I often approach reviews with a final line in mind. That’s not to say that I pre-judge what I’m going to say, far from it. But, subject to testing, sometimes these things have a tendency to write themselves. In the case of this review that final line should be fairly obvious and, dear reader, I apologise for using it. But use it I must. Before we get there fire up the stove top espresso maker, get a slice of carrot cake and relax. We’re off on a Sunday morning club run. The weather’s great, the air is warm and there’s good company all around you. And, damn you’re looking good!
For those that are unfamiliar with Chapeau! (and I will now drop the ! for ease of writing) they are a “brand conceived and developed by cyclists who yearned for great quality products that came complete with a touch of class.” I like the brand ethos. It doesn’t try too hard, it just gets on with offering classical looking pieces to suit a variety of different riding styles. There’s a range of clothing for each season and the usual handy range of accessories. There are caps as well. Quite a lot of caps in fact but that’s pretty much to be expected isn’t it? The men’s range is largely replicated for women as well so there should be a good choice whatever your gender.
I don’t often talk about websites but theirs is amongst the best looking and easiest to navigate I’ve come across. And in terms of providing additional value there are few things to draw your attention to. First, they offer a 90 day no quibble returns. So, if having sat in your drawer undecided you want to send something back many days later then that’s all good. They offer a free crash replacement policy on ALL of their clothing. That’s brilliant. Just brilliant. I’m not sure who else does this. Assos repair and, as such, their products are well worth paying for. I know that Rapha repair as well. Others offer discounts but not many do what Chapeau are offering here. Returns are also free for UK customers. Shipping is either free or reasonably priced. You can buy with confidence. Indeed, I’ve done just that as a consequence of this review. More later. The presentation of the kit is top drawer with a premium feel. Don’t believe me? Check it out.
They offer some other stuff as well, quite a lot of coffee and some other nice gifts. It might be best to put the credit card out of the way before having a look. That said their current bundle offering of bib tights and jersey for £100 is simply staggering value. Buy a set, stick in the drawer till next year. I almost did, I still might. You can never have too much winter kit.
Chapeau make three pairs of bibshorts ranging from the classic (£70), the Club (£99.99) and the Pave (£119.99). The Pave shorts come in three flavours (red, blue or green pad) depending on your type of riding. The ones that I’ve been testing are the Club version, so essentially the mid range ones. That’s not the whole story though as you’ll see. The club version are a brand new short for Chapeau and have only been introduced this season. I guess that makes this a world exclusive. That’s nice.
I’ve talked about benchmarks before. And that benchmark remains, for the time being, Assos. I’ve liked other shorts from the big brands and, as you know, I was very fond of the dhb offerings. But my Mille shorts remain my go to shorts for the big rides, for the sportive and for the grand tour. The Mille shorts do it all, though they do invite you to ride faster.
Enter the Chapeau Club shorts. It’s an interesting description, for a start. Club. What are we talking here? Club as in the basic thing? Or the performance thing like Club Sport? If you like a lot of shorts for your money buy our club?
Anyway, let’s do some pics. Here’s the front of the shorts. I’ve added some stock pics as well so that you get the effect.
Let’s start with this. You make bibs out of, mostly, black lycra. It’s an easy job. There aren’t a massive amount of variations. Yet, somehow, Chapeau manage to make these look good. They feel, well, posh. The contrast block lettering is a nice touch. I don’t know how you feel about big logos but these work. Lettering is always a dangerous area in relation to durability but these seem great and don’t look as if they’re going to crack any time soon. The leg grippers contrast well with the shorts and the observant amongst you will also note that they contrast with each other. The Chapeau chapeau is present on both.
The construction is actually a little different to other shorts I’ve owned. Here the front groin panel is a one piece section that goes down, under and then up the back. Two leg panels on each side (front and back) join onto it. Indeed that type of construction is present on the rest of their bibshort range. It’s an interesting one and I had feared that the seam edge where the groin section joins the leg section could interfere with the saddle at some point of the stroke or that it might rub against the thigh in the horizontal plane. Those fears were misplaced and there was no issue at all. They’re fairly traditional in terms of panel count and construction but it all just works. The construction appears to be first rate with lots of nice zig zag stitching.
