Assos Mille Jersey, budget Assos?

Yeah, shoot me, I know. Describing something that’s circa £100 as budget is a ridiculous proposition. But that rather depends on your point of view. If you look around you can certainly get this jersey cheaper. It’s currently £83.60 at Wiggle if you have platinum discount. It’s been down as low as about £73 on there recently. If you google effectively you should be able to find it quite easily at a more reasonable price. Anyhow, everything is relative. And in terms of relativity to the rest of the Assos range then this is pretty much the cheapest that they do.

This is the second iteration of the Mille jersey. It’s very different from the old one in many ways but the same in one very important area. The Mille jersey is the only jersey in the Assos range which is capable of making you feel better about yourself. That’s because it’s the only one that’s correctly sized or, at least, correctly described. I have a 39″ chest and take a large in quite a lot of cycle clothing. I’m a medium in most real world clothes. So, to be told that I’m an XL in cycle clothing can be a bit annoying. It’s not world ending, as long as it fits it doesn’t really matter. But I remember needing (at the same size I am now) a 2XL in a Sportful top once. Come on. In the Mille jersey, unlike the rest of the Assos (top half) range, I’m a large. And not only does the large fit me it’s also quite relaxed overall. So, if you do take a fancy to it after my review not only is it relaxed fit, you also need to size down (if you have an Assos jersey already).

The Mille jersey is available in 5 different colours. Mine is the red version, but you also get to choose between white, yellow, blue or green. Save that you don’t. They are for all intents and purposes exactly the same other than their sleeve colour. The fronts are always black and the rears are always white. That’s it. Choose your sleeve colour. That’s a bit different to the old one as well where you at least got to choose a colour that embraced the entire front of the jersey. It’s fair to say, as well, that the asymmetric design may not be for everyone. You might not like black either, more of that later. But it’s actually a fairly subtle jersey. And for Assos, it’s practically undercover.

The entire jersey is, once again, made from Assos proprietary materials. Or, if you like, their own mix of polyester, polyamide and elastane.

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Let’s deal with this up front. There is nothing special about this jersey at all really. There are no clever arm grippers, the material is simply terminated and stitched. There aren’t really any clever inserts for ventilation. The amount of panels is kept to the absolute minimum. The waist gripper, at least at the front, is the same as that of the sleeves. There are, at least, some rubber inserts at the rear to keep the jersey from moving. The fabric is heavily perforated which creates a substantially airy feel.

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The sleeves are sublimated so that print will always look as good as the day you bought it. It is fairly subtle I guess. The black and white pattern is replicated across the range. Only the main colour of the sleeve changes.

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Round the back and you have your standard three pockets plus one zipped. There are reflective trims at both sides. There’s a nice giant Assos badge to remind anyone cycling behind you that you’re wearing Assos. The central area is all white. It’s still exactly the same fabric as the rest of the jersey. That’s another departure from the old version which was resplendent with all sorts of weird tech and some very dodgy looking side panels made of a material which I can’t even begin to describe.

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The waistband at the back is a bit more techy and is one of those very effective rubber band things. It’s a very comfortable set up. Once in place the jersey sits well, doesn’t sag at the back or balloon at the front.

The pockets are notable in their ability to store quite a lot of kit before there’s an discernable pulling. That’s impressive in such a lightweight jersey. There’s a central strip running across the top of the pockets which aids stability and strength.

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So, are feeling the love yet? No? That’s a shame. The Mille is, in my view, the best jersey that Assos sell. It may not be as advanced as the Rally jersey (but what is?), it’s not as technical as the Cape Epic either (that is more expensive). It has virtually none of the features that you’d see on the Campionissimo or Mangusta etc. It’s subtle to the point of being unrecognisable as Assos. Take the logos off and it could be anything at all.

