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Daniel

Daniel

Daniel's Bio

Gravel, bikepacking, dirt riding in Salt Lake.

Daniel

Danielwrote a review of on October 7, 2019

A Big Step in the RIght Direction
4 5

Familiarity: I've used it several times

Gravel has been the fastest growing segment for the past few years and Shimano has finally done something about it. GRX is a much needed drivetrain but doesn't quite go far enough with gearing for us casual riders in the mountains.

To start with, performance and looks are on par with Shimano's road groups, so really good. It's a very clean looking groupset. So if you've liked your Ultegra drivetrain but want easier gearing, going to GRX makes good sense. There's some compatibility between the two groups too which is nice.

This rear derailleur interestingly enough has only a 5mm shorter cage than an SLX which fits a 46t cog so despite Shimano's stated max cassette size as 42t I plan to try it with an 11-46t eventually just to see what happens.

I've had a 105 shifter paired with an SLX rear derailleur and 11-42t rear cassette (using Wolf Tooth's excellent Tanpan adapter) on the bike until now so I already knew what to expect for gearing but GRX really does shift crisper without that adapter and this group feels lighter weight.

So with no substantial complaints on the quality of this group my big gripe is the gearing options. Shimano has provided good options for a lot of riders on flatter terrain and for gravel racers but us bikepackers and for those big days in the mountains we need better options. Sram's AXS drivetrain mullet builds are popular for that giant 10-50t range, Shimano should have used their Micro Spline freehub to allow for a 10t cog and made the derailleur for 46t cassettes, then with more chainring options they'd have a perfect, more versatile group.

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Daniel

Danielwrote a review of on October 7, 2019

4 5

Familiarity: I've used it several times

Gravel has been the fastest growing segment for the past few years and Shimano has finally done something about it. GRX is a much needed drivetrain but doesn't quite go far enough with gearing for us casual riders in the mountains.

To start with, performance and looks are on par with Shimano's road groups, so really good. It's a very clean looking groupset. So if you've liked your Ultegra drivetrain but want easier gearing, going to GRX makes good sense. There's some compatibility between the two groups too which is nice.

The shifter bodies seem a bit larger for more grip but still work well for my small hands. They've got reach adjust (useful) and free stroke adjust which is not really useful - these brakes already seem to have a lot of throw and I had to do some fine bleed tuning to firm them up - bleeding these was a pain (but I've not bled other Shimano road brakes before). A very exciting step from Shimano is their decision to offer their 1x shifters with a left lever that activates a dropper! I plan to add one to my gravel bike eventually. One minor complaint I had that doesn't affect performance is that after folding the hoods back a few times for bleeds they tend to pucker away from the body on the sides.

I've had a 105 shifter paired with an SLX rear derailleur and 11-42t rear cassette (using Wolf Tooth's excellent Tanpan adapter) on the bike until now so I already knew what to expect for gearing but GRX really does shift crisper without that adapter and this group feels lighter weight.

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Daniel

Danielwrote a review of on October 7, 2019

A Big Step in the Right Direction
4 5

Familiarity: I've used it several times

Gravel has been the fastest growing segment for the past few years and Shimano has finally done something about it. GRX is a much needed drivetrain but doesn't quite go far enough with gearing for us casual riders in the mountains.

To start with, performance and looks are on par with Shimano's road groups, so really good. It's a very clean looking groupset. So if you've liked your Ultegra drivetrain but want easier gearing, going to GRX makes good sense. There's some compatibility between the two groups too which is nice.

On these cranks the chainline is spaced outboard for tire clearance which hasn't really been an issue for most bikes and means they're proprietary which is frustrating. I went 1x and they do have mounting points for a small ring if I want to switch to 2x down the road. The chainring has no issues holding onto the chain on the rough rocky terrain I've tested it in.

With no substantial complaints on the quality of this group my big gripe is the gearing options. For 1x (which I'm a fan of) Shimano only has 40t and 42t chainrings which are good options for a lot of riders on flatter terrain and for gravel racers but us bikepackers and for those big days in the mountains we need smaller rings - I've been using a 38t ring until now and would like a 36t some days. Sram's AXS drivetrain mullet builds are popular for that giant 10-50t range and mountain chainring, Luckily Wolf Tooth has a 38t option but If Shimano offered us more rings out of the box they'd have a perfect, more versatile group.

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Daniel

Danielwrote a review of on October 4, 2019

5 5

Familiarity: I've used it once or twice and have initial impressions

This is a dream bike for sure, I don't think it gets much better than this for an XC bike. You've got top end parts, great geometry, low weight, and Live Valve!

