Assos Équipe Bibs

Assos Équipe Bibs

The inexorable march of technology can be as infuriating as it is fun. I didn’t buy the first iPhone. I swore I didn’t need to be able to send email with my phone or surf the Interwebs. Then one day, 400 miles from home and busy trying to figure out an itinerary change, I suddenly realized that real-time access to Google Maps would make my life much easier. Either that, or I needed to travel with a filing cabinet full of maps. I went with technology. Ever since buying that first iPhone I’ve wondered how I got along without it. So elemental to my life is the iPhone that I can compare it to the bicycle in terms of its genius, its necessity, and I can do that with a straight face. No mock sarcasm or irony. Still, with each new introduction I wonder just how much better it could be.

And every single time I catch myself going, “Oh. Wow. Cool.” Imagine how I’d feel if I used Siri regularly.

I wasn’t thinking of the iPhone when Assos announced last fall that they were introducing a new series of bibs. Four pairs total, the S7 line replaces the S5 with four different models, as compared to three. No, what I was thinking of was just who I was going to have to kill for discontinuing the finest pair of bibs on the market. I had heart palpitations when I considered the possibility that the Fi.13 bibs would cease to exist. It’s like no more Grade B maple syrup. No, I’m sorry; that’s not workable. We’re going to have to find an alternative. I didn’t have a problem with them adding new models, but when your top-of-the-line bibs are easily twice as good as everything else on the market (and I swear, nothing comes close to the Fi.13s), what on earth must you be possessed by to think, “Okay, nix those”?

Who does that?

Of course, all my gnashing of teeth happened before I rode anything from the new S7 lineup.

Then I pulled on a pair of the Équipe bibs. It’s a good thing I didn’t speak ill of them before their introduction.

So the S7 lineup has four bibs. The NeoPros are the entry level. The Équipes are next in the lineup. The Cento is third and then Campionissimo is the new top-of-the-line bib. Assos has set up a microsite devoted just to the S7 bibs. There’s a great interview with Tony Maier Moussa, the company founder, there.

With a suggested retail of $270, the Équipe bibs accomplish an unusual feat by turning a nearly entry-level product into a magnitude of premium most manufacturers would find unthinkable. A quick survey online shows that there are a fair number of brands whose best bibs cost less than the Équipes. For some brands, that disparity would be alarming, a signal that they misunderstood the market. But not Assos.

I recall reading an interview with East Coast mountain bike pioneer Chris Chance back in 1987 or ’88. I believe the interview ran in Mountain Bike Action and the interviewer may have been my friend Dan Koeppel. One of the questions he put to Chance was, “What would you tell someone who only had $600 to spend on a mountain bike?” Now, back in ’88, $600 was a helluva lot of sawbucks to spend on a bicycle, doubly so for a mountain bike, but a Wicked Fat Chance ran more than $1000. So how did Chance respond?

“I’d tell them to save their money.”

I was a nearly destitute graduate student. Saving money was as impractical a goal for me as growing gills. Yet, I loved that answer. I liked the man’s principles, and I made a point to tell him so when I met him a few months later—even as I rode an $800 GT Avalanche.

Placing principles ahead of all other concerns is a stance that appeals to me at a very elemental, even visceral, level. If I may, I’m of the belief that too much is done with an eye on cost. Chasing a commodity seems a pointless endeavor, and the pursuit of producing something for the lowest possible cost seems a kind of cancer. I’m reminded of astronaut Alan Shepard, and what he had to say about his Mercury rocket.

“It’s a very sobering feeling to be up in space and realize that one’s safety factor was determined by the lowest bidder on a government contract.”

That’s always unnerved me. It’s offensive to my sensibility, as well.

Equipe back

But back to Assos. I’m using their images for the overall shots of the bibs because I don’t look cool enough to model anything, certainly not with my shirt off. I’m doing you a kind of service.

What I find so mind boggling is the way this company dustbinned their entire S5 line of bibs. I went on record calling the Fi.13_S5 bibs the finest on the market. Yes, at $369 they were nearly as expensive as the last set of tires I purchased for my car, but they were more comfortable than anything else on the market by order of magnitude. But they are no more.

So I tried on the Équipe bibs and even before I’d managed to pull the strap up I noticed an unusual feature. That same feeling that the Fi.13 bibs gave of cupping my package and getting it out of the way of my leg movement was present in the Équipe, although at only 75 percent of the cost. This feature is the Kukupenthouse, a term that has gotten more than a touch of derisive laughter. However, this is Assos at their most Assos. Sure, it’s a ridiculous name, but it’s a feature that has a distinct benefit and isn’t duplicated by any other bibs on the market; it’s truly unique to Assos.

