Historically speaking, I’ve never been a bib short kind of guy. Standard knicks or mountain biker shy shorts have always been good enough for me. Besides, bibs are expensive. Seriously, you’re talking a minimum of $100 for the most basic bibs, whereas for half that I can get a pair of Pearl Izumi Quest knicks.
And then Cell came up with their insanely low-priced $40 Azure bib short. A couple of days later, they put it on special, two pairs for $45.
Sold. Seriously, take my money. Now.
As ever, delivery was prompt (and free), along with a new saddle and a load of CO2 cartridges, and off I toddled to try them out.
Now, I’ve bought Cell clothing before. It tends to be aimed at the lower price point, and as such is often a compromise designed with the more casual rider in mind. I wasn’t expecting high-end racer gear, and that expectation turned out to be correct. This is NOT automatically a bad thing – far from it – but there are three points I’d like to mention.
First: sizing. If you’re going to buy these, consider going a size smaller than you think you should. I buy a medium in Pearl Izumi Quest knicks, and I get a good,close fit. I bought a medium in the Azure, and got a rather more comfortable experience. Essentially what I got was at the very biggest end of the ‘medium’ scale, almost too big. And I don’t consider myself to be whippet-like at present. The legs are also ever so slightly shorter than I normally like.
Second, the chamois insert is on the bulky side – no biggie for a novice rider looking for max comfort on slower rides, but a shade over the size I like these days and that probably means I won’t be taking these on endurance races. Experience suggests the chamois used will soften up before stiffening again towards the end of its useful life, but a more long-term test will confirm or deny that.
Lastly, the colour scheme turned out to be more blue than I expected from the pictures on the Cell site, and the blue panels seem to show up sweat patches. No biggie. Just ride harder so the whole things are one big sweat patch, right? Also, I do like a reflective trim, since I commute, and these appear to have only small reflective logos on the side.
That said, they’re a comfortable, well built bit of kit that’ll prove invaluable through the winter months – they’ll ensure my lower back and midriff are just that little bit better protected from the elements and help avoid the annoying gap in the kit that emerges when commuting with a backpack. I’m pretty convinced they’ll be my new favourite thing the first time I do a couple of hours of hill repeats in the rain.
They’d be absolutely ideal for novice or casual road riders who are maybe a couple of pounds over fighting weight, or for a rider like me who doesn’t normally go for bibs but could use a pair in the kit cupboard, which I think is exactly where Cell – in quite a savvy retail move – have pitched them. Not everyone is a racing snake, but everyone needs decent quality clothing that’ll keep them comfortable on whatever kind of riding they go for.
Product: Cell Azure Bib Short
Pro: Price, price-to-quality ratio
Con: Fit, colour choice.
Rating: 3.5 stars, four and a half if you’re the target demographic