Bontrager RXL Bib Short Review
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Over the years, logging miles on my road bike I have become a strong believe that few places as worthy of my hard earned dollars as a great pair of bibs. Cheap bibs chafe, shift, and just don’t fit right. You are welcome to learn through trial and error yourself but trust me when I say poorly designed bibs are not worth the small amount of cash you save over a top of the line set up like the Bontrager RXL. These bibs are lightweight, cut perfectly and have every feature you could ask for in a high end pair of road bibs.
Bontrager RXL Bib Short Features
The first thing I noticed when I pulled them out of the box was the weight. They are extremely light… light enough that I immediately worried about durability and sufficient padding, concerns that were totally unfounded (read on). The weight saving comes largely from outstanding material choice. The Profila Power materials compose the majority of the bib and short. They are light, breathable and quite stretchy, as you might expect. They are thinner than I am used to in high end bike shorts which makes them exceptionally cool. The back panel of the bib is comprised of a very light weight comfortable Profila Cool mesh. I was concerned that mesh would turn out to be uncomfortable on long rides or when commuting with a pack on but I was wrong.
The straps of the bib are made of a very thin stretchy, almost rubberized material that is extremely light weight and low profile. The huge benefit of these straps is that surface of the strap is such that the bibs don’t slip at all. The manufacturer claims that all the seams on the straps are bonded. This isn’t exactly true as you can see in the picture below, but I never found any of the seams to be uncomfortable or cause any irritation.
The base of the shorts is “clean cut” so there is no fold over that is sewn in. This means that the bottom 1/2 inch of the short works fantastically both for compression and as a gripper on your leg. The design of the gripper is such that you don’t need any little rubberized bumps, knobs or stitching sewn in, all thing I have found to wear out in other brands of bibs.
The inForm RXL Chamois supplies all the necessary padding to bang out century after century. It is composed of a multi-density foam with built in 4 way stretch. The icing on the cake is an antimicrobial top sheet to keep things fresh. Like the rest of the short the chamois is seamless so you don’t have to worry about chafe.
Fit and Cut
Normally Bontrager fits pretty true to size. I’m 5’6 150 lbs and usually fit in medium bike shorts. When I looked at sizes, the small looked like it might fit so I decided to give it a try and I am very glad that I did. The straps of the bib have tons of stretch so fitting my torso into them wasn’t an issue at all. The legs of the short were a little tighter than I am normally used to but this worked really nicely as mild compression. One thing I did notice with the smaller size was that the shorts themselves were a little shorter (duh). This really didn’t affect performance at all and the medium fell more where I would expect bike short to. The cut of the bibs is quite low in the front and back, making sure that you don’t overheat when riding in hot temperatures.
The very first thing I noticed about these shorts was just how comfortable they are. After finishing my first ride in them a realized that at no point during the ride did I need to adjust anything. I think this is largely a product of the material choice for the short. The materials are very comfortable and the Gripper portions really didn’t allow the bottom of the short to slip at all even when I was sweating intensely.
I can’t say enough good things about the placement of seams and liberal use of bonding instead of sewn seams in critical places. I never had a problem with chaffing, rubbing or friction.
One of my hesitation about bibs is always about temperature management. I ride in Utah, where it gets seriously hot for the entire summer. The bib is cut pretty low in the front and back (see pictures) so I didn’t feel like I was getting smothered even when it got quite hot. I can not stress enough how impressed I was with how little moisture the shorts held onto. The ability to dry quickly is not something I generally think about in shorts but with these I found if I dumped some of my water bottle on the front and legs in 90+ degree heat I cooled off but was almost immediately dry again.
Padding is a critically important part of any type bike short, and people have strong opinions on how much padding is right. Individual perspectives on this are usually based on the firmness of their bike seats and “natural padding”. I ride a fairly unforgiving saddle and found the padding to be perfectly adequate for rides of any length. The pads are on the thinner side but fairly dense. All told, I really didn’t notice them much, which is the sign the padding was doing what it should be. It is admittedly hard to know how much the antimicrobial top sheet does but seemed to function fine for all intensive purposes.
The Bontrager RXL Bib Shorts are very durable. I rode in them regularly for my bike commute (15 miles each way) for most of the summer. I was very impressed with the durability, something I was initially worried about because they are so light. The only thing I noticed was that I got a few stray string coming out of the stitching on one of the legs, but I cut it and never noticed an ill effects or further problems. If you stretch the grip portion at the bottom of the leg, they bounce back quickly, but don’t take 100% of their original form until washed again.
The Bontrager RXL bib short are really an outstanding set of bibs. They don’t come cheap, but the cost is easily justified by their outstanding construction, lightweight, comfort and durability. If you add a pair of these to your bike clothing collection, you will find yourself reaching for them time and time again. For more information check out the link: Bontrager RXL Bib Short and also see our review on the matching jersey: Bontrager RXL Jersey Review.