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review

Santini Adapt Shell Bib Shorts

9
£170.00

VERDICT:

9
10
Excellent weather-repelling shorts that feel as comfortable as your best pair for summer
Deeply luxurious and cosy feeling to the material
Excellent wet-weather protection
Breathable
Plush pad
High cost of premium fabrics
Legs a little on the long side for some
Slightly narrower pad won’t suit all
Weight: 
194g

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These Santini Adapt Shell Bib Shorts are the company's multi-season and 'foul weather' shorts. As such, they've got their work cut out; they need to keep you dry and warm in winter, and be breathable enough and not too hot for autumn and spring. I've only had a few weeks with them, but so far, so very good.

Not keen on shorts for winter? Check out our guide to the best cycling bib tights – or our best arm and leg warmers buyer's guide for pairing with shorts when it's chilly out.

> Buy now: Santini Adapt Shell Bib Shorts for £170 from Santini

I simultaneously tested Santini's Guard Neo jacket and was very impressed by it (full review to come), particularly by the fabric, Polartec's Neoshell membrane, and the same material is used throughout these shorts. Santini clearly feels this is a selling point, as the Polartec logo is sewn into the shorts in one of the seams, and is of equal size, if not larger than its own logo. It's also in the first line of Santini's description on its website.

2023 Santini Adapt Shell - Bib Shorts - Polartec logo.jpg

It's a really impressive fabric, to be fair, and a lot of the great things about these shorts is down to their judicious use of this cutting-edge material.

Fit and comfort

Much as these were comfortable on me, they were a tiny bit on the long side. Winter/wet-weather shorts tend to run longer in my experience, but still they were a good inch and half longer than my most used (also Italian) bib shorts of the same size. This put them a little too much into my knee articulation than was ideal, and though I could pull them up a little, this caused a very, very small amount of bunching.

2023 Santini Adapt Shell - Bib Shorts - cuff detail.jpg

As you can see from the photos, that's a size L on our mannequin and covers 'his' knee. Of course the fit is going to be entirely subjective; if you're a tall/long-limbed cyclist or you want deeper knee coverage for the wet, these could be awesome for you.

Also, the slight overlength didn't impact their feel or performance, it was just a minor aesthetic choice between fractionally long at the knee, and a tiny amount of bunching at the top of the thigh. (I'm 178cm, and not particularly long of thigh...)

Pad

The pad is superb. It's a plush, deep and comfortable place to sit. It's also a bit narrower than my other shorts, though I can't say I noticed in use, but if you're the owner of wide sit bones, it's worth checking to be sure you're covered here. There's a gel insert that contributes greatly; it's not just a spongy foam, there's some 'shock absorption'. Being wet-weather bibs pays dividends here; being less obsessed with light weight and ventilation means a more 'generous' pad than my two main (summer) bib shorts.

2023 Santini Adapt Shell - Bib Shorts - chamois.jpg

The material is really the star of the show. It's very nice. I'd go so far as to call these shorts cosy, not an adjective I often use when describing bib shorts. And it's not just on the inside – the sheen on the outside of the fabric makes them feel plush to the touch. It also makes them feel as if they're going to be slippery through the air – totally in my head, as one obviously can't feel the fractions of a millisecond difference that might make. Still, they feel nice inside and out.

On the bike, they were great. The sheen to the fabric means you can move around the saddle fairly easily, but there's still a bit of welcome grippiness. The material has an easy stretch, so as you go through the full range of motion of the pedal stroke they never become too tight or uncomfortable.

2023 Santini Adapt Shell - Bib Shorts - legs back.jpg

They're slightly compressive, though not too much, and the very fine fleecy backing kept me nice and warm. It was probably between 10 and 15°C when I rode with them, and Santini reckons you're good down to about 5 degrees. I'd say that's about right. I tend to switch to longs at anything below about 7°C as I'd rather be warmer legged and wear thinner tops.

2023 Santini Adapt Shell - Bib Shorts - front detail.jpg

The straps are fine – not the most comfortable I've ever worn, but not the worst – and though the sewing looks nice and tidy, the seams aren't flatlock stitched, though I didn't feel any uncomfortable rub.

2023 Santini Adapt Shell - Bib Shorts - back.jpg

As for their waterproofing, the Polartec membrane that prevents water going through has a 10,000mm rating. They passed with flying colours in the shower, worn with the Santini jacket, and were untroubled by drizzle. The hem at the knee was deep enough to stop water coming up my leg, and though the very lip of it curled a bit, it made no difference. Water didn't get through the fabric itself, and I was quite happy. As long as you pair these with a good waterproof top, you'll be happy too.

