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The 7mesh RK1 Bib Short is an 'elite performance, second skin road cycling short' according to its creators. A couple of hundred quid is a big investment for a piece of clothing, but wow! – these are extremely comfortable, excellently tailored bib shorts.
When it comes to comfort on a bike, you really can't ignore how much a pair of bib shorts can really make or break a ride. A poor pad choice or a seam in the wrong place can literally end in tears.
You can get a really good pair of shorts for around a third of the price of the RK1s, though, so what makes them stand out? Well, it's a little bit of everything, to be honest. Little details here and there that just put them at the next level.
The fabric used in the main body of the shorts is a blend of nylon (66%) and quite a high level of elastane at 34%. This gives the RK1s a compressive nature which, according to some studies, can promote blood flow while exercising.
Whether that's true or not, the way the fabric clings to your legs as you move through the pedal stroke means there's no rucking up of fabric anywhere or unwanted movement at the leg grippers or anywhere else. They really do deliver that second skin fit that 7mesh alludes to.
Of course it's not just the fabric that does this, the multi-panel cut has huge importance too.
7mesh has really gone to town here with the number of sections that make these shorts fit and work so well when on the bike, especially when it comes to performance riding. This does create extra seams but 7mesh has placed them well, keeping them all out of the way so that they never cause irritation.
The material is also very smooth and soft which feels great against the skin, and thanks to the compressive nature of the fabric there is no need for large leg grippers to keep everything in place – a few silicone dots are applied to the bottom of the legs and that's it, job done.
The key component to any bib shorts is the pad and 7mesh has got this bang on. The Performance Force chamois has been developed with Elastic Interface, one of the big players in the market.
I've noticed a switch in pad design over the last few years, where lots of the differing densities of foam and channels here, there and everywhere have been disappearing. 7mesh has gone down this route too: on initial inspection it's a simple foam pad that tapers in thickness out towards the edge rather than stepping down in size in different places around the pad. There is a central channel to remove pressure, but also the pad is actually quite short, as in the front section is missing.
This has been done to aid breathability, but I also found that it works well when hammering along in a low-slung position. Being similar in length to some of the new short stubby saddles on the market, when you are in the drops really whacking the power out there is no pad to bunch up at the front.
The straps are made from a fine mesh and once again it is really soft, which makes them very comfortable. There is a bit of stretch in the fabric that keeps them in position, but you won't get any pressure points at all.
When it comes to build quality, I really can't fault the RK1s. All of the stitching is immaculate throughout, and the material looks to be robust and durable too.
After six weeks of riding around in them there is no sign of wear from being in contact with the saddle, which is impressive for such a lightweight fabric. Some can bobble or scuff around the pad area on account of the friction from the pedal movement.
When it comes to pricing the RK1s aren't alone at the £200 point. This time last year I was pretty impressed with the Scicon X-Over Bib Shorts which cost a cool £219. Like the 7mesh, the fit was great, as was the pad, but for me the RK1s definitely have the edge when it comes to the how good the fabric feels against the skin.
Some of the best shorts I have ever worn are the Pearl Izumi Pros. Again, the fabric is soft and feels great when you are wearing the shorts. They were priced at £189.99, so a little cheaper than the RK1s but not by much.
By looking through our bib shorts review section you'll see that you can get some excellent shorts at pretty much any price point, but there are always some that just seem to deliver that little bit extra for the money. That's what 7mesh has achieved with its RX1 bib shorts: it's really focused on the details, which makes them pretty close to perfection.
A big outlay but the performance and attention to detail mean they're worth it
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road.cc test report
Make and model: 7mesh RK1 Bib Short
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product is for
7mesh says, "The RK1 Bib Short is an elite performance, second skin road cycling short, built for speed and endurance in hot conditions."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Body: 66% nylon, 34% elastane
Bib Straps: 77% nylon, 23% elastane
Chamois: Elastic Interface Mens Performance Force (Made with recycled content)
Mens Performance Force chamois with front cut out for breathability
Clean Finish Construction
Single seam, open mesh bib strap construction
Clean cut hem with silicon gripper
Inseam - 10' / 25.5cm
7mesh's sizing guide is spot on.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
7mesh advises a 30 degree wash; following this has seen no issues with getting them clean.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
A brilliantly fitting and performing pair of shorts for those who like to ride hard and fast.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Excellent fabric and pad choices.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
I didn't actually dislike anything, but for some the price will be a barrier.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
You can spend a lot less on some excellent bib shorts but the RK1s really deliver on the details that are needed to justify this sort of money. I prefer the fabric to that used on the more expensive Scicons, and they match the performance of the similarly priced and also brilliant Pearl Izumis.
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
Quite simply an all-round awesome pair of bib shorts that excel in comfort, fit and performance. Their durability means you won't have to save them for best days only, either. If you can justify the price, then go for it.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,
As part of the Tech Hub here at F-At Digital, our senior product reviewer Stu uses the knowledge gained from putting well over a 1,000 products through their paces (including hundreds of bikes) to write in-depth reviews of a huge range of kit. After first throwing his leg over a race bike back in 2000, Stu's ridden more than 160,000 miles on road, time-trial, track, and gravel bikes, and while he's put his racing days behind him he still likes to smash the pedals rather than take things easy. Although, as he spends a fair bit of his time reviewing ebikes these days he's becoming an expert in letting the motor take the strain. He's also waiting for 23mm race tyres to make a comeback!