No other piece of clothing will have as significant an impact on cycling comfort as the shorts you choose to wear. Sportful's BodyFit shorts have long impressed, and while these Pro Ltd models benefit from the Italian company's involvement in pro racing you don't need a pro contract to own them. Comfortable, great fitting and smart looking, they're easy to recommend.
The Pro Ltds represent the latest evolution in a long line of bib shorts developed to meet the demands of professional racing cyclists, with the Italian company continuing its presence in the WorldTour peloton with Bora-Hansgrohe and Bahrain-Merida this season. The importance of this involvement shouldn't be understated and has contributed to Sportful producing some of the best bib shorts on the market.
Continual development has led to a few small changes, but these can trace their DNA back to the BodyFit shorts I tested in 2013. The bib straps see the biggest change, with a new thinner and lighter material used. They attach to the front of the shorts below a small panel of highly stretchy fabric across the front to increase comfort across the belly.
The bib straps don't exert undue pressure on the shoulders, distributing the load comfortably. The material is softer and more comfortable against the skin if you go without a baselayer on warmer days, and their mesh nature prevents moisture retention.
Showing their pro race design is a small race radio pocket in the back of the bib straps. You could conceivably use it for carrying an MP3 player or stashing a gel, but by and large you'll probably do as I did and not even realise it's there.
The legs are made from Sportful's own AeroFlow Compress fabric. It provides a comfortable level of compression for extra muscle support but isn't overly tight, though it's snugger than more relaxed fitting shorts like, say, Rapha's Classic bib shorts. Is the fabric really aero? Sportful doesn't make any aero claims, and without a wind tunnel it's impossible to know how much drag difference it makes.
Trends also influence clothing development, and shorts have been getting longer, stretching ever close to the knees. Sportful has followed the trend and the Pro Ltds are a bit longer in the leg than previous iterations. I'm not a fan, personally, but you might be fine with them.
The seamless leg opening is a good trend, though, and something Sportful has been doing for a number of years. It's a wide stretchy panel of fabric lined with generous silicone tape. It completely avoids irritation and restriction while ensuring the hems stay firmly in place. Even during the most earnest pedalling the hems don't budge at all. There's also no undue pressure, as can be had with more traditional narrow elasticated hems, and this adds to the comfort factor hugely.
Inside the shorts is the company's own TC Pro pad. It comprises 13mm perforated foam padding at its thickest, tapering away at the edges, so there's more cushioning where you need it most. It's incredibly comfortable, on everything from a two-hour race to a six-hour cruise. (If you're planning lots of long rides, you might like to consider Sportful's Total Comfort bibs with their thicker pad.)
Construction is first rate, with flatlock stitching throughout. I'm still regularly wearing the BodyFit Pro Ltd shorts I tested in 2013 and they're going strong, showing no signs of wear and tear, which speaks volumes of their solid design and construction.
Bib shorts being such a critical interface between body and bike, investing in a high-quality pair if you do a lot of miles makes a lot of sense if you want to be comfortable. The Pro Ltds sit at the higher end of the price range but the performance is first class, with an excellent padded insert and top rate construction, fit and looks.
The Pro Ltds cost £120 when I tested them in 2013, and they're now £115. So while many things are getting more expensive, Sportful has managed to bring the price down a bit. What you're getting here is performance and comfort that rivals something like Rapha's Pro Team shorts but with a substantial saving.
Super-comfortable and great fitting bib shorts that don't skimp on the details, and without a top dollar price tag
If you're thinking of buying this product using a cashback deal why not use the road.cc Top Cashback page and get some top cashback while helping to support your favourite independent cycling website
road.cc test report
Make and model: Sportful BodyFit Pro Ltd Bibshort
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product is for
Sportful says, "Pro riders often consider apparel an essential tool to perform their job. This bibshort is one of their favorite tools. Super comfortable even in intense racing, great fit thanks to fabirc and constuction that let it move with your body. For the rest of us, we get support, comfort and clean styling that allow us to enjoy each pedal stroke."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Legs in AeroFlow Compress for smooth aerodynamics and muscle support with structured finish
All flat-lock stitching for comfort and fit
220g Lycra® for excellent support
Highly supportive lie-flat bibs for excellent comfort and ventilation
Seamless leg band with silicone grip
2 hidden radio pocket
TC Pro seat pad with up to 13mm padding
You get a lot of performance here at a price a fair bit lower than other pro team sponsoring clothing brands.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Goes through the wash easily.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Provides top performance and comfort.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Comfortable padded insert and very comfortable, from the bib straps to the hems.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Redundant race radio pocket.
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
Pro-level design and performance and great comfort at a price much lower than other high-end bib short alternatives.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 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, touring, mountain biking
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.