Are They Bad at Anything? Shimano S-Phyre Apparel

Are They Bad at Anything? Shimano S-Phyre Apparel

When Shimano first began making their own apparel, I wasn’t sure what to make of the effort. The stuff was good, but considering they own Pearl Izumi, I didn’t really see the need for them to do apparel as well. It’s not like I was suspicious of their ability to produce a good pair of bib shorts, though. They’ve been producing top-shelf shoes for close to 30 years.

Shimano’s S-Phyre shoes were a quantum leap in sophistication for Shimano footwear; from the one-piece upper to spec’ing Boa closures, the S-Phyre shoes are elegant in a way Shimano shoes have only approached.

So when Shimano announced that they were producing S-Phyre apparel, they had my interest. How could they not? They did everything short of call it Dura-Ace.

The first two pieces I’ve worn are, on paper, not that remarkable. They are a pair of bib shorts and a jersey, and we’ve all got lots of those, right? What makes them different aren’t unusual features—six pockets, a pad with a chamois cream dispenser, turn signals—rather it’s a tweaking of rather ordinary features.

The S-Phyre jersey is cut from a woven fabric. The material is a blend of 75 percent polyester and 25 percent elastane. Unlike with a knit, the jersey is smooth as an Egyptian cotton bedsheet, and while not as stretchy as a skin suit, it has enough give for a form-encasing fit. The nature of a weave isn’t particularly breathable thanks to its high thread count, but finer threads allow the fabric to be thinner, helping offset the breathability with excellent wicking. It is rather sheer, so wear a base layer.

The jersey has set-in sleeves, a gripper in the rear hem and three pockets. The two outer pockets are cut at a slight angle while the middle pocket is cut so that it’s a bit lower, making it easier to reach. And should the day be hot as only August can be, the zipper can be pulled down until comfort arrives, and then locked. It comes in six sizes, XXS-XL. Depending on the color, the jersey goes for between $200; it’s worth it.

I like this jersey for hot days, but not only on hot days. It’s the sort of piece I pull from the drawer any time I want to feel fast. They call these pieces “professional grade,” but in a way, that’s a joke. This is better than much of what pro teams wear. The only aspect of the jersey I think could be improved would be if all, rather than some, of the seams were welded, rather than serged.

If the jersey is impressive, the bibs are unforgettable. I’d put these alongside my all-time-favorite bibs from Assos.

The short portion of the S-Phyre bibs are cut from a 65 percent polyamide, 33 percent elastane and two percent polyester blend, while the bibs consist of a 60/40 polyester/elastane blend. That doesn’t tell you much, though. This material has easily the nicest hand of any fabric I’ve ever encountered in a pair of bibs. I’ve thought about softening that last sentence, repeatedly, but the simple fact is that there’s no reason to. Nothing else I’ve ever worn comes close. I was honestly shocked by how they felt the first time I put them on.

And more than any other bibs I’ve ever worn, they disappear once on. That is, I’m less aware of them and their fit than any other bibs I’ve ever tried. Part of that owes to the fabric, but part of that owes to the unusual pad that is used. While I’ve seen a number of unusual pad shapes over the years, I’ve not before encountered one where the left and right halves could move independently thanks to a split that extends half way down the pad. 

Whether Shimano intends these pieces to be worn by roadies or not, I really like wearing these bibs on gravel and mountain bike rides, anything where my movement on the bike is more dynamic and I am more likely to notice anything that constricts my movement.

For those who think that grippers are overdone in most bibs, these are a pair to take note of. Shimano says the gripper is integrated into the knit of the shorts, but it is so light as to be almost nonexistent. They don’t pull at all. As a result, the short appears to have a somewhat short inseam because they will ride up a bit more than a centimeter after the first few pedal strokes. So while they may show off a band of white above your traditional tan line, the way they feel as you ride will more than make up for that.

I most notice when a pair of bibs is too snug when I go to get up out of the saddle. As I take the pedal stroke that lifts me out of the saddle, if the bibs are too tight through the butt, I’ll feel a squeeze at my cheeks. I got no such squeeze with this pair.

Like the S-Phyre jersey, the S-Phyre bibs are available in six sizes: XXS-XL. Some people are going to flip over the $300 price tag, but when I think about $200 bibs I’ve worn, I ask myself if these are 50 percent better and the answer is, “Easily.”

Final thought: Is there anything Shimano doesn’t do well?


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  1. Tominalbany

    Oh, the heartburn I get when I price high-quality riding clothing. I’ve got a couple Castelli bibs that I bought on clearance from a team’s website after their title sponsor changed. They’re easily the most comfortable bibs I own and they’re proven durable so far.

    $500 for a single kit, that’s hard to swallow. So, my question would be, is there a team in the pro peloton that’s wearing this stuff? Maybe I can wait a year or two and a title sponsor will change?

    1. Author

      To my knowledge, there are no pro teams sponsored to wear Shimano apparel. And while the manufacturers never like for reviewers to mention this, the reality is that you can almost always find anything I review online at a significant savings. I believe it’s possible to find the bibs and jersey for less than the bibs retail.

    2. Matt

      Tom, I understand that Team LottoNL-Jumbo wear S-Phyre apparel. And quite coincidentally my LBS has the S-Phyre bib shorts reviewed by Padraig in this article on sale at the moment for $150.

  2. Neil Winkelmann

    $500 in USD for a single outfit (without socks). That would be a new record for me. I’m going to have to pass. I’ll stick with budget brands like Rapha.

    1. Author

      True enough. That said, it also corresponds with the time when manufacturers began using more sophisticated materials and working harder to create a good cut that didn’t flap in the wind. I wouldn’t be caught dead in those $60 bibs I wore in 1995.

      Or maybe I would … and they’d be listed as the cause.

  3. Jeff vdD

    I’d love a comparison of high-end kit with items I see from Bike Nashbar (for example). How do those products compare for 45 min CX ride? A 2-3 hr adventure ride? A century ride?

    1. Author

      The challenge there is that most brands don’t want to be in any sort of comparison where they lose. And even if it isn’t a comparison, they don’t want a bad review if they can avoid it. I’ve ridden pieces from a number of brands this year that didn’t cut the mustard, so to speak. The challenge I face, as a reviewer, is that those items in some cases may not have worked for me, but could work for other people. Fit can be a funny thing. Got a kit this summer that I was ultra excited to wear but the bibs were a terrible fit for me, but might be beloved by other people. Workmanship is a different issue, but it rarely comes up.

  4. Seth

    Figured I’d leave quick thoughts on the S-Phyre bibs – got them because I read this review.
    Comparison point is I usually wear Giordana NGX or FRC. Have also worn Assos, Castelli, etc.
    Material’s definitely comfortable. But 3 things that didn’t work super well for me:
    1. The legs were shorter than what I’ve become used to
    2. There was less room for your private parts than especially the latest Giordana stuff.
    3. The pad takes a *long* time to dry after washing – I hung them for 2 days and the pad was still wet (not the case for any other bib I’ve worn).
    I usually love Shimano stuff. The S-Phyre 9 shoes are by far best for me (wide). Ride 9170, 9100, etc.
    But at least for me – a few things lacking in the bib.

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