The cycling industry loves superlatives, and there may be no brand of clothing whose product is more awash in adjectives ending in -est than Assos. We're loathe to blindly pile on, but the fit of kit like the LL.bonkaTights_s7 demands it. So here goes. When it comes to bib tight fit, the LL.bonkaTights are the closest to perfection that we've had the opportunity to struggle into — in a word, they're magical. We don't use the word "struggle" on accident, because the tights' impeccable fit means that, until you get the bibs situated and perform the requisite chamois dance, they're a bit difficult to get on. The fit is best compared to installing a new pair of hoods: wrestling them over the lever bodies seems frustratingly impossible until — ta-da — they slot into place to become virtually indistinguishable from the levers themselves. Like those hoods, the LL.bonkaTights seem to disappear once you get them on. Magic.
The attention to fit-related minutiae that informs this hyperbole is evident in details like the articulation down the back of the leg. Assos combines strategically tapered panels of material for a fit through the back of the knee that — at the risk of dipping into hyperbole again — is every bit as bunch-free as riding with bare knees. Even the reflective strips on the back of the legs are only attached at the ends, as sewing the entire length to the tights would compromise the stretch and fit of the fabric. There may be some possible improvements to be made, but Assos' obsessive development philosophy means that it will likely identify those possibilities well before we do.
Assos' RX heavy fabric makes up the tights' body. It's an all-new material that hits the usual cold-weather mark of a brushed inner face that creates small pockets of insulating void in order to establish a microclimate of comfort beneath its protective exterior. It also manages moisture from within and without, wicking sweat from your skin and — with Assos' Water Resistant (WR) treatment — keeping road spray, rain, and even melting snow at bay. Where the LL.milleTights substitute RX Light on the back of the legs for protection equal to early winter conditions, the LL.bonkaTights go all-in with RX Heavy throughout for Assos' highest level of winter warmth.
The RX Heavy material is further reinforced with overlay panels of Stratagon fabric at the points where wind chill takes its biggest toll: the hips, thighs, and — of course — the ever-vulnerable knees. The ankles and shins are wrapped in Assos' Type.009 waterBarrier to repel wheel spray and maintain complete coverage with a gently compressive hold. The tights also incorporate a panel of wind-resistant Stratagon Ultra fabric in the front crotch and lower abdomen, which Assos is calling blasenSchutz. This translates literally to, well, to something quite racy that — construed in a cycling context — suggests windproof qualities. Assos claims that the extra protection keeps you from having to urinate while riding in cold weather, but we can't repeat that in good conscience without acknowledging that we're not sure if it's true. What we can say about blasenSchutz is that the extra panel protects your core from wind chill — a feature that needs no additional, bladder-related justification.
All of these features are further reinforced with a membrane that runs throughout the entirety of the tights. Assos bills it as "winter-proof," and it's meant to serve as a final, anti-weather portcullis that ensures the barbarians of winter remain outside the gate. The need for maintaining form and building base miles doesn't decrease as the calendar turns over into January and February. If anything, we find our sense of race-related urgency ramping up well before the temperatures do, and the LL.bonkaTights' combination of protective elements empower us to keep going when lesser kit proves insufficient.
The LL.bonkaTights are finished with the Cento chamois, whose amethyst microfiber cover is meant to reference royalty throughout the world's ages and cultures. The memory foam at the insert's heart absorbs road noise and shock and features a high degree of return. It's able to compress and reform fast enough that, as you pedal, it stays against your skin, "filling the gaps" while your legs move. The chamois' superAir waffle padding is perforated for increased breathability, and combines with the purple top layer to transport moisture away from your body. The whole thing is anchored with Assos' goldenGate technology, so the unattached center sides allow the chamois to move with your skin rather than against it, relocating the point of friction away from the chamois/skin interface.
While the aforementioned is impressive, the Cento's true magic emanates from the front, where Assos incorporates what it's calling the kuKuPenthouse in a final stroke of chamois genius. This questionably titled feature involves replacing the section of padding at the very front of the Cento with a soft, brushed, microfiber layer, which creates a pouch or cradle to comfortably encompass a male cyclist's most sensitive areas. This eliminates pressure, sure, but we should warn that there is one tradeoff: the lack of pressure formerly provided by padding means that there isn't anything but stretchy material between the kuKuPenthouse's occupants and the outside world. This has the unfortunate effect of risking a decidedly public display of a cyclist's palmarès while waiting in line for a mid-ride coffee.