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Le Col describes the Hors Categorie Bib Shorts II as its finest offering, made for the long haul. The fabric certainly feels premium and the pad kept me comfortable on all-day rides, but the slightly disappointing stitching and rapidly-bobbling fabric are meaningful issues given the very high price.
These are the updated version of the HC Bib Shorts Ashley reviewed last year. According to Le Col they have been "devised to fit and feel like nothing else. Soft, supportive and stretchy over the main body, they represent our high mark for comfort over countless kilometres."
The pad is Dolomiti's premium Gel Chamois, and remains comfortable for hours on end. The longest ride I did in these was an all-day 170km gravel ride, and my nether regions reported no undue discomfort.
The lower half of these shorts is a mix of 65% polyamide and 38% elastane, a fabric which feels premium and supportive. The upper half is different; 75% nylon and 25% elastane. Compared to the previous version, they're a bit lighter (187g versus 203g).
The lower part fits really well and gives just the right kind of support – exactly what you'd expect at this price.
The straps are laser cut and feel good against the skin. They are both longer and stretch more easily than many, such as the similar Assos and Castelli shorts I had to hand.
Though the shorts stay in place, it's the fabric and cut in the lower part that does the heavy lifting here – the straps don't much for holding the shorts up. To be clear, the whole thing moves well with your body, so there isn't really an issue; the straps just feel less supportive than many.
I'm right in between small and medium on Le Col's size guide. I'm reviewing a medium here and apart from the strap issue, it fits well. I haven't tried a small, but after riding these for hundreds of kilometres, I'm happy the medium is right for me. That's what I would expect – I'm a medium in most non-Italian brands.
There is subtle Le Col branding on the band at the bottom of the legs, and above the chamois on the back. There is a nod to reflective detailing on the side.
The leg grippers are a 35mm wide band of silicone dots in a pattern that reads 'Ride faster'. When Anna reviewed the women's version, she found the grippers not quite strong enough to stop the shorts riding up. I had no such issues, and these worked fine for me with knee warmers too.
While they feel premium, there are a couple of things I didn't expect to see on £180 shorts. The flatlock and overlock stitching, although it's not coming loose, is not the neatest I've seen. There are loose threads and the stitching pattern looks a bit variable.
Secondly, the fabric was bobbling under the chamois after 500km – this is them after around 750km. Both of these issues are disappointing, especially at this price.
£180 is premium money to spend on bib shorts, though the Le Cols are not alone. Alé's Agonista Plus Bibshorts and Rapha's Pro Team Crit Bib Shorts are both slightly cheaper at £160 and £175 respectively.
You can spend a lot more though – for example on Rapha's Pro Team Powerweave Bib Shorts, which Leon gave 9/10 after they proved the best he'd ever worn, cost an massive £275.
Nevertheless, you can get premium-feel bibshorts for considerably less, too; I like the Stolen Goat Bodyline One Bib Shorts, and they're a lot less at £98. La Passione's Club Bib Shorts are also impressive and £105.
Le Col's HC Bib Shorts II are premium things, both in price and performance. They are a joy to wear on long days in the saddle and shorter, sharper efforts alike. However, for me they are let down a bit by the quality of the stitching and early bobbling of the fabric.
Premium bib shorts in comfort, performance and price, but stitching could be better and the fabric bobbles easily
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Le Col Hors Categorie Bib Shorts II
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product is for
Le Col says: "Made for the long haul, and the rides to remember, the Hors Categorie Bib Shorts II are our finest offering. Revised for a lighter and softer composition, the opaque performance knit lycra offers a supportive, mapped fit that allows room for high tempo efforts as well as more relaxed rides.
"Constructed around a Dolomiti Gel Chamois that offers high density protection and vibration dampening, you can be sure of comfort over longer rides."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Le Col says:
Laser cut mesh bib straps for breathability
Designed for long distance comfort.
Premium Dolomiti Gel Chamois
Road tested by our founder and former pro, Yanto Barker
Made in Italy
Supportive, performance oriented fit.
Our finest feeling fabrics for an unbeatable on-bike experience
Refined silicone leg gripper for precision fit
Debossed Logoing over leg grippers
Main Body fabric: 62% polyamide, 38% elastane.
Weight 160 GSM Bib Uppers: 75% Nylon, 25% Elastane Weight: 160GSM2
The fabric was already bobbling after 500km of riding.
The lower part fits really well and gives just the right kind of support. The upper far too loose, though – I would prefer shorter straps.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
The instructions say: "Machine wash at 30, do not use fabric conditioner, dry flat, do not tumble dry, do not bleach iron or dry clean."
I ignored them and just bunged it in at 40 degrees with my other stuff... they were fine. Certainly it doesn't seem to have caused/accelerated the bobbling, as the women's version of these shorts suffered the same problem (and the same stitching issues) and were always washed as per instructions.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
These are comfortable and supportive – perfect for all day rides.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The super-comfy pad.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The stitching is not premium, the fabric is already bobbling, and they're pretty expensive.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
These are definitely at the premium end of the pricing scale. The're slightly more expensive than Ale's Agonista Plus bib shorts (£160) and Rapha's Pro Team Crit bib shorts (£175).
You can spend more, for example on Rapha's Pro Team Powerweave Bib Shorts at £275. But you can equally get the same kind of performance for less – I really like the Stolen Goat Bodyline One Bib Shorts, which cost £98. La Passione's Club shorts are very impressive too, and £105.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? No
Would you recommend the product to a friend? No
Use this box to explain your overall score
Le Col's HC Bib Shorts II are premium bib shorts, both in price and performance. They are a joy to wear on long days in the saddle and shorter, sharper efforts alike.
However they are let down a bit by the quality of the stitching and the early bobbling of the fabric.
About the tester
I usually ride: All of them! My best bike is: Ribble Endurance SL disc
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: cyclo cross, commuting, touring, club rides, mtb, Zwift