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New bibs on the block: Albion bibshorts review

29 Jun 2018
Verdict:

London-based Albion gives bibshorts a go and the results are pretty impressive

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
£110
For 
•Impressive chammy •Compression fit that's still comfortable
Against 
•Would benefit from wider grippers

Based within the M25, London company Albion is trying to do something that is very hard: become relevant in the cycling clothing market. It's a feat that many have tried and many have failed at.

To put it in to perspective, in the Cyclist office we keep a list of every cyclewear brand that contacts us about its kit or we spot scrolling through Instagram. So far there are 140 names on it.

Of those 140 names, it would be accurate to estimate that only 25% of these brands have managed to offer something different and become a brand that both you as the consumer and I as a reviewer stand up and take notice of. 

First impressions would suggest that Albion sits in the latter 75% of brands that come and go quicker than Germany in the World Cup.

However, after having used its classic bibshorts for the best part of six weeks I have been left as surprised by their performance as that of England in Russia currently.

Buy now from Albion Cycling 

First attempts

As a brand, Albion has gone through a few seasonal cycles already having released a collection of jerseys for both winter and summer but until now it had steered clear of bibshorts.

A more complex product than your jersey, the construction of bibshorts takes due care, as company founder Charlie Stewart told us.

'The brief we set ourselves was to make not just a pair of shorts, but your favourite pair of shorts; the ones you turned to for your longest or most challenging rides,' said Stewart. 

'To do that they needed to be very well made, have a great pad, be comfortable for long hours in the saddle and versatile if the weather or your other clothing choices demanded it.'

The downfall of smaller, niche brands like Albion with its bibshorts is that of a poor chammy. Concerntrating more on aesthetics and a close fit, the comfort of the short is often overlooked and considered a secondary issue.

Albion has not fallen into this trap however. It opted for a high density foam pad from Elastic Interface's ultra range which was specifically designed for longer rides in the saddle and it has paid off. 

This weekend just gone I used the Albion bibshorts on a 100km ride around Norfolk. Its flat terrain causes you to stay planted in the saddle for hours on end tapping out the same rhythm with little respite, a mighty test for any chammy.

Three hours in and with only one stop for water, I realised my position on the saddle had remained unchanged. I hadn't found myself jostling for comfort or dancing out of the saddle to give my backside a rest.

The thicker 12mm rear to the chammy pad created plenty of comfort between me and the saddle while the thinner 3mm front didnt obstruct how I was positioned. 

Some may consider the 12mm rear as excessive, especially if unlike me, you are a whispy little mountain goat, although I think most of us would rather a chammy that can keep us comfortable for mile after mile rather than something only good for shorter rides. 

So considering this was a first attmept at a pair of bibshorts, Albion should be giving itself a pat on the back for hitting the nail on the head so cleanly with its first strike.

Impressive compressive

From years of walking around a rugby pitch from scrum to scrum, my legs have formed an odd shape. They are long and out of proportion to my body.

My calves and quads are rounded from years of pushing while my waistline has reduced with the introduction of cycling.

This means that your usual bibshorts can look odd on me. If they fit on the leg chances are they will be baggy nearer the knee and if the straps fit then I can guarantee the legs won't. 

By opting for a compression fit, Albion has tackled this issue. Instead of you fitting into the bibshorts, the bibshorts mould to your leg shape.

Sucking in tight, the shorts tuck in at the waist and the knee while expanding appropriately on the thighs. They also sit where I think bibshorts should, around four fingers above the knee cap. 

The compression also aids comfort as the tight fit helps the flow of blood around the leg, keeping your muscles in place and firm.

I wouldn't say I felt a noticeable difference on the bike in terms of my speed and recovery but it is worth mentioning that my legs felt slightly less fatigued after using the bibshorts.

This could all be in my head but I thought it was worth mentioning, who knows? 

One slight nag that I did have with fit was the grippers. They just didn't seem to suit the compression vibe.

Firstly, with the close fit, these bibshorts are already a challenge to get on yet the glue like grippers make this a more complex task resisting being pulled into position, uncomfortably sliding up your leg.

When in position, I then found that the compression material used in the bibshorts would also make the area with grippers tighter than necessary.

On smaller legs this may not be a concern but for me it had the odd moment of becoming uncomfortable.

This could be solved, in my opinion, with the wider, less restrictive grippers used by other brands, something that may be adressed in future attempts. 

Style-wise, you cannot go wrong with all black bibshorts and it makes sense for a brand that is testing the waters with its first product. Plain black always sells best.

The adition of its neat branding on the left leg is a nice touch however, as is the reflective detailing towards the back, a smart choice for a product earmarked for your 'longest rides'.

You may find yourseld slightly put off by the £110 price tag especially as the brand has nothing to show for itself so far in terms of bibshorts.

But everyone has got to start somewhere, cyclewear is expensive and Charlie has got to make a living so the price is understandable.

The Albion bibshorts are still £60 less than the Rapha Classic bibshorts, for example, but I wouldn't say they are £60 worse than the Rapha counterparts.

In fact, I would even say they are on par. 

Buy now from Albion Cycle

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