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Verdict: 
When value for money trumps premium options, these could very well be the bib shorts for you
Weight: 
195g

Merlin has always impressed me with its value-for-money approach to its products – and the Elite bib shorts are no different. Pad, straps, gripper... all impressive, and yours for £56.

Let's be clear on one thing: value for money doesn't necessarily mean cheap. At £55.99 (currently £44.99 on Merlin's website), these bib shorts do qualify as cheap in my book, but to be good value they have to perform well too. Because if cheap was what you wanted, why buy these instead of the £25 Core model? 

Lets take a look at the features, then: flat textured silicone leg grippers, flatlock seams, vented and elasticated bib straps, a vented panel at the rear, and a premium Cytech Interface Bastogne pad with variable densities.

Merlin Elite Cycling Bib Shorts - straps back.jpg

The key ingredients are all here, and more importantly, work well in synergy to provide a comfortable and enjoyable time in the saddle. For longer rides of at least 100km I was deeply impressed with how the bibs felt, from the straps (which are comfortable and giving), down to the pad.

Merlin Elite Cycling Bib Shorts - straps.jpg

The chamois, from the same manufacturer that provides pads for Rapha's top-level Pro Team bib shorts, is especially impressive. Comfortable for all-day use, with special treatment given to the high-density area at the sensitive ischiatic and perineal zones, it's a pad you can trust won't let you down.

Merlin Elite Cycling Bib Shorts - back.jpg

Additionally, the leg grippers are great. I'm always disappointed when 'cheaper' brands stick ribbed silicone grippers on their shorts, presumably to save money, because they're simply not as comfortable. Here, though, Merlin has provided gripper that adjusts as you ride without pulling, holding tight and maintaining a graduated compression.

Merlin Elite Cycling Bib Shorts - riding.jpg

The panelling, too, provides a hugging and slightly compressive feel without being restrictive, and with bags of breathability. I expect to see this kind of fit in bib shorts at around twice the price of these, so it was a pleasant surprise when I first put them on, and continues to impress now, post-testing.

Criticisms? The internal seams, while flatlock stitched, are slightly tough – which means chafing is a possibility on hot rides when salt can get deposited on your skin underneath the fabric – and I found the legs slightly longer than is strictly necessary. This rights itself when you're actually cycling and subsequently off the bike, but before rides it felt like I was wearing a size too big.

That was not the case here. I sit right between a medium and large for bib shorts, and these – in large – were perfect. That leads me to conclude they come up slightly smaller than your average.

> Check out our guide to the best bib shorts

In terms of longevity, I have good faith in the Elite bib shorts too. The pad, judging from other Cytech ones I've experienced, will certainly stand the test of time, while there's no reason to suspect the 'Power Lycra' and 'Elastothan' fabrics shouldn't last well too.

If you're on a tight budget for a good-performing pair of bib shorts, you should take note of these Elites. Merlin has shown what can be achieved for just £56 – or even £44.99, currently.

Verdict

When value for money trumps premium options, these could very well be the bib shorts for you

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road.cc test report

Make and model: Merlin Elite Cycling 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?

Merlin says: "The very best bib short we offer. Ideal for long distance rides and rides of high intensity."

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

Bib short features:

"The main short is constructed from two materials. It's mostly 225g Power Lycra but the sides and mid-rear of the short are lighter, textured Lycra for enhanced breathability and adaptable form-fitting throughout the pedal stroke."

- Bastogne HP pad. A premium inner pad from CyTech's Elastic Interface range. The top surface is totally flush but underneath this there's a perfect combination of different perforated foam densities that provide support, freedom of movement and breathability. The pad is also designed to improve blood flow and pressure relief.

- Polyester and Elasthan bib. Breathable and airy but with enough support to keep things in place.

- Flat seams all round for comfort.

- Ergonomic on-bike cut.

- Broad gripper bands which keep the short hem in place effectively but also extremely comfortably.

- Discreet reflective logos.

Cytech Bastogne pad features:

"The ultra-high density insert makes this product ideal for 4 – plus hour rides.The perfect combination of perforated foams and different foam densities provide breathability and freedom of movement. Guaranteed increased protection for long distance rides, thanks to the additional ultra-high density inserts that are positioned in the ischiatic and perineal zone. The top surface of the Bastogne HP is characterised by being totally flush, providing close and continuous skin contact."

- Ultra-high density inserts.

- Much appreciated among those riders that prefer a smooth, flat surface with no areas of transition or 'steps' that denote density changes.

- The shaping of the central channel is engineered according to specific anthropometrical measurements, guaranteeing adequate protection and support.

- Providing perfect fit, saddle stability and relieving pressure, favoring blood flow.

- The 'pelvic tract' area was tested and engineered to support the rotation of the pelvic bone on the saddle while pedaling.

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
8/10

Built well, these bibs will handle most conditions you could throw at them.

Rate the product for performance:
 
8/10

I'm super impressed by these, overall. All the ingredients come together for a very strong whole.

Rate the product for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the product for fit:
 
9/10

Without exaggerating, I think the fit is on a par with some of the best out there.

Rate the product for sizing:
 
7/10

The fit comes up very slightly smaller than your 'premium' brands.

Rate the product for weight:
 
7/10
Rate the product for comfort:
 
8/10

Very comfortable. The slightly 'tough' seams could potentially cause chafing when salt is introduced to the skin over a long ride, but that's yet to be proven.

Rate the product for value:
 
9/10

When measured against performance, these are some of the best value bib shorts I've tested.

How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?

No issues at all - on delicate or even a more robust wash.

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

Brilliantly.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

Leg grippers, chamois, panelling detail in the body of the shorts.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

Internal seams.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes

Would you consider buying the product? Yes

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes

Use this box to explain your score

If what you're after is getting the maximum experience out of the money you spend – look no further. Very good performance, very good price.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 25  Height: 188cm  Weight: 83kg

I usually ride: Specialized Allez Sport  My best bike is:

I've been riding for: Under 5 years  I ride: Most days  I would class myself as: Experienced

I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding

6 comments

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mostly [72 posts] 3 years ago
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Been using these for a while and they are excellent value ( I think they are always 44.99), pad seems to suit me better than the aeron at wiggle. 188 by 72 kg and medium suits me fine.

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Stef Marazzi [421 posts] 3 years ago
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Hurrah! Finally a review. Ive been using them for five months since they came out and found them superb. I'm 5'11 and 90 kilos and XL is spot on.

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Daveyraveygravey [706 posts] 3 years ago
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Bought a pair on the strength of the reviews last night.  Went for XXL as I am 6 foot and 80kg, will post again about sizing when they arrive.

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amazon22 [313 posts] 3 years ago
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I find the body of their bib shorts and bib longs to be a little short - noticeable when standing but tolerable when riding. Compared to Rapha Sky Training/Core they are at least a couple of inches shorter in the body.

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Curly [78 posts] 3 years ago
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I find the same with these bibs, that they are a little short in the body, but Lusso Aero 50 bibshorts fit better and the pad is more comfy for me, and a fiver less plus made in the UK.

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Daveyraveygravey [706 posts] 3 years ago
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They came today, possibly a little big for me but not stupidly so. Will try them on the bike, my Castelli bib tights are a little on the tight side so it will be nice to have a little room for manoeuvre