Sportful's Pro Women's Bibtights are a great choice as the mercury drops well into single figures. The fleecy fabric helps keep the muscles warm, and it flows freely around the hips and thighs with every movement. However, the double layer at the knee, though a great idea, hasn't been executed so well and this, together with the lack of any pee-stop technology, makes the £150 price tag seem a bit steep.
I'll admit to having been rather excited when I saw these tights in the test kit bundle. I am obsessed with protecting my knees against the elements; a double layer of fabric at the knee could be brilliant, if executed well...
Following Sportful's size guide, I opted to test a medium and they are a good fit all over. The leg length is spot on and they're great around the hips – the fabric is stretchy enough to accommodate various shapes and moves well with the body; I didn't notice any bunching or creasing here.
The soft, fleecy inner feels cosy against the skin. It's not as luxurious feeling as the Castelli Velocissima I've also been testing, but there's an upside to this: it's not been affected by unprotected zips or Velcro encounters.
The straps are great too. The edges aren't hemmed, which can sometimes restrict stretch or cut in, they are a wholly mesh affair, as is the rear of the bib section. They do have a tendency to roll in on themselves when you pull them on, but unravelling is quick and easy.
The tights themselves finish just below the waist rather than extending up into a bib section. It's a good design for minimising bulk on your top half and preventing overheating. I found it perfectly comfortable on the bike – no cutting in at the abdomen.
Now, to the knee... As you can see in the photos, there's a mesh panel sewn into the tights at the knee, with a flap of the fleecy fabric added over it. This flap extends from above the knee to well below it.
In theory it's a great idea – a little extra protection without overheating – but you end up with the extra seams and fabric causing irritation. With the knee joint's position continually changing, the two lateral seams holding the flap in place bend as well and pull on the fabric behind the knee. You are really aware of the flap's presence because of the fabric creasing at the rear.
At the ankle, the tights are held firmly in place with zips. Not everyone likes ankle zips, but they certainly help with getting tights off after soggy rides; there's less of a fight getting them over your ankles and feet.
The tights offer great insulation in colder weather. They've been my go-to tights for all rides in temperatures below 6°C. The knee does get that extra protection, even if the setup isn't the most comfortable. They're a bit too warm for me for anything above 12°C, but I never felt like I was overheating in single figure temperatures.
A slightly heavier brushed fabric has been used at the front of the tights, while the rear is medium weight. You don't notice this when you pull them on, but you do feel the effect when riding – more protection from the elements, with decent breathability at the rear.
Sportful claims that the shin has 'NoRain' protection. The fabric here does deal with road spray well enough – indeed, for the first few rides, the tights handled light drizzle well – but after a few washes the effect has worn off. If you get caught in any proper rain, you're going to get wet. Unfortunately, the tights don't dry out as quickly as some either, being thicker.
Sportful has used a Total Comfort Seat Pad in these tights which was fine even for rides over four hours, although like the pad in Castelli's Velocissima, it's not the most supportive. I also found it sufficiently breathable for riding in single-figure temperatures, but once into double figures it starts to struggle on that front.
I mentioned the stitching of the pad in my review of the Castelli Velocissima and will mention it here too. The stitching in Sportful's leaves a slight edge exposed; it's neater than Castelli's but still not as good as Gore's in my opinion. If you happen to wear these tights for rides in prolonged rain, be aware that you could get some form of chafing as the soaked skin rubs against a slightly rough edge. I speak from experience after a ride of over three and a half hours in the rain...
The reflective detailing at the ankle is much better positioned that some; it reaches high enough up the calf to actually not be hidden by some overboots/shoes. There's also a reflective logo on the right thigh, but it would be good to see them on both legs, and perhaps positioned more towards the outside edge.
Two pockets have been included on the rear yoke which don't strike me as being overly useful. Traditional racing bibs often have a radio pocket mid-way up the back, but these sit quite low down and anything of reasonable bulk placed in them weighs down on the lower back, particularly if you have a long jacket on and choose to load those pockets as well.
If you do use the pockets, don't forget to remove the contents before a pee-break (roadside or actual loo) – forget, and you'll either be brushing dirt off something or, worse still, trying to dry things out on a radiator...
These tights are simply brilliant in cold weather, but with the shortcomings at the knee and the lack of any pee-stop solution, their £150 price tag seems quite steep.
As ever, you can always spend more: Assos' UMA GT Winter Bib Tights and Rapha's Women's Pro Team Winter Tights are both more expensive.
Overall, I'd say Sportful has created a great pair of tights for riding in colder temperatures, and the NoRain protection helps a little, but the knee design needs attention.
Could be a superb choice for colder days but some features need attention to justify the price
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Sportful Bodyfit Pro Women's Bibtights
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product is for
Sportful describes these as: 'A winter bibtight that provides maximum warmth and breathability at low temperatures through the use of different materials in different locations on the legs and at the waist. Made of high-stretch fabric to ensure excellent freedom of movement and fit.'
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
*4-needle stitching throughout garment
*Double layer of fabric on knee, with warm brushed perforated fabric next to skin
*Made of heavier brushed fabric in front and medium-weight fabric in back
*NoRain protection on shin
*Bib straps made from same fabric as inside knee
*YKK® ankle zip, with leg ending in WR fabric with raw-cut edge
*Back pockets on yoke
*Reflective detailing at ankle and reflective Sportful logos on front and rear
*TC Pro W seat pad
*Temp. Range: 2°+ C
Can't knock them for quality, but the setup at the knee doesn't work as well as it could.
Not so good around the knee.
The fit at the knee was annoying rather than uncomfortable. It creates a bunching at the back of the knee.
Expensive compared with similar.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Washed with all the other kit at 30 degrees, come out fine.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Keep you warm in colder temperature without causing you to overheat.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Warmth in colder weather.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Double layer of fabric at the knee.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Expensive, especially given the knee issues and lack of pee-stop technology. Gore's represent much better value and Iris's look a decent option too.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes, the warmth they offered offset the irritation of the knee layer.
Would you consider buying the product? No
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Unlikely
Use this box to explain your overall score
They provide exceptional warmth and comfort, except at the knee – it's a great idea but doesn't work well. They're not great value compared with others either, so it's a case of weighing up the loveliness on the warmth front against the price, irritating knee design and lack of pee-stop wizardry. They could be very good, and an 8, but as is they're above average and a 6.
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…