Finding the right shorts for cycling is something akin to finding the right girl or boy. You know, The One. You’ve got to try many before you find that special something unless you get lucky first time and never stray again. It’s true to say I’ve yet to find my true match – I’m talking anatomical chamois padding here, not the boy girl thing!
When the team at SKINS came knocking with an offer to review some of their cycle clothing I was intrigued. Their clothing has great user reviews on Wiggle and Chain Reaction plus they are big into their compression clothing, technology they have transferred to cycling bib shorts and jerseys.
Bib shorts versus shorts
Firstly, a disclaimer. Despite owning more Lycra than your average superhero, there are no bib shorts in my locker. I’ve always got on just fine with normal shorts. I’m of slim build and never experience much short movement when riding so I’ve not been tempted by the claimed benefits of bib shorts, like keeping everything in place throughout the ride.
Bib shorts have always seemed to have a big disadvantage. OK, two. One, I’ve never been keen on looking like a stick thin wrestler, and two, I like the convenience of shorts for nature stops aka peeing in the wild without getting caught.
Yet some swear by bibs. They move less they claim. They have no tight waistband if you’re generous of belly. No gap between bib shorts and jersey (I don’t have this with shorts either). The big plus is that you’re already dressed for Saturday night karaoke when you want to belt out Queen classicsin your 1970s rock and roll leotard. I was intrigued.
SKINS Reflex cycle bib shorts
Are they any good? Firstly, as with most things in life, be sure to get the right size. I was sent a size too small and these were very uncomfortable, pinching where thigh meets pelvis on every pedal revolution. What is it with cycling clothes producers and incorrect sizing charts? I’ve noticed on reviews for most brands that real users recommend getting the next size up from the stated size guide – same applies here.
I’m 5ft 11in and weigh in at around 65-70kg depending on the time of year / how good last night was. The medium bib shorts were way too small but the large fit well. The padding on the shorts feels very thin yet is excellent. There’s not an abundance of chamois unlike brands such as Altura and even dhb (my favourite brand), which for me means no chafing. The padding here is also far superior, anatomically designed and great for a 50 mile ride. I’d probably want something a little thicker for longer rides.
The other thing I noticed was the feel of these shorts. They are so thin they’re like silk in places. Will they make you quicker? Maybe not but you will certainly feel quicker wearing them! Adding to the pro feel is the large elastic leg gripper which is now preferred by most posh short brands to the old silicon leg grippers which rip at your hairy legs when you peel them off (so that’s why folk shave their legs?!). The SKINS bib shorts look the business. They mostly stayed in place although they are liable to ride up the thighs and pinch.
Tip: Don’t pull the shorts up too high otherwise they will crease and pinch when on the bike.
I like the attention to detail and the design is great – sporty yet subtle. There’s lots of reflective tape on the shorts which glistened even in sunlight.
What about the fact I was wearing bib shorts? I’m not going to lie to you, I felt and looked ridiculous when I put them on. But hey, when you’re on the bike you don’t even notice they are there. The wide shoulder straps stayed in place and were very comfortable.
The big test was peeing of course. Look away now. Rather than having to get fully undressed and reveal my emaciated frame to the world, the bib shorts have a nice thin piece of Lycra at the front which stretches to you know where, meaning my toilet stops were only slightly more inconvenient than if I was wearing shorts. Phew. Peeing upwards into the sky will take some practice mind.
What about the claims of compression clothing, does it improve performance or aid recovery? Can’t say I noticed any difference. Maybe I wasn’t ‘explosive’ enough which seems to be where research suggests compression clothing can benefit sprinters but is ‘useless’ for endurance athletes. What about aiding recovery? Maybe, but only if you wear compression clothing immediately after exercise for up to er, 24 hours. Better invest in some new pyjamas.
Compression claims aside, all in all I was impressed. The SKINS bib shorts wicked away all sweat, were cool yet warm enough in 13°C, plus the chamois was a great fit, super comfortable, stayed dry and remained in place.
The shorts are above my usual budget at £125 but I can definitely see the value in spending more on what is probably the most important comfort decision you can make after a good bike set-up. I’m sold and these shorts are now my go to shorts for the bike and I will certainly invest more budget in my next set of shorts to gain the extra comfort. Bib shorts? I can take or leave them, normal cycling shorts are just fine for me.
Find out more about SKINS Reflex bib shorts
SKINS cycling jersey
Whilst I was impressed with the SKINS bib shorts, I was less impressed with the SKINS jersey. Firstly, the jersey failed the most important test – aesthetics. Yes, beauty above comfort for me when it comes to the upper body. We want to look and feel good. The jersey simply isn’t to my taste with the lack of collars and the design being a little one dimensional. Comfort wise it feels more like a skinsuit than a jersey so is perhaps better suited to performance riders. Again make sure you get the size up, the medium really cut into my arm pits whereas the large was comfortable if a little baggy on the shoulders.
I opted for the black, long sleeve version which had sleeves an inch or more short of the wrist line, not great aesthetically or when a chilly wind blows, leaving your skin exposed between glove and jersey. Dodgy tan lines ahoy! I’m no orangutan, just a regular cyclist. This is one thing Wiggle does well, its cycling specific brand dhb considers that a rider will be stretched out on the bike and needs longer than usual sleeves.
The long sleeved jersey performed well in the 8-13°C spring morning, keeping me dry and warm. The jersey comes packed with tech including 50+ UV sun protection, which is amazing given how thin the material is. There’s also anti-bacterial material and an anti-chafing design.
The overall fit was good but for a tiny bit of flapping at the top of the shoulder. The quality was good, which you’d expect for a £90 jersey. Lots of reflective strips again plus lovely deep pockets for storing all of your bits and bobs, no zip pocket though. If anything the pockets are a little too big and baggy and those who like their aerodynamics might feel they have three parachutes on their back.
Read more about the SKINS Tremola Due cycling jersey
A big shout out to the team at SKINS too, great customer service when I needed to change the size of the clothes. Check out their full recovery and active range, although I can only apologise on their behalf for the image currently on their homepage of naked women. That’s not clickbait, it’s unfortunately true! Wear clothes and ride faster. Marketing genius eh? This video makes a little more sense and just to even things out, has some naked man action for the ladies. Yes, that is clickbait!