The Swiss Response to the Secret Weapon

The Swiss Response to the Secret Weapon

I took to calling thermal bibs the secret weapon some years back because I could show up for a ride in cold and even cold, wet conditions with a layer of embro on my legs and my fellow riders would have no idea that over the course of the day I was likely to be more comfortable than someone with only regular bibs and maybe knee warmers. It was a way to look Belgian tough, while being Dutch smart.

The standard move when combining Roubaix Lycra with some form of bibs is to go for knickers. And in theory, knickers are killer. In practice, they are as problematic as a helmet two sizes too big. The frustrating thing is that invariably, knickers have but one issue—inseam length. But that one issue can ruin your relationship with the knickers. In my experience they are almost always too short, and that causes the bottom gripper to latch onto my kneecap and place pressure where pressure really isn’t a good idea. The other thing that does is pull the pad down so rather than performing its normal support duties, the pad drops down and you end up with a cave with man parts moving around. Not cool.

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The only way I’ve found to circumvent the wandering pad problem is to go with thermal bibs. That has the added benefit of giving me a choice between knee warmers, embro and nothing. Honestly, there are days when thanks to the thermal bibs, I don’t need knee warmers or even heated embro; unleaded will do.

Assos has been doing thermal bibs for ages. Indeed, they did one of the very first thermal bibs ever to hit the market, perhaps the very first. They’ve taken that experience and put it into the S7 generation bib. We’re just going to call it the Tiburu because I’ve yet to encounter anyone who can remember the rest of the name, let alone pronounce it.

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So while there are ever more thermal bibs on the market, Assos does a couple of things that make theirs notable. The first is Assos’ new AWR—Assos Water Repellant Technology. AWR is a treatment to the fibers to make them water repellant. Despite the fact that the material is knit, water just beads up on it. Same basic idea as what Castelli is doing with Nanoflex.

The next feature that makes these bibs worth mentioning is the 610.RX fabric that most of the short is cut from. Instead of the material being of uniform thickness, the Roubaix has a somewhat waffled pattern, which leaves more room for air between your skin and the shorts, air your body can warm to help insulate you. Think old-style long-johns.

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Then there’s the Blasenschutz. With a name like that, you can be forgiven for picturing a German 88mm anti-tank gun. But the designation is meant to help protect your, uh, long gun, and what’s behind it. Literally, Blasenschutz means bladder protection, the point being that if your midsection is cold, particularly if your bladder is cold, you’re going to want to stop to pee more often. The center front of the bibs features two layers of material, the first meant to wick moisture away and the second a wind-stopper-type fabric, but without a hard membrane that would cut down on breathability.

Like Assos’ other S7-generation bibs, the Tiburu features the floating pad construction that’s secured only at the front and the rear of the pad, allowing it to move in concert with your body, yielding a more form-following fit and reducing the likelihood of chafing should the ride be both long and wet. Let’s not forget that the pad is made to their specs by Cytech, which in my experience is the best pad maker on the market.

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Assos says the front of these bibs are cut higher than the other S7 bibs, and while that’s true, these are cut maybe 2cm higher in front, and considering how low the other S7 bibs are cut, it works out to be not quite as high as many ordinary bibs. Certainly they don’t come up as high as the old 607 thermal bibs did and I like that extra layer of material at my midsection for added warmth. That’s my only beef with these bibs. It’s the first beef I’ve had with an Assos product since the first Jurassic Park movie was in theaters.

The front rise on the bibs is a minor point. Much more important is the fit of the bibs themselves. They fit like like a stocking cap for your ass. A problem I have with a couple of brands is that they don’t cut the rear roomy enough and the front of the short ends up being pulled rubber-glove tight. And it’s just as uncomfortable. There’s a feeling I have when I pull up a pair of Assos bibs that’s both more forgiving and more supportive than I get with any other brand and due to the extra weight of a thermal bib, the feeling goes double there. It’s a luxuriant sensation. And finding the proper fit with Assos is easier than with any other bibs I’ve encountered, in part because they come in seven sizes. How many lines offer only four sizes?

The other feature of the Tiburu bibs worth mentioning, and is easily overlooked, is that the fabrics that Assos is using, including the 610.RX, are amazingly, stunningly, abrasion resistant. I fell on these on a cold-damp gravel ride. Not a big fall, mind you, but just enough that with many bibs there would have been a hole over a sublimated panel, or at least some indication of fabric wear on a heavier panel. Once I washed the Tiburu, I couldn’t even tell where I’d fallen.

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Assos takes hits right, left and center for being too expensive, for having screwy marketing materials, for selling products you don’t know what to call, for being quirky to the point of elitist. It’s a shame. At some level, each of those criticisms carries some merit. It gets in the way of the larger truth, though, which to my eyes is that they are invariably worth the investment thanks to superior fit, greater comfort on long rides and ultimate garment life. I purchased my Assos bib knickers in 1994 or 1995 (I realized I don’t actually remember), and wore them again last weekend.

The bibs retail for $279. When I consider that you don’t wear them for the whole of the season and how the heavier material makes them more durable and ultimately last longer, a good pair of thermal bibs, such as these, are likely to last you at least 10 seasons. If that’s not worth an extra investment, I don’t know what is.

