Bontrager's Circuit Bib Shorts seem to tick all the boxes on paper, but in reality they just lack any real sparkle for the money. Those with 'sprinters' thighs' will struggle for room too.
Over the years that I've been doing this job it's noticeable how much better the clothing has become at all price points. There are brands that are nailing the entry-level market with awesome products at great value, while you've got the top end stuff which can make your eyes water, purely on price, though, as the fit and comfort is often second to none. The Bontrager Circuits don't really fit in either of those two markers, and don't stand out in other respects either.
Someone once said to me, 'Always start with a positive.' It's a struggle to be honest, the Circuits aren't a bad pair of shorts, they just aren't really shouting out anywhere.
They do feel well made, certainly. They seem a durable pair of shorts with the majority of the stitching looking very robust, although even here there are a lot of stray threads left over at the end of the run where the finishing is a bit rough. Not really what you'd expect from a pair of 70 quid shorts.
Bontrager claims the Circuits are designed 'for rides of varying length and intensity', but while they are all right for those short, sharp blasts of an hour or so, when your weight is on the pedals rather than the saddle, anything longer and you start to find the pad is bulky. It's quite comfortable but a little too soft, which means on those long, steady rides you start to find bunching and discomfort. They aren't the worst shorts I've ever worn but they aren't the ones I'd reach for first out of the wardrobe.
The shorts themselves are made up of many different panels, which allows them to move with you as you ride. The outside of the thighs uses a mesh material which gives a little extra room for movement, but unfortunately that's overturned by the leg grippers. They are tight for anyone who doesn't have average sized thighs. In fact my upper leg looked like a joint of meat with the string wrapped around it ready for roasting.
The longer I rode, the more noticeable this became. Everywhere else the fit was fine, so it wasn't like the Bontragers were too small or anything.
Pretty average shorts for the money that don't really cater for cyclists' large thighs
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Bontrager Circuit Bib Short
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?
Bontrager says: "Graduate to the faster group ride. Ultra-breathable mesh straps and a molded dual-density chamois combine with a strong design aesthetic in the Circuit Bib Short to deliver stylish all-purpose performance.
"Mixing sensible features, top-level comfort and a bold style, the Circuit Bib Short delivers practical performance for rides of varying length and intensity."
I found the Circuit shorts okay for short rides and they work best if you've got slim thighs.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Stratus inForm BioDynamic Chamois - OverEasy constructed dual-density foam pad
Profila Power main materials with Profila Cool mesh bib back
Clean cut compression leg gripper
Reflective elements enhance visibility for maximum safety
9" (23cm) inseam
Fitted cut provides streamlined body fit for enhanced performance
Quite a few thread ends left poking out, which gives an untidy finish for a £70 pair of shorts. On the whole, though, they look well stitched and put together.
A pretty average feel, nothing to detract but nothing really excels either.
They've stood up well to testing.
Very restrictive grippers on the thighs, which doesn't seem very well designed for cyclists' legs.
Other than the leg circumference they fit fine.
200g is about the norm for this price range.
Restrictive thighs, but an okay chamois.
Compared to the excellent dhb Aeron or BTwin Aerofit they are left wanting.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
A 30-degree wash, as with most, and they clean up easily.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
The Bontragers are pretty average in terms of comfort, fit and performance considering their price.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
They seem well made.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Really restrictive leg circumference.
Did you enjoy using the product? No
Would you consider buying the product? No
Would you recommend the product to a friend? No
Use this box to explain your score
The Bontrager Circuits aren't a bad pair of shorts, but they just aren't anything special when you take into account their price. The narrow legs are a big concern for anyone with large thighs, and there is nothing about them that makes you go 'wow'. There are better shorts for this price or less, if you check out our reviews.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: Mason Definition
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: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed
Stu knocked out his first road.cc review back in 2009 and since then he's chucked the best part of seventy test bikes around the West Country, a couple of them quite literally! With three alloy and two steel bikes in his fleet he's definitely a metal man (that'll be the engineering background) but is slowly warming to that modern carbon fibre stuff along with fat tyres & disc brakes.
It's not all nostalgia though, after spending the last few years in product design Stu keeps banging on about how 3D printing is going to be the next big thing and he's a sucker for a beautiful paint job too.