The not-so-minor details
Bontranger, Bellwether, Louis Garneau
Various (See Article for Details)
A good pair of knicks don’t need to cost a lot of money to do their job and do it with style. Fancy fabric technologies normally associated with high-end shorts are starting to appear in more economical models as well. What’s more, women’s ranges are also reflecting an increase in preferences for fit: soft vs tight waistbands, long and short leg lengths, silicon grippers at the thighs or compression all around.
Flow took three pairs of chicks knicks for some spins to discover what the different choices in design meant for experiences on the trails. [private]
Bontrager Race WSD Short
The Race WSD (Women’s Specific Design) Short from Bontrager finds a nice balance between the elastic and compression for comfort and performance. Flatlock seams and smart, contoured construction choices provided a snug, flattering fit.
The main material, ‘Profila’, is said to help with temperature regulation, while a meshier fabric assists with ventilation at the lower thighs. A wide, almost papery feeling elastic panel at the lower legs kept the shorts securely in place. Decorative silicon patches on the outside of this panel section held it there without creating unflattering bulges or uncomfortable red marks on the skin.
The four-way stretch, contoured padding of the well-researched inForm chamois moved with us on the bike. It provided a comfortable ride feel with no hot spots or pressure points.
Profila is also used at the front of the knicks where they meet the stomach while a tougher looking elastic is used around the hips and back. Although this section is designed to enhance comfort, we found the cut was best suited to riders who are proportionally wider in the waist. On riders with a narrow mid-section there wasn’t enough pulling power to give a firm grip. This prevented the otherwise excellent chamois from staying in place impacting on the overall performance of the knicks for this particular body type.
Bellwether Women’s Axiom Short
Bellwether’s Axiom Short impressed us most in terms of fit and value for money straight out of the packet. The attractive placement of reflective decals, light, meshy side fabric, multiple panels and sophisticated looking chamois are all high-performing features often expected of higher price brackets.
Compared to the Race WSD knicks, the Axiom waistband is of a more ‘old school’ style – a piece of elastic sewn inside the material and it made them feel quite tight and fairly basic up top. Folding the waistband over the hips ensured a comfier ride though, especially after a pie and chips.
While the fabric breathed well while riding and certainly looks the goods, we found the Axiom’s seemed to age the quickest of the three pairs of knicks tested. The non-meshy fabric on the inner thigh irritated more than the others where it rubbed against the Velcro of a saddle bag and the legs stretched noticeably after just a few rides. The loose feeling legs combined with the tightness of the waist detracted from our enjoyment of the shorts as a whole, but this could have been an anomaly in our size (small/10). We recommend trying before you buy to see if other sizes fit more evenly.
Louis Garneau Neo Power Fit Shorts
At $140 dollars, the Louis Garneau Neo Power Fit Shorts were the most comfortable of the three, but also the most expensive. This also made them the smelliest as they were always first to reach the wash basket.
The shorts are constructed from 13 panels of ‘Power Lycra’ and rely exclusively on the compression and elastic properties of the fabric to stay glued to the body. With no silicon or elastic bands to speak of these shorts didn’t place any unwanted pressure anywhere.
Power Lycra is also used for the waistband, but the stretch, cut and soft feel of the fabric means they hugged the waist a lot more securely than the Bontrager design. We assumed the long length equated to reduced muscle vibration and better temperature regulation. The Neo Powers are also available in a shorter design however you might want to check with your local bike shop for availability.
The chamois is not as contoured as the others but it still takes a multiple-density, four-way stretch approach to design and uses memory foam to provide comfortable cushioning where it’s needed most. It took about five and a half hours for the first signs of chaffing to appear, something that could certainly be alleviated with some good chamois cream before leaving the house.
The fabric still looks near new after the test period although less reflective decals than the Bellwethers made them feel a little less safe at night. We also found that the tighter design of the Louis Garneaus meant we opted to ride in a size larger when compared to the other two brands.
Each pair of knicks tested offered some strong selling points in terms of materials chosen, fit options for specific body shapes, and value for money.
At $89 the Axioms from Bellwether are an excellent value pair of knicks with some high-performing features. They’d be a great pair of back ups, or a good first purchase if you’re worried about the cost of getting into cycling or how tight some shorts feel on the thighs.
For $10 more, Bontrager’s Race WSD short are a flattering high-performing option that are most comfortable for women whose body shape is wider in the waist area in comparison to the hips and thighs.
The even pressure distribution created by the Louis Garneau Neo Power Fit Shorts, in combination with some well thought-out design choices that make these knicks the most versatile in terms of fit. The soft, snug, secure feel makes them an easy recommendation for rides over four hours, or for a long lasting pair of shorts that are still relatively easy on the wallet.
When trying knicks on for the first time, wear stripy undies and do some squats in the change room. If you can see the print of your pants, this is a good indication that riders behind you will see even more out in the sun.