Back in September 2013 I was amping up for a How-Many-Miles-Can-You-Cover-In-12-Hours ride (I did 145 miles on my first go at it, by the way). Leading up to the big event, I was noticing that the two pairs of bibs that I owned were becoming less and less comfortable.
My two bibs were a pair of Specialized RBX bibs and a pair of Twin Six standard bibs. Both had served my admirably over the last 2 years but it was obvious the pad in each was starting to get worn out.
The Specialized shorts had never really provide the leg compression that I wanted and both shorts were more than $100 when you factored in shipping. Now, $100 is really not that much money for a good pair of bib shorts. You can spend $250 for a pair of Rapha bibs and I’ve heard that Assos has a pair of bibs that go for something like $450. I don’t want to say that the Rapha or Assos bibs are not fabulously comfortable but there is no way on this earth I can justify that kind of coin for bike clothing. If you give me a pair, I’ll give ’em a go but otherwise it just ain’t gonna happen.
So what’s a guy to do? New bibs were needed but I wanted to spend as little money as possible. Often in this world, you get what you pay for. Maybe I should just spend the $100-$150 to get a decent pair. It really doesn’t sound that unreasonable.
But what if you could get a good pair for $60? If you look in the back of most bike magazines, you will likely see an ad for Aerotech Designs. They advertise low cost, high quality, made in the USA bike clothing. There is a lot of good attributes there.
Not expensive? Always good. Made in the USA? You gotta support that. High quality? That’s what we all want (assuming their definition of “High Quality” matches your definition of “High Quality”).
They have a pair of bib shorts they call their Top Shelf Bib Shorts. It would be nice if you could give a pair of bibs a test ride before you bought them but that is impractical and kind of icky, if you think about it.
I ordered up the Top Shelf Bibs in all black in a size large (I’m 5′ 10″ and about 195 lbs). They were definitely on the snug side but not too snug. I might go with an XL if I get another pair. The straps seem reasonably well placed to not cause any undue nipple chaffage (EWW!). The pad felt a little bulky when standing in them but felt fine once I was on the saddle. One thing you will notice from the website is that there is no fancy detailing to these bibs. There is no weird, funky looking panels with oddly noticeable stitching. They are very plain jane. For $60, I can take plain jane.
A brief pause to highlight a few points for comparison:
- As I said above, I’m 5′ 10″ and about 195 lbs (not skinny!)
- I ride a decent steel-framed road bike on a classic Brooks B-17 saddle with 23 mm tires (I’ve since switched to 38 mm tires)
- My rides are all on roads, 95% paved.
- I don’t ride in the drops much. My hands are typically on the brake hoods, the ramps or near the stem
My first ride was a planned 6 hour training ride. This was an entirely flat ride (no hills to spontaneously get me out of the saddle). As I normally do, I used plenty of Chamois Butt’r on the undercarriage before putting the bibs on.
I managed to cover 81 miles in those 6 hours. I had no issues with sore spots or chaffage of any kind. Was my butt a little sore during the ride? Well, yeah but not to any great degree and certainly no more than with my other pairs of bibs. I thought it was a pretty good first go for these bibs.
My next ride was, I kid you not, a 12 hour fundraising ride that covered 145 miles. Once again, I used Chamois Butt’r (on 2 occasions, instead of one). As part of my planning for the ride, I brought along my other 2 pairs of bibs to change into if I needed them. I never did. The Top Shelf Cycling Bibs performed admirably consider the number of hours I was in the saddle and my not-exactly-svelte size.
There was a little chaffage that developed but it never stopped me or made me change the way I was riding. It completely cleared up within 36 hours of finishing the ride. If I had to do 12 hours today, I would definitely reach for these bibs again.
When you look at the reviews on the Aerotech Designs website, you will see several customers comment on the pad holding onto moisture during hot weather rides. Unfortunately, I cannot comment on that. All the riding I have done has been cool to cold weather riding where it wasn’t really and issue. Starting next summer, I’ll be able to comment on that particular issue, if there is an issue.
So to summarize the important points…
- Comfort – they were at least as comfortable as the Specialized and Twin Six bibs
- Cost – you can’t beat $60
- Quality – I could not spot any quality issues out of the box
- Durability – no issues yet, but I really haven’t put that many miles on them
- Style – pretty plain, but for $60 who really cares?