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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
When value for money trumps premium options, these could very well be the bib shorts for you
If you're thinking of buying this product using a cashback deal why not use the road.cc Top Cashback page and get some top cashback while helping to support your favourite independent cycling website
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.
Built well, these bibs will handle most conditions you could throw at them.
I'm super impressed by these, overall. All the ingredients come together for a very strong whole.
Without exaggerating, I think the fit is on a par with some of the best out there.
The fit comes up very slightly smaller than your 'premium' brands.
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.
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
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
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.
About the tester
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