And yet. For years I’ve always thought that the Mille jersey was just perfect at being a jersey that you put on, that fits well, that just gets on with being a jersey with no fuss and no drama. In terms of that brief it’s unassailable. And although there are no obviously tangible reasons why it might be better than a £40, £50 or £60 jersey it just is. Much of that is due to the way it fits. It’s easy to size up or size down a particular jersey to make it tighter or looser. But the Mille just feels right. There’s a close fit without it feeling like body paint. But despite the comfort there’s little or no flapping at speed.

It’s a very lightweight jersey as well. Not perhaps shaving as many grammes off as a climber’s jersey but this is a jersey for high summer and the mountains. Yeah, I know, that black front and arm isn’t the best choice overall but that’s why the rear, the most exposed to the direct sun, is white. It wicks very well indeed. I’ve never once regretted wearing this jersey in the hottest of conditions.

There’s nothing really difficult in making a good jersey. And you can do it very cheaply actually. A lot of the more expensive cycle gear such as bibshorts, jackets and shoes are a bit more expensive because they need to be. A jersey is generally just some good material sewn together so that it fits. Above that everything else is gravy. But I do think that this is the best jersey that Assos makes and, such is its overall quality, it’s actually well priced. Indeed, it’s not only budget Assos, it’s arguably budget premium as well, if there is a such a thing.

The previous Mille was a good jersey with a load of tech going on. The replacement is more old school in its approach but a better jersey which I think speaks volumes in relation to some of the so claimed gains that we’re seeing in relation to a lot of cycling clothing. That’s not to diminish this jersey. The proprietary material, despite being a seemingly straightforward poly mix, is nicer than many others, it is more comfortable and it’s just nicer next to the skin. If you’re in the market for something that just does the job you could do an awful lot worse than this. If I were pushed I’d say it’s one of my favourite jerseys ever. It’s not quite the best though, more on that soon.

RedWhite Race bibshorts

You had one job. One. You’ll have seen that phrase knocking round the internet. It’s not generally intended as a compliment. It’s about those people who had one job to do and messed it up. RedWhite have one job to do, make bibshorts. It’s all they do. No jerseys. No nice accessories. Nothing for winter. Just. Bibshorts. And not even an extensive range of them either. Just two in fact. The Race and the Bibs. One job. It puts even more pressure on them to perform. I guess that makes things a bit harder. To a certain extent you can cut some slack when a range is good overall though that’s probably some subliminal confirmation bias rather than a valid testing method. When you sell only bibshorts they need to be great and if the reviewer concludes that they are then you’ve stumbled upon something special.

Enter into any bibshort discussion and you get the usual recommendations. Chiefly Assos, Castelli, Rapha, at least at the high end. Now and again there’ll be a lone voice who pipes up with RedWhite. And that voice normally says that they’ve tried them all and that these are the best they’ve ever tried. Sometimes that voice isn’t alone. There are others telling you about this mystical brand. So it pays to sit up and pay attention.

But, I guess, I kept forgetting about them. When the market is so crowded it’s easy to forget. Fortunately my sub-conscious reminded me to reach out (though it might have been my Facebook feed). And when I reached out and asked whether I could review one of their range I was very excited when they said yes. After some lovely comms with Amreet, the founder of RedWhite, the bibs duly arrived about a week later.

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That’s the back of the package the bibs arrived in. It takes moments to do that. Now, the cynics amongst you might say that it’s helpful in terms of getting a favourable review. It might well be because we all like to be treated as individuals. But it’s a nice touch. And no-one gets good reviews out of me without the goods being good!

So, back to the range. This link explains the difference. Essentially you’ve got an endurance version (the bibs) and a race version (the race). The latter, being tested here, are intended for that bit more aggressive riding, your club race, TT that sort of thing. It’s no co-incidence that I use the Supersix for most of my testing so aggressive set up is a given. But the Six is also my mile muncher, so though the race shorts maybe intended for that sort of thing, it’s interesting to see how they stack up for everyday riding.

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First impressions are good. Flat lock stitching (though I have previously said I don’t appear to suffer in the absence of it) and a good clean design. Much depends on how much you like logos. I do and I like where they are.

