dhb, I am speed. I am Aeron Speed. Part 2, bib shorts.

Depending on your point of view the Aeron range has either shrunk or expanded. When originally launched there were three Aeron bibshorts. Recently there has only been the Aeron Pro. For 2016 there is the Aeron and the Speed. As I’ll come on to discuss in a little while, the Aeron is an evolution of the Pro that came before but the Speed is a little bit of a revolution.

Bibshorts can be a very personal thing. You find what you like and continue with them. When you do it’s hard to wear anything other than those. I’ve done most of them. For a time I dabbled in the Castelli Free Aero and while the pad was great the sizing was a bit off. I needed XL to fit and they were still a tad tight in the groin. XXL was a bit better in that regard but, come on, I’m not an XXL for goodness sake. And if you do go XXL then the legs become a bit akin to wearing 3/4 length. I quite liked the Rapha Classic bibs but the chamois, while very comfy, had a tendency to wander up where it shouldn’t. The Pro Team were very well made but, I dunno, a tad long and the fit was a bit too much like the Castelli. Also, that block rubber lettering, when washed, was only going to be a matter of time away from messing with my OCD.

And then there’s Assos, and since I tried them, there always has been. For me they are the benchmark in terms of comfort. Or, at least, they were. I really rate the older (short leg) Mille S5 version. They fit me and they feel nice. The pad is good. They are the right length. Don’t ignore the basics. If the basics end up costing you a bit more then so be it. The Assos Uno were fine but always felt a bit looser and lacking compression in the equivalent size to the Mille. I’m sure the fi-13 were quite wondrous but, come on……….So, for a long time I’ve been using multiple pairs of Mille shorts because they work for me. It may be because they are sublime. It may be that the combination of things that they do well works for me. It’s difficult to be definitive because it’s a personal thing. But I rate them highly and it’s against that benchmark that I review. But, do bear this in mind, even at their now reduced price the Mille’s still require a huge financial investment and though they last for ages and have a legendary crash repair programme, there’s no getting away from that.

Anyway, for long rides in the summer sun, that’s what I wear. (I’ve just received some Parentini Race bibshorts as well and first impressions is that they challenge the Mille’s.) But there are all sorts of other rides, commuting, MTB, cyclocross and the like. And for a lot of those rides I’ve been wearing a pair of the old Aeron Pro Bibshorts. And I mean old. I’ve had them for at least 3 years now. They’ve seen better days. They’ve been washed in the washing machine with little or no care. They’ve probably been tumble dryed with everything else. I’ve gotten them filthy and now and again I’ve fallen off. They look a bit old now if you look very closely at them. But the dhb logo is still intact and so are all the seams. They were reasonably priced that they’ve lasted brilliantly. They’re not shouty but they work. Evolution is all about change, normally for the better. In cycling kit we appear to urge evolution every year. dhb have resisted it for a while with the Aeron. But changes are afoot.

dhb Aeron bibshorts 2016 (£65.00 rrp or £57.20 with platinum discount) (click to buy)

Nylon, spandex and polyester. Bear that in mind. We’ll come back to it. It’s important. I talked about my love for the Mille earlier. They are nylon and spandex, no polyester. What does polyester do? Does it add anything?

Let’s get this out of the way, these are definitely an evolution, but there aren’t a huge amount of differences to the previous model and I don’t think a huge amount of changes were needed. If it ain’t broke etc. So we still have a light and airy upper bib section with a one piece rear section rather than the traditional over straps. It’s fine, works well and, in practice, I have no view on it being any better or worse than a pair of straps. But a very welcome change for this year is whatever colour combo you choose the straps are white. If you partner them with a lightweight jersey then it’s probably the case that they will be less visible than black ones. The bottom of the mesh section at the rear cuts down quite low so these are a pretty cool and airy pair of shorts. Edging aside the straps are one piece all the way up and over. So there’s nothing there to irritate. It’s worth noting that if you don’t like this type of strap setup then there are no alternatives for you. Sorry! For the ladies however dhb offer a number of different strap setups including the halterneck and front clip setup.

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There has been a bit of re-placement of the various panels. So the focus is now more on a side section leg panel joining to a mid section groin panel. Before the legs had been a continuous loop. It doesn’t feel very different in practice. There are a few panels added higher up where the mid section had been two panels joined at the rear. Anyway, you get the idea. If you placed them side to side you’d get a similar aesthetic but you can see that there are differences.

