Swiss cycling brand, ASSOS, are at the top of their game when it comes to high-quality and high-performance cycling apparel.
They are arguably the best in the industry for successfully marrying the holy trinity of kit demands: Comfort / Function / Style. But this super combo comes at a price, and a hefty one at that.
This season, ASSOS released their women's off-road rally bib shorts and jersey, specifically designed for the female shredder who likes to get down and dirty on the trails.
We trail tested the new SS.rallytrekkingJersey_evo7 Lady and T.rallyShorts_s7 Lady, and whilst ASSOS are still marketing their products in computer code, we'll just re-name them Rally Jersey and Rally Bib shorts for this piece.
ASSOS are a luxury brand within the cycling industry because so much care and attention is giving to each product from the design concept, through to the delivery at your front door.
The Rally Bib Shorts and Rally Jersey arrived individually wrapped in their respective boxes. These aren't just ordinary brown paper boxes either, these are highly decorated, carefully wrapped and packaged garments. The awesome packaging oozed style, giving the customer the sudden realisation that they haven't just purchased any ordinary cycling clothes.
The Rally Bib shorts were very different from what I was expecting, which was a silky smooth Lycra compression fabric. Instead, the Rally bibs are thicker, courser and immediately I felt the high-quality Swiss production in the fabric. The chamois liner is carefully sewn in without any stray edges to irritate you on the ride, and the straps feel strong and flexible.
The same quality carried through into the Rally Jersey also. My first notice was the mesh back panel with carefully constructed sections for additional support and comfort. The subtle pinstripe detail and red panelling is bright and eye-catching, with subtle ASSOS logo finishes. Because of the large mesh rear panel, ASSOS provide a thin breathable Skinfoil layer to protect the skin from sun.
On Test: ASSOS Rally Bib Shorts and ASSOS Rally Jersey
To really test this kit out, I rode a 15km all-mountain trail, as is the intended purpose, and a 35km road ride for comfort and endurance testing.
Wiggling myself into the bib shorts, was no problem. Rather than two straps over your shoulders, the strap design is an over-head job with a magnetic clasp on the front by the belly button. The clasp is really easy to fasten and unfasten, and the wide set straps didn't create too much pressure on the shoulders.
The Rally Bib Shirts are constructed in a tougher material that other models. It's able to withstand debris kicking up, light abrasions and it's less prone to wear as quickly as thinner materials.
ASSOS provides 8 mm polyurethane foam impact pads for additional protection if you have an accident, and whilst they may seem a little awkward, they aren't noticeable when you ride. These are removable though, which is a relief.
At this point, the only two things that came to mind were: "How quick can I get out of this if I need a wee?" and "Will this breast-divider strap chafe?" Being relatively new to the bib shorts scene, these were my genuine concerns.
I opted to take ASSOS' expert advice and wear the Rally bib shorts without underwear, and to use their highly acclaimed ASSOS chamois cream to reduce the risk of chaffing.
Riding in the Rally Bib Shorts was nothing short of comfortable. The soft strap material and lack of hard seams didn't create any shoulder or breast irritation. What I found to love was the subtle gripping on the thigh cuffs. It wasn't too much that I noticed skin pulling or pinching, but it was enough to keep the shorts firmly in place.
The front strap clasp is easily accessible, and simple to operate when you have to wiggle out for a wee, or to get changed. With some impressive dance moves, I managed to effectively remove the overhead strap without needing to take off my helmet or jersey. However, feeding the strap back up through the jersey was like threading a needle, which is OK if you have a friendly pair of hands to help out.
The Rally Jersey has a discrete full length zip and is constructed from 25 different patterns, and 5 performance fabrics to ensure optimum fit and function.
I especially like the 3 open cargo pockets, and the additional zipped rear pocket for keys, coins and other small valuables. The mesh backing was a godsend on the hot climbs, and when worn with the ASSOS Skinfoil, I felt confident that I wasn't going to burn.
For both the long endurance road cycle, and the off-road trail ride, I felt comfortable and supported by ASSOS' Rally Bib shorts and Jersey.
The heavier fabric didn't leave me feeling naked and vulnerable like some other Lycra based shorts, but they kept me warm and they stayed in place.
The Rally jersey is the most breathable I've ever worn, largely owing to the mesh panel at the rear. The sleeves are slightly longer in length which is appreciated for additional protection from the sun, and rogue branches poking out.
To get your hands on the full Rally Bib Shorts and Jersey set with set you back little over £500. Luxury, quality, style and performance certainly doesn't come cheap. It is quite a considerable amount, but it's worth the investment if you're an avid rider, competitive racer or a creature of comfort and style.
All in all, the ASSOS Rally kit is some of the most comfortable and technical cycling apparel I've ever worn. It's great for cross-country riding and trail blazers alike, although most MTBer's will generally choose to cover up the skin tight apparel with some baggies to save face
SS.rallytrekkingJersey_evo7 Lady (a.k.a Rally Jersey)
Colours: Green, black, Red
Sizes: X.Small - Large
T.rallyShorts_s7 Lady (a.ka. Rally Bib Shorts)
Sizes: X.Small - Large
Whilst ASSOS is quite an expensive brand name, you're paying for luxury, high quality cycling apparel that will last.
Before investing money into kit, seek out stores that stock the brand, or attend demo days and events where you can feel and even try on items before you buy.
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