The cut is a world apart from the Assos bibs that I wrote about recently. And that means a nice high stomach area. I prefer this approach. It feels more secure and does not create any issues in relation to breathability. It’s just nicer. The straps aren’t laser cut or bonded. They’re traditional and they just work. Indeed, you might say that these are just traditional bibs full stop. I’d not argue against that. In the quest for improvement I do worry that we might move away from what does work. So while the elastic band shoulder straps of the Assos S7 are lovely things you can achieve similar levels of comfort with lightweight mesh. Implementation can be as important as technological advancement.

The lycra deserves a special mention. It’s fair to say that not all lycra is created equal even if the %’ages on the labelling often suggest that all things are equal. RedWhite talk at length about how they sourced their lycra, from MITI of Italy, here.  It is both soft and, so far, very hard wearing. There’s quite an interesting discussion on there of different types of lycra and it’s well worth a read. For me these were sufficiently compressive without being overly so and, at the end of the day, just felt really nice next to the skin. They appear to be very breathable as well and I never found that I overheated in any area.

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As you can see the leg grippers are quite long! You might also make out that they have a very subtle leather effect going on! Don’t worry, they’re still your usual standard elastic band gripper. In terms of overall length these are once again Goldilocks on me. Slightly longer than Assos, way shorter than the very long dhb Aeron Race. Like all good shorts you don’t just pull them on, there has to be some arranging and moving things around to get them where you want them to be. Once on they disappear.

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There’s little to speak of round the back apart from the addition of some reflective tabs. The rear mesh is a wide affair which breathes really well. There’s no silly technical descriptions of how the shoulder strap works. It just does.

Then there’s the pad. You live or die by the pad. Well, you chafe or don’t chafe anyway. I tried these on a several rides without chamois cream and on my Charge Scoop saddle. You will recall that I was in two minds about the saddle. I kept it and made some minor adjustments and I think it’s pretty much there now.

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The first thing to note is that second photo. It’s a Kuku Penthouse! Sort of. I mean, it’s not given that name of course. It’s not really described in any of the literature but it’s a mesh section where your gentleman’s sausage sits. That’s provided you arrange it vertically rather than diagonally of course. You can read about all the techie stuff of the chamois here. It’s actually all pretty straightforward, foam, gel and inserts. The cut is, to me, spot on. It’s a good sized pad and not overly large. It works. I’ve read other reviews which suggest that over time it moulds to your shape. If that happens, great. But it seemed very much that it had already done so right out of the box, as it were. I won’t go on at length, it’s one of the best chamois that I have had the pleasure to use.

I’ve been testing these over a variety of rides recently ranging from the slower endurance ride to the absolute lung busting sprint rides. And while RedWhite describe these as being race shorts and, ergo, more suitable to a race position, I found them absolutely fine whatever discipline I was deploying. Better than fine in fact. They’re brilliant. Arguably they are that bit better when you’re in the drops but the difference between crouched and upright is very slight. If you’re not a racer then you might look to the bibs instead but these do appear to me to be a jack of all trades and a master of all.

So far they’ve held up against abrasion, they’ve washed well and kept their shape. But it’s early days so that’s absolutely to be expected. At the moment the only proper test is how they feel in use. And they feel absolutely great. You’re bound to ask where they place in the grand scheme of things, and that’s a fair question. They’re a lot cheaper than the Assos Cento and, to my mind at least their equal it not better. They’re certainly better value, clearly. The Equipe fight back on value but natty pink stripe aside I think that the RedWhite still win out. Leaving only the Parentini Shark.2 to fight it out. We’ll call that a tie at the moment, and I’ll update as we move forward.

These go to the top of the class. RedWhite had one job. And they nailed it.

I forgot to add, there’s also a crash replacement programme and if you need any help then I am sure that yuva@redwhite.co will be only too happy to answer any questions you have!

If you’re in the UK then these are sold by the always fabulous Always Riding.

