Now we’re into February, the warmer months are not a million miles away. A change in seasons is always a valid excuse to stock up on new cycling gear – and at TWC we’ve had enough gorgeous 2017 spring/summer kit tantalisingly waved before our noses to confidently say that’s something to be excited about.
One hot off the press item which really caught our attention was Alé’s new Future Bibshot. At TWC, we’re long term Alé fans. We’re particularly fond of their flatteringly unobtrusive leg grippers, and the way most jerseys dip at the hips to give a streamlined, skinsuit-esque vibe.
The new Alé Future Bibshorts are the brand’s first foray into toilet friendly bibs for female cyclists. Almost every clothing brand catering for women has devised some sort of method to allow women to take a comfort break without removing their jersey. Alé have called theirs the ‘WHFREE SYSTEM BIB’.
The system looks a little complicated - but it's not. Effectively, they’ve gone for a halterneck design we have seen elsewhere, but have attached the stretchy neck piece just below the breast. The body almost creates an underbust corset – only thankfully with a lot more room to breathe than your average Ann Summers contraption. When it’s time to visit the little girls room, the halter stretches over your neck, allowing you to pull the bibs off under your jersey.
Having a track mad velodrome addict on the team at TWC means we’re able to bring you a review in advance of your summer shopping, after extensive testing indoors over winter.
Key features of the Alé Women's Future Bibshorts
True to their title – these bibshorts certainly come with a certain futuristic vibe. Alé have employed their own ‘body mapping principle’ to create a garment that uses multiple panels, with different materials strategically placed to suit the body parts that they correspond to.
At first glance, there seem to be around six different fabrics in place: a light and stretchy layer at the stomach, compression at the quads and lower back, a flexible panel at the hamstring to allow the grippers to fit well, the sturdy grippers themselves, a breathable layer over the chamois, and a tougher material at the neck to create stability. It’s abundantly clear that a lot of work has gone into these bibshorts.
At the crotch, Alé have employed their ‘Series 41’ woven fabric, which promotes breathability, whilst being light and abrasion resistant. After over three months of use, there’s no sign of damage from friction on the saddle – which is something you always want to avoid on a premium pair of bibs (these will come in at £140).
The pad itself is a ‘Fondello WH4 Shammy’ – it’s fairly thick and provided more than enough coverage, even when riding in the aggressive ‘on the drops’ pose adopted on a track bike. Though I’ve not tried longer, 3 hour+ rides in these, I have done so in Alé’s 2016 shorts with the same pad, so I can vouch for expected comfort.
The side panels offer ‘graduated compression’ – providing tailored support that is visually apparent. Around the sides and back, the material is fairly light and breathable, giving way to robust dimple textured fabric at the thighs and lower back.
Alé have adopted yet another of their own fabric technologies on the compression areas, this time ‘Serie C.Dot Emana’. They say this offers retaining properties, plus the active fibre ‘Emana’ is said to improve micro circulation, to benefit performance and metabolism. Without lab style testing, it’s pretty difficult for me to quantify the direct benefit of this – but the secure hug of the compression at my quads was absolutely my second favourite feature, so that’s a start.
My favourite feature was closely connected: the 7.5cm leg grippers, with stretch fabric at the rear. As far as I’m concerned, the number one way to ruin a good pair of bibshorts is to whack on a leg gripper that puts pressure on fleshy quads and makes the wearer (me) feel eternally insecure. The number one way to create a pair of bib shorts I’ll love is to offer a gripper that makes me feel powerful, not squishy. Alé have got it spot on. Being wide, silicone printed, and graduating upwards slightly towards the outer thigh, these stayed in pace and didn’t give me the sausage leg I detest at all. The grippers did, from time to time, curl a little towards the bottom – perhaps due to the delicate nature of the fabric, but never by more than a millimetre or so.
At the stomach, Alé have offered a high front that sits just below the sports bra, using a fabric with quite possibly the best name ever: MESHDRAGON. This offers plenty of stretch, breathability and – frankly – it looks pretty space-age-cool, too. The MESHDRAGON fabric meets with an elastic microbibre band, which then runs around the neck, all along the rear of the bibshorts, with an extra cut-out for ventilation.
The shape of the bibs did present one conundrum to me: to wear a baselayer, or not? Women’s bibs often fall into two classes: those with a full body that effectively acts as an in-built base layer, and those with a typical Y-shape, just like men’s bibs. In the latter case, it’s often considered wise to wear a base layer, to wick sweat and act as a second defence in the event of a crash. Eventually, I decided my sports bra covered most other exposed areas when wearing these bibs, save the small portion at my back, so I went without – but I’m open to answers as to the ideal method here.
The neck strap itself, unfortunately, was the only feature I felt let the shorts down a little. Being a fairly tough fabric, and joining right under the bust, it did put some pressure on my neck. I’ve worn halterneck bibshorts before where the strap joins at the armpit and at the waist – neither created any pressure – but Alé’s somewhat more complicated looking version is just that little bit tougher.
Though forgotten as soon as I got on the bike, I was conscious of the neck strap every time I put them on. It’s also worth noting that both of the others versions allow for the back of the bibs to be pulled down, rather than having to slip the neck over the head and run it under the jersey, though this is hardly a massive inconvenience.
Verdict on the Alé Women's Future Bibshorts
Overall? It's hopefully pretty clear that I'm rather taken with the attention to detail and technical fabrics that have gone into creating these shorts.
Favourite features have to be the dimpled, compressive fabric at the quads and lower back, the mesh over the stomach, and the grippers. Unfortunately I did feel that the neck strap was a little uncomfortable. I'd favour a full body design that covered the sports bra and back, thus eliminating the base layer conundrum and perhaps creating less pressure at the neck.
These Alé Future Bibshorts will retail at £140, and they'll be available from the Alé store at Paligap - bookmark the page now to avoid missing out!