Previously external flatlock stitching was used and contributed a little to the design aesthetic. Those flatlock seams are now gone so there’s more of an uncluttered look. One review on Wiggle has suggested that removing these has led to less comfort. I don’t agree. They are as near flatlock as to make practically no difference at all and, frankly, the seams on my Assos shorts have always been “normal” and never caused me any issues. You’d be hard pushed to feel these seams digging in any way.

There’s been an evolution of the leg gripper and, for me, it’s a nicer feeling affair than it was before. Rather than rubberised gripper running round a standard panel the outer leg part is now one of those giant elastic band thingies. It grips well and ensures that there’s no movement. Unlike the previous version the gripper doesn’t run right round the leg. It encompasses only the front, outside and rear aspect. The inner leg part is a piece of lycra, the same material as the rest of the shorts. But, here’s the thing. It’s double lined and really very comfortable. It’s an interesting design feature. In practice it means you get a nice grip for the elastic but a really nice feel on the inside the leg. There’s no conflict between the two even though the inner section has no grippers.20160312_104341

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The pad is from pad masters Cytech once again. It’s from their Ultra range and is for road or MTB use. The observant among you will notice that it’s changed colour from the Aeron pro (which was red). The previous version used the Cytech Tour Air and the new version uses the Tour HP Super Air. More letters and the addition of Super. Better yes? Possibly. The truth here is that, denomination aside, they’re pretty much the same pad dimensionally. It’s possible that some of the densities have changed (these have a triple density design, depending on the area) but it appears to be much the same. That’s fine. It’s a good pad. Not the best pad in the world, I prefer the Mille and, very recently, have been blown away by Parentini’s C6 pads. But it’s a very good pad indeed and as good as any other brand I’ve ever worn. It lasts as well. For perhaps the first couple of uses it’s not as silky smooth as it could be but once worn in, or washed, it’s lovely. It’s properly positioned and doesn’t disappear anywhere that you don’t want it to when out of the saddle.

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What I particularly like about the Aeron is that they feel quite compressive. It’s at this point I return to that polyester. I wonder if it’s the addition of that which makes them feel so snug and protecting? It might also explain why they are so hardwearing. It doesn’t make them feel any different to the touch, but it may well be that it’s adding something. I confess I don’t know. It just struck me as interesting. Perhaps a materials course beckons.

I opted for a large in these as I was just at the top end of that sizing bracket. Unlike jerseys I’d generally advise going for the right size rather than sizing up. They’ll compress better and, frankly, lycra stretches. So a large in these was bang on for me. Leg length is a little longer than the Mille’s that I prefer but leg length is a hugely personal thing. As long as they don’t touch my knees I can live with it. Fit around the thigh and gripper section is superb. The straps fit well and there’s nothing remotely uncomfortable about any part of them. A couple of decent length rides saw no issues with my comfort at all. That’s to be expected. I’ve used the old Aeron on many a bumpy ride with the similar pad with no issues.

Do the Aeron bibshorts still cut it? Absolutely. They remain an excellent pair of shorts whatever your discipline and will last you for years to come. There are currently five colour variants to these bibs so matching them to your jersey should be easy enough. Or just get the black ones which are perhaps the most versatile of all.

And, if that’s too steep for you, have a look at the new dhb Classic ones. Under £40 and should be just as robust.

dhb Aeron Speed bib shorts (£75.00 or £67 with platinum discount) (click to buy)

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Revolution then. Back to nylon and spandex. No polyester here. But, they feel different. They feel, rough. Bear with me. I don’t mean that as a criticism. It’s not a soft feeling outer like the Aeron or particularly the Mille. The fabric is apparently called Revolutional Energy and has coldblack treatment technology.  Yep, coldblack. That’s a treatment of the lycra by the way and the claim is that it keeps you cooler than normal lycra. So your body can use its energy to cycle rather than cool you. How much energy? No clue. I’d also point out that I don’t heat up hugely in that area overall, my upper half is always the hot spot. But coldblack is pretty popular now and Rapha, for example, use it on their pro team bibshorts. Just saying. It also provides some UV protection as well.

The Speed bibshorts are most certainly a revolution. Not of bibshorts per se, after all many of these features are present on a lot of high end bibshorts, but certainly a revolution of the Aeron range. Where the Aeron bibs are arguably fairly traditional these are definitely a more high tech approach.

