As a huge advocate of bib shorts, it's always exciting to hear about a newcomer to the market. So when Welsh outdoor clothing brand, howies (yup, that lower case ‘h’ is meant to be there) unveiled their reasonably priced Breakaway bib shorts at the end of June, we just had to get a pair.
In all honesty as the Breakaway bibs are the first piece of women's specific road kit from howies, I wasn't expecting any miracles, especially as they were priced at £59, but as soon as I had a pair in my hands I knew there was something special about these bibs.
The matte all-black Breakaway bib shorts with subtle blue Howies logo on left leg hem are classic looking and constructed from a ‘seamless circular knit technology’. Although not entirely seam free, with two running the length of either inner thigh, there are noticeably fewer than on most bibs.
The seams present on the inner thigh are flatlocked. Don’t panic though; there wasn’t any chafing against the saddle as the seams are cleverly positioned to the rear of the inner thigh.
As there aren’t any panels, I was initially worried that the bib shorts wouldn’t offer enough support in the leg, but due to the tight thick weave, I needn’t have worried, my thighs felt suitably compressed without being squeezed like a tube of toothpaste.
Sticking with the material, as it’s constructed on machines capable of knitting a single continuous tube shape with varying patterns in the fabric, Howies have integrated different weaves to allow for lighter breathable panels in areas that get sweatier. So for example the tummy area and rear of the straps a more breathable open weave has been utilised and where more compression is needed, such as the leg hem they’ve got a much tighter weave, double layered at the cuff.
When on, the material really came into it’s own. The smooth matte fabric provided a flattering silhouette; it felt like I was wearing a second skin. Perhaps a strange comparison but if you’ve ever worn control underwear, it had the same effect, but with absolutely NONE of the constriction.
With the fabric proving its worth, I was desperate for the chamois to impress, and impress it certainly did!
The pad is manufactured in Italy by TMF, you’ll find the same chamois in the likes of Adidas and Chapeau shorts. The fact that I’ve never once noticed the pad while either off the bike or more importantly in the saddle – is a testament to its construction and placement.
There’s no feeling that you’re wearing a nappy, the chamois pad is simply thicker where it needs to be and thinner where less impact is felt. With a noticeably short nose to the pad, I experienced no bunching at the front of the chamois, so it stayed firmly in place. I had no feeling of numbness, as I wasn’t sitting on extra layers of bunched pad. Even in an aggressive drops position there was still enough length in the chamois pad at the front to be comfortable.
An unexpected benefit to the short nose was that, looking from the front it was difficult to even see that a pad was present, adding to the smooth silhouette. Even off the bike, walking around didn’t leave me looking like a cowboy, added to by the fact that howies have managed to provide a pad with enough width to cover the saddle but that does not run down the inner side of your thigh.
Other features worthy of note are the leg length, finishing just above the knee, offering the right amount coverage and not revealing too much. The hem of the leg doesn't have any silicone grippers, but this doesn't affect the shorts in any way. The tighter weave and doubled over material was more than enough to keep the leg in place and over many miles the legs never moved.
There is a pocket on the rear at the top of the straps, howies claim it's for a race radio if you ever were to turn pro. I wouldn't feel comfortable putting a phone or keys in there, but it was useful to store an extra gel on the longer rides and it's also where they've put the care-instructions label - so there's no annoying tickly label to cut out from inside the shorts, it really is the little things that count.
As a size 10 in non-cycling clothing and at 5'4" these shorts fitted well, there was no sagging in the straps, no gaping anywhere in the body material or on the legs. The bibs contoured to my body perfectly.
At the heart of these bib shorts is a chamois pad that is impressively comfortable. Combine with a purse-friendly price tag, supportive and flattering fabric, the Breakaway bib shorts deserve very high praise indeed.
If howies can create more sizing options at both ends of the spectrum they'd be on to an absolute winner.
- short nosed, perfectly padded, well placed chamois pad
- supportive, comfortable and flattering fabric
- leg length, silicone free leg hems offer comfortable thigh fit
- one-size fits all not suitable if you don't wear a size 10-14
Size: S-M (fits 10-14)
More information: howies
Impressed by what you've seen of howies here, why not take a look at our first impressions of other products in their cycling range.
What howies say about their Breakaway women's bib shorts
Seamlessly knitted women's padded bib shorts. Using contoured panelling and seamless technology, the stretch fabric provides a second skin fit.
Integrated breathable panels minimize the need for seams and helps avoid chaffing, as well as having a high density foam insert which means increased comfort and fewer sore bits on longer rides.
The women's specific 2-layer TMF Professional cycle pad is manufactured in Italy comprising 2 layers; one 40 density, 4mm thick foam bonded to a second, shock absorbent 90 density, 8mm foam in higher impact areas. Covered with an antibacterial finish to stay fresh and an elastic open cell surround that moves with your body.