And here’s the rear. There’s not a lot to talk about here other than these have fairly traditional straps and the central section is meshed to increase breathability. Oh, there are some reflectives as well on both legs front and rear. Chapeau therefore get into my good books for doing something that I say that everyone should.
The pad is, in common with very many shorts, once again provided by Cytech. It’s their Bastogne HP (Men) pad with a central perineal channel. It’s triple density depending on which bit needs that bit more comfort. Cytech describe this as one of their “Ultra” pads for rides of 6 hours plus and I’ve no reason to disagree. I’ve been using these most of this week and it’s amongst the most comfortable pads I’ve used. If you do want a slightly different pad for different purposes then the Pave bib shorts come with red, blue or green pads depending on that purpose.
There are a number of quite lovely features. The leg grippers are super comfortable and very soft. They’re grippy elastic backed and keep everything where it should be. They’re not super tight, just right in fact, so there’s no sensation of being able to feel them dependent on where you are with your pedal stroke.
The front has a nice bit of contrast edging going on, not that you’ll be able to see it when wearing a jersey of course! The care label is where it should be (i.e. nowhere that causes any discomfort). The entire bib strap section is meshy. The straps are of a decent length and don’t cause any pulling when you’re standing. More of that later.
So, what are they like. Well, the Welsh expression is lush. They are amazingly comfortable and the lycra just feels superb. Chapeau note in their description that there are no flatlock seams here opting instead for traditional zig zag inner seams. They say that flatlock seams don’t encourage stretching with your movement. I have no idea one way or another save to say that I’ve never had an issue with zig zag seams. They’re present on the Mille and they are present here. I had no issues with chafing or any impressions of seams being left on my legs after a ride.
Size wise they’re very British. I was given the large to try which suggests a 34″ waist. I’m an inch or so larger than that and they fitted perfectly. You should also know that I have approaching Hoy like thighs so if something fits me then if you’re a racing snake you might want a smaller version. So bear that in mind. Definitely do not size up. If you want a little more compression then you may, and I mean may, want to size down. They are still sufficiently compressive in the first place as the Topazio lycra has slightly less elasticity than other lycra formulations. Bear in mind that 90 day refund policy and free returns. Buy two, keep the best fitting one?
Remember I talked about the straps earlier? A lot of brands make a big issue that pulling on the shoulders is perfectly fine and will disappear in the seated position. And that’s true. But it doesn’t necessarily follow that a lack of pulling means that they won’t settle into the position that’s required. And that’s certainly true of the club shorts. The bib section is sufficiently elastic to work with you but continue to provide support where needed.
What are they like? Well, pretty laid back really. GT shorts, think Maserati Granturismo rather than Ferarri 458. A bit of class, not too much shouting. Definitely a short for the summer sportive. I don’t know that I’d race in them despite the crash replacement policy. I certainly wouldn’t do CX in them. It would be a bit like going running in a John Smedley polo shirt. But the distinction here is that they CAN do all of those things.
Where I think they come into their own is that summer, laid back trip out to the coffee house, a nice sit down with some carrot cake and then 50 miles back home. They’re that sort of short. One that feels a bit special. Makes you feel good, makes you ride good.
In conclusion? Great shorts. As good as the Mille? Almost. The thing is I don’t think they compare to the Mille, not really. Though the Mille’s can do classy they are, for me, the shorts for racing along. No, I think these compare to the Assos Uno or the Rapha classic, something a little more relaxed, but way better looking than either. And, you know what, they’re definitely in the running for being better shorts than those two. And so, that utterly predictable last line. I have to take my hat off and say, Bravo!
Bet you didn’t see that coming………..
I’ll be reviewing some of Chapeau’s jerseys in Part 2 of this review including the really rather splendid Cafe jersey. I might even do one on their polo shirts, which I bought after writing this review. Time for more coffee?