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Specialized's SL Pro Bib Shorts are up there with the most comfortable bibs I've ever worn. They feel great and feature top-notch construction. Well worth every penny of their top-shelf £140 price tag.
I have a history of disagreement with bib shorts. More often than not there's something amiss – strap length, leg length, pad placement – that makes this most critical of cycling apparel fit borderline-penury after a few hours aboard. So when a pair of bibs arrive that are perfect in every way – for me – the act of review becomes one of repeated eager anticipation rather than dread. This was my experience with the Specialized SL Pros.
As with the matching top-end SL Pro jersey, Specialized does the SL Pro bib shorts in a 'Tall' option for Small, Medium and Large. With no 'Tall' body dimension guide it's very much up to you to try on the options: Specialized says 'Tall sizing offered with additional inseam and bib strap length for larger riders'.
Starting at the bottom, the generous leg grippers with their silicone treatment stayed firmly in place. The length on my 6ft frame was between mid-thigh and top of the knee – perfect, as I don't like 'short' shorts.
The flatlock-stitched thigh and lower back panels fitted perfectly, the UV50-rated material in red being ever so slightly translucent so baselayers were visible underneath, but not modesty-defeating. Small reflective tabs are sewn into the rear of each thigh, and the lower back and bibstrap material is mesh for cooling/wicking.
The bibs are supportive, with welded folded seams and a large cutout in the back to aid cooling. The front dips reasonably low to aid meeting calls of nature.
The Body Geometry SL Pro Chamois features 'multi-density padding to strategically reduce pressure on soft tissue and nerves, leaving you comfortable for long stretches in the saddle'. What I found was, after hours in and out of the saddle, the pad felt sublime. No movement, no bunching, no pinching. No feeling of anything other than support, just where it's needed.
On a warm, muggy multi-hour redline training session, the SL Pro bibs let me get on with the suffering, the leg grippers staying put and I didn't once feel the need to get out of the saddle and adjust the pad.
This no-care experience was repeated on more relaxed rides of varying lengths and temperatures – I just could not fault the performance or fit of these bibs. Which makes for a short review, but hey – if they work perfectly across a range of rides, what more can you say? The rather in-your-face branding might put off some folks, but you'd be missing a potentially great fit and riding experience.
Simply brilliant bib shorts, even at their top-shelf price
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Specialized SL Pro 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?
Specialized says: We're not afraid to say that, when it comes to performance and comfort, our SL Pro Bib Shorts stack among the best in the business. They use the best available fabrics, a highly advanced chamois, and feature a level of fit that's second to none.
"Keeping with this no-expenses-spared theme, we scrutinized every detail of the SL Pro to ensure that it'll exceed the most demanding of expectations. And when it comes to high quality bib shorts, it all starts at the fabric. Of course, this meant that we utilized our ultra-soft and highly breathable VaporRize™ materials to provide the utmost in moisture management and support. In addition to this, we also implemented our Cold Fabric technology that reduces the surface temperature of the fabric, as well as a vent channel on the lower back that assists in increasing ventilation while also decreasing perspiration.
"Meanwhile, the fit has also been given a tremendous amount of detail. You'll find that it follows an articulated design in order to accommodate the movements and position of cycling. And to make sure that the fit holds, we designed the leg openings around a silicone infused fabric cuff that gently, yet firmly, holds the legs in place. Not only that, but the bib uppers feature a welded construction that's free from seams in order to eliminate unwanted friction, while also strongly holding the braces in place.
"At the chamois, we included a top of the line insert, the Body Geometry SL Pro. This chamois has padding with a multi-density design that varies the degree of support in perfect harmony with the body. And as a result, you'll find that it significantly reduces pressure on the soft tissue and nerves, creating a ride feel and degree of comfort that's nothing short of sublime."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
VaporRize™ knit fabrics are soft, lightweight, and highly breathable, with an equal emphasis placed on moisture management in order to increase your comfort on long rides at high effort
Cold Fabric technology reduces surface temperatures on dark coloured fabrics to keep you cool without sacrificing style
Welded bib upper construction reduces the need for seams in order to reduce friction and dial-in the fit, while a centre back vent channel prevents moisture build-up at one of the most problematic points of perspiration
Articulated design ensures the perfect fit while in the riding position
Silicone infused fabric cuff provides a gently, secure hold on the legs in order to ensure the perfect, shift-free fit
Body Geometry SL Pro Chamois features multi-density padding to strategically reduce pressure on soft tissue and nerves, leaving you comfortable for long stretches in the saddle
Reflective elements increase your visibility to motorists in low-light conditions
Deflect® UV 50+ protects your skin from harmful, ultraviolet rays
10.5" inseam (size Medium)
Excellent – flatlocked seams and amazing leg grippers.
Can't fault them.
Over two months they have washed up perfectly.
Amazingly good for me.
My hip at 94cm says upper-Small, my 84cm waist says beginning of Large. But Medium was perfect.
Light. Not an issue.
Sublime. Can't fault them.
Not cheap at £140 RRP, but I'd say you're getting good value for money.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Washed up just fine.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Perfect. So comfortable, going hard-out or cruising.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The fit. The pad. The legs.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Only the branding, really. Bit shouty.
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
The branding is a bit shouty for my taste, but otherwise there's little to fault here. They're nigh-on perfect for me.
About the tester
I usually ride: Merida Ride 5000 Disc My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo-cross, club rides, general fitness riding, mountain biking, Dutch bike pootling