It's 30 years since Gore started making cycling gear, and to celebrate it has brought out a range of anniversary products including these 30th Element Windstopper Soft Shell bib tights. This high quality legwear does an excellent job of keeping the wind and rain on the outside, perfect for damp autumnal days, but when it got really cold I wanted a bit more warmth.
To my slight disappointment, Gore decided to mark its anniversary not by re-releasing this sort of goodness, but instead with a series of special editions across the cycling range. Dave was quite taken with the softshell jacket. Oddly, some seem to be basically identical to existing models but slightly more expensive, so perhaps we're paying for the company party.
These bib tights are based on the existing Element Windstopper Softshell bib tights except for a 1985-2015 badge and different (gold!) reflectives, and they're a tenner more. Happily, they're an excellent pair of tights, making full use of Gore's Windstopper technology to provide impressive protection for your legs. They've been my go-to choice for the blustery autumnal days we've had of late, keeping my legs really comfortable and mostly dry.
Using a good softshell material for bib tights can be a pretty effective way of keeping the rain out for longer than is generally the case with just a DWR-treated Lycra or Roubaix fabric. I found that after riding an hour in light-to-moderate rain my legs were pretty much bone dry, which is impressive. A sterner test was a two-hour club chaingang in heavy rain, with loads of spray from standing water. After this, my legs were certainly damp but it was still obvious that the vast majority of the water had been kept out, with none of that sodden chill you'd get with conventional tights.
The outer surface has a hydrophobic coating, meaning that water beads off very effectively, but it's the combination of this and the Windstopper membrane that makes these so effective. I stayed drier for much longer than I did when using the likes of Castelli Nanoflex, Giordana G-Shield or Stolen Goat Orkaan tights.
The flipside of softshell tights is that the material is generally rather less stretchy, and so it proves here. The fit is good, though, with anatomically-shaped bent knees, and as a consequence I didn't find them restrictive. They're not super-tight, but they move well and don't feel like they offer much resistance to your pedalling.
Comfort levels are really excellent, thanks to a soft fleecy inner surface and carefully positioned seams. Gore's own Element pad also did its job well. Gore says it's suitable for short to medium length rides (up to two hours) but I found that on rides of three to four hours I didn't really give it a thought, which is about the best thing you can say about a pad.
On a £140 pair of tights it might be seen as a little surprising that the pad is designed for relatively short rides, but in fairness Gore does say that these are aimed at "recreational cyclists", and they are perhaps biased towards their comfort as opposed to racing performance. If it gets you out on your bike on a foul winter's day then that sounds good to me.
I found that these bib tights worked best in a temperature range between about 5 to 12 degrees, which was a bit warmer than I'd been expecting as they feel fairly substantial. Much colder than that and my knees would start to feel the chill, at least until I warmed up. For deep-winter riding I would favour something like Castelli's Sorpasso Wind tights instead, which definitely offer more warmth thanks to the extra layer on the front. Alternatively, Gore's Oxygen tights are marketed for use when it's very cold, and are probably a better choice when it gets down to freezing, although I've not tried them.
The rear of the tights is made from a lighter material than the front, as you don't need the same wind protection behind your legs. This also helps to avoid uncomfortable bunching behind the knees, which can be a problem if softshell material is used there.
One of the first things you'll notice is that these tights use adjustable straps instead of conventional fabric bib straps. It's very similar to what you'd find on a pair of salopettes. My initial fears that this would be less comfortable were unfounded, and I never found myself bothered by them. Adjustable straps allow for a wider range of body shapes too, which is a benefit. If you wear a rucksack on the bike then this could be more of an issue, because of the position of the plastic strap adjusters.
There are unusually long cam-lock zips on each ankle, making it extremely easy to get them on and off. And there's enough give in the material at this point that you can zip them up outside your overshoes, which helps stave off wet feet. There's a belly zip too, to facilitate toilet stops, with a soft fabric flap behind it to prevent irritation – a nice touch.
On the legs and the bum there are well-positioned reflective details, which are pimptastic gold on the 30th anniversary special edition, instead of silver on the standard ones.
I was really impressed with these bib tights – they're expensive, but they do an excellent job of maintaining comfort on really nasty days when you might otherwise decide to stay in bed. When the mercury gets down to zero or below, you might want something warmer, but where I live that's typically only a few weeks of the year, and for the rest of the winter months these are a formidable defence against the elements.
Excellent protection against the elements, keeping your legs warm and dry when it's nasty out
road.cc test report
Make and model: Gore 30th Element Windstopper Soft Shell Bibtights
Size tested: Large, Black
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Gore says: "These warm WINDSTOPPER® soft shell bibtights for the recreational cyclist keep wind, moisture and cold away. The adjustable bibs keep it in place. Zipper on lateral hem allows for easy changing."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
ELEMENT MEN seat insert
Reflective logo on side
Reflective logo on front
Reflective print on back
Zipper with semi-lock slider and reflective piping on lateral hem
MAIN FABRIC: 100% POLYESTER, WINDSTOPPER®MEMBRANE, SHELL INSIDE: 100% POLYESTER, INSERT: 92% POLYESTER, 8% ELASTANE, WINDSTOPPER®MEMBRANE, SHELL INSIDE: 92% POLYESTER, 8% ELASTANE, LINING: 85% POLYAMIDE, 15% ELASTANE
Beautifully made – these feel like real quality.
Impressive protection from wind and moderate rain. They are not deep-winter tights, though – I found that I wanted something warmer when it got down to zero.
I couldn't see any areas of concern – they feel pretty bombproof.
Not the lightest, but this is unlikely to be a major priority for winter bibs.
They're very comfortable with a nice cosy fleecy inner surface and a pad that I found pretty comfortable.
They're not cheap but they represent reasonable value as they are extremely well made and should last a good few years.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
I was impressed – they're up with the best tights I've used in terms of protection from wind and rain. I found they were perfect for autumnal riding; once we get some really cold mornings I'll be wanting something a bit warmer, though.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Excellent rain and wind protection, high levels of comfort and discreet styling.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Not a great deal, they just lack warmth for deep-winter riding, but you could always stick some knee warmers on underneath or some thermals.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
On all but the coldest of days, these offer really superb protection from the elements. They're beautifully made and I'd expect them to last for ages.
About the tester
I usually ride: Commuter - something with disc brakes, drop bars and a rack My best bike is: Rose X-Lite CRS
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking
Jez spends his days making robots that drive cars but is happiest when on two wheels. His roots are in mountain biking but he spends more time nowadays on the road, occasionally racing but more often just riding.