Comfortable, well-tailored shorts for long days in the saddle although the premium looks and feel do come at a premium, although competitive, price
- Supportive material
- Comfortable chamois
- Inoffensive styling
- Good leg length
- Material can be very slippy with some saddles
For 2021 Le Col has updated its endurance bib short, the Hors Categorie and with version two comes a new cut, refined leg grippers and a revamped rear section for better ventilation. They aren't cheap though, at £180 these shorts are an investment but if you are looking to spend a lot of miles in the saddle, choosing the best cycling shorts is an investment worth making both for comfort and performance.
Le Col believes its new shorts strike the balance offering a broad spectrum of performance from tempo efforts to all-day cruising. We have been riding the Hors Categorie II bib shorts to see if these premium endurance bib shorts go the distance.
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Design and aesthetics
Le Col has used a 160 GSM fabric that strikes a good balance of thickness to maintain breathability without feeling the sting from a chilly breeze. While many brands use the endurance category to also cater for those that want a relaxed fit, Le Col understands that performance is still important over long-distance and has reflected that with the fit which is designed to be supportive.
Wide two-way-stretch straps are anchored at the front and rear of the shorts using a double layer of laser-cut mesh that isn’t as stretchy as the main fabric. The straps are then further supported up the back by a single layer of mesh to help hold the strap position whilst not affecting breathability too much.
The inside of the leg hem is lined with small silicone dots to gently hold the legs in place. Negative space within the grippers suggests you try to ‘ride faster, ride further’ although these missing dots don’t seem to have any effect on the hem's ability to stop the shorts from riding further up.
If you are riding for a long period of time, the chamois is going to be a key component of any short. Le Col has specced a Dolomiti Stelvio chamois which has been designed to be comfortable over long distances. The pad has dimensions of 215 mm x 370 mm and a thickness of 12mm. The chamois uses a thinner low-density section at the front with the main six-pack section of the chamois made from a thicker density for support. To help with ventilation and handling of moisture, the Stelvio pad has 3mm/8mm perforations in the foam sections.
It sounds a bit trivial but it’s nice to see a very low profile label on the inside that sits nice and flat. For a product that should be close-fitting, it’s surprising how many brands sew a lumpy bundle of labels into a bib short that can cause irritation whether left in or cut out.
The final touches on the Hors Categorie are two little reflective tabs on the legs to add some visibility and some subtle black on black logos on the small of the back and around the leg hems mean the bibs should pair nicely with your existing wardrobe. We have Black/White shorts but Le Col also offers Black/Black (black shorts and black straps) and Navy/White (black shorts and black straps).
The fit is good, providing a support that hugs the body without being overbearing when the hours start racking up or shuffling out of place when you’re sprinting out the saddle. The leg length of these medium shorts sits perfectly on my quads with a 34-inch inseam. The straps have a light elastication with most of the heavy lifting actually being performed by the elasticated laser-cut mesh around the waist, onto which the shoulder straps are mounted. The straps themselves are nice and wide and sit irritation-free across the shoulders. The material feels suitably premium with a soft finish against the skin and so far there has been no sign of loosening seams or peeling logos.
The chamois is comfortable, conforming well to my undercarriage to avoid any readjustments, hot spots and providing enough support over long rides. Heat and moisture management helped maintain comfort in warm weather and was on par with other shorts that I choose to keep in frequent rotation, namely Velocio’s Concept, Velocio's Luxe V2 and Endura’s Pro SL.
The only downside is the soft to the touch material can be slippy with certain saddles combinations. This was only the case with select saddles that I rode, however, it did mean that without the slight purchase I’m used to, there was more need for readjustments on the saddle.
Anyone that has perused the Le Col website won’t be surprised by the pricing of these shorts. The price tag sits these shorts amongst many other competitive high-end brands however Le Col does offer a couple of ways to lessen the sting through with jersey and bib bundles and its Strava ‘Rewards for Riding’ scheme.
Le Col delivers with a premium feel and neat touches, the chamois is very comfortable and the overall tailoring of the shorts are very well-considered offering a supportive and stable fit.
Tech Specs: Le Col Hors Categorie bibs II
- Price: £180.00 / $255.00 / €220.00
- Materials: Main fabric: 62% polyamide, 38% elastane. Bib Uppers: 75% Nylon, 25%.
- Colours: Black/Black, Black/White or Navy/White
- Sizes: XS - 3XL
- Weight: 190g
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