The Howies Leadout bibshorts are part of Howies' new technical cycling range; gear for riding, rather than just looking cool. And they're really pretty good - comfortable, impressively hard-wearing and sensibly priced.
There are a couple of similarly black jerseys in the range, the Slipstream short sleeve and Slipstream long sleeve, to complement the Leadout shorts. Continuing the all-black theme, the Leadout bibs eschew big logos and bright colours for a sober black look. All-black is a fairly standard colour for bibs, however, so it's not that radical here.
The Leadout bib shorts are made with a 'seamless circular knit technology'; seemingly (sorry) a technology that exists primarily in the marketing sphere, as there are still seams here. Not nearly as many as most bibs, it is true, but seams nevertheless. Those seams are flatlocked, so at least they're pretty unobtrusive. The fabric is matt rather than shiny, which I think looks good here.
The pad is a Professional CNB 90 from TMF in Italy, the same supplier used by Adidas and Chapeau in their bibs. It's a good'un. On the first test ride it felt a little on the wide side between the legs, but this didn't bother me again so I think it just needed to soften up. The pad is made of two different foam densities, varying between 4mm and 12mm thick, and has a particularly soft open-cell top layer which feels great against my fairly fussy undercarriage.
I had no noticeable discomfort in road rides of several hours in the Leadout bibs, but the toughest test was the recent Bristol Bikefest mountain bike enduro race. This was an eventful day by any standards, with more than my fair share of crashes and hot temperatures all race. On my final lap I found the bibs as comfortable as the first, even if the rest of me wasn't. Most impressively, they even survived a couple of heavy landings on rocks and dirt without tearing.
The fabric here is a little thicker than traditional Lycra and pretty stretchy, and this perhaps helps them shrug off things that would have left a gaping tear in other bibs. I'd expected them to feel a little warmer, something I noted in the short-sleeve Slipstream jersey, but they were fine.
The seamless weaving allows Howies to do without silicone grippers on the legs. The fabric is tighter for the bottom inch around your thighs which does a great job of holding them in place without grabbing leg hair (for those who don't shave). There is a subtle blue Howies logo at the bottom of the left leg.
At the top, between your shoulder blades, is a pocket for a race radio. You could probably fit your phone in there too, but it would be pretty hard to get it out during a ride, so for most people this is not a terribly useful feature.
Howies say they will soon be launching a women-specific version of this bib.
If you ride long miles, then there are two main things you need from your bibs: a good pad, and for that pad to stay in the right place. Both of these depend to some extent on the shape that you are; what works for one rider might not for another. Here, the the clever fabric engineering does an excellent job and these bibs fitted very well. They're stretchy enough that I suspect they would work for a fairly wide range of shapes too.
Add in a comfortable pad, an impressively rugged construction that shrugs off crashes that would ruin other lycra and an eminently fair price and you've got a real winner.
Comfortable and impressively tough bib shorts at a good price.
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Make and model: Howies Leadout bibshorts
Size tested: Large
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Seamlessly knitted padded bib shorts, with contoured panelling and a second skin fit. Integrated breathable panels minimize the need for seams and helps avoid chaffing, as well as having a high density foam insert which means fewer sore bits on longer rides.
The 2-layer TMF Professional cycle pad is manufactured in Italy with a base construction of 40 density, 4mm thick foam bonded to a shock absorbent 90 density, 8mm foam in higher impact areas. Covered with an elastic open cell surround that moves with your body and an antibacterial finish.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Seamless circular knit design
- TMF® High density foam antibacterial cycle pad
- Integrated breathable panels
- Race radio pocket (in case you turn pro)
- Fast wicking
- Ribbed hem
- Flatlocked stitching
- 96% Polyamide / 4% Elastane
- Made in Portugal
Made using the same clever technique as the jerseys. Good quality fabric, held together with a minimum number of seams. Extra half-star for crashworthiness.
As comfy as any bibs I've used in this price range.
Crash-testing is not a mandatory part of a road.cc review process, but I can confirm that these are tough bibs.
A good quality pad in just the right place. I particularly liked the super-soft top layer combined with variable density/thickness padding.
All things considered, this is a great value bib.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
I got on well with the pad. I was very impressed with its ability to shrug off crashes.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Not a lot. I guess I'd trade that radio pocket for a thinner mesh section on the back, but that's no biggie.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yep
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Age: 35 Height: 6 Weight: 78kg
I usually ride: Boardman CX team for the daily commute My best bike is: Rose Xeon CRS
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb,
Jez spends his days making robots that drive cars but is happiest when on two wheels. His roots are in mountain biking but he spends more time nowadays on the road, occasionally racing but more often just riding.