Three-quarter length bib tights are a little bit of a Marmite item – some people love them, others hate them. Those that love them would do well to check out this option from Madison which offers warmth and breathability at a comfortable price tag.
Fans of 3/4ers generally rate mid-calf stoppage because the option allows riders to wrap up warm against wintery conditions, whilst still retaining a little breathing room which can help prevent overheating. This middle ground is ideal for spring and autumn conditions as well as hard efforts in winter. The magical mix of perfect body temperature can be achieved via leg or knee warmers with shorts, but for the high majority of women this leads to the “muffin leg" fashion disaster, and three-quarters give us the option of avoiding this.
For Madison's Sportive Oslo DWR 3/4ers, the number one goal is to provide warmth without suffocation and they’ve used an Italian thermal Roubaix Lycra backed with micro fleece to achieve this.
The fleece feels exceptionally warm and snuggly as I pull these on, and certainly provides a good layer of insulation. The breathing space at the ankles meant I didn't find I was overheating on mild rides, but I've been more than happy combining them with shoe covers now winter has set in.
Madison have dropped in a lovely party trick, by treating the outer fabric with a durable water repellent coating which visibly beads water, and when tested in drippy British conditions this proved its worth by keeping the worst out.
Topping off the bibs, the legs are finished with a silicone gripper which for me sat about ten centimeters from my ankle and did its job in preventing any slippage. I did feel aware of the rather solid gripper when I first put these on, and in an ideal world I might have had them finish a little higher up the calf to elongate the leg (I'm about 5 ft 5).
Warm and water resistant legs aside, Madison have chosen to opt for a full body that simply stretches to allow you to climb in and out – the only comparison I can draw is between this and a baby grow. Odd as this feels compared to the traditional zips that most full bodied bibs go for, it’s a very sensible idea as there’s no risk of zip failure and the stretch would cater for pretty much any shape without discomfort. There's no provision for toilet breaks, so you're going to need to find somewhere you can undress without too much concern (a large tree will do..).
The chest panel is made from lightweight Lycra, which sits nicely against the skin or a baselayer without discomfort whilst the body uses an Italian mesh. In autumn conditions, this served well alone beneath a jersey, though now we’re in the depths of January I’ve become more prone to adding an extra long-sleeved layer.
The pad used here is a Custom Madison 4G-RACE gel chamois with anti-bacterial fabric – true to the ‘sportive’ call out in the name of these bibs, this is fairly thick and ideal for endurance rides. There are also some nice reflective details added to the legs to ensure visibility over those long miles.
My only quibble with these bibs would be with the lack of 'snap' in the fabric. The material is said to be ‘close fitting’ but wearing Madison’s size 10 bibs I found that the knees and crotch area where baggy and prone to creasing. Being often on the 8/10 border, perhaps in this case I should have opted for an 8 - but that doesn't change the fact that there was more excess material around the knees, bum and crotch than anywhere else, whilst the leg grippers were quite snug.
Creasing around the chamois could be a worry if it caused the pad to move, and excess material at the knees could cause chafing. I can’t report having felt either form of discomfort – but I wasn't keen on the resulting aesthetics – I didn’t feel these were the most flattering bibs I’ve worn. However, at £69.99 they are a great value option and you can't expect the same performance as pairs punching well over £100.
A great value option for those that find they overheat in full bibs or want something that will carry them through spring, winter and autumn when dressed up or down with base layer and shoe covers. The material was a little baggy, and it could be worth opting for the smaller size if you're between two, and these will probably suit leggier ladies since the grippers finished the tights off quite close to the ankle on me.
Sportive Oslo DWR women's 3/4 bib shorts, £69.99, sizes 8-16 - see them here