I've been skeptical about the claims manufacturers make for compression clothing like these tights from Compressport; who wouldn't be?
In brief, the idea is that compression improves venous return the flow of blood back towards your heart. Increased blood flow speeds up the removal of waste products from the soft tissues and the supply of oxygen and fuel to your muscles when you're exercising. It is said to delay the onset of fatigue and lessen the chance of injury by reducing muscle oscillation too.
Compression is also designed to enhance the recovery process after exercise by encouraging the return of blood and toxins from your soft tissues back towards your heart.
Compressport are a Swiss company who make a whole range of compression clothing. These are made from polyamide (nylon), elastane and polyester and they fit the whole way from your ankle to your groin, so they cover most of the key muscles used in cycling (but not your glutes, obviously).
You get a double-layer cuff at the ankle and an elasticated top, a lot like you'll find on some leg/knee warmers. Silicone dots on the inside of that band help hold them in place; I've not had any trouble with these sliding down. The central section is a lightweight, fine weave. Hold it up to the light and you can just about see through it.
The main difference between these legs and other compression socks and tights that I've used is the degree of compression. Use Compressport's fitting charts to get the right size and these really do squeeze which, of course, is the whole point.
Once on, they're certainly supportive. They're not uncomfortably tight but they hold your muscles firmly. It's quite hard to explain but think of it like this: if you jump up and down, your leg muscles don't move as much as usual. That's the idea if you use them for running, for example; they reduce shock and vibration.
The weave over your knees is a little more stretchy than the rest so you can cycle easily. They offer about as much warmth as a pair of Lycra leg warmers rather than Roubaix ones, so they're suitable for cool rides but I'd be wearing something over the top for full-on winter.
Did my personal bests immediately drop when I wore these and rode my regular training rides. To put it bluntly, no. I don't find the evidence for performance gains on the bike particularly convincing.
The evidence supporting the recovery benefits of compression clothing is stronger. The literature is mixed but several studies suggest it isn't just marketing hype. Did I notice the benefits with these F-Like Full Legs? I think so, but we're talking about subtle differences. I think I recover a bit quicker following a hard ride if I wear these afterwards.
Could it be a case of The Emperor's New Clothes? Dumbo's feather? Maybe. There are so many variables that it's impossible to call it with 100% certainty, but my feeling is that these's provide a small benefit. And if you train seriously, any benefit is worth having.
Highly compressive full-leg compression best used for improving your recovery after hard rides
road.cc test report
Make and model: Compressport F-Like Full Leg compression tight
Size tested: Black, Size: T2+
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?
Compressport say, "You feel it immediately! Feeling of well being, lightness and strength surrounding your legs from the ankle to the groin. The new FULL LEG will be your must-have training partner come summer or winter.
The FULL LEG is your second-to-none training and recovery aid.
Wear it as a leg warmer in autumn, winter and spring. It will protect you from the cold as well as offering you incredible compression.
Wear it under shorts for maximum recovery in the summer after full-on sessions."
It's a complicated subject but I'd say the key benefits are in enhanced recovery rather than on-the-bike performance.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
The main idea is that the clothing squeezes your muscles to encourage the return of blood from your soft tissues towards your heart. This reduces the accumulation of toxins and increases the oxygenation of your muscles.
They're well made. No problems at all on that front
My impression is that they work better than compression tights I've used in the past.
They're pretty tight - but that's the whole point.
They're pricey compared to options from other brands
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
That they're tight over the muscles but it's still easy to bend your knees.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Possibly although the price is high
Would you recommend the product to a friend? As above
About the tester
Age: 40 Height: 190cm Weight: 74kg
I usually ride: My best bike is:
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: time trialling, commuting, sportives, general fitness riding,
Mat has worked for more bike magazines than anyone else in the known universe, dating back to a time when this was all just fields. He's been road.cc technical editor for four years, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. When he's not cycling around Wiltshire, he's running around it, or possibly swimming (sadly, he's one of those 'triathletes'). Mat is a youthful 42-year-old Cambridge graduate, GSOH etc.