Those leg grippers, despite their colouring, are the same as those featured in the Aeron. dhb use the term silicone particle gripper. I prefer giant elastic band thingies. And, like the Aeron, they run round most of the leg before that double layered piece of fabric takes over on the inside again. Perhaps it’s the fabric, perhaps it’s something else which I’ve not thought about, but making sure you get the fit right in these is slightly more crucial than in the Aeron versions. Those are pull on and forget. With these you need to ensure you have the right size and make sure that gripper sits where you want it. Then adjust the rest of the shorts to fit. These have a similar feel, in my view, to the Rapha Pro Team bibs. That is to say that when standing they can look a little wrinkled in a few places but, once on the bike, their compressive nature takes over and they straighten out. When I talk about compression I mean that natural squeeze you get with bibshorts and whilst great play is made of their compressive qualities I’d actually say that the Aeron shorts felt slightly snugger overall than the Speed version. We’re talking marginal measurements here, it’s just worth pointing it out. On a coat hanger the Speed version almost looks as if it needs an iron. Obviously, don’t do that, and once they’re on, they flatten out beautifully.

Wiggle’s description of the leg grippers on these shorts says “shaped leg elastic with silicone particle gripper to keep in place without squeezing leg.” I’d go with that, the compression exists in the main short and these keep it in place. It’s comfortable and works just as well as in the Aeron. Whether you’re in or out of the saddle they stay where they should be.

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The back is pretty similar to the Aeron in that the straps merge into one central section. It’s a wider section though overall it’s meshier and airier. I’ve made one of those words up apparently. You can see the pattern on the mesh below. The whole thing is just a bit more modern feeling and just that bit more advanced. And the straps are absolutely lovely. Giant, soft, smooth elastic things. You just cannot feel them. They feel like a step up and are a real touch of class. On the top half at least, revolution.20160309_170600

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And the all important pad. Once again it’s from Cytech and this time it’s the Comp HP. Hang on, I hear you say, comp? Isn’t that entry level? I agree, it’s a moniker you always see on the base product bicycle for example. But here it’s not. That’s probably Cytech’s fault rather than dhb’s. No, the Comp HP sits above the Tour of the Aeron in the “Ultra” range. Both are good, but the Comp is just a little bit more comfortable in my view and a little bit racier, as befits the shorts overall. Once again it’s not initially soft but wears in very quickly. Once more it’s triple density depending on the area and a perineum channel is also present. I’d rate it as slightly better than the Aeron pad overall but these are marginal things and can come down to preference.

And how are they? Well, they feel different. The feel, for want of a better word, speedier. I’ve no doubt that they will feel cooler in the high summer given that they were that bit colder than the Aeron in the cool and fresh conditions I’d tested them in. They feel a little less noticeable than the Aeron versions and whilst the description on Wiggle makes great play of their compressive qualities I’d say that the fact you can’t feel them is a major point here.

There are three colours available and, of course, if you choose the lime or blue versions (black is the other colour choice) it makes sense to get the equivalent Aeron or Speed jersey in the matching colour. If you want true versatility in these (or the Aeron) just get the black ones.

Once I again I took a Large in these and I think that, for this model, sizing is even more critical. To ensure the best fit on the leg grippers you need to ensure that you get a size which fits. If you don’t then things will get a bit flappy round the leg gripper and the leg length will be a bit longer. So bear that in mind. If you get the right size you’ll get a great fit. If you get the wrong size you won’t even like them. Remember that Wiggle offer a free returns service through Collect+ and if you use paypal and can take advantage of the 14 day payment offer your returns will be back before you’ve even been charged!

Did I prefer one over the other? Well, I guess that depends. Whilst they don’t have specific stated purposes I felt that the Aeron remained the Gran Fondo choice but were versatile enough to wear on the mountain bike and cyclocross. While the Speed were designed for long hours in the saddle I think that they’d be better suited to racing over distance and climbing in hotter conditions. They’d be ok for mountain biking or cyclocross but not my go to choice for those disciplines.

There’s actually a decent amount of competition in this price range even on Wiggle’s own site. But I do think that they are well placed among that competition and can compete with the best of them. They’re not quite up there with my Assos Mille in terms of being virtual perfection but the cost of those is considerably more and it’s certainly not the case that the performance reflects that considerable difference in cost, it’s just a few little things. There are aspects here that are class leading such as those straps on the Speed and the leg grippers on both pairs. The pads are excellent. The price is well pitched and I have little doubt about the quality of the bibshorts overall. Depending on the use that you want to put them to you can buy with the comfort of knowing you’re getting something that works very well indeed for a very reasonable outlay. The most important matters, comfort and fit, are all taken care of.

In terms of the summer Aeron and Speed range that’s all for now. But there will be some more dhb reviews coming because I’ve bought a few things recently. Stay tuned.

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