The Fat Lad At The Back (FLAB) Stealth bib shorts have a timeless, understated design and perform really well, although I'd recommend paying close attention to the sizing chart, as the pair I had on test should – on paper – have fitted me perfectly but were a little loose around the leg.
Materials-wise, they're pretty much what I'd expect in this price bracket. Essentially these boil down to our old friends nylon/polyamide (80%) and elastane (20%). There's a lot more to a garment than raw materials, mind.
The bib section is a perforated mesh designed to encourage speedy moisture-trafficking. They also employ a compression system for additional support and, theoretically, reduced fatigue when the miles rack up. It's a very compliant, tactile middleweight weave that hugs rather than squeezes your contours.
Big, stripy 'Pixel 300' reflective leg grippers add a splash of colour and the safety element seems genuinely effective too. Flat seams are beautifully executed and lay unobtrusively against the skin with no hint of unwanted compression, discomfort or branding.
FLAB's 'Enerdy' pad is another winner as far as I'm concerned. It's described as high-density with variable thickness to provide support and prevent painful chafing. A wicking element and antibacterial components keep things socially acceptable and prevent infection.
Despite the high density tag, it doesn't feel like the proverbial loaf of bread and quickly assumes your shape. I've been blissfully comfortable for several hours at a time, regardless of saddle type – even while breaking in a Brooks Swift.
I did experience some slight gathering around the legs which I attribute more to sizing than materials or quality of construction. It never became uncomfortable but the 'size 5s' are clearly aimed at bigger lads with more prodigious thighs. FLAB does have a helpful guide and enquiries line, so follow these and chances are you'll get it bang on.
Anatomical is one of those phrases that has been hurled around to the point of becoming meaningless, but here the cut and materials are very conducive to natural, unrestricted movement. The bib straps are a particular plus, holding everything in alignment yet being super-compliant, permitting seamless movement from tops to drops and tri bars – or just swooping down to retrieve an ejected mini pump and bottle along unmade roads.
Though primarily intended as a road garment, the shorts perform well off the beaten track too. I've escaped the madding crowd on 'cross and rough stuff tourer alike and the pad has earned its stripes here, while the outer fabric has shrugged at the inevitable brushes with brambles, with no hint of bobbling or similar damage to date.
Fat Lad At The Back makes quite a big fuss about the shorts' wicking prowess and climate control. It's certainly good, but with the temperature rising close to 30 on some outings, even allowing for black's heat-retaining properties I felt notably sweatier around the lower back after 30 minutes' intense climbing/descending than when wearing some white BTwin 700 bibs – consistently so, regardless of jersey type.
To give them their due, the shorts did respond fairly swiftly, getting things down to a misty glow within 15 minutes or so, and it does bode well for autumn/early spring when you can team them up with leg warmers to combat chilly starts or evenings when the temperature can suddenly dip.
As I've said, the Stealths include an anti-bacterial treatment, and despite wearing them for several days – rinsing the pad in between – nothing dodgy occurred. The Stealths also machine wash beautifully at 30 degrees with minimal detergent.
Some minor misgivings aside, the Stealths are really capable, sensibly priced shorts. True, some store brands pack theirs with more sophisticated yarns and a slightly higher spec for less cash, but these are very nicely made and flatter those who love their riding but are, perhaps, carrying a few extra pounds.
High performing, sensibly priced mid-range bib shorts
road.cc test report
Make and model: Fat Lad At The Back Stealth Reflective Bib Shorts
Size tested: 5 - 38/40in
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?
Fat Lad At The Back says: "For the lad who prefers to go undetected, but still enjoys the finer things in life like the open road, the wind in his face, the silky smooth feeling of top quality lycra against his skin, the perfect fit, Italian manufacture, cake.
"We give you Stealth, with just the faintest rumble of Fat Lad At The Back, you are no longer alone, you are one of us. Join us and be proud."
"With a higher spec than our regular Ey Up's, these premium bib shorts have a more anatomical cut and are made from one of the latest Sports Lycra fabrics, giving additional support, durability and compression. We have also added reflective elastic to the leg and removed our famous FLAB branding!"
I'd say they're comfortable mid range bib shorts, but the leg grippers are a little too relaxed for me.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
* Anatomical fit
* Stretch fabric ensures comfort whilst riding
* mesh bib keeps you cool
* Enerdy® our high density foam pad gets great reviews! It gives transitional support and thickness where it is needed and it's antibacterial and wicking so it and you stay dry and comfortable!
* Pixel 300 reflective elastic to legs gives good all round visibility and keeps shorts in place
* Lycra® mesh bib
* Renew® short giving additional support, compression and durability;
* Enerdy® high density foam pad giving transitional support and thickness where it is needed, antibacterial and wicking
* Muscle control
* Outstanding breathability and wicking
Comfort remains high but my thighs were a little slender relative to the shorts, hence the grippers were less effective. That said, this didn't lead to chafing or discomfort. I put this down to sizing – just check with the customer service team before adding to the cart if you're in doubt.
A bit too generous in the thigh for me.
Well made, decent materials, great insert.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Machine washes beautifully at 30 degrees.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Well conceived, stylish and very comfortable bib shorts. The pad is a real winner, allowing me to eat up the miles while breaking in a traditional leather saddle with no hint of blistering, chafing or sores. Anti-bacterial and wicking prowess is similarly dependable. Even though the leg grippers were a little baggy for my thighs, resulting in them creeping up slightly, this wasn't uncomfortable – just looked a touch old school.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Pad, materials, construction and clever use of reflectives.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Nothing in particular – the shorter aesthetic wasn't particularly to my tastes.
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
They're well made and nicely designed – just double check the sizing before purchasing.
About the tester
I usually ride: Rough Stuff Tourer Based around 4130 Univega mtb Frameset My best bike is: 1955 Holdsworth Road Path and several others including cross & traditional road
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking
Shaun Audane is a freelance writer/product tester with over twenty-eight years riding experience, the last twelve (120,000 miles) spent putting bikes and kit through their paces for a variety of publications. Previous generations of his family worked at manufacturing's sharp end, thus Shaun can weld, has a sound understanding of frame building practice and a preference for steel or titanium framesets.
Citing Richard Ballantine and an Au pair as his earliest cycling influences, he is presently writing a cycling book with particular focus upon women, families and disabled audiences (Having been a registered care manager and coached children at Herne Hill Velodrome in earlier careers)