Much as I like to get my legs on show, for eight months of the year I'm reaching for the bib tights as my default riding garment, and with their combination of value and performance, the Merlin Sport Bib Tights are likely to be at the top of the drawer.
These mid-weight bibs are pretty much ideal for most milder winter days and cool spring or autumn rides, and I can even think of a few summer outings where I might have been glad of them.
The fleecy-backed polyamide/elastane tights reach well over the kidneys; above that, it's a mesh backing panel for better ventilation where it's needed.
The fit, in the large size, is snug even on my fairly slender frame. The leg length is good, but even so if you tend towards the, erm, 'sprinter's build' you might want to go a bit larger. This also applies at the shoulder straps, which I found a little tight, though I didn't really notice this in use. I also felt these could have been a smidge wider.
Around the ankles there are both elastic and silicone grips which stayed securely in place. A short but useful zip makes for easy dressing. While the zip doesn't admit to a maker, it runs freely and has a chunky plastic tap so it is easy to do up. There's a touch of reflective here, too, and in the discreet Merlin logos above them.
There's a small logo on the right thigh too, but since the styling is simple and plain, these tights look good with any brand of top you might choose, so they are really versatile.
The sewn-in pad is clearly the highlight in a garment at this price. Made by the Italian company Milano, this has a saddle-shaped centre that must be a centimetre thick, as well as a thinner region extending all round for your comfort and modesty. In use I found this comfortable until around the 50-mile mark, when my sit bones began to make themselves heard, so perhaps not quite as comfortable as my usual padless-tights-plus-padded shorts combination, but everyone's bottom is different.
There are claims about silver odour-control technology which I am too squeamish to put to the test – these went in the wash after every ride, just as I do with all my kit. The pad washes well, though, and so far shows no sign of permanent compression.
When I looked online, Merlin was selling these at a 20% discount, which on an already very reasonable price makes these exceptional value.
Well made, comfortable and warm tights with a quality pad, and exceptional value for money
road.cc test report
Make and model: Merlin Sport Cycling Bib Tights
Size tested: Large
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?
Merlin says, "Well-featured padded bib tights that will see you well throughout the colder half of the year. A warm and super comfy brushed fleece inner material is used for the main body with a lighter aerated mesh fabric used for the bib.
"A multi-level, dual density Milano pad with Silver Dry antibacterial technology and optimal moisture transfer. Designed for medium to long distances. Suitable for both road and mountain bike use. Ergonomically shaped and two-way stretch elasticity ensures comfort. The pad is also designed to improve blood flow and pressure relief."
In use these hit the nail on the head. I thought these were pretty much ideal winter tights, though I found medium rides better than long from a comfort point of view.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Ankle rear zips for ease of dress.
Carvico Vuelta 250g fabric main with lighter weight mesh bib upper.
Multi-level Milano Silver Dry pad.
Silicon grippers on the leg cuffs.
Subtle Merlin branding on the calves and lower back.
Reflective detailing on the calves and thigh.
Anatomically form-fitting design.
These look like much more expensive tights than they are.
In most respects excellent; the warmth, fit and cut were all really good. I only found the pad a little lacking on longer rides. This may be down to my own lack of natural padding in that region!
Everything is really neatly stitched. The materials are high quality as are the zips.
You may find a size bigger will fit better, though beware the long leg length if you are stockier. I would have liked slightly longer and wider shoulder straps.
As above, these are pretty sporty in sizing, snug around the waist and thighs so again you might choose a larger size than normal if you are bigger-built.
For the light weight (300g, as Merlin claims) they provide excellent warmth, with most of the weight being in the generous pad.
Really comfortable in all respects, the only exception being that the pad didn't really suit me on longer rides.
A great pair of do-it-all tights. Buy two pairs and you'll still have change compared to some others.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
These came up as good as new after every wash.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
These soon became the tights I reached for on my early spring rides. They are warm, comfortable, look good, go well with anything and are "invisible" in use. On longer rides I might revert to my favourite Lycra shorts-and-unpadded-bib tight combination for extra comfort.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The high quality and low price, warmth and fit.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Slightly short and narrow shoulder straps.
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
A fundamental garment like a pair of bib tights needs to be right and Merlin's are almost spot on. At such a good price it's hard to see why you wouldn't want a pair of these in your drawer.
About the tester
I usually ride: Cannondale CAAD10 My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: touring, sportives, general fitness riding, mountain biking