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For true martyrs to saddle discomfort, the combination of Orro's Bibshorts and GreenLime's Unico pad may be the answer to your prayers.
Sixty miles into this year's Cyclone event from Newcastle, I got talking to a fellow competitor. 'All that research and development that's gone into bib shorts,' he mused, 'and my bum still hurts!' Well, if you're reading this, temporary friend, I may have a ray of hope for you.
Orro is known for its high-end, British-built bikes but the company also does a small range of clothing and accessories. The economically named 'Orro Bibshorts' are one such garment, and are in fact the only pair it does, which is simple for everyone. And by golly, it's a blinder.
My word, I've suffered over the years. On any ride over 30 miles, if I haven't got something right, either in bike position, nutrition or perhaps the fact that I'm completely average in all respects, it's my bum that lets me know about it first. To describe it as numbness would be to overlook the fact that it includes numbness's antithesis: acute pain. Many a bib short has come and gone, and while many pads look the part it's a rare one that earns praise from me.
Italian company YBC GreenLime produces two pad ranges in its Croatian factory: the Nudo (and women's equivalent Nuda) and the Unico (Unica) which Orro has chosen for these shorts. This incorporates two foam layers of different densities: a softer layer (50kg/m3) under the top fabric, and a higher-density layer underneath (80kg/m3 – the lowest density of three higher-density layers that the Unico is available with).
As soon as I sat in the saddle I knew this was something special. (I'm really looking forward to trying some shorts with the 120kg foam lower layer!)
Hidden away, there's also a perforated backing cover for breathability. The top fabric is called Respiro, unsurprisingly aimed at better ventilation, though GreenLime produces five other top-layer fabrics for different applications.
There's plenty of high-tech stuff on GreenLime's website if you want to know more. This review isn't just about the pad, though. The Orro Bibshorts are fashioned in the main from something that resembles upmarket J-cloth fabric, which it calls 'Boost'. It has excellent stretch in all directions and achieves the trick of being both lightweight and warm, as well as allowing plenty of airflow and moisture transfer. I've worn them in a variety of conditions from hot summer to cold autumn rain (with kneewarmers) and they've been up to it all.
Orro reckons the compression effect of the fabric is 'good for circulation and muscle performance, whilst reducing recovery time'. This is difficult for me to test scientifically. Anecdotally, the legs were feeling fresher for longer, which could equally be down to the general good design and fit of the shorts and pad.
Over the shoulders, the waffle-like fabric on the front of the straps and the semi-mesh back panel are stretchy and comfortable.
The leg grippers are 7cm deep, only stretching width-wise, and are backed with a fine rubberised web that grips well without irritating. They are attached with flatlocked seams to the other panels. I have complained in the past about garments lacking flatlocked seams, but there are hardly any in these shorts and, honestly, I couldn't tell the difference, so I'm going to shut up about this, I promise.
In terms of value, £110 isn't to be sneezed at, but it's pretty much mid-market when you can pay way beyond £150. The Nalini AHS Marmottes reviewed well and are the same price, but we also liked the Alé Corsas, which offer similar weight, comfort and compression for £65. Mike also raved about the Lusso Carbon bibs at £89.99.
Price is the main thing holding these back from scoring full marks – it's hard to see how they could be improved upon – but in performance terms they deserve a 10. And if Orro were to produce them with the even thicker Unico pad I'd probably give them 11...
Long-distance comfort for the tenderest of posteriors
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Orro Bibshorts
Size tested: Large
Tell us what the product is for
From the Orro website: "The Orro Bibshorts perfectly fuse style and function. The semi-perforated Boost lycra is designed to provide moderate compression and outstanding breathability. This combination helps improve blood flow and muscle performance whilst reducing recovery time. They are adorned with two gold reflective logos that improve low light visibility and, more importantly, give a luxurious finish. To complement the elegant exterior, an equally special pad is needed. The Unico pad from GreenLime uses state of the art foam shaping technology to create a pad that provides amazing comfort and whilst producing less waste. It is then covered in a highly breathable Respiro fabric to ensure long lasting comfort."
There are some bold, and not easily tested claims about the benefits of compression in there, but that aside there's no doubt that Orro has produced a very comfortable pair of bib shorts and the pad is great.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Main Body - Boost Fabric (80% Polyamide, 20% Elastane, 210gsm)
Semi-perforated compression fabric for maximum performance and breathability
Level 5 pilling resistance
Multi-structure bib straps for reduced pressure points
2 gold reflective logos
Designed in Britain label detail
Unico Respiro Pad by GreenLime
Respiro high breathability layer
Medium density comfort foam layer (50kg/m2)
High density performance foam layer (80kg/m2)
Perforated backing to decrease friction without affecting breathability
Elastic mesh cup helps regular blood flow and airflow to improve comfort
In 5 sizes
All the stitching and overstitching is strong. None of the seams are flatstitched (with the exception of the shoulder strap junction) but that doesn't seem to impact on comfort one bit.
Really nice in use; very comfortabe throughout, close but not too tight fitting and good on both warm and cooler days.
A few weeks' use is hardly a stern test of durability but they've given no cause for concern and I haven't been able to pop any stitching by stretching them for "pit stops".
I'm tall and still quite slim for an old gadgy, and these were spot-on for me.
Looking at Orro's size chart I would probably have opted for a medium (32-34 inches) but the Large test pair were perfect, so if like me you are tall, you may want to size up. There are five sizes available.
Pretty typical for shorts at this price point.
"Invisible" against the skin throughout; the wide leg grippers do an excellent job and the pad is really good.
I don't find many bibs that I'm happy to wear over longer distances so I'm happy to recommend these, especially to people who struggle to find comfortable pads.
What price can you put on a pair of shorts that are comfortable, fit well and perform well? As it happens, at £109.99 these are right in the mid-bracket and represent fair value, though there are cheaper ones that have rated highly.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
They seem rugged for their weight and the aerated fabric didn't seem to mind a bit of contact with rogue bits of Velcro.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Setting aside claims about blood flow and muscle performance, there's no doubt a really well-fitting pair of shorts is a huge boost to your performance over a long ride, and that's what these did.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Great fit and comfort, good looks and an excellent pad.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
At the same price point you might like to look at the Nalini AHS Marmotte shorts. We also liked the Alé Corsas at £65, and the Lusso Carbon bibs at £89.99.
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
I thought about how these could be improved and couldn't really come up with much. They could be cheaper, maybe lighter... but other than that, they're pretty near-perfect for me, so I'm giving them a 9.
About the tester
I usually ride: Cannondale CAAD10 My best bike is: Tomassini Prestige
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: touring, sportives, general fitness riding, mountain biking