If you’re elsewhere then please head over to the RedWhite store.

The official size chart is below.

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Tokyo Fixed Second Wave Jersey and Bibshorts

How’s your self confidence? Mine’s pretty good. I’ve lost some weight (almost a stone by the looks of it), my fitness is on the increase, tan lines are being cultivated nicely. I’m a fairly confident person as it happens. Some of that is personality, some is my training. I’m a lawyer and a lecturer. No job for shrinking violets. When it comes to wearing cycling kit some self confidence doesn’t go amiss.

Even the plainest cycling kit is, arguably, still a bit out there. You might opt for black jersey, black shorts, but it’s still lycra and polyester. It’s still not a look you’d choose anywhere other than on the bike. But it you want to blend in there’s plenty of stuff you can choose to do just that. But there’s also a lot of stuff that’s guaranteed to get you seen, not just in terms of being visible but in terms of being noticed. That can’t be a bad thing. It seems to me there’s a place for kit which is that bit more out there.

Enter Tokyo Fixed and this week I’ve been rocking their Second Wave jersey and bibshorts combo (and a cap as well!). Before I get onto the kit itself let’s talk a little about the company and who they are.

The business was started in Tokyo in 2007 by Londoner Max Lewis, as a blog selling Japanese bike parts. Eventually returning to London a year or so later, Max set up shop in Soho, as Tokyo Fixed Gear before moving to a larger premises and rebranding as Kinoko Cycles to cater to a wider cycling audience. Sadly that didn’t work out but Tokyo Fixed still exists, representing a love for quality products (in the past they’ve made steel frames, components and other accessories, and continue to stock select ’boutique’ cycling brands from around the globe), Japanese design and going fast on bikes. They describe it as a “Passion Project” rather than as a business and, to me, that love for things cycling comes through.

The Wave jersey and bibshorts are one of five full kits that Tokyo Fixed produce. You can get each of the items separately. If you do want “standalone” jerseys there are several other designs available.In addition there’s a fair range of jackets, gilets and other accessories. If you’d like to have a look at the full kits then click here . Each of them is themed and each of them, naturally, has a Japanese look running through it.

The RRP on the jersey and shorts, as a full kit, is £144. Individually the jersey is £85 and the bibshorts £95 so that’s a considerable saving overall. Even if you don’t buy the full kit I think that each item offers pretty good value overall and can show some of the premium brands a thing or two.

The overall look is certainly a unique one and, in determining whether the kit complied with the rules I checked them for the third time in as many week. But, you know what? Screw the rules.

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Tokyo Fixed Second Wave Jersey

A few things before we crack on. This jersey is available in sizes XXS to XL. I’m an XL at 40″ so, if you’re bigger than me and was fancying one, then I am afraid you’re out of luck.

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I didn’t really know what to expect. Style over substance? Style with no substance? The truth is somewhat different. Ignore style, that’s up to you. I like it. I think I might prefer the Arrows Jersey particularly in green as it, once again, matches my Supersix and, come on, Green Arrow(s)? that’s really cool. I also really like the Bonsai Jersey though the wife claims I don’t look good in white. Mind, tonight she told me I looked skinny so perhaps we can revisit that conversation shortly as Father’s Day approaches. But, preference aside, I really really like this jersey. Turns out my riding buddies do as well, most of them anyway. Looks are one thing, it matters not if this isn’t a good cycling jersey.

The reality is that there is a real substance to this jersey and I guess that surprised me. I don’t know why it did. I knew Tokyo Fixed as being purveyors of fine kit. But perhaps I was guilty of thinking that they were more about style than substance. I was quite quite wrong.

For a start the detailing is great. Nice print, good collar, great fit. And I mean great. It’s as good a jersey as I’ve tried on in recent memory. It’s that good. It’s properly well made. The zip is a quality item, easy to operate on the move, looks like it will last for years. The collar fits well. In fact, despite the warmth of the last few weeks, I’ve been wearing this jersey with it done all the way up. That’s unusual for me.

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You can probably make out the thousands of micro perforations. They make the jersey very breathable. I knocked out a quick (by my standards) 40 miler today in 25 degree heat and never once regretted wearing it.

The wave design carries over to the arm grippers and disguises the fact that they’re that grippy, rubberised type affair. It’s a fairly long sleeve, so consider whether that’s your thing, but it’s properly comfortable and just doesn’t move. I noticed today that I no longer have razor sharp tan lines. I now have a graded section as a result of wearing a shorter sleeve one day and a longer sleeve the next. C’est la vie.

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Waist duties are taken care of by the ubiquitous large elastic band type gripper thing. Round the back is a slimmer elastic runner with silicone inserts. Tokyo Fixed logos abound, testament again to that detail. The waist section really works and the jersey is spot on in terms of its length. Once on I never had to play with it regardless of my position on the bike.

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There’s a nice bit of contrast at the rear with yellow pockets (x3) making an appearance. I found these sufficiently deep to swallow my large mobile phone and other items. There’s a separate zipped pocket with a reflective trim.

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It’s all there. It all works. It surprised me. It’s rapidly wormed its way into my heart to become one of the best jerseys I’ve worn. At the price they want for it, given the performance elements it has, I’d say it’s actually something of a bargain. It becomes a greater bargain if you buy it as full kit, of course.

One thing Tokyo Fixed don’t claim for it is any type of aero performance. I think that’s missing a trick. Of all the jerseys I’ve tried which claim aero this one must be up there. It’s like a second skin but not in a bulgy way. Just a nice, proper form fit. I really don’t think it would be out of place on a Thursday night TT. Similarly I’d be really happy doing some substantial climbing in this. It wicks really well, it’s lightweight. I just couldn’t find fault with it.

Tokyo Fixed Second Wave Bibshorts

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This is probably the controversial bit. I mean, they match. I sent a photo to a mate and he asked me two things. The first was whether I’d lost weight (I’m pleased to say yes) and the second was whether it was a skinsuit. Contrast blue waist gripper on the jersey aside, I can see how you could have that view. There’s literally nothing here to break up the flow of the second wave design. Another mate opined that they looked a bit like pyjamas.

And that’s the thing. It brings us back to style and confidence. If you like the look, wear them. If you don’t, get some black ones. Though, if you want some Tokyo Fixed ones, you’re limited to the excellent Search and State model.

Construction wise these are fairly straightforward. Great quality lycra sewn together well. There are no anatomical claims but they fit like the figurate glove (again I’m an XL in these). The white mesh section comes up nice and high (Assos take note) and the tech involved in the straps is arguably old school. No bonding, no elastic. Just light, meshy material with thousands of holes. You know what? It just works. They’re extremely comfortable.

So far, so nice. I mean, these are just great shorts that match. That’s their raison d’etre isn’t it? Can they actually be good shorts?

Well, yes, and then some. And much of that is down to the pad. A new one on me and I had to google it.

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It’s a MSTINA Ghost 2.0 pad and it’s brilliant. Indeed the kit is designed by Tokyo Fixed and made by MSTINA who do some pretty high end custom clothing.

There’s no fancy cut outs, no KuKu penthouse. Nothing that seems all that advanced. other than some pretty colours. When it arrived I thought it felt a bit hard actually and I wondered whether it could match the very best. I’ve no idea of the science involved here but these are a seriously comfy pair of bibshorts. It’s honestly one of the best pads I’ve sat on and the equal of the rather excellent Parentini pad in my view. It’s that good. Which makes the rrp of £95 for these all the more surprising.

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The legs are quite long, as you’d expect with this type of look. The elasticated grippers are properly sized and comfy. They do what it says on the tin.

