The Ashmei Men's Cycle Bib Shorts are very well thought-out and superbly executed, but there's no getting away from the high price.
The Ashmei clothes that we've seen and reviewed on road.cc are about as far from 'me too' products as it's possible to be. The brand seems to examine every detail. Hence, these shorts are made from a densely woven polyamide/elastane fabric that feels quite different from that of any other shorts I've used.
It's quite rustly when you touch it and you wonder if it'll feel strange next to your skin, but that's not the case at all. Once on, it just feels normal and you don't give it a second thought. The fabric uses microfibres that do a great job of shifting moisture away from your body to keep you comfortable when working hard. Although the bib section can retain some dampness, I've never managed to get the lower section even slightly overloaded with sweat, even when doing intervals in warm weather.
The fabric is woven rather than knitted and Ashmei says this allows it to increase the stretch content. These shorts are indeed very stretchy, providing a slight compressive effect that loosens slightly after a couple of rides. I found the fit just the right side of tight — lightly squeezing but not restrictive.
The most interesting feature, though, is that the fabric is water resistant. Water can work through, particularly if it gets caught in a creased area of material around your hips, but it mostly just beads up and rolls off, as does spray from the road. Even if you're caught out in very heavy rain, the shorts don't retain the moisture but dry out spookily fast. It really is surprising.
Ashmei boasts, "When completely submerged in water for five minutes [this woven fabric] absorbs minimal water... compared to an increase of 180% in the weight of a traditional 'high performance' knitted Lycra fabric."
You can soak these, give them a shake, and the lower section is immediately all but dry.
The water resistance is down to the density of the weave rather than a DWR (durable water repellent) finish, so it's not going to disappear after a few washes, it's there for ever. That density also makes the fabric fairly wind resistant. Air can get in, but not as much as it does in a pair of standard Lycra shorts. I guess whether that's a good thing or not depends on whether you want to keep your quads warm or you'd prefer a bit of extra cooling.
Rather than being sewn, the shorts are ultrasonic welded. This minimises bulk and there's no way those joins are ever going to come undone.
The ends of the legs are raw edged with no grippers inside. I was concerned they'd ride up in use but I didn't find that happening because of the compressive fit.
Rather than speccing an off-the-shelf seatpad, Ashmei has developed its own. This is far less bulky than most other pads, with cutaway sections where the cushioning isn't needed.
The pad is made from foam rather than sponge so it doesn't absorb moisture. The idea is that you don't get that cold, clammy feeling when you stop. The face fabric can get damp with sweat but it dries fast because there's no moisture retained in the pad itself, so that mid-ride or post-ride coffee is a comfortable enough experience.
The pad is bonded to the shorts, reducing the potential for chafing. Like the seams, it looks like it's there for the long haul.
The one area of these shorts that I wouldn't say is particularly special is the bib. The straps use a laser cut ventilation mesh fabric (polyamide/elastane) but to my mind they perform no better or worse than many others out there. A small merino section at the top of each one is a nod to Ashmei's love affair with wool but it doesn't offer any practical benefit.
Ashmei also makes women's shorts — imaginatively named the Women's Cycle Bib Shorts — priced at £195.
Exceptionally good shorts with wind and water resistance and a really good pad but — eek! — they're expensive
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Ashmei Men's Cycle Bib Shorts
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?
These are very high-end bike shorts aimed at sports cyclists.
Here's Ashmei's full write-up:
"Our philosophy at ashmei is to launch product that completely outperforms the current 'Best product' on the market. When we started the development of our cycle bib shorts we knew we had to come up with something really special. We knew we could improve on the very best, but had to approach the design process from a new angle.
"The first thing we looked at was the fabric. We wanted to produce a bib that was ultra lightweight, had a very tight weave to provide a level of wind resistance and had a huge amount of elastic recovery to provide consistent compression. Traditional knitted spandex fabrics were not suitable so we started to test high density woven stretch fabrics and ended up with a fabric that has far great elastic recovery. This woven fabric is water resistant and when completely submerged in water for 5 minutes absorbs minimal water or increase in weight compared to an increase of 180% in weight a traditional 'high performance' knitted lycra fabric obtained. This means that if you do get caught in a shower when riding, your bibs will remain dryer and lighter for longer and even when wet they will dry so much faster, keeping you warm and comfortable.
"We then started to look at the chamois and found that all of the chamois on the market followed a similar route of layering contoured sponge and covering them in a soft touch material. While these can be comfy on the bike, they are all pretty big and absorb moisture that makes them feel like you are wearing cold nappy after your ride. We started to look at alternatives to sponge and found that foam provided fantastic padding without absorbing moisture. Our chamois is bonded to the shorts and we only place the laser cut foam where it is needed, providing you with supreme comfort when you are on the bike but eliminating the cold nappy when you finish your ride, allowing you to enjoy your cappuccino in complete comfort.
"Our cycle bib shorts are tailored to fit when you are on the bike and because the fabric has so much more stretch than traditional knitted bibs we have eliminated the ultra tight sticky band around the leg hem that never feels comfortable. Our bibs are simply finished with a laser cut edge, so they feel ultra comfortable and never ride up.
"We have constructed our bib shorts without traditional stitching. Our cycle bib shorts are ultra sonic welded which means the seams are very strong and completely flat, providing a smooth aero finish and eliminating chaffing.
"We have included a double layer of our beloved brushed merino on the top of the shoulder straps for increased comfort and the straps use a laser cut ventilation mesh fabric that helps keep you cool.
"If you're the type of rider that never compromises on performance, our cycle bib shorts are for you."
With a very good fabric, ultra sonic welded seams and a bespoke seat pad, the construction is exceptionally good.
The level of performance is remarkable. You get loads of comfort, good wind and water resistance, and very good sweat transfer.
The ultra sonic welded seams are never going to come apart in a million years and the same goes for the seat pad.
The shorts initially feel tighter than most but they loosen a touch after a couple of rides.
It's not that the lightweight fabric will make you go any faster, but the fact that it's so lightweight makes for exceptional comfort.
Well, this is the tricky one! You've got the line of thought: "£235 for a pair of shorts? You must nuts etc, etc."
You could buy two pair of dhb Aeron Rain Defence bib shorts for the price of these, for example, and still have £65 left over.
On the other hand, Ashmei uses a very unusual fabric, includes a bespoke pad, offers a very high build quality... None of that comes cheap.
These shorts are a bit special, it just depends whether you're willing/able to spend this much for a top-end performance.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
You're supposed to hand wash after the first use, then use a cool machine wash after that. I didn't notice the hand wash bit of the instructions until much further down the line, and they've been absolutely fine. They're as easy to care for as any other shorts.
The ultra sonic welded seams look as sturdy now as they did to start with. There's no way they're ever going to come apart.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
The level of performance is very high. These are exceptionally good shorts.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The water resistance and the non-bulky seat pad.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Simple: the price.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? I'd consider it, but the chance of me spending this much on a pair of shorts is minimal.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Sure, if they had enough money.
Use this box to explain your score
If you average up the scores above, the overall would be closer to 8 than 9 - but we don't do it like that.
The overall score of 9 recognises the thought and innovation that has gone into producing an exceptional pair of shorts. The price is, um, tricky in that it puts these shorts out of reach for the majority of us, but if you fancy treating yourself you won't be disappointed.
About the tester
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: commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding,
Mat has worked for loads of bike magazines over 20+ years, and been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. He's been road.cc technical editor for eight 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. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a past winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer.