We’ve all had them – those rides when every minute in the saddle is uncomfortable. You might get some temporary relief by getting off the saddle on climbs, or by moving around into different positions – but whatever you try, the relief is only temporary. Your chamois feels paper-thin, your saddle rock-hard, and every minute feels like an hour of torture.
Yuva Viswanathan and Amreet Singh, the team behind RedWhite Apparel, have spent more time than most thinking about how to avoid this kind of ride. The small Singapore-based company is focused on one thing, and one thing alone – making sure their fellow riders can enjoy sustained efforts and long days in the saddle in perfect comfort.
RedWhite are so specialised that they make only one product: a cycling bibshort specifically designed for longer rides, named simply “The Bibs”. Although they now have other products in the pipeline, they have first put a lot of thought into The Bibs, and they are far from your typical cycling bibs as a result.
Everything from materials and design to the manufacturing process has been carefully selected to offer optimal comfort on long rides. A detailed explanation of the design process behind The Bibs is available on the RedWhite website; rather than repeat this information in this review, I will focus on a couple of key features and how I found them to perform in practice, and my experience wearing The Bibs over a few long days in the saddle.
Under the bridge downtown
The chamois is one the most important components of any cycling bibshort, and perhaps the most noteworthy feature of the RedWhite version. RedWhite’s chamois is constructed of several layers of open-cell foam, with gel inserts over the sit-bones for comfort. Compared to a more typical set of bibs, the shaping is more pronounced, with thicker sections at the back for sitting upright and front for a more aggressive position. This is intended to enhance comfort as riders change position throughout a long distance ride to alleviate pressure and eliminate any soreness from sitting in one position for extended periods.
But it’s in the construction process itself is where the chamois used in The Bibs is unique. Rather than foam layers being ‘glued’ using celluloid strips and cured at 200 degrees Celsius, RedWhite’s chamois is gently fused at a lower temperature. This results in a single-piece pad that avoids pitfalls like the foam hardening or losing breathability, layers ‘bunching’ or losing shape over time. The process also means that the bibs can safely be washed at 60 degrees Celsius without worry of delamination or other damage.
You little gripper
The tight elastic or silicone strips used on older bibs have largely been replaced by silicone patterns printed on a single-layer band of fabric, typically laser-cut, at the leg opening. While this approach results in a more comfortable band that stays relatively stable without needing to be overly tight, it does have some pitfalls: the silicone pattern tends to show through on the outside of the leg band, particularly with lighter colours, while the single layer of fabric can tend to roll up over time.
The RedWhite leg bands instead use a carefully selected elastane and polyester fabric, printed on the inside with many silicone microdots. The microdots don’t show through on the outside and they cover the entire inside surface – so the entire band firmly but comfortably grips the rider’s leg. The result is that it remains firmly held in place without feeling tight or constrictive.
Designs and patterns are a big deal in cycling apparel, so it would be remiss not to mention this aspect of The Bibs. Like the Model T Ford, RedWhite’s bibs are available in any colour you like, provided it’s black. Branding is minimal, with a small RedWhite logo on the front of the left-hand leg. The reason for this design choice is partly due to fabric selection – which is explained in more detail on the RedWhite website. Suffice it to say, high quality fabric is used without the glossy sheen common to cheaper bibs. In practice, this subtle design works well as the bibs pair well with virtually any jersey.
The only design feature that may polarise riders is the bright red braces rather than the more traditional white (which tends to become a grubby grey after a few ride/wash cycles). While this is relatively inconsequential, as the braces are hidden beneath the rider’s jersey while in use, I did find that they showed through some light-coloured jerseys – though no more so than other bibs using black fabric. The straps themselves are well-ventilated, relatively wide, and sat comfortably on my shoulders when on the bike, whether sitting upright or in the drops, without being overly tight while standing.
Going down the hard road
So, how does all this technology translate into practice? To find out, I wore The Bibs on a series of endurance rides: a 170 km day trip in the hills around Kinglake and Healesville; the Fleche Opperman 24 hour team time trial; the 200km Gippsland Gold mixed-terrain randonneur; and finally a 15-hour ride of 282 km with over 9000m of climbing. This gave me the opportunity to test the bibs on a variety of roads and conditions, including flat roads with headwinds, sustained climbs, sealed and unsealed roads, and some sections of fire and forestry trail.
As noted, the RedWhite chamois is thicker than those used by other brands, and this was certainly noticeable on my first ride. In fact, I actually found I needed to drop my saddle a millimetre or so to compensate for the thickness. After this minor adjustment, the chamois was only really noticeable while standing and walking off the bike; while actually riding it did its job without feeling obtrusive or bulky. I had washed the bibs prior to the first outing, which softened the chamois somewhat; RedWhite recommend soaking them overnight in cold water before the first use to speed this process.
By the Fleche Opperman, I wasn’t really aware of the chamois while riding at all. This ride featured 420km of flat roads with occasional strong headwinds, necessitating fairly sustained periods of riding in a relatively aggressive position. I did feel that the middle and front section of the chamois could be thinner, but at the end of the ride I certainly didn’t feel as though I’d ridden in them for 24 hours. By the final ride, the chamois felt completely ‘broken in’ and not at all obtrusive while riding. Sustained climbing tends to necessitate sitting more upright and can lead to soreness over the sit bones. I didn’t find this at all, and while I wasn’t exactly enthusiastic about the prospect of rising after three hours of sleep to continue the ride (in a fresh kit), it was fatigue and tiredness rather than saddle soreness that sapped my enthusiasm.
For the Gippsland Gold randonneur, I selected my cyclocross bike rather than my road bike – which has a slightly less aggressive geometry, as well as a more thickly padded saddle. I found the combination of the plush chamois and a padded saddle was actually less comfortable, especially toward the end of the ride. For most riders, this is a bibshort that should be paired with a relatively minimalist saddle (which tends to be the choice of most endurance-orientated riders).
Otherwise, the bibs worked as they should; the single-layer leg bands were comfortable and stayed put without feeling tight, and so far haven’t shown any signs of rolling or fraying at the cut end. The design avoids any seams on the inside of the thigh, preventing any chafing or seams becoming worn due to contact with the saddle while riding. Flatlock stitching is used throughout and the seams have held up well to date.
My only minor complaint with regard to fit was that the fabric over the small of my back was slightly loose and would occasionally flap when a cross-breeze caught it at a certain angle. I also noticed the fabric over the chamois snagged the front of the saddle occasionally – not often, but more than normal for bibshorts (as opposed to braceless knicks).
Rubber, meet road
So, after a short but relatively comprehensive test – would I recommend RedWhite’s The Bibs?
Absolutely – for the right application. If you often find yourself riding for longer than a couple of hours, participate in Audax or other long-distance events, or spend a lot of time in the hills, RedWhite’s The Bibs are a very worthy contender – particularly given the relatively low cost compared to comparable premium European brands (The Bibs retail at $150 USD including delivery – just under $200 AUD at the time of writing). The Bibs have become my go-to choice for all-day rides, and going back to a standard bibshort with a thinner chamois feels a little like moving from a plush leather Chesterman sofa to a hard plastic school chair.
For those who ride shorter distances, RedWhite have another bibshort in development, aimed at shorter but higher intensity rides. Given the dedication and attention to detail the company has put into creating the ultimate bibs for long distance riders, the result should be well worth watching for criterium racers and short-distance enthusiasts.
For further details and purchasing, visit www.redwhite.cc