I've always struggled to get my head around winter bib shorts, but the RH+ Shark kind of make sense, layered up correctly with leg or knee warmers. It makes them more versatile than a pair of bib tights, but why oh why has RH+ chosen to run seams next to each side of the pad? Ouch. For me anyway – shorts can be a very personal thing, and you might be okay...
- Pros: Impressive water repellency, very well made
- Cons: Seam position, quite thick pad
The RH+ Shark range is designed to allow you to race and train hard no matter what the weather is throwing at you. All the products in the range have aerodynamics at the centre of their design brief, making them ideal for cyclo-cross races or those long, steady base miles that make up a racer's diet during the winter months.
The main fabric of the shorts is Polartec's Pro Shield, a softshell-based material developed to provide warmth, breathability and resistance to water. Everything you need in a winter clothing product then.
Like any good aerodynamically designed bit of kit, the Sharks don't really feel like they fit right until you are on the bike, but then everything sits where it should.
The material is quite restrictive and doesn't quite give you the full range of movement you'd experience with a lighter weight pair of summer shorts, but once you are really pushing the pace the whole fit makes a lot more sense.
Your muscles are held with a fair bit of compression, plus you are always warm, which certainly helps. Windchill on cold thighs is never an issue.
Water is kept at bay too, unless it is absolutely hammering down, with light rain and drizzle just beading off as you ride. Getting wet legs has never really been a problem for me when riding – if it's raining it's normally pretty mild, but if you're out in the snow or hail I can see where a fabric like this can make sense, especially if you have to stop.
Bib-wise the Sharks use a mesh fabric which does aid the breathability under winter layers, and the straps are nice and wide too to avoid any irritation.
Keeping the legs in place are silicone grippers, which do stop any movement as you ride. I have quite large thighs though, and although I matched all of the other sizing criteria for these mediums I found the leg bands quite tight. If you're a sprinter you might need to nudge up a size.
As we all know, the key to any good pair of shorts is the pad, and the Sharks have a very good one, the Elastic Interface Liege. Elastic Interface supplies pads to a lot of the big brands on the market and certainly knows what it's doing.
Liège-Bastogne-Liège, if you don't know, is one of the cobbled Classics, a one-day race that takes in the punishing pavé (cobbles) of the countryside that give both riders and machines a proper pummelling. It's a fitting name for this pad, which is designed for both on and off-road use, and comfort across the varying levels of foam density reflect that.
It's worth bearing in mind that the pad is quite thick, and I often felt like I needed to drop my saddle height a few millimetres to compensate.
Everything is working out fine then, yeah?
So why, why RH+, did you have to change the material of the shorts about halfway along the pad, leaving a huge seam?
The rest of the seams are flat, ideal for comfort, but running alongside either side of the pad is a raised one, and boy do they irritate. It wasn't so much when you were riding, but after taking them off I found they'd really chafed around the bottom of the buttocks after just a one-hour ride. I tried various bikes with different saddles and always got the same outcome. I could ride for longer in them – the seams were noticeable but I wasn't in enough discomfort to stop – but as soon as I got off the bike and removed the shorts it was enough to make my eyes water. Not all undercarriages are the same, though; you might get on better with them than me.
As regards value, the Sharks are £155, a price not unheard of for a top quality pair of bib shorts, and if it wasn't for the discomfort from those seams I would say that these offer okay value for money. They keep the wind out and, to a degree, the water, plus they do have that comfortable if bulky pad going on.
If you aren't too worried about the whole layering option, the bib tights might make for a better option – they're £175 compared to the shorts/leg warmer combo of £234.
Those seams just make them a no no for me, though, full stop.
Great fabric used to create shorts that can be used for most of the year, but ruined for me by rubbing seams
road.cc test report
Make and model: RH+ Shark Bibshorts
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product is for
RH+ says: "Shark's secret relies on their skin. From there the Powerlogic Lab started to develop the new Shark clothing line in order to meet aerodinamic requirements as well as protection from the elements at the same time, and it did so in a way never explored before: thanks to advanced fabrics such as Polartec® Power Shield® Pro and Polartec® Wind Pro® that combine hydro-repellency and waterproofness with a never-met-before level of breathability, rh+ Shark line stands as a real Milestone in the new way of dressing and protect the modern high demanding cyclists.
Rain isn't an enemy anymore: you'll never look at the clouds in the same way as before..."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
New pad Elastic Interface Liege: double density for road & off
* Back panel fabric WD Gold Polartec® Power Shield Pro® (100% PL): waterproof 5.000 mm/ca, water
* repellent 80%, breathable 3,4 m3/h
* Main fabric water
* repellent WD Silver (45% PA, 55% PL)
* 3D breathable mesh back and braces
* Grip Fit Xlight leg gripper with anti
* slip inner silicone
* Ultra flat stretch seams
* Reflective applications
* UV protection
* Sizes: S > XXL
Great construction everywhere except for the seams either side of the pad.
Very good in some respects, but again the uncomfortable seams around the pad bring the score down. It would have been 8 if it wasn't for those seams; they didn't actually irritate when riding in them, so I think a 6 is fair.
Shorts are a very personal thing, so you might get on better with them than I did.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
30 degree wash takes care of everything.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Against the elements the shorts are very good, but those annoying seams just ruin the experience for me.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Shorts that you can wear on a wet winter's day.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Annoying seam position and the thick pad.
Did you enjoy using the product? No
Would you consider buying the product? No
Would you recommend the product to a friend? No
Use this box to explain your overall score
These would have scored higher if it wasn't for the poorly positioned seams, which just ruin the whole experience for me. Not all undercarriages are the same, so if the seams were okay for you these might be great and more like an 8 out of 10; the tricky part is you're only going to find that out after you've bought them...
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.