The Assos Tiburu are the warmest, most comfortable pair of Roubaix bibs I’ve ever worn. Period. Plus they are water-resistant, like Castelli’s Nanoflex line. And the fabric is as durable as Donald Trump’s ego. I suspect these will still be in rotation when my sons are big enough to start raiding my drawers for cycling clothing. Someday, I’ll have to hide them.

Final thought: Funny, but I like thermal bibs so much they have made me welcome colder weather.

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20 comments


    1. Author
      Padraig

      On paper, the Nanoflex are amazing. But they aren’t as warm and they don’t fit (me) half as well.

    2. Gerald

      @Padraig I have a pair of Nanoflex too. Had them for a couple of years now. I almost always use them with knee warmers or merino leg armers. I want to give “being Dutch smart” a try and just use embrocation. Mad Alchemy is in my backyard. Great time of the year to experiment with new rituals.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      And as it happens, when I’m in Castelli, I have exactly the opposite look. Funny how comfort can be visibly expressed.

  1. backofthepack

    Assos gear is always expensive, and always worth it. I have several pairs of shorts and a couple jerseys. I hate to spend $200 and up for shorts, but when I’m heading home from a 100 mile ride without a sore rear end, I remember that they’re worth every penny

    1. winky

      100% agree. Expensive but worth it. My two pairs of Assos bibshorts are coming up to 10 years old, and still going strong. They are both the most expensive and most comfortable (by some margin) bibs I’ve ever worn. They’ve been very well used and machine washed (usually air dried). Insane durability. A pair of “top of the line” Gore bibs cost nearly as much, and lasted a fraction of the time.

    1. winky

      No, I get where Padraig is coming from. There’s a sense of accomplishment that comes from just sucking it up and heading out in cold or otherwise unfavourable weather. Rule #5. Having the right gear can make it a blast. Feel like a warrior-hero!

      And it beats the hell out of riding a stationary trainer. But so does poking one’s self in the eye with a fork.

  2. Les.B.

    Thanks for the review, I’ve bought stuff that you’ve reviewed. If I had a wife you’d be on her shitlist.
    I wasn’t aware that increased urinary action in cold weather was a “thing”. I thought I was just weird.
    I appreciate that this review that well describes the product. Another nitpick about Assos, their website is such a hyped glam media extravaganza that it’s hard to eke out what the product is about.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Usable temperature range is a pretty personal thing. I know that I have tended to use stuff into warmer temperatures than most people living in colder climates. Once the temperature drops below 60 degrees I consider them. I won’t use them if the temperature is likely to rise above 65 degrees though. The challenge is on long rides if the temperature starts in the 50s (or lower) and will rise above 65 or even 70.

  3. Zach

    If embro actually did anything to keep flesh warm (instead of creating the illusion of warmth) it would be great. Maybe Dutch Smarts is relying only on clothing with real insulative properties for those cold days, not a leg balm that does nothing to keep tendons and muscles from freezing up.

  4. Bart

    I got the Assos Tiburu knickers and used the for the first time yesterday (3 hour solo training ride with temps between 43 and 62 degrees). My initial thoughts:
    – I’m 6’2″ and got the XL. The are a little short (I’d love for them to be about 2-3 inches longer inseam, but that isn’t too big of a deal.
    – With the floating pad I felt like I was sliding around on the saddle more than I’m used to. It’s hard to know if that is the floating pad or if these are just more slippery on my saddle. It wasn’t a feeling I liked. In fact, I kept thinking about how I could feel more stable.
    – The foam pad puts pressure in spots that are different from what I’m used to. Not sure what I think about that yet.
    – These were prefect for the temp range. More than 65 and I would start to get hot. Colder than 43 and I would want full length tights. I’m in Minnesota so I’m used to cold temp riding.
    – I noticed cold air making it down the front of the bibs in the colder range of temps, but totally forgot about that after about 45 minutes. I’ll need a bit more torso warmth next time.

    Overall, I loved the warmth and coverage, but I’m uncertain about the pad. I rode for 3 hours and was glad to be done with these. I have a 6+ hour ride next weekend that I want to use these for but I’m not sure I could manage another 3 hours with the pad as it currently is. Anyone else have that feeling of “sliding around” with these bibs?

    1. Bart

      I thought it’s worth adding a four month follow up as my opinion of the Assos Tiburu knickers has improved greatly. I’ve never had a pair of bibs that needed to be “broken in” but I guess there is a first time for everything! I’m not sure if the garment has actually changed or if my perception has changed. It’s very hard to know the difference.

      I’m no longer feeling like I’m sliding around on the saddle at all. No idea why, but that sensation is completely gone. The pressure discomfort has completely resolved as well. I’ve worn these on multiple multi-hour rides and look forward to being cozy in them on a 105 mile multi-strada ride in northern MN this coming weekend. Paired with the Castelli Gabba jersey I feel like I’m ready for any crazy weather or route that’s in front of me.

      Thanks again for introducing me to yet another great product!


    2. Author
      Padraig

      It’s not uncommon for brand new Lycra to be a bit slick and to slide around on the saddle. Usually, that goes away after two or three cycles of wearing and washing, but it sounds like it may have taken you a bit longer.

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