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That’s how they look from the back. There’s little more to say. Would I change them? Actually, yellow grippers would be nice (ditto) the jersey. But these are really great shorts. The lycra is silky and soft and it all sits together nicely. Skin suit? Yeah, whatever. I wonder whether all skin suits have this level of comfort. I’ve done quite a few hundred miles in these now. They’re a bit incongruous when matched to a very green Supersix. But there was are. Other colours are, of course, available.

Oh, and there’s a cap, if that sort of thing takes your fancy.

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We’re living in a golden age for cycling kit with so much choice and so much quality. Basically, choose your look and choose your manufacturer. If you want to get something that’s a bit different to the norm then you really should have a look in and see the stuff that Tokyo Fixed have to offer.

My review kit is shortly winging its way back to them and I’m sad to see it go. But, you know what, it’s Father’s Day shortly and I reckon that Green Arrow kit is quite the thing. It’ll match the bike and it will be awesome to wear. So, I’ll be ordering one, that’s how impressed I was. Tokyo Fixed, yoku yatta.

Assos S7 bibshorts: Equipe v Cento, game changer?

I’ve mentioned, many times it seems, my personal view of Assos being the benchmark against how other shorts are judged and, equally, how much I rated the older Assos (S5) Mille. And as I write this review it’s almost 40 years to the day that Assos released the first lycra cycling short and the rest, they say, is history. They know a thing or two about doing this and their contribution to the industry is a significant one.

I do think that many of the premium manufacturers (and indeed some of the budget ones) have caught up to Assos now though and, for example, my Parentini Shark.2 bibshorts are just sublime. They offer fantastic value and all the features a high end short should have. And the more I wear them, the better they get. That they retail for £100 is a bonus.

The cycling clothing marketplace is huge. Every day I come across new manufacturers who I hadn’t remotely heard of before. Someone asked me the other day to do a run down of all those smaller firms you may not have heard of. I intend to do that, but it’s actually a huge task and someone will get missed. The truth is that there is still a lot of buzz around the bigger brands and whenever you seek opinions on the ‘net those brands seem to be the default choice. The problem with default choices is that the end user may only have that experience and as such the default choice is propagated.

Perhaps it’s the surge of newcomers to the market, perhaps it’s the pace of change, perhaps it’s Assos’s desire to push the envelope, perhaps a bit or a lot of all of these things, but the old S5 range has been refreshed (admittedly a little while ago now) and an entirely new range of bibshorts was brought in. Assos claim that these are Game Changers, their spin, and that’s literally writ large on the shorts themselves (and the box, and the advertising and the booklet……)

The old S5 range was pretty easy to follow. The Uno was the base model, the Mille the endurance one and the Fi.13 the, well, really expensive one. Although the new range doesn’t necessarily eschew that structure it’s fair to treat it as all new. So at the bottom we have the Neo Pro. In the middle we have the Equipe and Cento. The range topper is the Campionissimo. None are cheap, of course, the RRP of the least expensive (let’s use that as a term) is £120. Shop around and you can get them cheaper most of the time. But it’s still a £100 short. The Equipe are £155, the Cento £210 and the Campionissimo a few quid shy of the B’Twin Triban 500 SE racing bike. That’s a damn good bike by the way at a shade under £300. Marginal gains are going to have to be a little more than marginal or be quite the plural to justify a purchase based on performance. Nothing is needed, of course, to justify a purchase on the basis of brand loyalty.

Of course, one of the things Assos do well is pads. Yes, there’s a load of other stuff going on but the pads are always very good and work in tandem with the rest of the innovation. On the old S5 the pads differed but they were, really, just pads. Great ones, undeniably, but pads all the same. The S7 sees a departure in terms of what the pads offer and how they vary across the range. And, as we’ll come to discuss, they are entirely different to anything else out there.They’re still made by Elastic Interface but they are otherwise proprietary. Before I drone on, here’s a photo to see what we’re dealing with.