The pad in the Équipe bibs enjoys an unusual relationship to the shorts. It is sewn in at five points. This is Assos’ new feature called Goldengate. There’s stitching along the very front of the pad, then two wing points that help form the Kukupenthouse, and then in two sections along the back of the pad—but they don’t join at the middle. The purpose is to allow the pad more natural movement, more freedom to stay with you by allowing it to slide along the short. Think of the stitching as an anchor, not glue, for three-dimensional freedom of movement.

IMG_7912

You may have noticed that the bib straps are spaced in an unusually wide stance. Previous attempts to space the bibs wide like this really haven’t worked out. The bibs I’ve worn that tried this either tried to slip off my shoulders or the bunched up around my neck. Assos’ Bibstabilizer is a small piece of fairly rubbery plastic sewn on to the straps to make sure they lie flat along the chest and don’t bunch up. They work; they also doubles as a place to hang your eyewear, as they are sewn only at the ends. Just hook an ear piece through.

Helping to keep those bib straps wide is the (wait for it) Y7 Frame Carrier Bibtech. By using less spandex in the bibs the material bunches less and lays flat to keep the straps set wide. The upshot of the bib straps running wide is that your chest feels more open. Do other bibs restrict my breathing? I wouldn’t suggest that, but my chest feels more open with these.

IMG_7910

You may also have noticed that the front of the short is cut pretty low, lower than most bibs. I’ll say that every time I pull these on (and it’s been several times per week since I received my pair) I want a bit more material covering my belly. I hate to have to keep talking about this, but I don’t have the flat belly of a racer boy anymore. And I don’t want my bibs to remind me of that. This is why I’ve never reviewed the Castelli Body Paint bibs; they are cut so low my belly … oh hell, you get the idea. What is both remarkable and frustrating is that the Équipe bibs seem to be cut just barely high enough to keep me from going muffin top. Still, I’d like it if the front was cut just a bit higher, but given that the Équipe is meant to be Assos’ most race-ready bibs, that’s not going to happen.

My friend Steve Carre at Bike Effect has already had the misfortune to crash in a set of the Équipes. My heart sank when he told me this. But because these are are meant for racers, Assos used an unusual blend of fibers in the shorts. They are constructed from fabric that is 70 percent polyamide, 18 percent elastane and 12 percent polyester. The intent was to create a fabric that was more abrasion resistant. Steve told me his bibs were fine despite the distance he slid and they even reduced the amount of road rash he got. Had these been out when I was still racing as a Cat III, this would have been enough to get me to purchase a pair, or two. Assos claims its Abrasionprotec increases abrasion resistance by 18 to 43 percent.

Other features include Assos Icecolor, which is their version of Coldblack, to keep you cooler on hot days, and the new Superflat Grippers which somewhat thicker leg bands to secure the shorts but they aren’t as restrictive as some out there. But these aren’t the big deal.

IMG_7913

What’s more important is that Assos has been using memory foam since the S2 generation of shorts—one of only a small handful of companies to employ it. They also improved the Waffle and Superair features, which are the perforations in the pad that increase breathability to cut down on monkeybutt (that’s a motocross term) at the end of a long, sweaty ride. The pad is, of course, an Elastic Interface, made for them by Cytech and is proprietary to Assos. When I consider all these features plus the Kukupenthouse and the Goldengate, I realize that the Équipe bibs are every bit as good as the Fi.13 bibs.

I don’t like writing that.

I’ve got some minor quibbles, like how I prefer the way the way the front of the Fi.13s come up a bit higher and all the sublimation on the webbing in the back of the bibs. They aren’t a deal breaker. What I do think may have some impact on sales for these bibs is the purple stripe that encircles the left gripper that denotes these as the Équipe. What on Earth possessed them to do that? I know plenty of riders who color coordinate every piece of their wardrobe and getting that purple stripe to match everything you wear isn’t going to happen for every ride.

Whatever. These bibs are so good I’ll probably wear them with any jersey I own because they are so comfortable. I’ve worn nothing from another brand that comes close to how comfortable these bibs are—at any price. I was about to write about how these bibs are a game changer and then caught myself when I recalled how Assos’ ads for these bibs used exactly that phrase. Damn. They’re right.

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35 comments

  1. Alan

    Gawd I hate hate hate those Assos model posing images. A magnet for abuse.

    Also, Andrew made me spit beer all over my screen.

  2. Mendip5000

    We all know that a saddle review is a horribly subjective. Reviewers are usually at pains to mention this. Is a short review any less subjective?

