Tested: Assos FI 13 Lady S5 Bib Shorts
Background and disclosure
Indie Bike, a cycling apparel shop (they’ve got a real, live store in addition to their web presence) based in Indianapolis, IN. contacted me to see if I would be interested in reviewing some gear in exchange for telling people about their wonderful little shop (free shipping on orders over $65!). I’ve been super curious about the higher-end women-specific bib shorts that have a clasp system in the front and claim to be easier to negotiate under overlayers when nature calls (and more comfortable all around). I agreed to test and review the Assos FI 13 Lady S5 Bib Shorts.
Everything about these bibs feel premium: from the fabrics to the construction, presentation and packaging. When you open the box, you know you’re holding something special. The mesh panel in back is comfortable and the straps are wide and soft enough to stay comfortable for long rides. The 6-panel construction is top-notch and the bibs have a second-skin feeling that is super cozy: chafing is a thing of the past. The fabric is lightweight and super breathable and they feel noticeably cooler than some of my other standard issue bibs (great for warm weather).
The Assos fit is euro-lean, so I went up a size and ordered a large. (For the record, Assos urges you to asses fit from the tucked riding position, rather than a standing position. They claim that the bib was designed specifically to fit best while on the bike.) For me, I believe the large was the right call for overall fit, but it resulted in a bib that was designed for someone perhaps 3 inches taller than me. The front closure ABC-M (Assos Buckle Closure Mechanism) is adjustable (the adjustable buckle slides into any one of three loops in front), but even on the “shortest” setting, I found the straps were longer than I would have liked. On a traditional bib, this isn’t as much of an issue, but with the single-strap-down-the-front setup, it meant that the top of the front strap showed underneath my jersey when it was unzipped. I unzip my jersey a lot.
Beyond the strap length, the fit was fantastic: the bibs are very compressive with a nice mix of textural panels and flatlock seaming. The leg grippers do trend a bit into sausage zone (they’re very secure) but it’s not at all uncomfortable.
This is a substantial chamois but not overly built. I most often wear custom kits, which tend to have lower profile chamois, so it always takes a little getting used to when I get something that actually has a little more cushioning (I had the same experience with Rapha’s short). That said, when I was heading out on a longer ride this fall, I consistently reached for these bibs. They’re super comfy.
I was fairly underwhelmed by the front center strap construction and ABC-M (Assos Buckle Closure Mechanism). As far as I could tell, it did not offer any significant comfort advantages and introduced a number of problems:
- As I mentioned, it’s visible under my jersey when I unzip for ventilation. And I LOVE to unzip. It kinda messed with my mojo.
- I didn’t find it very easy to unlatch and pull over my head while wearing a jersey. In fact, it felt a little like a contraption. I’d rather stick with a traditional bib and full zip jersey. I don’t mind undressing a little to take a pee – I guess bike racing has taken the modesty out of me.
- The fabric opening that the plastic piece hooks into in the front ripped after just a few wearings (there are three of these, so I simply started using the other two, which meant the straps were essentially longer). I believe that Assos has addressed this issue for future products.
The strap, I believe, is intended for a more secure, comfortable fit for well-endowed ladies. I’d love to hear from them, because unlike the half-naked Assos girl on this page (by the way, she has a Facebook fan page), I do not fall into that category and can’t comment on whether it’s better or worse.
Assos goes over the top with presentation and packaging for this premium bib: the box arrived with a small container of Assos cleaning solution and a small tub of Assos chamois cream (my favorite!!) as well as a wash bag. Classy for sure.
I personally prefer a standard bib strap, but for those who like this center-strap design, these bibs are the mega-jam: they feel amazing, look great and are – most importantly – mind-bogglingly comfortable. That said, $339 is a lot of money. According to my personal value (purchase justification) calculator, I’d have to wear these 452 times in order to get my money’s worth.
Have you worn this bib? Do you have an opinion on it? I’d love to hear from you.
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