The Sleek Plus bib shorts from Santini feature the excellent C3 pad used in its top end shorts and combine it with a comfortable fit and an eye on aerodynamics, making these a really good choice – provided you like the shorter shorts look.
Earlier this summer we reviewed Santini's top end Photon bib shorts and Dave described the C3 pad as "right up there with the very best". Unlike a lot of clothing companies, Santini makes its own pads, and apparently spent 15 months on the development of the C3. It features layers of varying density foam combined with a squidgy "Rooted gel" layer underneath the ischium bones to improve vibration absorption.
Santini says that the design of the pad helps give a perfect fit and unparalleled comfort. There are gaping perforations through the various layers, designed to allow moisture out, and a "soft shell conch" at the front, which was definitely not influenced in any way by Assos's even more absurdly-named Kuku Penthouse.
According to Santini the C3 pad was developed for "all those people who haven't found their perfect padding", and it's so proud of it that it's made a video all about it. The good news is that the C3 pad isn't just restricted to the top-of-the-range shorts, and is also fitted here in the Sleek Plus shorts, priced £40 lower down the scale.
Having worn the Sleek Plus bibs on some long rides, I also found the pad to be excellent. The breathability is really good and the padding is just where you want it (and, equally importantly, not where you don't). It's positioned correctly too, so the squidgy gel bits are right under your sit-bones, providing a bit of extra isolation from the road vibration.
The main part of the shorts is made from the splendidly named Thunderbike Power fabric, which has a quality feel to it and is very comfortable against the skin. Santini says it's designed to have a light compressive effect which reduces muscle fatigue. I can't say I really noticed the effect of this if I'm honest. The panels are held together via a combination of flat-lock and conventional seams, and I found no sources of discomfort or irritation even after several hours. Likewise, the straps are pretty much spot on; a good width and a nice airy mesh fabric made for a barely-there feeling across the shoulders.
At the other extremity, the leg openings feature the modern style of gripper – a wide band of fabric which has a gentle compression and a fine smattering of silicone micro-dots on the inside. It's extremely comfortable, and stays locked in place, ensuring your tan lines are super-crisp.
Where does one want one's tan lines to be, though? For me, the large size bibs were decidedly on the short side, coming barely halfway down my thighs. I like the longer leg, longer sleeve look made popular by the aero fixation of the pros, and while it had no impact on comfort, the aesthetic here was enough to make my other half wince and question whether I was "really going out looking like that".
Of course, the aesthetic is down to the graphics too, and on this front I think Santini could be considered to be a bit behind some other brands. We don't really score cycling gear based on how it looks, as one man's garish logo fest is another's super-Euro-pro. So maybe you like the grey-and-white-and-black-and-red-and-blue scheme here. Or maybe you don't. The good news is that other colours are available too, and Santini will make custom club kit (Bath CC's kit is made by Santini), so if you've got enough friends or clubmates, you can choose whatever colours you like.
At £135, these aren't cheap bib shorts but they're a long way below the very top of the market. Search around and you can get them for well under £100, at which price I'd say they stack up very well, provided that the leg length works for you.
Very comfortable bibs with top-end pad at a more competitive price – leg length is distinctly Italian, mind
road.cc test report
Make and model: Santini Sleek Plus Bib Shorts
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?
Aero bib-short featuring the Santini C3, the world's most advanced road cycling chamois. Built with an aerodynamic cut. Made with Thunderbike Power, a technical fabric that helps to reduce muscle stress thanks to the slight compressive effect.
Made in Italy
Sleek Plus bib-shorts are designed to ensure maximum performance on the bike. Built with an aerodynamic cut, they are made with Thunderbike Power, a technical fabric that helps to reduce muscle stress thanks to the slight compressive effect. The mesh bibs with Y-cut guarantee maximum comfort, while the shaped elastic leg grippers with internal non-slip grip on the legs ensure a snug fit to the muscle while pedaling. The Sleek Plus bib-shorts structure has been designed around the C3 chamois, the most innovative of our range, made with an advanced technique (no seams or glue and a soft shell front panel) for maximum shock protection and extraordinary breathability.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Santini lists these features:
1 BRACES WITH POCKET - Ergonomic shoulder straps made of light and breathable mesh with radio / mp3 player pocket
2 ANTI-SHOCK PROTECTION - New C3 chamois, with protective shell, ergonomic 3d surface with different densities and thicknesses
3 AERODYNAMIC EFFECT - Aerodynamic cut with bottom leg internally coated with non-slip grip
Well made, using a very good pad.
No issues during testing.
This is a subjective thing, but I prefer a significantly longer leg than these have. Otherwise they fit well.
I'm 6'2" and these are shorter than I'd like. Otherwise they size to the Santini sizing chart.
An average sort of weight.
Largely thanks to the excellent C3 pad, these are very comfortable bibs.
They use the same pad as Santini's top-end Photon bibs, but are usefully cheaper.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Did a pretty good job. While Santini would like us to think that here you're getting an aero benefit, in reality, bibs are all about comfort, and the Sleek Plus is very good in this respect. Also, maybe, aero.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Great pad. Availability for custom club kit.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Very short legs. Horrible (discuss) graphics.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes, but I wish they had a longer leg.
Would you consider buying the product? No, they're too short for me.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
Very nicely made and extremely comfortable – these do a cracking job of getting you to the end of the longest rides in comfort. For a tall chap like myself, they are several inches shorter than I'd ideally like, but if they fit you they're very good indeed.
About the tester
I usually ride: On-one Bish Bash Bosh 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.