- by John Hawkins
- Published: 30 April 2012
I’m a hairy-legged mountain biker and I have a dirty secret: I prefer bib knicks to mountain bike baggies. If the style police determine that baggies are a requirement, I’ll wear MTB-specific over-shorts, but underneath you’ll find me wearing bib knicks. They simply perform so much better in the comfort stakes.
So now that I’ve outed myself, let me tell you that if you’re serious about comfort on the bike, the Ground Effect Ringleaders are the bib knicks you want to look at, regardless of your preferred mode of mischief.
My first impression as I pulled them out of the wrapper was that these knicks are designed to last. The attention to detail is excellent and unlike some other recent performance sportswear purchases I’ve made, few if any shortcuts appear to have been taken. Choosing the cheap way out, such as going light on the stitching around the outer edge of the chamois to avoid chafing, has been ditched in favour of the application of careful thought to the design, giving equal weight to durability.
The material used in the construction of the Ringleaders has a matte finish and is soft on the skin. Flat seams have been used throughout the leg and hip area, and are positioned away from problem areas to limit the opportunities for friction and chafing. The “warm machine wash 40C” care instructions are reassuring; “hand wash only” is a phrase I’ve learned to view with suspicion.
New from Ground Effect this year is the “eXo skeletal” pad. It uses 3D anatomical shaping and multiple levels of foam to maximise padding where it’s needed, and remove bulk where it’s not. The raised blue saddle-shaped section of the chamois panel is bonded around the edge instead of sewn to its backing, removing seams completely from a critical area closest to the most vulnerable and chafe-prone part of my inside leg.
In an interesting departure from the rest of the market, the Ringleaders omit the silicone bead leg gripper seen on most midrange-to-premium shorts. Instead they use a double layer of textured lycra that they’ve branded their “Bandolier cuff”. I raised an eyebrow at this initially, however in use I found it moves up no more than my other bibs with silicone grippers, and it’s less restrictive.
The 12-panel cut provides a snug and creaseless anatomical fit which felt reassuringly firm, although not as tight as compression bibs. While tight-ish around the crotch and shoulder area when worn for the first time, I found the sensation disappeared once on the bike.
Flat seams, snug fit, high-tech chamois and other bells and whistles aren’t much use if it doesn’t all stay in place. I’m pleased to report that after a number of wet rides, cold rides, warm rides and long four hour plus rides, there were no creases, no sliding out of position and no bunching up in uncomfortable places.
Initially I was concerned the matte finish on the blue centre padding might be a source of friction, but my fears were baseless. I never once wished I’d applied chamois cream at the start of a ride. In fact the most memorable thing about these bib knicks is that I completely failed to notice them. This is as it should be. Unfortunately it is not as common as it should be, unless you spend a lot of money.
One comment I sometimes hear from bib knicks sceptics is that the additional “singlet” layer on the upper body must make your ride hotter. Yes, there is an element of truth to this. On the other side, though, it’s just not that noticeable and it has never been enough to change my decision to ride or race in bib knicks on a hot day. I’m of the view that on hotter days, with a higher perspiration load, it’s more important than ever to ensure things stay put without sliding around out of position. The Ringleaders do the job perfectly.
As a guide to sizing, I’m a 185cm adult male of about 80kg, and a medium was a good snug fit. Admittedly, my high school nickname was “stick insect”, but if you are a smaller build or female, your sizing options may be a bit limited.
Overall I’m quite impressed with how these shorts have performed. They are the equal of some much more expensive high-end Italian bib knicks I own, and they’re made by our bro’s over the ditch.
+ Solid and durable construction
+ Light enough to wear on a stinking hot day without boiling the radiator
+ Excellent value for money
+ Not available in white
– They only sent me one pair!
– More size options would suit smaller riders
The Ringleaders Bib Knicks are available online directly from Ground Effect for $179
Ground Effects Ringleaders (RRP $ 179)
Tags: Bib Knicks