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Trek Circuit bib shorts review: Good for 2.5 hours

And in the process, found that it's possible to find good-quality bib shorts that don’t cost a fortune

Trek Circuit Cycling Bib Short
(Image: © Josh Ross)

Our Verdict

You might consider a higher-quality chamois if you regularly spend longer than two and a half hours on the bike. Otherwise, the Trek Circuit bib short offers quality construction and the right fit for a wallet friendly price.

For

  • Value pricing
  • Bluesign certified and STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX tested
  • Low-profile chamois keeps the bulk down

Against

  • Chamois has a definite time limit
  • Fabric is a bit heavy

Almost every cyclist needs a pair of quality bib shorts. It is one of the first things that new cyclists need to purchase. To that end, our list of the best cycling shorts is one of our most popular buyers' guides. In recent years we've also added a second list covering the best cargo bib shorts for those that prefer to add a bit of storage to their bibs. There are lots of great options between the two lists but when it's time to pick something, the price will be an issue. 

If you want to have a good time on a bike, you will need to be comfortable but does that have to cost a fortune? American brand Trek brought a new option to market this summer and it seems to be using it as an opportunity to say comfort and quality don't have to cost a fortune. Our goal is always to offer a wide range of options for every cyclist so we spent time in the Trek Circuit Bib Short to see how they compared to the best. If you are looking for a new pair of bib shorts that cost a bit less, keep reading to see what we think of this new option. 

Trek Circuit Cycling Bib Short rear view

The Trek Circuit bib short does a great job with the fit. (Image credit: Josh Ross)

Design and aesthetics 

The whole point of the Trek Circuit cycling bib short is to offer an entry-level option; the first pair of bib shorts for the casual cyclist. Take a look at them though and there's nothing obvious that gives away the design brief. 

The pattern isn't a complex one but it's also not one that has any obvious issue. At the end of each leg is a strip of fabric. It's not elastic, but rather the same material as the rest of the bibs use with the addition of silicone gripper dots on the inside. The design follows a theme that repeats in every aspect of these bibs. There are no aero claims or claims about incremental upgrades from past designs. Instead, you've got a well-trodden design that you'll find if you look at a variety of other bibs from a variety of companies. 

In the case of the Trek Circuit bibs, that bottom cuff uses a flat-locked seam at the attachment point to the two panels that make up each leg. One panel sits only on the outer thigh and carries a reflective "Trek" wordmark. That panel ends early as it connects to another small side panel above it. The rest of the leg uses a single panel that covers the inner thigh, lower abdomen, and wraps up. Connecting the two legs is a single seam, without flat-lock stitching, splitting the garment in two as well as a low back panel that also sits centrally. 

As the lower section gives way to the straps, you'll find an edged seam. Often this is a place where brands use a raw-edged fabric that leads seamlessly into the strap. In this design, Trek has switched away from the fabric of the rest of the bibs. Instead, there's a very simple elastic that leads up the front of the torso and over the shoulders. Just over the crest of the shoulders is where the elastic gives way to mesh fabric. 

For the chamois in this piece, Trek uses a proprietary design referred to as the "Elite inForm Chamois." Officially this is a dual-density design but from a functional standpoint, it's as simple as it gets. The useful padding consists of two saddle-shaped pieces that remain the same density throughout. There is a second density in the overrun areas and up through the front but this isn't in an area you'll be relying on for protection. Particularly in front, it's there to keep modesty, not to pad the saddle. 

Performance

When you pull on the Trek Circuit bib shorts, they feel good and the fit is accurate to other brands. It may lean towards the roomier side but I didn't have any doubts about my usual sizing. The legs aren't overly tight and the height of the front cut is exactly where I like to see it. You can notice the lack of flatlock seams if you inspect these but as you pull them on they certainly aren't objectionable. 

The same is true of the straps, the elastic is simple in its design and of the type that can fray at the edges over time, but they're comfortable, and their width is just right to spread the pressure out and the placement over the shoulders feels exactly as you'd want it to. 

The fabric itself seems somewhat similar to that of the Giro Chrono Elite line of bib shorts. Both Trek and Giro are providing a market for recycled plastics by using them in the creation of the nylon they use. They are also both Bluesign approved, which is a promise of a safe production chain, and Trek also adds STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX which certifies the safety of the final product. Those similarities in the production would seem to lead to a similarity in the end result. There's a heaviness to it that is perhaps subtle but also noticeable in comparison. It's not entirely unpleasant but it does suggest that the hottest days would be best served by a different pair of bibs.

When it comes to the chamois, in an unusual move, Trek's product description page for these shorts specifically says "for rides up to 2.5 hours / 35 miles / 56km." 

The first time I tested them, I hadn't read those instructions. It was yet another rainy day, so I planned a big ride on the indoor trainer - five and half hours in the end - and I knew it would be the perfect test. 

As the headline of this review states, it's here that I accidentally found Trek's stated limit when, after about two and a half hours, the discomfort began. I have experienced much worse in this regard, and there was no outright bruising, but it was definitely getting uncomfortable, and as perhaps expected, riding the next day in the same bibs was even less pleasant. 

In this case, Trek is not only unusually upfront about expectations, but also perfectly accurate. Stay under their recommended limit and the lightweight pad does a decent job. 

Verdict

The Trek Circuit bib shorts are not the most sophisticated bib shorts on the market. The fabrics are a little heavy and the chamois is only going to work for shorter rides. As long as you understand the limitations though, the experience is extremely good for a product that costs around half (to a third) of the more premium options on the market. 

Not everyone needs their bib shorts to last beyond a couple of hours. If you are just getting started in cycling and want to see what bib shorts are all about, or your rides are kept under that mark, Trek is offering a great solution. They look great, they feel pretty good, and they do exactly what they say they will. When you find your rides starting to exceed what these are capable of, there are more expensive options waiting for you.

Testing scorecard and notes
AttributesNotesRating
Lower abdomen fitJust the right height and very comfortable.10/10
Fabric qualityNot fantastic but workable.5/10
Chamois QualityNot a great chamois compared to the overall market. Stay within the limitations.4/10
SizingExactly what you’d expect.10/10
Fashion appeal Surprisingly good. Even better than a few upmarket pieces.7/10
StrapsComfortable when new but basic in design.6/10
Value for moneyFor rides under two and a half hours, they're perfectly suitable.9/10
Overall rating73%

Tech Specs: Trek Circuit Cycling Bib Short

  • Price: £84.99 / $114.99 / €109.99 / AU$149.99
  • Weight: 155g size small
  • Colour Options: Black, Deep Dark Blue
  • Main Fabric Content: 77% Recycled Nylon / 23% Recycled Elastane

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