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The Bontrager RL Bib Shorts attempt to strike a balance between function and form – with some success.
Coming in matching colour schemes with the RL jersey (review here), these bib shorts are intended as a matching outfit, and on that front they look very good. I was very pleased with the synergy between our 'rasta' bib shorts and jersey – even if I perhaps wouldn't have chosen that colourway in the first place.
The fit is also very good – excellent, in fact – with a comfortable cut across the shoulders and the leg coming up slightly short on the thigh. They're perfect for summer riding, riding at tempo or in races where cooling is important. Comfort is further enhanced with a compression gripper, so there's no rubbing or chafing in this area.
Bontrager's Profila fabrics are used throughout, with the 'Power' variant used in strategic panels and the 'Cool' in the bib straps, both performing well for their designated tasks of channelling your energy and keeping you ventilated.
The pad isn't as plush as in some bib shorts, though, with strategically placed sections of padding used throughout rather than graded densities over the whole area. This 'Inform Race' pad is, according to Bontrager, designed for 'advanced ergonomic support for mid-to high-mileage enthusiasts', but we found that while it was comfortable over distances of up to 60km, soon after that the pressure on the sit bones began to tell.
When riding in the drops, it performed well, with the more aggressive position suiting the padding. However, sat up on the hoods, the comfort level markedly reduced, leading to sore sit bones – a shame in a design where the cut is so well considered. Still, this slaps it bang in the sights of crit racers out there even if the high-mileage tag might be a little optimistic.
Another issue I found with the fabric was how easy it is to snag. After a few rides including coffee stops, I found the fabric beginning to 'fluff' in patches on the underside of the thigh. While this can happen with all shorts when you sit on wooden furniture often found at cafes, I was surprised with how quickly this had occurred with my test pair.
Other than this, build quality did impress – I saw no other blemishes following washing after each ride, one of which included passing through a summer deluge, and the seams are well constructed and look like they'll last for multiple seasons.
Given the asking price of £79.99, these bibs are pitched at the lower end of the mid-range market, and in this area they are reasonable value. I'm impressed with the cut and fit for racers, and the design when paired with the RL jersey, but as a standalone pair for high-mileage enthusiasts there are better and more comfortable alternatives out there.
Lovely fitting bib shorts for racers, but high-mileage enthusiasts beware if you like extra padding
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Make and model: Bontrager RL Bib Short
Size tested: Men's Large
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Bontrager says: "Ride hard. Race harder. The Bontrager RL Bib cycling short is the perfect balance of fashion and function."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
inForm Race Chamois: Advanced ergonomic support and cushioning for mid- to high-mileage enthusiasts
Profila Power main materials with strategically placed Profila Cool mesh bib straps
Clean cut compression leg gripper
Reflective elements enhance visibility for maximum safety anytime
9.5" (24cm) inseam
Fitted - Streamlined fit for all-around cycling performance
The fabric does tend to fluff up more easily than other shorts I've tried.
While the shorts themselves are lovely to wear, personally I find the chamois is lacking in comfort and could do with extra padding.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
The shorts work well for distances of around 60km, but much further and the pad doesn't give enough comfort to be a good option for mid- to high-mileage enthusiasts.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Very good cut, and decent grippers on the legs.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The pad. This is a more minimalist pad for the purpose of the shorts, and I simply didn't get on with it.
Did you enjoy using the product? Largely, yes.
Would you consider buying the product? No
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, if they weren't wanting to cover very long distances.
Age: 25 Height: 188cm Weight: 83kg
I usually ride: Specialized Allez Sport My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Under 5 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding