We liked Cafe du Cycliste's casual-yet-technical Henriette jersey when we reviewed it, and we have to say that the Cte d'Azur company's Josephine bibshort is pretty top notch too.
Straight out the bag (for they arrive in a gingham cotton slipcase - a nice touch), the material impresses. It's thin, a little shiny, soft on the skin and with a nice stretch to it. It's put to use in an interesting six-panel construction, with elegantly shaped darts cut to run along the flanks. Apparently, the design means they suit Hoys and Wigginses alike. Being fairly evenly thighed, I'm not in a position to make comparisons but they fit my twiglet legs nicely.
Up above, there's some mesh panels, of a fairly high-density, supportive variety; likewise, the straps are mesh. Big plus: the front is nicely low cut. (Pet peeve alert: high-cut bibs that make for uncomfort breaks when out on the bike.) Down below, a high-end Cytech pad, and the bottom of each leg is laser cut, with a silicone gripper. Now, this is pretty impressive: unlike many bibs, which finish with a round of stitching, hem and gripper sewn in, these, well, just end. It makes for a sharp, comfortable fit, with good compression and none of the marking you get from hours of seams pressing skin. Then the silicone is pretty fearsome, up there with the best leg grippers I've experienced. These suckers aren't rucking up or going anywhere. Finishing the bibs off are small reflective strips running vertically along the leg seams, an understated 'Cafe du Cycliste' on the right thigh, and a slightly less understated reflective logo on the left side. Overall, the look is classic black bibs.
Putting them on, and everything feels good. Leg length was pretty traditional, but a word of advice - the bibs are cut quite small. I'm usually a Small, but happily filled a Medium. On the bike, they're great, and the extra money spent on the pad really shows. I'm no expert on pad hierarchy, but over long distances I find foam to be better than gel, and that the high-end, Cytech-supplied pads to really prove their worth. Here was no different. The tech spec for the pad boasts of "EIT Carbonium microfibre, ultra high-density foam, perforated baselayer for maximum breathability and naturally bacteriostatic". I'm not a man to argue with bacteriostasis, and in practice, this all translates as being really comfy. The pad also seems a bit more sculpted and profiled than other high-end Cytech pads, and consequently feels a bit less like wearing a nappy.
Testing these over a month or so was a good experience. Putting on a new pair of bibs is always nice. But after the sixth, seventh, 10th wash the feeling fades, and you begin to want a nice fresh pair to cradle your undercarriage (oh, to be a pro). That wasn't the case with these. Each time around they felt fresh and good, the material still stretchy, grippers still grippy. Doubtless they will age, but with a badly made pair, it's surprising how quickly bib fatigue sets in.
During the test period, it was mostly warm-ish weather, and that's probably where these bibs work best. They performed without fault over day-long rides in the hills, and dealt well with both long hard efforts and the on-again-off-again of social rides and caf stops. Climbing, they didn't get too sweaty (that's probably something to do with the perforated base layer); descending, they didn't seem to let the wind cut through too much. I did pair them up on a couple of occasions with a good pair of knee warmers, and the more exposed bits didn't overly seem to suffer.
Price-wise, they go for about £110 on the company's website, and at the UK retailers currently stocking them (principally Mosquito and Suka Sport in London). That's a decent wedge of money, but justified, I think. Look down, towards cheaper bibs, and they outclass any I've tried. Look up, towards the real premium prices, and they hold their own, in terms of quality. So a sound investment, I think.
Nice, light, well-designed bibs. A premium product at a slightly less than premium price.
road.cc test report
Make and model: Cafe du Cycliste Josephine Bibshort
Size tested: Black/Red
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?
Says the website:
"Josephine bibshort was developped with the best lycra and best chamois pad available on the market to guarantee exceptional comfort for hours on the saddle.
For the rider's comfort, bibshort is by far the most critical item. Caf du Cycliste developed Josephine with an ergonomic 6 panels construction for more comfort, stretch and freedom of movement. Josephine has a laser cut silicon leg gripper to keep the bibshort in place.
We are convinced that no concession should be made on the pad. This bibshort offers the best high end pad from Cytech, the uncontested Italian specialist : EIT Carbonium microfibre, ultra high density foam, perforated baselayer for maximum breathability and naturally bacteriostatic.
You will be impressed by Josephine's perfect construction, great stretch, chamois ventilation and mesh comfort on the skin."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Again, from the site:
"85% Polyester / 15% Elastane
High end Cytech pad
Mesh braces and back
ergonomic 6 panels construction
Seams were good. Robust stitching, nice details.
They're not cheap, but they perform well against the super-premium priced shorts.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The material, the laser-cut legs and grippers, the pad.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Nothing to speak of.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
About the tester
I usually ride: Cinelli Strato road or fixed commuter hack. My best bike is:
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: commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,