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Gore Wear's C7 Women's bib shorts – or C7 Women Long Distance Bib Shorts+, to give them their full name – are exceptionally comfortable with a chamois that's up to long days in the saddle. Their lack of excessive compression and soft, supple fabric will appeal to many, although the price tag might not.
According to Gore, the C7s are designed for warm weather, so they've really been put to the test over the last few weeks, and they haven't disappointed. That's not to say that they don't perform when the temperatures drop to something more autumnal either.
The fit is excellent – a perfect shape around the legs and hips, plus a decent leg length. The 70% polyamide, 30% elastane main body composition creates a really supple, soft fabric that sits plush to the skin without excessive pressure.
Although Gore markets the C7s as 'race-ready', it's worth noting that these don't offer the compression of something like the Assos Dyora bib shorts. There's absolutely no restriction anywhere, even at the leg end. Gore has combined a raw cut with two separate strips of silicone, rather than one continuous one, to create a 'zero-squeeze' setup. The shorts stay put but don't pinch or irritate here.
Just like the Assos Dyora shorts that I recently tested, Gore's C7s are low cut at the front. I really like this – it helps hugely with breathability. I appreciate that it might not suit everyone – some find that it 'cuts' into them. That said, the top edge has no real tightness to it and Gore has considerately added some open weave fabric to the lateral edges which creates even more give at the front.
The bib straps resemble ribbons and are very stretchy, though I found them a little too long (as does one commenter on Gore's website). On the plus side, they sit out of the way, so won't irritate anyone with larger breasts.
At the rear, Gore has created a racer back style and incorporated a radio pocket.
I'd say that the pad is what sets the C7s apart from most other shorts. Firstly, the dual-density aspect means that unnecessary excess bulk is done away with; the sit bones enjoy the thickest part of the chamois while the pubic area gets a slightly thinner layer. Channels between differing densities ensure that the pad conforms perfectly to your shape.
The second noticeable part is that the pad stops well before most at the front end. Look down while you are wearing them and you don't see a jutting edge or any raised seam or material. The pad flows into a strip of Gore's Windstopper fabric which reaches up to the top edge of the shorts.
Effectively, the shorts are built around the pad here, rather than the pad being sewn into the shorts. It simply means that if you move, the pad moves with you, without bulging or sagging at the groin.
All of this combines to create an exceptionally comfortable pair of shorts that you can happily ride in hour after hour. The only thing you might miss is a convenient means of stopping for a quick pee. Interestingly, both Assos and Gore have done away with their quick-access systems on their latest shorts. I'd say in the case of Gore, the fabric's longevity and the shorts' fit would have been compromised by the inclusion of the two-zip system that appeared on its C5 bibs.
As mentioned, I've used the C7s in a variety of temperatures. They are very breathable around the leg and hip. The pad works well too in terms of preventing overheating; the extra layers for the pubic area and the sit bones are perforated to enhance breathability.
The low cut at the front and minimal bib strap setup also contribute to decent breathability – there is simply no excess fabric acting as an extra layer.
I've done plenty of four-hour-plus rides in the shorts and never experienced any discomfort or chafing. In the extreme heat we've recently had, I never felt like the shorts were retaining moisture; sweat is drawn away by the chamois and the fabric is quick drying.
I've also picked some early mornings on cooler days to see how the shorts work in temperatures closer to 10 degrees than 20, and they've offered sufficient protection. The Windstopper fabric will certainly come into its own during autumn rides.
The shorts are available in both black and blue, the material in both cases having a rather luxurious, matt appearance. It looks as good as it feels.
The highly reflective logo on the legs is almost iridescent on the black shorts. It breaks up the monotony of plain shorts nicely, but doesn't restrict 'matching' jersey options.
The fabric feels rather vulnerable but I have noticed no deterioration whatsoever. I'm a bit of an explorer on the bike and admit to scaling fences in the hunt for new wild camp spots or unique shots, and the C7s have endured several such outings and have come away completely unscathed.
There's no getting away from it, these are expensive, but just as I said with Assos' similarly priced Dyoras (£175), there are others up there in this price bracket, for example, Ashmei's £176 bib shorts and Velocio's Concept bibs, which even had noticeable flaws at £225.
If these are simply too much, it might be worth looking at the Iris Signature Bibs which seem to match Gore with regard to fabrics, performance and fit. You even get the added bonus of a pee-stop mechanism.
If you have the cash to spare, though, you won't be disappointed with the C7s. They're high quality and exceptionally comfortable.
Exceptional comfort and performance without excessive compression, an excellent pair of shorts
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Gore Wear C7 Women's Bib Shorts
Size tested: Small
Tell us what the product is for
Gore Wear says: 'Race-ready bib shorts with a high-performance fit, optimum support and comfort for those who put in the most miles.'
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Gore Wear lists:
-3D long distance support seat insert
-4-way stretch fabric
-EXPERT Long Distance seat insert with GORE® WINDSTOPPER® Liner
-GORE® WINDSTOPPER® Liner Technology: highly breathable, windproof front for optimum comfort
-Innovative seat insert integration with new sewing technique
-Inseam length 20 cm / 7,9 inch
-Luxury material feel and visual appeal
-Radio pocket on rear of bib
-Silicone leg grippers create snug fit at thigh without restricting movement
-Specific cut of shorts and bibs ensure a secure fit
-Wide and flat bibs with highly breathable material keeps short in place
Sound construction but it's early days to comment on the longevity of the fabric. Its higher than normal elastane content may reduce the fabric's opaque lifetime.
I tested an EU 36, which is what Gore's sizing chart suggested, and they are spot on. I sometimes need a medium with other manufacturers so don't assume your size without checking the charts.
Quality and performance comes at a price.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Gore recommends a 40 degree, delicate cycle. I tend to do my kit at 30, this was fine for it. They are still looking like new.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Really comfortable and perfectly breathable for rides of any duration – just what you want from a pair of bibs.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The supportive chamois without bulk and the comfort of the fabric.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Can't really fault them.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
They are certainly at the upper end, comparable to Assos's Dyoras for £175 and Ashmei's Bibs for £176. Velocio's Concept bibs, at £225, may convince you that they aren't overpriced.
Although I didn't test Iris's Signature bibs, they seem quite similar and will save you £60.
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
An exceptional pair of shorts that will serve any enthusiastic rider well. The fabric's comfort and lack of excessive compression will appeal to those looking to avoid all-out racing shorts, though the price tag might sting.
About the tester
I usually ride: Road My best bike is: Carbon road.
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: commuting, touring, club rides, general fitness riding, Getting to grips with off roading too!
Emma’s first encounters with a road bike were in between swimming and running. Soon after competing for GB in the World Age Group Triathlon Championships in Edmonton in 2001 she saw the light and decided to focus on cycling.
After a couple of half decent UK road seasons racing for Leisure Lakes, she went out to Belgium to sample the racing there and spent two years with Lotto-Belisol Ladies team, racing alongside the likes of Sara Carrigan, Grace Verbeke, Rochelle Gilmore and Lizzie Deignan. Emma moved from Lotto-Belisol to Dutch team Redsun, then a new Belgian team of primarily developing riders, where there was less pressure, an opportunity to share her experience and help build a whole new team; a nice way to spend her final years of professional racing.
Since retiring Emma has returned to teaching. When not coercing kids to do maths, she is invariably out on two wheels. In addition to the daily commute, Emma still enjoys getting out on her road bike and having her legs ripped off on the local club rides and chain gangs. She has also developed an addiction to touring, with destinations including Iceland, Georgia and Albania, to mention just a few. There have also been rare sightings of Emma off-road on a mountain bike…