  3. Ryan

    I’m sorry but, I don’t care if they make my package feel like it’s being gargled by Scarlett Johansson, there is a 0% chance I’m coughing up nearly 3 hundy for a pair of bib shorts

  4. Adam

    Don’t know which model of Assos knicks I have since they are well over 5 years old, but they are still the most comfortable ones to wear. Worth every penny.

  5. Spider

    Padraig, heard anything about jersey updates? They coming out with a successor to the SS.13 (I know you’re a fan of that top).

  6. TominAlbany

    Assos are on my lottery wish-list. Of course, I’ve got to play to win…

    As for the low-low front. I love my body paint shorts because of that. It’s so much easier to reduce the pressure, if you get my drift…

  7. MCH

    In the quest for comfort on the bike I think just about any amount of money can be justified on shorts, seats, shoes, gloves, etc. I know from experience that once you find the sweet spot with all of your contact points, the riding experience is much, much nicer. $275 for a pair of shorts is a lotta dough, though.

    I embarked on a mission last season to find the perfect seat and shorts. After riding for 30+ years, I was pretty happy with the combo I was using, but it wasn’t perfect. After trying multiple combinations (and trying the patience of several shops), I found the perfect shorts and seat for me. What I also found was that interaction of shorts and seat can have a profound impact on comfort. A pair of shorts that felt good on one seat, would feel terrible on another! All of the bumps, and holes, and differential padding must meld with each other, as well as with your personal “geometry” perfectly in order to eliminate pressure points. For me, finding this sweet spot required a lot of trial and error. For me at least, “systems integration” now extends to shorts and seats.

  8. Ron Callahan

    @MCH I agree with your comments, especially with regards to saddles.

    What’s funny is that Padraig and I both have had similarly great experiences with the Assos S5 and S7 shorts (they are the paragon against which all other shorts are measured when I do reviews), but he has notably said that he hated his experience with Selle SMP saddles.

    They are my favorite.

    I now have one on both my road bike and my cross bike. They are a little pesky. When I first put one on my road bike, had I just gone out and started riding, I would have hated it as well. It took about 4 rounds of minor tweaks to the angle and setback, but once I had it dialed in, I loved it.

  9. Road Mike

    To Mendip5000’s point, on RKP’s recommendation I picked up a pair of Fi.13 bibs a while back. They were among the worst I’ve ever ridden in. The fit was awkward in several ways (not too big or too small, just a poor fit for my “geometry”), and after a few rides the fabric began to pill where it contacts the saddle. I retired them after just a few weeks, a painful move given the premium pricing. I really wanted to like them. Lesson learned: bib shorts and saddles are personal.

  10. Peter Lin

    I just got a pair of body paint, since it was on closeout sale. I normally hate spending more than 150.00 on bib shorts, but I must say the lack of leg grippers makes the biggest difference for me. Does the Equipe have leg grippers?

    my other “go to” bib is hincapie, which doesn’t have leg grippers and is super comfortable. I’m not skinny either, so I get the comment about slightly higher cut on. That’s the only complaint I have about the body paint bibs, everything else fits excellent.

  11. Bikelink

    1) clarification, the “Kuku Penthouse” isn’t on the Equipe per their matrix and those pictures…maybe you actually reviewed one the even more expensive ones?

    2) despite looking all over and even emailing Assos (no reply), I can’t find a leg length dimension on the s7 lines…they look like they are all probably the same length and unfortunately the “long” not “regular” length of the S5s (“long” is too long for me). Can you comment?

  12. stevo

    Most cyclists fall into one of three groups: tech geeks, socialites, and athletes. Sure, we overlap those boundaries a bit, but if I had $300 to drop on new bibs, I’d make sure the $150 premium would register somewhere on my cyclo computer ,

  13. Michael

    Road Mike – I had the same experience with Assos, and really like Castelli. Maybe they are the opposite of each other – if you like one, you won’t like the other.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      All: Thanks for your comments. It’s always interesting to hear the reader perspective.

      Alan: I’m going to go to the mat for Assos on the pics. I know they are weird to our American sensibilities, but I think it’s important to remember that this is a Swiss company and their aesthetic is different; I don’t think it’s fair to call them pretentious.

      Mendip5000, MCH, Road Mike, Michael: My experience is that while the hit or miss rate on saddles is very high, I’ve encountered very few occasions where a pair of bibs that are well-made won’t work for someone. I can find a dozen people who hate any given saddle without much trouble. On the other hand, I’ve encountered fewer than six people who couldn’t wear certain models of Assos bibs. To Michael’s point, though, I have to grant that the fit of Catelli bibs is, generally speaking, a bit different. My experience is that they are cut for someone with less caboose than I have. If you have a skinny jeans-type ass, it seems possible some Assos bibs might not work for you. Which seems tragic.

