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The Universal Colours Chroma Thermal Merino Plus Bib Shorts are warm, comfortable and have a great Elastic Interface pad. They are expensive, but they are suitable for long winter days in the saddle, and you'll get a lot of use out of them.
I tested these shorts in temperatures ranging from around 0°C to 10°C and found them to be warm and comfortable. And but for a peeling logo, I think they'd be contenders for our best bib shorts buyer's guide.
Everyone has their own internal thermometer but less than around 8°C and I'd pair these with knee or leg warmers. While not quite as warm as the winter tights I own, I think if you paired them with fleecy leg warmers, they'd be ideal for all but the truly deep winter days. And if you do prefer full-on tights, check out our best winter bib tights buyer's guide.
The pad is the Road Performance Space from chamois specialist Elastic Interface. It is made of three different densities of foam, and is designed to be light, breathable and provide comfort on rides of any duration.
I found the pad really comfortable, even on rides of up to four hours. I find the mainly static position of the turbo to be a good test of a pad, and even on longer efforts on the turbo in my freezing garage, I found the pad consistently comfortable and breathable.
I tested these in a medium, and while I was towards the top of the size guide for medium the size was spot on – so I'd happily recommend going with your usual size with these shorts. That said, I did require a large or even an XL for the Universal Colours Spectrum Jersey I've been testing, which makes it an odd combination from the same manufacturer, especially as I am a fairly normal shape.
The shorts come in seven sizes from XS to 3XL so you should be able to find a size that suits you.
Universal Colours describes these shorts as offering a compressive 'form fit'. They seemed a bit loose around the lower leg when I first put them on, but once I was on the bike the fit proved to be excellent and I found them very comfortable.
The compression was light but I noticed its benefits on a few harder efforts.
The leg length – just above the knee – is good and they are kept in place using silicone grippers. I never had any issues with them riding up.
The wide straps help to spread the load and come with a mesh construction at the back.
I found them comfortable, though there are some bigger seams on the shoulder you may find irritating.
As you'd expect from thermal shorts the front comes up fairly high, though there was just enough stretch from the material to make a mid-ride comfort break possible.
The shorts are made from 42% nylon, 35% merino and 23% elastane. The merino gives a good level of warmth and feels nice and snug.
The outer material does feel a bit synthetic because of its DWR – Durable Water Repellent – coating. This does provide some element of protection from light rain but, as you'd expect, it won't protect you in a heavy downpour.
I have worn these regularly during testing and all the stitching looks great – but the logo transfer started showing a few signs of wear after only a few rides.
I tested these in black but they are also available in 'heavy brown', which I really have to say would not be my first choice of colour! The minimalist design makes it easy to pair with a variety of jersey designs.
At £160 the shorts are towards the top end of shorts we have tested, although you can find them cheaper.
The Universal Colours Chroma Thermal Plus bib shorts are warm, comfortable, the fit is excellent, and I feel they are suitable for all but the deepest days of winter.
The Elastic Interface pad is also very comfortable and proved ideal for long days in the saddle.
Very good thermal shorts – warm, comfortable and with a great fit
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Universal Colours Chroma Thermal Merino Plus Bib Short
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product is for
Universal Colours says:
"A true year round performer, our Chroma Thermal Merino Plus Bib Short has been tailored to excel in wind, rain and the cold. Featuring compressive woven nylon and a naturally antibacterial Merino inner, muscle fatigue is greatly reduced, while heat retention and moisture wicking are optimised. The Durable Water Repellent outer coating also offers some extra protection from light rain and road spray.
An Elastic Interface Road Performance Space pad promotes comfort and shock absorption across challenging terrain. Constructed using three different densities of foam, this lightweight, breathable chamois features a central channel for improved blood flow and reduced numbness on longer rides.
Finished with overlocked seams, wide mesh bib straps and elasticated cuffs with our signature silicone grippers, the Chroma's form fit offers exceptional comfort, while reflective detailing adds visibility in low light conditions.
When the temperature drops further, we recommend pairing these shorts with our thermal leg warmers."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Universal Colours says:
"Suitable for deep winter riding conditions
Supportive brace straps to relieve any pressure points across shoulders
Engineered overlocked seams
Elasticated cuff with signature UC silicone gripper"
The stitching looks great, but one logo started peeling quite quickly.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Washed at 30°C with the rest of my cycling kit; the logo started peeling after only a few washes.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Great, they kept me warm, they were comfortable and the fit was good.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
These were a good fit and very comfortable.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Only the peeling logo.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
At £160 the shorts are towards the top end of shorts we have tested.
The Assos Mille GTS Spring/Fall Bib Shorts C2 received an excellent review from Stu and are £20 dearer at £180.
The Gore Wear C3 3/4 Bib Tights cost £89.99 and received a good review, but Ed didn't find them ideal for properly cold days.
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
Overall, these are very good winter shorts. When paired with knee warmers or leg warmers they kept me warm when temperatures were close to zero.
The fit is great and they're good for long days in the saddle.
The logo started peeling after only a few washes so loses a point for that.
About the tester
I usually ride: Specialized Roubaix My best bike is: Cervelo S3
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, touring, club rides, general fitness riding, Indoor