Exemplary warmth and excellent fit make Sportful's new R&D bib tights very effective winter leg warmers and the padded insert is comfortable for the longest rides you have planned.
Sportful make these new R&D bib tights using three fabrics. They're mostly ThermoDrytex Double, a 3-layer fleece with hollow-core polyester liner, with ThermoDrytex PL+ fabric on the thighs and knees, and ThermoDrytex Plus on the back panels to provide more stretch.
Sounds complex, but the use of the different materials provide maximum insulation and protection from the wind and rain where you need it most, and extra stretch and breathability where it's needed to ensure there is absolutely no restriction on freedom of movement when you're pedalling.
The reason the tights are so effective in the cold, and they're really very good even in sub-zero temperatures, is down to the Thermorytex Double fabric. This fabric uses a nylon outer face with a water-resistant finish and is fleece-lined, and the hollow core yarn traps warm air and effectively moves sweat away from the skin.
This is paired with the ThermoDrytex PL+ fabric on the knees and thighs to boost wind protection, and the less thermal but stretchier ThermoDrytex Plus fabric on the back of the legs ramps up comfort and increases breathability, as this material doesn't need to be windproof, it helps with temperature regulation.
I've used these tights in a wide range of conditions, including sub-zero early morning rides, and I've been amazed at just how much warmth they provide, despite their apparent thinness and lack of restriction - some similarly warm and water-resistant tights have a trade-off in total comfort. That's the not case with these Sportful tights
With tights it is critical that the fit and shape is spot-on around the knees to provide comfort and the full range of unhindered movement you need for pedalling. Some tights get it quite wrong, some are close to perfect, these Sportful R&D tights are perfect. The fit really is exceptional around the entire legs and especially around the knees.
The only other tights I feel come close in terms of fit are Castelli's Sorpaso Win, and howies padded bib tights, but the former are £40 more expensive than the Sportful tights and the howies tights lack the warmth and insulation that the Sportful tights provide.
Inside the bib tights Sportful employ their TC Pro pad, the same pad they use in their Total Comfort and BodyFit Pro tights and shorts. It uses varying density and thickness foam, 14mm at its most plush and tapers down to 9mm, so there is more cushioning where you need it most, around the sit bones, and less where it's not needed. The pad is attached to the bib tights using a 'press-to-zero' edge which minimises the potential for a nasty edge to chafe, instead it's smooth and seamless. It's a really comfortable insert, good enough for 6+ hour rides.
The tights are constructed with flat lock stitching throughout. There are zipped ankles and some some reflective piping around the ankles and the discrete logos up the legs make these tights look nicely understated. The tights have wide soft bib straps that loop comfortably over the shoulders and the back straps are attached in the middle which stops them shifting about and provides good support.
I'm minded to try and find a fault with these tights, but I've been scratching my head and struggling to come up with any. You could point to the price, but they're cheaper than similar offerings from Rapha, Castelli and Assos and these are in no way inferior to those more expensive alternatives. The Rapha Deep Winter bib tights I tested recently do offer better wet weather protection, but they don't have the same freedom of movement as the R&D tights, and they're nearly twice the price.
When it's really cold outdoors, these new Sportful R&D bib tights are what I reach for.
The Sportful R&D bib tights are available in seven sizes and one colour option.
Exemplary warmth and excellent fit make Sportful's new R&D bib tights very effective winter leg warmers
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Sportful R&D bib tights
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?
The advanced high-loft dual-layer fleece front of this tight makes it great in an exceptionally wide range of conditions, especially when the mercury starts edging toward freezing. Our best features are all in there, including the Total Comfort bib straps and the Total Comfort Pro seat pad. A perfect match for the new Alpha technology R&D jacket.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
ThermoDrytex Double 2-layer fleece with hollow-core polyester inside
ThermoDrytex PL+ thighs and knees for excellent wicking
ThermoDrytex Plus back for maximum stretch
Flat lock stitching
Total Comfort Pro seat pad
Total Comfort bib straps
YKK® Camlock ankle zips with reflective piping and lay-flat elastic
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Just about the best winter tights I've yet tested, excellent in the cold and good in the rain too. These set the benchmark
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Super comfort and warmth, almost makes riding in bitterly harsh weather a joy.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Maybe some more generous reflective details would be appreciated for those who commute or train in the dark.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? Yes.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes.
Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?
These winter tights are superb, and set the benchmark, offering a lot of comfort and performance for the money.
About the tester
Age: 31 Height: 180 Weight: 67
I usually ride: 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: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, mtb,
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.