      Back to Mendip5000s question: One other distinction that I’ll draw between between bibs and saddles is that I think it’s far easier to establish which models are objectively better from a standpoint of workmanship and materials when it comes to bibs.

      Spider: Ah, the world’s finest jersey I can’t write about. All I know is something new is in the works. Grrr.

      Bikelink: I’ve got some conflicting info from Assos, some of which includes the overall chamois shape as part of the Kukupenthouse, and some of which designates it as only those which have the different material in the package zone. But I definitely reviewed the Equipes; it’s easy to tell thanks to the stripe on the left leg band.

      Stevo: I don’t know of a single pair of bibs that will make you faster, but some will pay identifiable dividends, like allowing you to ride longer with greater comfort. Sure, 100 miles will show up on your computer, but the computer may not register that increase in comfort unless it also resulted in a higher average speed, but believe me, getting home more comfortable is something that matters to me, especially as I’ve worn some bibs that chafed me on long rides.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Alan: I hear that he’s a beast of a rider. And while the look of the Zeghos is clearly extreme, they also happen to be the best eyewear I’ve ever worn. Assos is almost always a study in extremes.

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  15. wayno

    do you think the goldengate feature would cause premature wear on the chamois stitching and come unstiched sooner than a pair fully stiched, or cause stress in the material where the stitching stops?


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Wayno: My suspicion is no, despite the fact that there will be a fair amount of pressure on that seam, I don’t think there will be enough movement to kill the stitching. I mean, it’s only been 20 years since I last had the stitching go on the seam along the inside of the legs from rubbing on a saddle. If they’ve figured that out, I have to imagine this is a lesser challenge.

  16. Darwin

    Assos doesn’t make a size that fits me including TIR. Those Swiss must be awful small. I use Boure shorts. American made at a good price. I’ve been using them for some time.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      All: Heard back from Assos regarding the Kukupenthouse and they clarified that only the Cento (the next model up from the Equipe) and the Campionissimo (top of the line) get the Kukupenthouse, which is that bit of black material inserted in the chamois. Previously, it had been described to me as including how the chamois was shaped to cup the package. Regardless, the Fi.13 and Equipe bibs are the only bibs on the market (at least until the Cento and Campionissimo bibs arrive) to employ that molded curve in the chamois. I’ll be interested to see just what the Kukupenthouse does, but I feel like that curve is the bigger deal.

  17. kurti_sc

    @Ryan – still laughing. thanks!
    how about a review of the best shorts for 140 – 180 bucks? The Aston Martin / BMW comparison was made earlier. Does this lower pricepoint get you down to Hyundai / Kia or can you still find something decent? Anyway, I seem pretty happy in my Hincapie Velocity team shorts. I’m not sure what retail is on those, but I suspect they are under 200. Maybe I don’t have a discerning tush. Maybe my kuku is fine with a single room walk up…? Now i’m depressed. ;-)

  18. Carson

    The Assos site says: “We recommend the T.cento for ultra-long distances or at the beginning of the season, when you may have gained a few kilos. Due to T.cento’s construction, it is also ideally suited for more robust body types.

    Sounds like the Cento might be cut for my post-ski season gut, which I will henceforth refer to only as “robust”.

  19. Rich

    Firstly, apologies if anyone else has picked you up on this Padraig, but it’s only the Cento and the Campionissimo that have the Kukupenthouse. I’ve ridden the Equipe since Fall and have enjoyed the short and disliked the low front end as much as you. It’s fine when it’s warm but on colder days base layer choice becomes critical to avoid having gaps and so increase the problem by focusing on that area.

    I’m looking forward to trying a Cento for the full Hefner short experience. IMO the Equipe catches up to where others have been playing in for a couple of seasons and I want to ride the Cento to fully understand the ‘Game Changer’ experience as without all of the new tricks applied you’re only getting part of the story, don’t get me wrong this is a VERY good short and I’d totally agree in that this one feels like the successor to the F1.13 short (which was an awesome short) so the beautifully put point of that you’re getting the previous top end short on the cheap is valid, especially combined with better fabrics and the braces system which massively improves comfort.

  20. Qoo

    Hi Rich,

    I am interested to take to be jump to the next level. Currently I’ve 2 pairs of FI.13. Love the fit of the FI.13 but which of the 3 (T.NeoPro, T.Equipe or T.Cento) closer fit to the FI.13?

    The new range gives me bit of an idea,
    1) T.NeoPro for high frequency & mid distance training
    2) T.Equipe for mid frequency training & mid long distance training and racing
    3) T.Cento for mid frequency training & high distance training and racing.

    Well, that means owning all the 3 pairs… ;P

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