The Kalf Club Thermal bib tights are supremely comfortable, nice and warm yet lightweight, and really well constructed. The reflectivity on the calves actually looks good, and the fit was near-perfection for me. They've been my go-to bib tights for the winter, except for near-zero temperatures for which they're not quite warm enough.
- Pros: Fit, comfort, colours, ankle grippers, well-placed reflectivity
- Cons: Sizing a little on the small side, slight firming up after washing and drying
They're cut from a thermal 'Roubaix' fabric (originally designed for skiing for greater insulation and stretch), which is made in Italy and brushed on the inside so they're soft against the skin. The flexibility is really noticeable when you put them on, and even though I found the mediums pretty snug with a compressive fit, they pulled up quite a bit easier than other thermal bib tights I use regularly.
I'm also a big fan of the construction around the ankles and the leg grippers: no annoying straps, just good quality grippers and zips that provide all the security you need without having to worry about whether socks go on first or not.
On the back you'll find some multi-coloured chevrons, which are impressively reflective and very noticeable – I even got a compliment from a fellow cyclist while stopped at a light in central Bristol, who may or may not have had a couple of beers. The jury's out on whether they're essential for safety, but they look good and were shown to work.
I couldn't feel any seams at all on rides with varying levels of speed and elevation, and kind of forgot they were there, which is the mark of a good cycling garment in my book. The fleece-lined middle section zips up to the torso, which provides extra warmth, and has a solid YKK zip. The straps are soft against the skin, with no rubbing or chafing after wearing without a baselayer on numerous long rides.
The understated burgundy colour on the straps and mid-section appears throughout Kalf's range of autumn and winter gear, presumably to reflect the conditions they're made for riding in. The colour washes very well and they're still pretty much as new after a couple of months' heavy use. They did feel a bit firmer and didn't go on quite so easily after washing and drying on a radiator, but this didn't impact on performance.
Kalf says the Roubaix fabric 'is breathable but also has a high thermal rating, keeping out the cold and resisting outside moisture (mist, for example)'. I found them most suitable for winter riding in temperatures between 4 and 10°C, although they'll do a job a few degrees either side. The mesh panels and decent breathability – I never got sweaty – mean they're possibly more adaptable to warmer temperatures than colder, and on a couple of days when the thermometer dropped to freezing and below and the effort level was steady, I did find things a bit cold 'down there' (sorry mum).
I found the water resistance really good, too, and they dry quickly.
The chamois padding is courtesy of Elastic Interface, used by numerous renowned cycling brands including Assos, 7Mesh and Chapeau! to name but three. This Club pad is male-specific, with varying densities to relieve pressure and promote blood flow where you need it. As Kalf says itself: "In other words, it's very comfortable." And based on my experience, whereby I've had no discomfort from the stitching or padding, with plenty of freedom of movement, I've absolutely no reason to disagree.
Available exclusively through Evans in the UK, Kalf's gear isn't cheap but doesn't make you do a double-take either, and £100 is on the lower end of what I'd expect for a garment of this quality. You'll pay a premium compared to the likes of dhb's Classic Thermal bib tights and Caratti's Sport tights (which I've also worn and don't find as comfortable as these) – but they're quite a bit less than similar options from premium brands, such as Gore's Power Thermo Bibtights+ and Rapha's Core Winter bib tights.
Overall, I was very impressed with the Kalfs, and they've been my go-to tights for the winter. There's very little to criticise, the fit and comfort is excellent, and they're worth every bit of the £100 price tag in my opinion.
Supremely comfortable and well-thought-out thermal tights that will see you through most of the winter
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Kalf Club Thermal Men's Bib Tight
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product is for
Kalf says: "These winter tights are cut from an Italian-made thermal Roubaix fabric. Brushed on the inside for a soft and snug feel, the fabric is breathable but also has a high thermal rating, keeping out the cold and resisting outside moisture (mist, for example). The Roubaix fabric has great flexibility while also being compressive, ensuring they will move with your legs and fit comfortably no matter how far you travel.
"The tights are constructed for an articulated fit, meaning seams and panels are positioned to prevent chafing and maximise comfort in motion. The upper bib section is fleece-lined and has a high cut to cover part of the torso and increase insulation. However, there is also a mesh section for ventilation. There are YKK zips at the front and on the ankles, iridescent reflective chevrons on the lower calves for visibility, and silicone grippers at the hem.
"Rather importantly, there is an Italian made, Elastic Interface chamois pad in the most essential of places, stitched carefully into the seat panel for optimum comfort."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Evans lists these details:
Italian thermal Roubaix high thermal rated fabric with high modulus stretch
55% Polyamide, 28% Polyester, 17% Elastine
Articulated cut to prevent chafing
Fleece lined high cut torso coverage with YKK zip for entry
Silicone gripper hem and zipped ankles for entry
Bastogne Men: Italian-made by Elastic Interface, high performance multi density chamois pad
Large Iridescent reflective trim
Ventilated upper bib mesh
Close fitting and, without doubt, the most comfortable bibs I've ever worn. They're really flexible so move with you, and none of the seams are irritating. Kalf's designers have really nailed the ankle zipper and grippers, which can sometimes be a source of irritation. Kalf describes them as having 'a high thermal rating' but I could have done with thicker/warmer tights when the temperature dropped to around freezing.
No colour fades, seam loosening or degradation as far as I can see after two months of heavy use.
A close and athletic fit, and a very good one at that.
A little on the small side, so perhaps size up if you're in between.
On the light side compared with other lightweight thermal tights.
Supremely comfortable: the most comfortable bibs I've used to date.
You'll pay a premium compared to the likes of dhb, Caratti and Altura, but they're quite a bit less than similar options from premium brands. And these are Italian-made.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
The reflective panels are still as effective and colour hasn't faded one bit after numerous washes. I noticed slight shrinkage and firming up of the material after washing, though.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Near-perfectly, although when temperatures drop close to freezing you may want something thicker/warmer.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Fit, aesthetics, comfort, and coverage is good as they zip up to your mid-torso.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Slightly small sizing, material appears to lose a little bit of flexibility after washing.
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 overall score
They're really well made, the fit's great, the comfort superb and they look good. As close to perfection in a bib tight as I've come across.
About the tester
I usually ride: Road bike (currently Specialized Tarmac) My best bike is: Ridley Chronus TT bike
I've been riding for: Under 5 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, triathlon races
After cobbling together a few hundred quid during his student days off the back of a hard winter selling hats (long story), Jack bought his first road bike at the age of 20 and has been hooked ever since. He joined road.cc in 2017 having previously being Staff Writer at 220 Triathlon magazine, and reports on all things tech as well as editing road.cc's live blog. He is also the news editor of our electric-powered sister site eBikeTips. Jack's preferred events are time trials, sportives, triathlons and pogo sticking (the latter being another long story), and on Sunday afternoons he can often be found on an M5 service station indulging in his favourite post-race meal of 20 chicken nuggets, a sausage roll, caramel shortbread and a large strawberry milkshake.