2023 Santini Adapt Shell - Bib Shorts - leg logo.jpg

Value

They're not the cheapest bib shorts out there, but I do think they justify their price.

Stu recently reviewed the GripGrab Aquarepel Water Resistant Bib Shorts which, at £125, are £45 less. He thought they were decent value, though he noticed that the triple-ply fabric was not as stretchy as a non-membraned equivalent. This is the big difference here: the Polartec fabric, which you pay handsomely for, is very stretchy, and doesn't rely on DWR coatings for its waterproofing, so should perform better for longer and be more comfortable.

Steve also liked the Gore Transition bib shorts, which cost around the same as these Santini bibs, though he had niggles with the straps not being adjustable enough. I haven't tried them, but I also get the sense that I'm more impressed with the Santini shorts than Steve was with the Gores, for the same price.

They are more expensive than Sportful's Fiandre NoRain Pro Bib Shorts, which Jamie was very impressed with back in 2019, describing them as 'perfect shorts for imperfect weather'. They've gone up to £150 now, so a £20 saving over the Santinis.

Conclusion

Overall, these are great cold/wet weather shorts. I'm a fairly fairweather cyclist, so I tend not to set off if it's raining hard, but as you can probably tell I'm deeply impressed with the Polartec fabric. It's warm and waterproof, but breathable and not clammy; in short, it doesn't feel like a waterproof fabric. It's not crinkly, it's not uncomfortable, it doesn't rustle and there's no crisp-packet feel to it. It feels like my nicest summer shorts, but a tiny bit thicker.

Verdict

Excellent weather-repelling shorts that feel as comfortable as your best pair for summer

road.cc test report

Make and model: Santini Adapt Shell - Bib Shorts

Size tested: Large

Tell us what the product is for

Santini says: "Foul weather, multi-season bib shorts utilizing POLARTEC®'s Neoshell membrane fabric. They are made for a variety of temperatures and conditions so you can focus on one thing only: your ride."

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

From Santini:

RAIN PROTECTION

Made with POLARTEC®'s Neoshell membrane fabric. Highly stretchableit provides superb wet weather protection, while offering class leading breathability and comfort.

PERFECT FIT, NICE COMPRESSION

Raw cut, ultra-soft, polyamide fabric forming the rear section of the braces provides superb comfort, while durable, high-stretch jacquard elastics are used for the front. Hems of the legs created using an updated raw cut thermofleece fabric faced with a layer of water resistant polyurethane, providing superb compression bit with a high stretch threshold.

HIGH-VISIBILITY DETAILS

High reflex thermoplastic transfer details applied on the rear of the legs

ANTI-SHOCK PROTECTION

GitEvo chamois with gel case absorb shocks steadily and gradually for comfort on long rides

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
8/10

Well made, neat seams – not flatlocked but I experienced no chafing.

Rate the product for performance:
 
9/10

Comfortable, warm, breathable and waterproof. Absolutely no complaints with performance.

Rate the product for durability:
 
7/10

Too soon to tell, but I saw nothing that worried me.

Rate the product for fit:
 
7/10

Fit is very subjective, and they were a little long on me, though wet weather shorts/winter shorts do tend to run longer...

Rate the product for sizing:
 
7/10

As expected.

Rate the product for weight:
 
7/10

Not noticeably heavy.

Rate the product for comfort:
 
8/10

No complaints in comfort; marginal bunching at the waist, but this is more a fit issue.

Rate the product for value:
 
6/10

They're not cheap, but comparatively good value. Compared with garments offering similar performance, these actually seem well priced.

How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?

Easy washing. Inside out at 30 degrees, and with no DWR coating to diminish over time, these should hold their waterproofing perfectly.

Dry fast too.

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

More capable and more waterproof than they'll need to be for me! They shrugged off water, and kept me nice and warm.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

Very clever Polartec fabric: waterproof, breathable and stretchy.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

Very minor, but they were a little on the long side for me, and the pad is a little narrower than those in my other shorts.

How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?

Pretty good value compared with their main competitors.

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're excellent, and though not cheap they justify it by performing superbly, whatever the weather.

Overall rating: 9/10

About the tester

Age: 45  Height: 177  Weight: 95

I usually ride: Custom titanium gravel   My best bike is:

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: Most days  I would class myself as: Experienced

I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb,

Tom is features and tech writer who's been writing and riding for over 20 years, and has had misadventures on almost every conceivable bike. From single-speeds, to aero race-bikes, gravel bikes, ebikes and mountain bikes, he's a big fan of almost everything that rolls on two wheels. 

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1 comments

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mattw | 8 months ago
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They look great for anyone who is into bib-shorts.

I'm just not sure if Roadcc should be using words around "plush". See the Urban Dictionary.

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