Sportful's Total Comfort bib shorts offer exactly what the name suggests, total comfort whatever distance you're riding. A thicker pad than the usual provides extra comfort for mile after mile and is housed in a pair of bib shorts that fit perfectly, with a nice level of compression through the legs.
Where the popular pro-team-developed BodyFit bib shorts use a chamois with 13mm of padding, these Total Comfort shorts up the padding quota to 18mm at its thickest. It's a variable thickness pad, though, which helps to ensure that the chunkiness is only slightly perceptible when you pull the shorts on, so they don't feel at all bulky.
The bib shorts themselves are made from a lightweight structured fabric with a reasonable level of compression noticeable around the legs; a feeling of support rather than restriction.
The leg hems are lined with a silicone band that ensures the shorts don’t slide up your legs, and while the hem isn’t quite as wide as some of the very wide hem designs we’ve seen become popular in recent years, they’re very comfortable and free of irritation.
The construction of the shorts is top notch, with flatlock stitching used throughout to ensure no irritation against the skin. Laser-cut bib straps feature silicone print on the shoulders for extra support, and the back panel is a gaping hole to maximise breathability.
Quite simply these shorts cosset you against any discomfort in the saddle even on the longest rides. The thicker padding means extra cushioning when riding over very rough roads, which ramps up the comfort noticeably compared with other regular padded shorts.
I always find Sportful clothing fits me really well, and these are no exception. They're a little snug when you first pull them on, but once in place they're a perfect fit. The Italian company does offer a wide range of sizes so it's worth checking the size guide and maybe trying on a couple of sizes to get the right ones.
To really put them to test, I decided to wear them for a 307km audax (the Heart of England in case you're wondering; it's a superb route and I highly recommend it). That would have been long enough, but an early mechanical necessitated a trip to a nearby friend's house for spares, resulting in a 325km ride. A long day it most certainly was, and a ride where comfort mattered.
Now I must admit this isn't the sort of distance I'm used to riding, but 12 hours of pedalling later, plus another couple sitting in cafes topping up the energy reserves, and I can only conclude that these shorts are awesome.
They really are fantastically comfortable, from the moment I pulled them on at 5.30am to the latter stages of the ride when I would normally have expected to be squirming and willing the finish line to magically appear in front of me.
Not only did the extra padding ensure I was sitting comfortably for the entire ride, but the fabric and construction of the shorts is spot on. The textured and compressive fabric provided a nice supportive feeling without being overly tight, and the elastic hems didn't cause any issues at all.
The only bugbear is the thin and narrow bib straps that, while comfortable when sitting flat across the shoulders, ravel and roll up all too easily when you're pulling them on and off during nature breaks. I prefer the wider bib straps of Sportful's other bib shorts which sit the right way up more easily.
That small niggle didn't affect the comfort though, which, as I've said, is of the highest order. It's also worth adding here that Sportful offers the slightly more expensive Super Total Comfort bib shorts which use the bib straps I prefer, plus a few other changes, but I'm not sure the extra £20 is really worth it.
Overlook that small bugbear and these are extraordinarily comfortable shorts that, in my opinion, justify the price. There are lots of very good bib shorts on the market these days from brands at lots of different price points, but if you've been struggling to find a really comfortable pair for long rides or just want to invest in some that won't disappoint, these are highly recommended.
When comfort matters, these are among the best
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Sportful Total Comfort Bibshort
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product is for
Sportful says, "Precisely engineered to offer exceptional comfort. Designed for those epic all day rides where support and correct fit are essential. Understated styling hides one of our favorite shorts that can complete any outfit but, more importanly can keep you comfortable on virtually any ride."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Technical construction with light suporttve stretch woven fabrics Lightly structured fabric on sides for accelerated moisture transfer
Total Comfort seat pad with up to 18mm of padding
Sleek lay flat laser cut bib strap construction Light silicone printing on bib shoulders for increased support
Clean finished elastic bands with silicone grip and external reflective
4 needle flatlock stiching for comfort and fit
They're not the cheapest, but if you value comfort above all else these are a good investment.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
No problems in a regular wash cycle.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Absolute comfort all of the time.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The thin bib straps aren't uncomfortable but they fold and roll over when you're pulling them on.
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
Despite the small niggle of the thin bib straps, which in the grand scheme of a ride matter little, these are exceptional shorts.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
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: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, mountain biking
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.