The 'new and improved' Primal Icon Helix 2.0 Bibs are a step up and in the right direction for the American brand. The main upgrades to the leg bands and chamois stitching make for a comfortable fit, even over long summer rides.
The Helix bibs are at Primal's upper end, a little below its top end QX5s, but come in at a slightly questionable £135. At that sort of price, they are competing with the likes of Castelli's Free Aero Race Bibshorts and Sportful's Total Comfort Bibshorts, and I'm not wholly convinced they do enough to justify it.
Let's start with the fit. They size up a touch bigger than you might expect: I was testing a pair of XS which were perfect, when usually I'd be in a pair of smalls to fit my stick legs. Having said that, overall fabric comfort and mobility was brilliant. As with the matching Helix jersey (review to come), it is a tight 'Pro Tour Fit', but not overly so.
The multi fabric design, with the thicker Vero material around the legs and the thinner Z92 gridded patch at the small of your back, offers plenty of flexibility when both in and out of the saddle. The Vero material is certainly a little warmer, but not overly so even in the heat. Primal claims it allows 'top-notch compression and abrasion resistance' which I would agree with.
The fabrics are quick wicking and the Z92 patch helps to reduce the ever-present lower back sweat patch. This same material appears around the cuffs of the shorts, although not in the same gridded pattern. This is where the new 'Laser Cut FlexPro Leg Band' shows its strength with a strong yet comfortable grip, without pulling on your bulging thighs.
The Promesh bib straps sit comfortably, with plenty of stretch to allow free upper body movement. One negative comes from the relatively thick edge seams; although not uncomfortable, they protrude noticeably through a tight top like the matching Helix jersey. Having said that, the flatlock stitching elsewhere between the various fabric panels is very tidy, with barely a loose thread to be seen.
My main complaint is the size of the HX8 Carbon Chamois, though this is a personal thing and it might suit you perfectly. In fairness, it is comfortable with its varied levels of thickness around critical areas and seamless design, but for me it's just too large.
Going back to our review of the Primal Helix in 2013, it would appear the same problem was evident then too. The size and width of the chamois at the rear is big and means it doesn't mould terribly well to form. Only once, ridden over a period of weeks, did I find the chamois softened up a little and was more manageable. Even so it just seemed like plenty of unnecessary excess padding that sits away from the contact areas.
That said, I had no issues of soreness even after some long rides and in changeable weather, so the antibacterial and antimicrobial nature of the fabric seems up to the job.
In essence, there's a lot to like about these shorts, especially if you get on with the oversized chamois, though they're a bit overpriced in my opinion. Maybe that's down to a tight bum and a tight wallet. The asymmetric design is nicely understated, especially when compared to Primal's jersey designs, and the quality of finish is excellent. Maybe the Helix 3.0 can hit the mark?
A tight fitting and well made pair of shorts that do the job but at a high price and with a chamois you might find too large
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Primal Icon Mens Helix 2.0 Bib Shorts
Size tested: XS
Tell us what the product is for
Primal says, "New and improved, the Primal Helix 2.0 still features the HX8 Carbon Italian chamois, designed to form to the body, provide superior comfort, prevent abrasion, and promote blood flow, but with the additional advantage of a laser cut silicone leg band that grips your thigh."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
* Flatlock Stitching
* HX8 Carbon Chamois
* Laser Cut FlexPro Leg Band
* Pro Tour Fit
* Promesh Bib Upper
* Vero Fabric
* Z92 Fabric at Cuff
Extremely well made, with no signs of loose threads or any damage even after a month of use. Very impressed.
The performance is great, allowing full range of movement without discomfort. The only negative is the size of the chamois for me; it's a bit big. I wouldn't call it uncomfortable, just not as comfortable as others.
All is well so far after testing. No signs of damage or wear.
The fit of the fabric is great, tight but not overly so. The chamois didn't really fit me that well, but might suit you perfectly.
Size up a little larger than you might expect. I tested an XS, when usually I'd be a S, so worth checking the sizing chart for this one!
Not the lightest on the market but still very good and felt light when on, which is the important thing. The thicker material around the legs is likely the downfall, but that helped to keep certain areas a little less breezy.
Overall comfort was very good, even with the oversized chamois and even on long rides. I had no issues with leg band pulling or any problems with the fabric.
A pair of bib shorts for £135 isn't cheap, but I guess it's not completely outrageous. There's lots of choice out there for less though.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
No problems there.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
The Helix bib shorts are comfortable and allow full movement, which is what you need.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The lazer-cut leg bands were excellent and didn't pull – even on my hairy 'cross legs! I'm a fan of the simple design too, not trying to do too much with it, so they can be worn with other jerseys.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
....can you guess yet? The chamois for me was just too big, and although not 'uncomfortable' per se, was definitely noticeable.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? If the price came down.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, with a couple of caveats.
Use this box to explain your overall score
Although there were a number of very good points like the construction and fabric comfort, they're a bit pricey and even though it's subjective I wonder whether the pad size needs addressing; overall I'd say they're a strong 7.
About the tester
I usually ride: Giant TCX My best bike is: Scott CR1 Pro
I've been riding for: 5-10 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives