Rule#XIV's #M Series bib shorts are good-looking, performance-orientated bib shorts – but the price is simply not justified.
Hang around cyclists long enough – in person or online – and someone's bound to drop a comment based on 'The Rules'. Typically made in jest (but sometimes it's hard to tell), they frequently lead to a general Loss Of Sense Of Humour all round. Approximately half of The Rules are based on common sense and cycling best-practice – aligning valves with tyre labels to aid in quickly finding the cause of a puncture, for example – but some are purely foppish or macho nonsense. Whether you take them seriously or as a self-deprecating jibe at elitist/macho culture is a fair indication of whether I'd invite you round for a pint at the home workshop bar.
One of the least-controversial Rules is number 14: Shorts should be black. This is true for a number of reasons, but principally so as not to show stains from road crud or grease inadvertently picked up from hands or the bike. The pro peloton has borne witness to some fashion abominations over the years (looking at you, Astana and AG2R, and FDJ, white... words fail...) but then they are typically racing on pristine surfaces and have someone to do their washing each day, with stained kit going straight into the bin. So for the rest of the cycling world, if it's Lycra and bib-shorty, it's black. Agreed?
So to Rule#XIV. On first viewing you'd think it was a plucky startup running on coffee and sushi from a shed in Hoxton, but it's actually owned by online sporting goods deal-maker extraordinaire SportPursuit. The SportPursuit business model appears to be: find sports brand or retail chain looking to flog a load of end-of-line or bankruptcy stock. Get a load of cash from customers. Buy stock, ship to customer 4-6 weeks later. So it gets the cash immediately, and doesn't hold any stock. The draw for customers ('members', as you have to sign up) is that typically discounts are between 30 and 75%. I've purchased a few items through SportPursuit and the experience is good if you're happy to wait. So why is it in the bib short manufacturing game, running a website that makes no mention of the parent company?
Pricing model understood, the shorts themselves are good enough. They have features such as flatlock stitching, which you'd welcome above £90 and take for granted on a £180 pair of shorts. The pad is from Italian giant Cytech, which makes pads for Assos, Rapha and other top brands of shorts. The wide leg strips feature subtle branded silicone grippers that stayed put, and there are small reflective tabs on the back of the thighs. The bib straps are a fine, soft mesh, comfortable against the skin and flatlocked to boot. Overall they feel like a quality bit of kit, assembled in China, with the care label stitched to the outside to avoid scratching.
I found the pad to be comfortable enough, but after a few hours it made its presence felt. Not necessarily to the point of needing regular adjustment or periods out of the saddle to relieve discomfort, but I found the amount of material at the front excessive when trying to maintain an aero position for periods of time. My benchmark for a pad is whether or not I even think to remember it after two hours in the saddle, and in that regard the pad design choice Rule#XIV has made here isn't for me, for longer rides.
Size-wise they are a tight fit (it's not me in the photos). I'm medium according to its size chart with a 33in waist, and would have probably benefited from going up to a large – although the bib strap length was fine, and for my long body that's usually the first place they fail my fit test. Rule#XIV says the #M Series are designed to be 'tight fitting but not restrictive' with 'Compression level fabric to offer support & comfort over long rides'. I'd agree – the fit is borderline-compressive if you follow the sizing chart.
The panel fabric choice straddles the just-right point, where you won't feel cold starting out in 10 degrees, nor uncomfortable working hard in 20. Certainly the tight fit meant there was no movement of the pad riding in or out of the saddle.
This comes to the nub of the #M Series bibshort on review, and the context they must be viewed in. They are a good-enough short, and personal pad fit vagaries aside, most people should be happy with them sartorially, technically and fit-wise. Which leaves the value-for-money equation, increasingly relevant as even low-end brands gain access to high-performance fabrics and manufacturing techniques.
In May 2017 SportPursuit was selling the entire Rule#XIV range at £69.99, advertising a 61% saving – this is its own brand, remember, over which it has control of stock levels. In my view at £69.99 the #M Series shorts represent great value – on par with brands like UK's Lusso, of which I have reviewed and loved several pairs of bib shorts at similar prices. But at £180 they are on par price-wise with top-of-the-line kit from the likes of Rapha or Assos, worn by world-class professional cyclists. Of course diminishing returns become harder to quantify, but having worn bibs costing north of £200, I cannot agree the Rule#XIV #M Series bibs deliver value for money at RRP.
They are good shorts, but overpriced for what they deliver
road.cc test report
Make and model: Rule#XIV Men's #M Series Bib Shorts
Size tested: Medium
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're for getting in long rides in comfort, and for pairing with any top.
"We've spent a lot of time developing these top of the range bib shorts, and we believe them to be one of the best in the market. The high density & anatomic chamois we've used is suitable for long rides. It's designed to fit the contours of your body for ultimate comfort, has multiple densities depending on the pressure zones and is covered with a carbon infused fabric that offers great moisture management & comfort.
"We've used a breathable, moisture wicking, mid weight compression level fabric for the main part of the garment, to give you the chance to enjoy these bib shorts for as much of the year as possible, and offer a high level of muscle support.
"The mesh brace is incredibly soft, stretchy, lightweight and breathable, but still manages to offer support, whilst the Italian made silicone gripper is going to keep everything in place no matter how hard you turn those pedals!
"REMEMBER....BREAK THE RULES...BUT ALWAYS WEAR BLACK SHORTS!"
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Rule#XIV lists these details:
Male specific, anatomic 'top of the range' high density chamois pad from Cytech (EIT) in Italy, with bacteriostatic, soft, ultra-fast drying, carbon infused fabric covering – suitable for any length of ride
Compression level fabric to offer support & comfort over long rides
Moisture wicking, mid-weight fabric to be suitable for multiple seasons – get the most out of your bib shorts!
Ergonomic panel construction gives the perfect fit whilst in the riding position
Incredibly soft, breathable mesh brace section
Reflective visibility details
Soft flat locked stitching on all seams for comfort
RULE#XIV Italian made silicone gripper at cuffs for a secure fit
Contrast side panel & RULE#XIV print details
No scratchy labels – care label is made from a soft fabric and sewn flat to the outside of the garment
Flatlocked stitching is good.
Can't say I felt faster in them.
The cut is good.
Slim bordering tight, you may want to size up.
The RRP is, frankly, ridiculous. At a 60% discount they make a lot more sense.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
No signs of anything coming adrift or wearing out after washing.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
For rides up to two hours, good enough; beyond that the excess material at the front starts to bother.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The design – minimalist.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The pad fit at the front, and the price.
Did you enjoy using the product? They wouldn't be my first choice for a long ride.
Would you consider buying the product? Not at RRP.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Not at RRP.
Use this box to explain your score
The score is in context of the £180 RRP – for that money I want supreme comfort and performance, comparable with their peers. The #M Series bibs didn't deliver. At their discounted price I'd consider them a 7 or an 8, but up against other high-end bibs at RRP they're below average.
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