It's worth spending money on a decent pair of shorts as they can make or break a ride. These Café du Cycliste Marinette bibs prove that and go a long way to justifying their £159.99 price tag with a great pad, excellent fit and an understated, cool, classic look.
Rather than just picking a jersey and a different pair of bibs, the whole outfit thing is big when it comes to cycling fashion at the moment, and this is where brands like Café du Cycliste come into their own.
The Marinette shorts come in two colours – the Navy here and Marengo Slate, though stocks are running low in some sizes, so if you like them you might need to get in quick – and are paired up with various tops and socks throughout the range. This, to me at least, makes the whole getting ready for a bike ride more of an event, planning everything down to your shoes and helmet.
The kit has to perform, though, otherwise that whole feel-good factor is wasted – thankfully, the Marinettes don't disappoint.
At the forefront is the chamois from CyTech, whose Elastic Interface Technology pads are used by a large number of brands including Rapha, Assos and dhb, to name just a few. It's actually quite simple to look at: a saddle shape of various densities with a central channel for pressure relief. It has quite an extended front section, which kind of folds up around higher than most to provide a little more in the way of comfort as your parts aren't rubbing against Lycra.
On a recent ride I tapped out a steady tempo as I was testing a sportive style bike, where I spent the majority of the five and a half hours sat in the saddle in the same position, something that can often cause me numbness or irritation if I'm not moving about much. With these Marinettes, though, I never noticed a thing, no discomfort at all. In fact I didn't even notice the shorts, full stop.
The fabric has a near compressive feel to it, which feels very supportive to your muscles as you ride, plus it has a sort of matt finish to it, which stops them sliding around on the saddle like some shiny shorts can.
The Lycra hems have a textured silicone backing that keeps them in place and spreads the pressure over a larger area than a silicone strip – comfort that shows up on a really long ride.
Made up primarily of mesh, the bibs are cool and comfortable as well as being so light weight. I'm a big fan of the pattern too, and I like the way it's kept hidden under a jersey – discreet, like a fancy lining inside a suit jacket.
The shorts are made in Italy and the quality is absolutely top notch. I couldn't find a fault anywhere, even in the places where you normally wouldn't bother to look. The stitching is neat and stands up well to as much pulling and tugging as I could muster.
At nearly 160 quid the Café du Cycliste shorts are pricey, but if you look at a lot of the shorts we've been sent to test recently you'll see they aren't alone. Also, Café du Cycliste is quite a small brand, and lower production runs are always going to cost more. Much as I like them, I think they are right at the upper limit of what I would pay; the Huez Starman shorts that I tested last summer are still £130 for a very similar setup.
If you like the style, though, and have the cash (and your size is still available!), the Marinette bib shorts are very good in every aspect, so if you do splash out you won't be disappointed.
Understated style from a pair of bibs that deliver across the board
road.cc test report
Make and model: Cafe du Cycliste Marinette 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?
Cafe du Cycliste says: "The litmus test for any bib shorts is the chamois. Marinette, along with all our other shorts, use the very best available, a top of the range Cytech pad. Designed for ultimate comfort, they are built using the latest technology and materials to enable each and every ride to go off smoothly.
"Marinette match the premium chamois with equally premium fabrics to product a short which strikes exactly the right balance between stretch and support. The bib section is constructed from two variable types of mesh, open and closed, to provide a constantly stable fit and ensure the exceptional comfort continues across every touch point."
The Marienttes are very comfortable shorts, from the chamois right through to the fabric used.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Cafe du Cycliste lists these features:
71% Polyamide | 29% Elastomere
Colour Collection Piece
Stretch & Support
Mesh Bib Section
Silicon Beaded Grippers
Made in Europe
Sizes XS to XXL
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
A simple 30-degree wash and nothing else. They came up clean every time.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
They are comfortable and fit very well indeed.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Nobody can see that funky bib pattern when you've got a jersey on.
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
These Cafe du Cycliste bib shorts are barely noticeable on a long ride, which is the mark of a decent pair of shorts. The combination of comfort, a great fit and high quality goes a long way to justifying the price tag.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: Kinesis Aithein
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed
Stu knocked out his first road.cc review back in 2009 and since then he's chucked the best part of seventy test bikes around the West Country, a couple of them quite literally! With three alloy and two steel bikes in his fleet he's definitely a metal man (that'll be the engineering background) but is slowly warming to that modern carbon fibre stuff along with fat tyres & disc brakes.
It's not all nostalgia though, after spending the last few years in product design Stu keeps banging on about how 3D printing is going to be the next big thing and he's a sucker for a beautiful paint job too.