Reasonably priced, with a reputable (if a bit wide) Elastic Interface pad and some clever panel placement, the Van Rysel RCR Sport Winter Cycling Tights keep you comfortable on long, cold rides. Ideal for training or commuting, they're a great upgrade from non-winter-specific tights for when the weather bites.
If you're interested in these Van Rysels, check out our best winter bib tights guide for more options.
Decathlon is well known for its bargain-basement prices and big blue warehouses full of sports equipment scattered throughout Europe, and Van Rysel is its race-orientated, road-specific range of cycling kit.
Decathlon describes these tights as being 'dedicated to performance' and 'perfect for rides in temperatures between -3°C and 10°C', as well as being 'soft, warm, windproof and water-repellent'. They're designed, it says, for 'comfort and freedom of movement, letting you ride for longer'.
After testing these tights every other ride (mostly in the 5-10°C range), I have to agree with Decathlon's summary. While I've not been riding in -3°C (too icy!), I can attest to their warmth in conditions just above freezing; the clever use of panels is effective at keeping wind and water out.
The pad is also comfortable over the mid-long distances I ride in winter (80-100km), with about the right thickness and compliance. More on the pad in a minute.
The tights are constructed using a huge number of panels of different thicknesses, which do a good job of fulfilling various functions such as insulation and flexibility.
The front and sides of the thigh and shin are a thicker black material, with the remaining areas made of a greyer, stretchier fabric that allows movement around the knees and at the top of the tights and means the bibs can be made without zips – something I approve of, as they often unzip and/or dig in.
Where the multi-fabric, multi-panelled design makes less sense is at the top of the bib tights at the front, where there is a panel of even thinner material across the abs (or, for some of us, belly), where the shoulder straps join. This is also a little low for my liking – especially for winter bibs, where the more wind protection on your front, the better – and the much thinner material compromises the tights' overall structure, giving little compression and making them feel even lower than they actually are.
Otherwise, the fit is good. The leg length is just right for me; they're tight where you want them to be, and more compliant where you don't. These are undeniably a comfortable pair of bib tights.
Wrapped around the calves you'll find a thin strip of reflective detailing as well as a small reflective logo on the side of the left thigh. While not offering a lot of reflectivity, these details are always welcome on winter kit.
The bibs are quite similar in construction to Van Rysel's RCR500 Super Roubaix Winter Bib Shorts, reviewed in 2021, with the Super Roubaix fabric making a strong comeback here, along with the slightly less welcome scratchy shoulder straps (although only an issue if you're not wearing a baselayer – they didn't affect me at all).
Decathlon has specified an Italian-made Elastic Interface chamois, found in a staggering number of big and small cycle kit brands including dhb, MAAP, Assos, Universal Colours, Altura, CHPT3 and many more, though not all EI pads are made equal... the company has 80 off-the-shelf varieties, and custom makes exclusive pads for leading brands (EIT signature pads).
Regardless of the quality of the pad, the way it's incorporated into the garment also matters a great deal. The pad selected for these bibs is a bit too wide for my liking, running down the inside of the leg a bit too much, and when I asked customer services whether each size of garment (from S to 2XL) had the same sized pad, I was told that they do; it's the same in each – a potential concern if you're ordering a small.
Another issue I noticed when I tried these bib tights for the first time was a sort of prickling/itching sensation around the edge of the pad. Upon inspection, it seems to be caused by the raw edge of the pad foam being exposed (see below), and the topmost layer of the pad is held in compression by the stitching in such a way that the fibres at the edge of the top layer poke into your leg slightly.
Going on something of a deep dive into the thrilling topic of pad stitching, I pulled out a selection of my bib shorts and tights, which range massively in price from some £30 dhb Classic Bib Shorts, to £200 Rapha Pro Team Winter Thermal Tights. I then discovered that the pads in my dhb, Mono, and MAAP bib shorts are all made by Elastic Interface, and aside from the MAAP shorts, each pad is flatlock stitched into the shorts.
Those MAAP shorts, though, with their very similar non-flatlocked stitch pattern around the pad (pictured below), don't cause any irritation, despite the raw edge of the fabric and foam padding. The only visible difference is that the stitching on the MAAPs is closer to the edge of the pad, and isn't causing the 'arching' effect seen on the Van Rysel pad's edge. Granted, my MAAP shorts have already seen a few thousand km, but I never experienced any prickling/itching from the edges of the pad, even when new.
That said, it's not really noticeable when riding, and hopefully it will cease to be a problem after some more use.
Looking around at what else you can get for this kind of money, Carnac's Deep Winter Cycling Bib Tights are £59.99, and feature flatlock stitching, and said to be good down to temperatures of -10°C. Although the images give little away in terms of construction, the description is very similar to that of the Van Rysels.
Also similarly priced are Endura's Xtract bib tights at £74.99. Endura describes them as 'mid weight', but doesn't specify a temperature range, though it does say they're thermal and insulating. They use Endura's own pad with gel inserts.
Featuring an Elastic Interface pad that was highly praised by our reviewer (and flatlock stitched into the bibs!), the dhb Classic Thermal Bib Tights at £80 are stiff competition (and currently reduced to £32), although the heavy use of zips and dull aesthetics would steer me towards the Van Rysels.
