely-there feeling even over the most demanding trails. A High-cut back maintains a great fit when you're in the saddle.
Clean finish hems ensure smooth motion with every stroke, while reinforced crotch seams better resist the rough and tumble of the trail. DWR treated, forest green finish with a zippered fly and adjustable velcro waist band, to suit all shapes complete the short.
These shorts come ready to partner with our Detachable, padded Liner Short, which is available separately. The liner is made with a light-weight stretch mesh, elastic waistband and silicon hem grippers.The seat pad is our very own lightweight chamois for wicking comfort throughout the day. It can be quickly clicked in and out with an easy button attachment system, interchangeable with our Trail MTB shorts."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Ever Nylon Stretch 4 Way with DWR (85% Nylon, 15% Elastane)
Two hand, zippered side pockets
Low profile Velcro waist adjusters
Zippered fly with 7m snap closure
Reinforced crotch seams
Clean finish laminated hem
High-cut back maintains a great fit when you're in the saddle
X-Small: 10.3' – 27cm
Small: 10.5' – 28cm
Medium: 10.8' – 29cm
Large: 11' – 30cm
X-Large: 11.3' – 31cm
XX-Large 11.5' -32cm
The compatible lining shorts cost around £28
6 sizes should suit riders from 26" to 38" waist
Rate the product for quality of construction:
Very tidily put together.
Rate the product for performance:
Although I haven't really been able to test these in the warm weather for which they are meant, the comfortable fit, stretchy and non-clingy material, tough-but-light fabric, excellent zip and popper fastenings and well-thought-out cut made for a wear-and-forget garment on the bike and a stylish and practical garment off it.
Rate the product for durability:
Though lightweight, the nylon seems well up to the kind of abrasion they might encounter on tour or gravel riding. I wore them for mountain bike rides through the undergrowth with no ill effects. The careful construction will help extend their life. The mesh pockets, however, need care in use – a key or tool might penetrate them.
Rate the product for fit:
On my snake hips, baggy shorts can often slip down, but these didn't, though the stretchy waist makes it a little difficult to take advantage of the adjusters. The slim cut is flattering and practical.
Rate the product for sizing:
Just as predicted. There's a good range of sizes, too, with various leg lengths.
Rate the product for weight:
These will be great for summer touring, where you want to keep the pack weight down.
Rate the product for comfort:
Rate the product for value:
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Flung in the machine, they've come out good as new every time. Also, they don't wrinkle.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Bearing in mind my testing's been confined to snow, ice, fog and rain, with some indoor wear to simulate evenings by the camp fire, these have turned out to be well up to the job.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Excellent build quality, great fit, stylish cut, good price.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The stretchy waist made the adjusters a bit less effective than I would have liked.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Chapeau's Gravel Shorts come in a narrower range of sizes and at around £16 more. Vulpine also does shorts aimed at the gravel rider, though their cotton construction makes them slower to dry and they're a bit more at £70.
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
I liked the look of these the moment I took them out of the bag, and first impressions weren't wrong. The sharp styling is matched by the comfort and performance, the great fit ensuring no snagging on the saddle or bits of frame. For me the sizing was perfect, just the right leg length and not flappy like many mountain bike shorts. The stretchy fabric helps these shorts adapt to your shape. The mesh pockets may not be the most robust, but overall these shorts are very good.
Age: 57 Height: 6'2 Weight: 75kg and rising
I usually ride: Cannondale CAAD10 My best bike is: Tomassini Prestige
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: touring, sportives, general fitness riding, mtb,
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