The MAAP Alt Road Cargo bibs aren’t doing anything all that unexpected but MAAP has managed to cover the details and put together a pair of bibs that look as good as they feel
Pockets on both thighs plus low back
Flatlocked seams everywhere
Zippered pocket limits storage
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Over the past few years, as gravel cycling has boomed, a new type of bib short has started to grow in popularity. We've put together a list of the best cargo bib shorts but there seem to be new options available every time we look. As with everything gravel related there is a wide range of styles catering to a wide range of riding sub-genres. At the end of last summer, high-style, high-quality brand MAAP jumped in with a new option in this always growing category.
Collectively, MAAP's off-road facing gear comes under its Alt_Road moniker. That name represents a range of options covering cool, hot, men's and women's, and there are even some bags that benefit from the expertise of Apidura. One of the options I've had a chance to spend time with was the Alt_Road cargo bib, both on and off-road, with a sprinkle of racing too, to really get a feel for how they perform. If you are considering a new pair of cargo bibs this summer, keep reading to see what we thought of this premium offering.
Design and aesthetics
From a style standpoint, these are quintessential MAAP. Every brand that makes cycling apparel has to balance performance and style, but the general consensus in the industry seems to be starting with performance and then making it look good. Not so with MAAP, which is definitely a fashion-forward company, which isn't a great surprise given the brand's two founders come from the fashion world.
The details are subtle, but it all works to create a harmonic design. Instead of hiding the stitching, the flat-locked seams are on display, big and proud. In the coffee and olive colourway the contrast is greater than that of the black model, but both benefit from pops of colour, though some of this will admittedly be hidden by a jersey.
The leg gripper sits down closer to the knee than much of the competition and it's a wide design that in some ways feels like a little bit of a throwback at this point. Instead of black it's a blueish colour that matches the bib straps and sits as a perfect, although subtle, contrast to the tan MAAP logo on the left thigh.
There's even a bit of purple popping up here and there. You can find it where the straps join the mesh that brings the lower part of the bib shorts up across the back but you can also see it in some of the details. There are two pockets that sit on the low back and on the right-hand pocket there's an Alt_Road logo that pops up across the whole lineup. Below that the technical features, like the stitching, sit loud and proud. Reflective details, breathable fabrics, four-way stretch, and moisture-wicking all get an icon, and this is another place the purple colour shows up. Then the final place is on the inside of the leg gripper where the silicone grip material is not only purple but also has a MAAP logo. These are the kinds of details that many won't notice, at least not consciously, but some designer is no doubt very proud of.
The last bit of visual design detail is in the textures. The front and rear, including the saddle area, use a four-way stretch woven compression fabric that has started to pop up more and more lately. It's similar to what you'll find in the Assos Equipe RSR bib shorts S9 Targa and the Castelli Premio Black bib shorts and in each case the reasons are similar. The brands are looking for lighter fabrics that are more durable and breathable while also allowing for more precise compression tuning.
MAAP is using the woven panels for the same reasons as the competition but they also leverage the aesthetics of it to great effect. It's a smooth fabric that sits as a contrast to the side panels, which are noticeably more textured, especially with the addition of the pocket mesh.
I have an affinity for the kind of details that MAAP packs into all of their products but specifically into the MAAP Alt_Road bib shorts. Having spent time in a previous life adding little design details to boring corporate communication, I can appreciate something like the consideration of how a feature list looks. Doing something like adding colour and texture to the inside of the leg gripper, where it never gets seen, feels familiar and heart-warming. Still, employing art school techniques like balance and texture at every opportunity can't replace performance.
When you put on a MAAP product it just feels perfect. I wear a size small from most brands and the Alt_road bib shorts fit exactly how I'd expect in a size small. It's a tight fit but it's not uncomfortable once on. The height of the bibs, and the way they transition to the straps, helps in looking your best and there's no modesty issues to mention. These are bibs that look good when you put them on and the style is such that it could work on a road bike or a gravel bike.
When I was planning the right clothing to wear for a warm weather gravel race it was the MAAP Alt_Road bib shorts that I grabbed first. I specifically mention warm but not hot and there is a reason for that. This review covers the bib shorts but the jersey is on the thicker side. Great for early, or late, in the summer, but probably not the first choice for the hottest summer days. I thought the pair would be perfect for the cool morning and warm day. As it turned out, the cool morning broke early and the day was warmer than expected. The bib shorts were more forgiving of the heat but both pieces actually handled the heat just fine. If you are heading out for a day of climbing during the hottest part of the summer you might want to make a different choice but the MAAP Alt_Road bibs did handle the heat I put them through just fine.
The other reason I reached for these bibs for the gravel race was, like all cargo bibs, the pockets. I opted not to add extra bags to my bike so having the four pockets meant there was plenty of room for all the food I wanted to carry through the 93 miles. The left cargo pocket is expansive and I shoved it full of Bonk Breaker energy chews. There’s room for at least seven packages which, combined with nutrition in my bottles, covers my needs for seven hours of riding. As mentioned, I was also pairing the bibs with the jersey so I opted to leave the lumbar pockets empty. If you wanted to grab a technical T instead, you’d have plenty of storage for food and even some extra clothing in just the bibs. The right cargo pocket is meant for a phone and in my use case, it remained empty.
No matter what I was doing on the bike, one of the best things about MAAP Alt_Road cargo bib shorts is the chamois. They use a "proprietary 3D thermo moulded multi (three layer) density chamois" built by Elastic Interface. Elastic Interface makes some of the best chamois options on the market so it’s always a pleasure when brands lean on them for their expertise. In this case, MAAP starts with the Paris HP design but it’s been heavily customised with feedback from MAAP. The team-up is a success and also unusual. The pad features such deep sculpting it almost echoes the design of a saddle and even after seven hours of riding, it remains comfortable.
There are high-end options that aren't cheap, then there are options that come in above that pricing. The MAAP Alt_Road bib shorts are expensive enough that mentioning it is a must; this is more of an issue in the US but even in other markets the Alt_Road bib shorts are going to cost you a fair wedge. You can get other high quality bib shorts for less money, but these don't disappoint if style is as important to you as function. The fit is tight but not uncomfortable and the fabrics feel great against the skin. There's enough colour that even the black feels fun while staying subtle. The only design feature that could use some revision is the inclusion of a zippered pocket on the right thigh, where I'd rather see a conventional mesh pocket.
No doubt there's a lot of people who will appreciate that this pocket works well for a phone. If you've already got another place for a phone though, it limits storage. The vertical zip means anything sticking out might not stay there. On the upside the texture of the zippered pocket helps the style and there's a lot of other storage room in the other pockets. It's easy to overlook the limited storage of that pocket and for some the design will be a plus.
Tech specs: MAAP Alt_Road Cargo bibs
- Price: £235 / $335 / €265 / AU$385
- Weight: 204g size small
- Colour Options: Black, Olive, Coffee
- Main Fabric Content: 72% Polyamide, 28% Elastane
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