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The NeoPro and Equipe both look fairly normal but how they are attached is not. The Cento and Campionissimo clearly look very different indeed. Note that black section at the front. Ladies and Gentlemen, I am proud to introduce you to the Kuku Penthouse. Seriously. Kuku? I stuck that through Babelfish, tried all 4 Swiss languages (German, French, Italian and Romansch) if you’re interested. Nada. Is it a play on cuckoo? I’ve no idea. It’s. Just. Weird. And Penthouse? That’s normally the flat at the top of the building. Not somewhere down below and hidden. What is it? It’s a garage for your gentleman’s sausage. When I say garage it’s not somewhere you drive into though. It’s actually more of a layby really. You just park there and leave it there. Long term parking or something. The idea is that there’s a fabric insert there (and no padding) so that there’s no irritation or friction? Gimmick or masterpiece?

The other innovation is Golden Gate technology. And that’s where things get a bit controversial. The chamois on all of these is free to move around in the middle section. It’s not sewn into the shorts. Less seams say Assos, but is that true? Let’s take a closer look at what that means in practice.

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The above picture is of the Cento model. Essentially that side piece is allowed to float. You can see the innards of the pad underneath. Lots of waffly stuff, an internal 3d structure and a pretty beefy looking bit of padding. Turn it inside out and you get to see what you’re sitting on.

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This is no one piece pad. Each underside section has its own lobe. It’s free to wander round and conform to whatever body shape you are. Notice also that it’s a bit like the perineal cut out of a saddle. There’s a groove present for your underparts. When you sit on the pad properly and feel underneath you can feel that groove. It’s quite pronounced. I’ll come back to it a bit later. So, there you go. There’s a load of revolution here. If it’s not game changing then, at least, Assos are trying to change the game, trying to make things as comfortable as they can possibly be.

Before any meaningful testing takes place there is the arrival of the product. Assos like boxes. I like boxes. Boxes have nice things in them and opening an Assos product is a bit of an event. Now, none of this means anything at all in any meaningful way. But it’s nice, it brings out the child in us all. There’s a bit of theatre here. You get the box, you get the story (somewhere between a fable and an epic!). You get a nice manual charting the product history and current line. There are percentages on the box telling you how much the game has changed. Truthfully it’s actually a bit shouty. Is there a need for quite so much statistical puff?

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Still, we also get the history of purple. It’s more dark pink in my eyes though, sorry guys!

And when we get to the shorts themselves those bold claims are still being made. Just in case you ever have someone following you while you’re topless I guess. Or perhaps just to remind you why you paid so much for these in the first place? I have no idea why the game changer has changed direction here either.

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If all this sounds a bit negative then it’s just gentle ribbing really. I trust Assos have a sense of humour as a company even if they do occasionally seem a little po faced. They’re not alone in that. It’s important to laugh at ourselves. And none of this matters a jot. It’s all about whether they work and, of course, whether they are substantially better than those that they compete with (or indeed those that are cheaper).

In terms of their appearance Assos have gone for a central groin section with as few panels as possible on the rest of the garment. Don’t worry about that central seam. It’s a common feature on many garments and provides no issue. There’s a bit of a contrast between the Equipe (first pic) and the Cento (second pic). You’ll see that the Cento has a Schumacher era Batman groinal piece. It’s a much lighter and airier affair than the normal lycra section in the Equipe. Perfectly sensible given the claims of the Cento being long distance and, by implication, the Equipe being less so. Both fabrics seem suitably hard wearing and are a more matte finish than shiny. That’s a good thing in my book.

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Then we have the straps. These are singular pieces of elastic sewn on rather than bonded on. The straps are, arguably, also controversial having moved from off centre on the abdomen to virtually at your side. Better? Worse? I have to say I don’t feel any real perceived benefit to the offsetting though others have noted that they do. The purple Y frame section is intended to mean that the straps sit properly and don’t wander around. It does its job. There is no wandering and the whole set up feels great. The straps are totally seamless so you really don’t feel them at all. As usual standing up in them is not a great test, they just work when you’re on the bike.

