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The dhb Aeron Lab XC Bib Shorts are perfect for riders who want a lightweight and performance-orientated pair of bibs that are also resilient for riding off the beaten track. I've found that the Dyneema panels on each leg are not only better at fending off brambles than standard Lycra, but are also breathable enough for summer riding and don't detract from the comfort of the shorts.
At 168g the XC shorts are certainly light, but don't let this fool you into thinking that they're fragile. On both legs a Dyneema fabric has been used which, at first touch, feels a bit like a waterproof liner; it is in fact quite a bit more complex than that and is both far more breathable and far more stretchy than I would have anticipated a material of this durability could ever be.
So, does it work? Having ridden around in these for a little over month on a mix of mountain bike, cyclocross and gravel rides, it would seem the overgrown August trails are no match for the shorts which are still in pristine condition. Normally by now I've snagged the thighs of Lycra bibs on brambles and other overhanging foliage, so it would seem the Dyneema is functionally sound.
dhb also claims that the Dyneema panels help the shorts to have 'remarkable crash protection' although I fortunately I haven't got firsthand experience of this. I have, however, had my fair share of crashes, and what I tend to find happens is a big scuff down the side of the leg and sometimes a hole where the hip bone is. On the Aeron Lab XC shorts the Dyneema panels wrap a generous way around the sides of the legs, which should help to prevent this scuffing, but on me at least the panels do not cover my hip bones, instead it's 'standard' Lycra in this area which has limited crash protection properties.
What this does mean is that mobility in the shorts is excellent. In a blind test I can honestly say I don't think I'd notice the panels are there at all. Despite being 'rustly' to touch, out on the trails the shorts are silent – unless of course something drags across them, at which point you can be confident they're doing their job.
Silicone grippers around the bottom of the seamless hems keep the shorts in position and comfortable…
…and the lightweight mesh bib straps are nice and wide and lie flat against the body. I much prefer these bib straps to the ones that dhb has used on the similarly priced Aeron Raceline shorts, which can pucker under a jersey and not provide as much support.
The pad comes courtesy of Elastic Interface and is doubtless high quality but it's never been my favourite pad for long distance rides, though I know plenty of others who swear by it. Multiple thicknesses of foam allow you to hold an aggressive position comfortably on a cross bike, and it also performs well when you're sat more upright on a mountain bike.
At £140 the shorts are not cheap, but at the time of writing they are on sale for £112 in all sizes. It's hard to judge these against other off-road specific bibs as there simply aren't that many about. One alternative if you're looking for a pair of rugged bibs is the Assos XC bib shorts that off.road.cc have tested, but they come in a fair bit more expensive at £175.
There are a lot more options when it comes to standard bib shorts, but these are going to be a bit more fragile. For example, we've recently tested the Rapha Pro Team Training bib shorts (£140) and the Chapeau Club 2 bib shorts (£139.99), which are of comparable price and both also scored well.
Overall, I've been impressed with the Aeron Lab XC shorts. The Dyneema panels certainly aid durability, particularly from brambles and thorns on overgrown trails that would ordinarily nick or pucker your standard bibs, and the added durability comes with no sacrifice to comfort or weight. I'd recommend these to anyone regularly hitting the trails.
High-performing bib shorts with added shrubbery resistance
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road.cc test report
Make and model: dhb Aeron Lab XC Bib Short
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product is for
dhb says: "Transform your off-road riding with the dhb Aeron LAB XC Bib Shorts. Exceptionally comfortable and boasting the unrivalled ripstop technology of Dyneema®, these lightweight shorts will give you the confidence to hit top speed on trails and gravel."
The Dyneema panels make them stronger than most bib shorts, so ideal for off-road riding.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Dyneema® outer panels for resistance to abrasion
High gauge and highly durable main fabric
Ultralight mesh bibstraps
Seamless hem with silicone gripper
Elastic Interface® seat pad
Inserts: 58% Polyamide(Nylon), 32% Elastane(Spandex), 10% Polyester
Main: 80% Polyamide(Nylon), 20% Elastane(Spandex)
You wouldn't even realise the panels were there if you had your eyes closed; it's nice to have a pair of shorts that look brand new after a month of riding overgrown trails that would usually snag shorts.
I haven't used any bibs that are more durable.
They fit me well, nice and tight but not restrictive, and shorter in the leg than some road shorts.
They're really light especially considering the durability.
Shorts themselves are very comfortable and the bib straps too, as they're wide and sit nice and flat. I found the bib really comfortable on shorter rides but noticeable on mountain bike rides over three hours.
They're not cheap but they should last a lot longer than your standard bib shorts.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Performed well, breathability was much much better than I expected. Dyneema panels do not restrict mobility or comfort and they have resisted scagging so I'd say that was very successful.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
They still look brand new after a month of hard testing.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
They've got an annoying label in which you can cut out but then it leaves sharp corners.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
We haven't tested many 'similar' products on road.cc; the Assos XC bib shorts on off.road.cc cost £175 so a fair bit more expensive. Compared to road shorts, they also don't stack up badly.
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
They achieve their aim of being a set of premium bib shorts with excellent durability and abrasion protection, without sacrificing weight or comfort. They're very good but could do without having a label in, and I have found other pads more comfortable on long rides.
About the tester
I usually ride: Specialized venge pro 2019 My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 5-10 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, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, mtb,