Decathlon has an interesting tool on its website for calculating the carbon footprint of its products. The carbon footprint of these Van Rysel Bib Tights is listed as 23.63 kg CO2e (kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent, which takes into account other greenhouse gases).
Decathlon's website states '1 kg of CO2e represents 5km in a petrol car (according to the Base Carbone© of ADEME)', so you'd only need to do 118.15km on your bike instead of in your car to offset these bib tights' manufacture.
The tights have scored quite low marks (a D on a scale from A-E) for their environmental impact. But it really depends what you do with them. The best-case scenario is that they radically change your comfort on the bike in winter (not impossible if you're upgrading from shorts!) and you totally ditch the car in favour of the bicycle for your 8km (5-mile) each-way commute.
Assuming an 8km (5-mile) commute (71% of car journeys are under five miles in the UK according to the National Travel Survey 2020), if these bib tights help you choose the bike over the car for only an extra 7.4 days (to and from work, 16km per day), you've offset their manufacture. Of course there are so many other factors to take into consideration, such as the full life cycle of this garment (and your car!), and that's not really the scope of this review, but this rough calculation is encouraging.
If they change your life completely, you ditch the car and commute into the office five days a week throughout winter (from early November to late March, covering roughly 1600km), you'll offset their manufacture a whopping 13x over in a single year. Wow. There are probably some massive financial savings and fitness gains to be made from this too, and maybe a city or town out there with a tiny bit less air pollution, but this digression has gone on long enough! Back to the review...
A few weeks before I received the Van Rysels for review, I'd purchased the chart-topping Rapha Pro Team Winter Bib Tights as a long-term investment, after reading the road.cc best winter bib tights buyer's guide.
This gave me a nice basis for comparing the two as I alternated between them during the review period. The Raphas cost me more than double the rrp of the Van Rysels, even with a discount, and although they are admittedly better in every respect, at the end of the day they're doing a very similar job.
The Van Rysels are good enough to stop me reaching for the Raphas every time – which I see as quite an achievement. All in all, I've been pleased to have both in my collection – the Van Rysels extending the life of my 'investment purchase' Raphas, and having another option for mid-week rides between laundry loads.
Overall, the Van Rysels provide good protection from the wind, rain and cold, with thoughtful construction that keeps you comfortable. The pad is of good quality, albeit a little wide, and should really be sewn in with a flatlock stitch. These are quite small details in the grand scheme of things, though, and I wouldn't hesitate to wear them on any winter ride.
Capable bib tights for cold weather that, aside from a couple of lapses in quality, stand up to pricier options
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Make and model: Van Rysel RCR Sport Winter Cycling Tights
Tell us what the product is for
Decathlon says: "Cycling tights from our Van Rysel Racer line, dedicated to performance. These new tights are perfect for rides in temperatures between -3°C and 10°C.
"These winter cycling leggings are soft, warm, windproof and water-repellent. They're designed for comfort and freedom of movement, letting you ride for longer."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
NOT JUST ANOTHER PAIR OF CYCLING TIGHTS!
Whenever we design a new Van Rysel product, we look for performance first and foremost. So these cycling tights are not just another pair of cycling tights.
We wanted cycling tights with a windproof membrane for rides in cold temperatures, a new outer layer to allow you to stay comfortable on long rides, and cycling tights that will last you for years to come!
OUR DESIGN CHOICES
Each material used for these tights was chosen for its outstanding performance.
- Super Roubaix™, which is warm, soft and elastic, used as the primary material
- A windproof and water-repellent membrane on the thighs and shins
- Super Roubaix™ with a wear-resistant coating on the seat so that your tights last a long time
- Soft, flexible and breathable mesh for the bib straps and back
- An Elastic Interface pad for comfort during long rides
Main fabric 85% Polyamide, 15% Elastane Yoke 89% Polyester, 11% Elastane Padding 95% Foamed Polyurethane, 3% Polyamide, 1% Elastane, 1% Polyester Membrane 100% Polyurethane
Rate the product for quality of construction:
Lack of flatlock seams, and the choice of a thinner panel near the top of the front of the bib tights (where the straps are connected) is a bit odd.
Rate the product for performance:
Rate the product for durability:
Rate the product for fit:
The front is a bit lower than I'd expect on winter bib tights, but the leg length is spot on, and they fit comfortably throughout.
Rate the product for sizing:
Rate the product for weight:
Quite light considering their construction.
Rate the product for comfort:
Some itching/prickling from the edge of the pad, although this is only really noticeable off the bike.
Rate the product for value:
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
No problems following regular washing.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
The bib tights perform their task well – I've always been comfortable in them when on the bike.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The strategically placed panels and the aesthetics.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The low front and the lack of flatlock seams.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
There are a number of options out there at this price point, and their quality seems to be consistent with their competitors.
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
A couple of details could have been better, but overall the Van Rysels perform their task admirably. They're very good.
Age: 33 Height: 174 Weight: 63
I usually ride: Ridley Fenix SL Disc My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, mtb, Bikepacking
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