There’s another change in the belly area as well. The S7 are cut slightly lower than the S5. Now, this is of great benefit to Assos man as we are able to see more of his 12 pack in the advertising. For mere mortals there is an argument that evidence of any excess is more liable to spill up and over. There’s less of a feeling of security. I actually think they’re ok. Perhaps a tad short but we are all so different. And, of course, once they are on and you’re on the bike then the fit does snap into place.

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Round the back and they’re both pretty similar overall, no really obvious differences.

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The leg grippers are very nice. A bit softer than the old S5. You get pink, sorry, purple on the Equipe, Cream? on the Cento, a kind of warm beige on the Campionissimo and nothing on the Neo Pro. Inside are some small silicone grippers. These are very comfy terminations indeed and work very well. They’re quite suited to Hoy like thighs like mine as well. Leg length? Pretty much like the old S5 Mille as well. Goldilocks for me. I’d say they are of regular rather than long length. They’re a few inches above my knee. There are no long leg versions available at the moment.

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And all of this is lovely. But rather besides the point. We know they’re quality, we know they’re class but are they any good?

Yes. They’re really bloody good. Mostly. Let’s start with the Equipe. I wore them on the Velothon. Almost 90 miles on a new saddle. Actually, let’s stop there. My new saddle is ok but it’s not great, so that’s getting swapped. And saddles make a huge difference to how certain shorts work. Anyway, I wore the shorts on the Velothon from 5 am to get to the event, throughout the event from cloud to nasty rain, to drying out and blistering sun. I wore them home. And they were superb in every way. They’re really nice shorts. BUT, I can’t honestly say that they are better than the S5 Mille. I can’t say that because as good as they were the Mille were always that good. For all the tech while there may be marginal gains in something I’m not awfully sure what they are. That doesn’t diminish the Equipe. The Mille are, for me, a benchmark.

And then there’s the Cento. No rain in these bad boys. Plenty of sun though. Plenty of warmth. And that Kuku thingy. That really works. It’s really cosseting, you can feel the air coming through the waffly fabric and you can feel that you cannot feel any irritation because whatever that fabric is, it’s really kind to your KuKu. And the pad is also excellent, mostly. But there’s another but. On my first 50 miler I thought it was really good but not really better than the Equipe (KuKu aside). On today’s rather forced (i.e. I was a bit jaded) 30 miler I did think that the part at the back was a little more noticeable than it was on the previous ride. Odd one and I will have to keep an eye on it. That happens sometimes, the off day. Bits niggle at you and you can have a tendency to look for things which niggle. There are some differences between the Equipe and Cento pads. The Cento is slightly narrower at the rear section. Sometimes it’s that combo between pads and saddles that can be different. I will report back in due course.

Others have reported that they find one or other of these more or less comfortable than each other. As I say we’re all different. And there have been some who say that the golden gate tech does wander round a bit particularly if you’re prone to being in and out of the saddle a lot.

So, at the moment, my view is that these are both great bibshorts. That’s to be expected. The Equipe are the equal of the Mille in terms of comfort and any niggles they have are offset by the gains. The Cento are a bit of a quandary. I need to keep an eye on them for comfort. But that KuKu is brilliant. I’d be in favour of that across the board and would like to see others implement it as well. I’d also suggest that it might be a bit of a wise inclusion on the winter range. Now, bear with me here. I appreciate that the KuKu combined with the waffle front of the Cento is designed to be airier. But I see no good reason why the insulated front of something like the Tiburu could not offer adequate protection with a KuKu inside. My experience is that chafing is more likely to occur when you’re cold and wet than when you’re warm and dry. But that’s just my experience.

I might be swapping my saddle this weekend and I will report back shortly after doing some more long rides. I do think that both of these shorts are great. I’m just not convinced that the Golden Gate tech offers me anything more than a traditional sewn in chamois and I’m still firmly of the view that there are others out there that have caught up and, arguably, offer better value. You do, of course, get great back up with Assos still so that goes someway to offset that additional cost. Whether it goes the entire way is a matter for you.