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The Nopinz Subzero Shorts are designed to offer the same cooling benefits as the Subzero Men's Suit we've previously tested. They're cheaper than the suit, and they're a great option if you tend to overheat on your trainer and you're not worried about being half-dressed for your workout.
'Subzero isn't just a name,' says Nopinz. 'The range features 'FreezePockets' for replaceable frozen gel packs which are optimally placed in key 'hot zones'. The gel packs help to keep your core temperature down, meaning less energy goes into the body cooling itself, and more blood reaches the muscles that need it to produce the Watts!'
Certainly there's plenty of love among the pros for active cooling, with many teams using ice packs (and Slush Puppies!) as part of their preparations, especially for shorter efforts like time trials. Depending on where you're doing your training it might be something you're considering too. If you're somewhere in the house then you'll probably get pretty warm towards the end of a race. In a freezing outbuilding, maybe not so much.
These bib shorts are mostly made from the same fabric as the suit: it's a fairly sheer lycra with laser cut holes at regular intervals. There's a sturdier fabric around the pad to better keep everything together (and out of sight).
The pad is designed specifically for indoor training, and like the fabric, is perforated for ventilation. The fit is similar to the suit in that it's fairly racy; I'm normally a L or XL in shorts, and the XL bibs are good and snug.
The silicone grippers are quite tacky, and can pull on your leg hairs a bit if the shorts are stretched too tight. Overall though the bibs fit well and are pretty comfortable. The pad is more or less spot on for an hour's hard racing, and stays comfortable for longer indoor sessions up to three hours, too.
The main selling point is that the shorts come with two cooling packs: a rectangular one that sits on your lower back, and a tapered one that goes in at the neck and sits between your shoulder blades.
You whip them from the freezer before your race, but there's no need for last-second dashes – there's an insulated case to pop them in, which will keep them frozen for a good half hour.
As with the suit, the lower pack is easier to slip in (and replace mid-race, if you have more than one set), while the upper pack is a bit more tricky as you have to reach up behind you. You could always call upon a spouse or child to help you, although I've not had any takers there, if I'm honest.
The ice packs stay against the body pretty well, although the suit version has more fabric keeping them in place for a bit of a firmer press against the skin. The difference isn't huge though, and the bib shorts do a good job.
While less fabric means less pressure over the ice packs, it also means less body coverage, which means your fan has a better chance of cooling you down. Again, the differences between the suit and the bibs are fairly marginal; it's not like the fabric is heavy.
When I tested the Subzero suit, I set a new indoor FTP the first time I tried it. Since then I've upped that FTP a few more times, mostly (but not always) when using the suit and the ice packs. It may be this correlation is causation... but it might just be that I tend to break out the ice packs for the races I'm going to try really hard in, and the 'trying really hard' bit is the important bit.
There are too many variables to control, but both the shorts and the suit have been part of a race regime that has seen my fitness improve. I also find that swapping to fresh ice packs mid-race is a nice feeling, and a definite psychological boost, whether there are physical gains to be had or not.
As to whether I prefer the suit or the shorts, it's probably the suit. The pocket design is better and it's a slightly more acceptable garment to be wandering the house in looking for my water bottle / headphones / heart rate monitor / shoes / towel, one of which I've always misplaced.
To be clear: neither are especially acceptable, I'm consistently reminded.
The Subzero suit is £50 more (£189.99) and the only real difference is a bit of extra fabric up top, so these shorts are definitely better value. The suit is really aimed, according to Nopinz, at people who need to cover themselves sufficiently for live streaming. That's a pretty small target market, but it certainly has appeal beyond that tight demographic.
At £139.99 with two ice packs and the insulated case, the Subzero Shorts are still a reasonable investment, and at least some of the gains are achievable with a couple of physio ice packs stuffed down the back of your bibs, or in a jersey pocket. You could cut the sleeves off if you want the speed suit look.
That being said, buying something designed to do the job, rather than knocking up something yourself, will appeal to many, and they're not especially expensive: Le Col's x Wahoo Indoor Training Shorts are £10 more without any ice packs. If you're looking to buy into active cooling then the SubZero bibs are the better value of the two options from Nopinz, offering more or less everything the suit does except top-half decency, for £50 less.
If you're thinking of buying this product using a cashback deal why not use the road.cc Top Cashback page and get some top cashback while helping to support your favourite independent cycling website
road.cc test report
Make and model: Nopinz Subzero Men's Shorts
Size tested: XL
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?
Nopinz says: "Our indoor optimized bib-shorts are designed to help keep you cool and enhance your indoor cycling performance. FreezePockets are located between the shoulder blades and on the lower back to actively reduce core temperature, allowing you to perform at your best for longer.
"The cooling packs are interchangeable and can be easily swapped during your session to maintain the cooling advantage – each set is available with two sets of gel packs to give 40-60 mins of cooling at high intensity. If you're into longer races, you can buy more cooling packs separately.
"We've used only the most highly technical, ultra-lightweight, and breathable fabrics which add to the cooling effect. The pad is also optimized for indoor riding and offers extra protection plus improved moisture management compared to those in standard bibs."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Fully optimized for indoor use.
FreezePockets for cooling gel packs.
Made from Ultra-breathable wicking fabrics.
Indoor specific pad for increased comfort.
Available in Men's and Women's specific versions.
Full custom graphics available
They're very good overall
Good fit, and the pad is comfy for indoor riding.
Better value than the Subzero suit.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Cooling tech is good, and they're comfortable.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The ice pacs aren't held quite as firmly as the suit.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
There's nothing directly comparable, though you can get indoor-specific shorts from £50-£150+.
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
These are very good indoor training shorts and the cooling tech is well considered
About the tester
I usually ride: whatever I'm testing... My best bike is: Kinesis Tripster ATR, Merida Scultura, Dward Design fixed
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track
Dave is a founding father of road.cc, having previously worked on Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike magazines back in the day. He also writes about e-bikes for our sister publication ebiketips. He's won three mountain bike bog snorkelling World Championships, and races at the back of the third cats.