The Hoy Vulpine Senko Bib Shorts offer impressive performance and comfort while looking and feeling good. They're well worth the reassuringly expensive price tag.
The term Senko is used in the rarified atmosphere of Japanese Keirin racing, and means to be on the front and attacking with half a mile to go. Vulpine has a long-term collaboration with Sir Chris Hoy, and the Senko products benefit from his experience at the highest levels of racing. If anyone knows a thing or ten about going fast and putting the hours in, it's Chris Hoy. Add in a healthy dash of British understatement delivered in top-spec fabrics and it's a recipe for sartorial speed.
At £125 the Senkos are getting into the upper reaches of bib shorts pricing, and for the money there's a good deal of competition from established premium brands.
With the words 'Sleek flattering elite level compressive lightweight aerodynamic race fit' in the marketing description, you can see the direction Vulpine is going. As in any 'aero' product, sizing is key. I'm a 32-33in waist and in most products am at least a medium, but for the Senkos I had to go to a small to get the best fit. Pay attention to the sizing chart, and if in doubt the Vulpine folks are quick to respond with answers.
The Senkos come up very snug around the thigh and waist, which is a good thing – the ultimate job of a pair of bib shorts is to keep the pad in the right place, and with the Senko's fit the premium Cytec pad is going nowhere.
The pad is triple density, putting the right thickness just where you need it and nowhere else. Of course pads, saddle contact points and sit bones are all unique, but for me, on both a Prologo Kappa2 saddle and a Brooks B67, on the rivet or sitting up, it worked a treat.
The pad is not going to be forgiving if you have your saddle choice wrong, though, as the thicker bits are smaller than the one-size-fits-all options where it's all one density. As per the marketing, this is a pro-level product and assumes you're well set up on the bike – no pad is going to compensate for poor bike fit.
The leg gripper is a full 4cm wide, and initially felt tight enough to make me think I'd regret it later. Not the case, though. Once out and riding, the gripper did what it was designed to, holding the thigh fabric in place over many hours and levels of in and out of saddle exertion.
The feeling of being held tightly extends to the upper body, where the sides and back come higher than most bibs designed for summer riding. The 4.5cm bib straps are laser-cut, so no seams to annoy over the shoulder.
The construction of the Senko is exemplary – every seam is flatlock stitched, and the build quality cannot be faulted. Also, there are no scratchy care or manufacturer labels inside – all relevant info is printed onto the inside of the back panel. Including how to iron (yes, iron).
I was impressed with the fit and feel of the Senkos over a month or so's riding every other day. From turbo sessions in dark places, to long and slow country rides on the Brooks-saddled vintage steeler, and high-octane carbon-racer blasts, the Senkos faded into the background and let the legs and bum get on with things. That to me is the mark of a superior pair of bib shorts – you forget you're wearing them after 10 miles.
Across weather ranging from 10 to 23 degrees, in sunshine or pouring rain, they performed. Some people might not like the feel of the high-rise sides and back, but as I've come around to the idea of wearing baselayers regardless of the weather, the feel of bib fabric on skin wasn't an issue. When worn by themselves against skin, the flatlock stitching and panel design meant everything felt just right.
Being caught in an hour-long biblical deluge proved the Senkos' ability to not suck up water and to dry quickly afterwards – essential factors for long rides in the United Kingdom of Weather Guessing.
There are two choices of colour – black/red or black/charcoal, which actually looks dark green. The only logo is a black-on-green or red-on-black 'HOY V' on the side of the thigh – nothing reflective or shouty about these, which bodes well for matching with other kit if looking sharp under sunny skies is your aim.
At £125, the Senko bib shorts are a premium product, with premium performance and looks to match. Pay attention to sizing while being aware of the compressive feel and you'll get along just fine.
Premium performance matches the premium price tag, and they look pretty sharp too
road.cc test report
Make and model: Hoy-Vulpine Senko Bib Shorts
Size tested: Small (weight is for medium), Black/Charcoal
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?
They are for people who like tight fits, and going fast.
Elite level aero bib shorts, with highest specification Cytech pad and comfort, for extreme summer road cycling
Sleek, flattering, elite level summer road cycling shorts utilising the best materials. Presented simply, without shouting its credentials. Constructed from soft, compressive lightweight Italian fabric for an aerodynamic race fit. Laser cut bibs transfer perspiration fast, and apply minimal pressure across the shoulders, whilst maintaining fit. The highest specification CyTech pad is designed for maximum distance riding, and super wide leg grippers prevent digging in and marks. High end bibs you can enjoy wearing.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Lazer cut, wide strap bibs for maximal moisture transfer and secure comfort.
Industry leading pro-level men's Specific CyTech pad created for longest distance riding. Ventilated and fast drying.
Printed care instructions, not scratchy labels, plus flat-lock stitching for maximal comfort.
Super wide, soft, leg grippers stay secure for hours, without marking.
Can't fault it. Flatlocked seams throughout.
Super-light summer fabrics are always at risk of pilling if washed carelessly, so take care.
Forget I'm wearing them after 10 miles. Can't go wrong there.
I needed to size down, so pay attention and discuss with Vulpine.
Pretty darn light, as you'd expect.
Once the sizing was right, extremely comfortable indeed.
£125 isn't cheap, but the performance justifies the tag, and they're currently discounted to £89...
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
40-degree wash with non-bio powder is pretty easy to manage. Over about 20 washes, they came through looking good.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
This is a high-end product, and it delivers on the promise of comfort and speed.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The looks. I like understated, me.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
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
At £125 the Senkos are among similar brands and models that likewise offer excellent performance and fit. If that RRP was 100 quid, they'd be edging towards 5 stars. (And they're discounted to £89, at time of writing.)
About the tester
I usually ride: Merida Ride 5000 Disc My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo-cross, club rides, general fitness riding, mountain biking, Dutch bike pootling