ASSOS MEN'S SHORTS/BIBS - ROAD
Regardless of whether you love or hate their fashionista print ad campaigns, you must give full credit to Assos for their role as pioneer in the bike industry. Before Assos' emergence in the late 1990's, the main qualifier to establish the quality of a bib short (made back then by companies like Pearl Izumi and Castelli) was the number of panels it had. It was as simple as simple could be: 4 panels = Weekend Warrior; 6 panels = Quality meets Value; 8 panels = Marvel of Engineering. Assos turned this formula on its head by championing cost-be-damned materials and complicated fabric patterning. They brought us unprecedented style; they brought us unprecedented comfort; they brought justification for unprecedented prices.
No bib short in the Assos line was more emblematic of their cost-blind approach than their FI.13 S2 model, first introduced in 2000. The S2 was priced at $280 at a time when other companies feared breaking the $175 barrier. And despite the gap in cost between the S2 and everything else, it instantly became our best selling bib short -- a trend that stayed constant for 7 years. Why was it so wildly popular? Like any high-quality piece of clothing, it made the wearer look dazzling. But beyond that was its technical attributes: Its elastic interface chamois proved to be a delight for rides of any length; and the cut of panels made them embrace our bodies with perfectly light tension. The fit, in short, was flawless.
Given our history with the S2, we were understandably attentive when Assos announced it would be discontinued for a new model, the F.I.13 S5. With the S5 Assos takes all of the signature qualities of the S2 and benchmarks them higher. The Executive Summary is this: In comparison to the S2, the S5 weighs nearly 20% less and has 20% less volume. According to Assos testing, the S5 puts nearly 25% less pressure on your genital area. The short panels and the chamois are made from fabric 35% more breathable than the S2, while offering nearly 20% more muscle compression.
The S5 is available in 2 colors, Black and White. In both colors you'll note the turquoise-colored webbing between the bib straps (worry not, it's not visible once you put a jersey on!) Assos calls the color klinik, and in fact it's a carbon mesh that reduced static between your jersey and the bibs, allowing you jersey and bibs to move on your body independently of each other as you pedal.
The side panels of the S5 are made from Assos' new A430 fabric. It offers superior venting in comparison to the A360 used on the S2. Amazingly, though, A430 provides better muscle compression than A360. And it wicks sweat substantially faster. Do the fingertip test when you pull the S5's out of the box -- the sheerness of the A430 tells the story. A fantastic detail here, though, is that Assos uses a different fabric on the inner thighs, A431. Why A431? It has less stretch than A430, keeping the chamois in a more stable position in your crotch. And it's a more durable fabric, too, in order to minimize sweat-induced fabric degradation and potential piling of the inner thigh fabric cause by rubbing against your saddle.
The front panel of the S5 is made from neither A430 nor A431. Rather, it's a high elastic fabric designed for a simple purpose: Reduction of pressure on your genitals You'll spend a lot less time mid-ride reaching down into your shorts to readjust yourself. Gone are the days of your shorts contorting your goods in unpleasant ways.
The fabrics of the S5 are new, but rest assured that it's built in Assos' long-perfected AEPD design. Yes, the S5 will pull in strange ways when you're standing in front of the mirror. But when you're bent over on the bike in a riding position, they feel glorious.
The key element of any bib short is its chamois. And the S5 holds nothing back here. The new FI.13 chamois is actually two separate pads with two separate stitchings. The layer next to your skin is softer than what you get on the S2. While it lacks in none of the elasticity of the original FI.13 chamois, it somehow feels less rubbery than the original. It's softer and it compresses less, which means when it stretches it's not under so much tension. In other words, when it's being stretched, it doesn't try to snap back into place, so it won't abrade your skin as much. The chamois is dimpled, too, to facilitate heat ventilation. You'll also note a new cut at the front of the chamois to further reduce genital pressure.
The straps on the S5 are lighter and more vented than the S2; the leg grippers are asymmetrical, with one leg getting silver and one black; and the packaging will blow you away -- it comes in a thermo-foam box with a small jar of Assos' legendary Chamois Cream as well as a small bottle of Active Wear Cleanser, plus a wash bag. Available in Black and in White in sizes Small-TIR.