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The Band of Climbers Empire Bib Shorts are really well put together with a decent enough pad for six hours of riding. If you're unconcerned that the logo on your thighs might amount to false advertising, chances are you'll be very happy with them.
Looking for a new pair of bib shorts? Check out our best cycling bib shorts buyer's guide.
Donning the Empire bibs for the first time, my immediate thought was that Band of Climbers wasn't just a brand name and these shorts had been specifically designed for spindly mountain goats. It took a bit of hoicking and manoeuvring to get them into position and I blamed this on an unusually tight fit in the legs.
I quite quicky revised this view, however, because it is not narrow leg holes that provide the resistance, it's 65mm deep panels of silicone. These sizeable leg grippers don't exactly slide up your thighs when you're putting the shorts on... but then they don't exactly slide down your thighs once they're in position either.
That, I would say, is the greatest strength of the Empire bib shorts. You get them into position and they stay there. The legs don't shuffle up or down at all. The pad doesn't move about. Everything feels very solid – which is very reassuring if you're heading out for five or six hours during which even a slight bit of fabric rub can do actual physical damage.
So, despite knee-jerk reservations, I would actually say the sizing is as per Band of Climbers' guide and in keeping with most other brands. I pretty much always wear large bibs and I wouldn't have wanted or expected these to be any larger or smaller.
The key element for any road cycling bib shorts that are billed as being for rides of up to six hours is of course the pad. This one, from Elastic Interface, does the job, I'd say. It's 13mm thick at the sit bones and decently firm.
I've pads that feel as if they would give you more support when assessed off the bike between thumb and forefinger, but none where I've really been struck by some great step-change in comfort level. If anything, in most cases, the shape, structure and (really very) neat stitching of the Empire shorts gives them the edge.
They're comfortable shorts. I wouldn't say I was unaware I'd been on a bike after five-and-a-half hours, but I also wouldn't say that my saddle ranked all that high on my list of discomforts by that point – which I'd take as a win.
Other than that, everything feels unremarkable but very sensible. The front is low enough that toilet stops aren't a faff and the upper half is a light, stretch mesh, including the straps.
There's nothing wacky or objectionable, unless you for some reason take issue with the two small reflective tabs on the backs of the legs.
At £115, the Empire bib shorts are not cheap, but it's a fairly typical price if you're after gear for longer rides.
The pad is very good and the fit – for this rider at least – is exceptional. If this is your price bracket, it's hard to imagine you'll be disappointed.
A great fit, lovely stitching and a decent pad at a price that shouldn't especially raise an eyebrow
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Band of Climbers Empire Bib Shorts
Size tested: Large
Tell us what the product is for
Road cycling bibs for training or racing for up to six hours.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
80% Polyamide - Nylon / 20% Elasthane. Elastic Interface multi-density Italian chamois pad. Bonded seams in high-pressure areas. Silicone leg gripper. Reflective Graphics on each outer leg.
Really neat, low-profile stitching throughout.
A good pad, but not an absolutely top-of-the-line one.
I had to cajole them on a bit, but once they're in position they're hard to fault.
Plenty of lightweight mesh and also relatively thin elsewhere.
We're not all the same shape, but the pad is the only thing that could be improved for me.
A good investment, but decent quality shorts are available for less.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
No issues resulting from going through the wash in a general load.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Perfectly viable for six-hour rides.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Having 'BAND OF CLIMBERS' emblazoned on my thigh. Nothing against the brand. It just came across as a promise I probably couldn't keep!
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Decently. The price appears to be below average for this level of short without qualifying as an outright bargain.
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
The price and pad are perhaps good rather than great, but otherwise these shorts are hard to fault.
About the tester
I usually ride: Giant Defy Advanced Pro 3 My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: general fitness riding, E-bike/utility