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Santini's Redux Istinto Women's shorts are a premium-looking option with an excellent gel chamois for long days on the bike. The price might be offputting but, despite the obvious race focus, these bibs are pretty versatile. The overall look and feel is one of supreme class.
Of Santini's broad women's shorts collection, the Redux Istinto (Italian for bringing back natural instinct) is its priciest pair at £200. In a departure from the sea of black shorts out there, the Istinto is available in three classy hues: grey, purple or blue – plus of course the standard black – providing a subtle way to stand out from the peloton.
Each colour is twinned with its own vibrant pop of colour on the interior of the bib strap. The 'titanium grey' pair I tested made a refreshing change to my usual, but I did find grey less forgiving of the sweaty, dare I say snotty, marks that can be picked up on hard rides.
I tested a small. On Santini's guide I only just sneak into this size (I'm not far off XS), so I was surprised to find these shorts feel very snug – they are however an aggressively aerodynamic option, and the body-hugging fit perfectly echoes this. As a result, getting into them requires a bit of a wrestle.
Tight fit aside, the 'honeycomb' silicone grippers stick to the legs with tenacity while pulling them on, while the leg hems need fettling to look straight. This is testament to the grippers' effectiveness, though.
Once in place, these shorts are seriously comfy, and don't feel overly tight. The 'huggy' feel translates into a miraculously forgiving look that soaks up bumps and lines, thanks, according to Santini, to the 'defining soft feel' material. It's a mix of polyamide, nylon and elastane with a very clean aesthetic, which is further aided by the general lack of seams. The one vertical seam isn't flatlocked, though, and does leave a nice imprint on me.
The straps – a stunning peacock colour on the inside – are raw cut, yet probably the neatest of these I've seen. Unlike many raw finish hems, there is no evidence of bobbling or fraying.
They are pretty stretchy, but feel a little short and therefore tight to me. That said, I have a long body, so regular-torsoed folk should find them fine. In action they didn't produce the tell-tale shoulder ache of truly short straps, though.
The straps are also pleasingly wide and sit out comfortably to the side of the body. They feature Santini's new crossover racer-back design, which creates a section of airflow across the lower back. The only downside is the straps' seam which, although flatlock, feels a bit scratchy.
The bib shorts' upper is constructed with a 'tattoo-effect' fitter fabric, which is dotted with little holes for breathability. This black panel is nice and wide and feels secure: not a chance of midriff-peep here. The secure feel is aided by the crossover straps effect to the rear.
The bright pink C3W chamois – Santini's own – is a high point for an already impressive pair of bib shorts. First up, it feels more robust than all-foam options owing to gel pads. On this women's version, the gel footprint is slimmer and further forward than the men's. Beyond the gel inserts is multi-density foam, with an impressive 1in taper which aids a very smooth look once on.
The result in action is seriously comfortable, with no sitbone or soft tissue discomfort on my test rides. After a long period of wear there are no hotspots or rubs. The positioning of the chamois is forward-focused, yet it's surprisingly kind in the upright position too, making these shorts pretty versatile.
The legs are a compressive and robust-feeling fabric which, while Santini doesn't advertise it, repels water really well – handy if you're caught in a summer shower. They're finished with reflective strips.
The leg grippers, as mentioned, are super grippy. They've been improved for the Redux shorts and feature no less than two inches of honeycomb-shaped silicone, with outstanding results. The only downside is that pee stops take longer because they just want to cling to everything!
At £200, these echo the current go-to price for premium bib shorts from well-known brands such as Castelli, MAAP, Rapha and Gore. They're on a performance par, too, with the likes of Castelli's Premio (£200) and MAAP's Women's Team Evo shorts (£190) – both of which feature the same robust yet low-profile feel, and size up a bit small.
Given the high point of these shorts is arguably the chamois, though, Santini's Legend shorts are a good option at almost half the price (£110), as they feature the same one. However, at the time of writing, Santini was selling the Istinto at the meaningfully discounted price of £140.
These shorts look as good as they feel (and vice versa), with an outstanding gel chamois, a smooth clean cut, a good compressive feel and the grippiest grippers I've ever experienced. If I'm being picky, the straps could be stretchier, the seams smoother and the wee stops easier. Overall, though, it's hard to fault them – which is good, considering the price.
Race-focused shorts with a super-clean look, body-hugging feel and a high quality finish – plus an outstanding chamois
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Santini Redux Istinto Women's Bib Shorts
Size tested: Small
Tell us what the product is for
Santini says: "Ultrahigh-performance bib shorts cut for women featuring aggressive aerodynamics and a defining, soft feel. Made of "Tattoo Effect" Fitter fabric with internal anti-slip honeycomb gripper for extra comfort.
"Ideal for long, stylish rides."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
-Internal anti-slip honeycomb gripper
-C3W chamois features protective shell and ergonomic 3D surface
-Elastic braces with new rear crossover shape.
Hard to fault.
Supremely comfy; the only downside is the longer-than-usual wee stops owing to the excellent grippers (okay, a small price to pay).
No isses so far; the seams are so well made I think these shorts will stand the test of time.
They are smaller than expected, which might cause issues for some, but then they're meant to be snug and don't feel overly tight.
Size up a bit small, which might come as a surprise, though they are supposed to be tight.
They feel pretty light.
They'd get a 10 as they are definitely one of the best I've tried, but mild irritation from a single seam stops that.
Given Santini's cheaper shorts feature the same chamois I'd expect an upgrade here; that aside, they offer everything you'd want for top end pricing.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Several washes and still looking as good as new.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
These shorts were seriously comfortable from the first wear. I was worried the straps might be uncomfortable for me, but in action they were fine. The chamois, grippers, smooth fabric and hugging feel are all up there with the best I've tried.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The smooth-finish look, which gives an air of class.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The straps could be a touch longer.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
On par with other premium offerings from brands like Castelli, MAAP, Gore and Rapha.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes!
Would you consider buying the product? Probably not at £200
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
It's hard to fault these. The price is right up there but the quality reflects that; it doesn't feel like Santini has cut any corners. They have all the hallmarks of the quality you'd expect from Italian-made shorts. They're nearly perfect, but not quite...
About the tester
I usually ride: My Scott Foil My best bike is: Oldie but the goldie, CAAD 8
I've been riding for: 5-10 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, mtb, Triathlon, Audax