I had a chance to demo this bike and don't think I'd change any of the build parts if I owned it beyond adding a bit more aggressive tire, it's pretty well set up. I didn't try the bike without Live Valve and as it was my first time on this bike it was hard to tell how good it is, but it did seem to help a good bike through rock gardens. I want to try it further but I'd say it's well worth the extra money on a bike of this caliber, I'd upgrade to this over carbon wheels if I had the choice.

The geometry of the bike felt great with a 120mm fork, it climbed really really well and felt decently capable. I had a few pedal strikes but a shorter crank would have solved that. I took the bike down a rough trail and there it really reminded be that it's an XC bike, not one of these new "downcountry" rigs, but I still liked it enough that it made me wonder what chunkier tires and a 130mm fork (not recommended by Pivot) would do...

Compared the the Santa Cruz Blur Trail which I've also spent time on recently it rode a bit faster and more efficiently I think but felt a bit less capable on rough stuff. Compared to the Niner RKT 9 it rode a bit more like a trail bike - more confident but not quite as good a power transfer. These are real rough first impressions, I didn't have the chance to dial in any of these bikes beyond an initial ride.

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Daniel

Danielwrote a review of on October 4, 2019

5 5

Familiarity: I've used it once or twice and have initial impressions

Everyone including me has moved to Sram Eagle as Shimano fell behind in the mountain drivetrain world but M9100 is a strong comeback. I wouldn't say it's better than Eagle but it's just as good. The shifter felt firm, maybe a bit firmer, more mechanical than Eagle but in a good way like the 11 speed group many of us remember. Shifting was accurate as Shimano is known for and the wide range is a great upgrade from the old 46t max cog. My favorite bit was this shift lever - I had forgotten how much I liked push-or-pull action of the lever that Shimano has but Sram doesn't.

Overall I wouldn't recommend rushing out and replacing your Eagle drivetrain with Shimano but if it comes down to a drivetrain choice on your new bike you can't go wrong with M9100.

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Daniel

Danielwrote a review of on October 4, 2019

4 5

Familiarity: I've used it several times

These gloves are a solid choice although not really outstanding in any way. They aren't the most breathable or the toughest but are ok in both respects. The fabric definitely does feel tougher than some other lightweight gloves out there however that tougher fabric does feel a bit rougher on your hands. Grip on the bars is fine with the synthetic leather palms.

They fit me well - I usually wear a size medium and that's what I went with here. If you are at all between sizes I'd recommend sizing up. The wrists especially are tight so it's not easy to slip and and out of these.

The seams of the fingers are always the first spot to wear out on all brands of gloves so we'll see how these hold up long term but after a few weeks of riding they've been fine.

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Daniel

Danielwrote a review of on October 2, 2019

5 5

Familiarity: I've used it several times

Giro's an underrated brand in my opinion, I found the ARC short to be excellent in quality and fit, right up there in design with any other brand I've used. Fit on these in the waist was spot-on for me, the length comes to mid-knee but that will vary depending on your inseam. They're just loose enough to move in without feeling baggy. You've got velcro waist adjusters and belt loops to dial in the fit.

I found the material to be tough - after some bushwacking through miles of scrub oak they still look like new. They aren't too heavy duty to not breath well though, although I wasn't riding in hot condition I definitely wasn't overheating on the climbs.

You've got 2 hand pockets and one zippered hip pocket that I found well placed and plenty big for a phone.

5 stars for these for sure assuming they hold up well - all my other gear from them certainly has!

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Daniel

Danielwrote a review of on September 27, 2019

5 5

Familiarity: I've used it several times

Giro's well know for their gloves and helmets, I think they're other apparel is underrated. Nobody talks about it much but it's great quality. That's definitely true of this piece.

The Roust jersey fits me well, it's a touch baggy like most mtb jerseys of this style and not obnoxiously so. i wear a medium in t -shirts and took a medium in this. Length was about right as well - a hair longer than I'm used to but right in line with this style. Sleeves and neck were comfortable. The material on the jersey is softer than some I've work and surprisingly breathable - it doesn't look fancy but transfers moisture well. The lighter colors stayed clean too - my ride ended in some dusty bushwacking and when I got home the jersey looked like new (and didn't even smell terrible).

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Daniel

Danielwrote a review of on September 24, 2019

5 5

Familiarity: I've used it several times

I’ve tried oval rings on my gravel bike and liked them so I already knew what I was getting into but I think they work even better on a mountain bike. I’m sold and it will honestly be hard to use a round ring again. They say oval rings make you more efficient and that could be true, but that’s not exactly what I look for. Where I find they shine is by smoothing out your pedaling rhythm when it starts to get sloppy (after being on a bike all day). However the way they improved my climbing really was noticeable on the mountain bike – on those steeps it really did make it feel like easier to spin up. I usually run a 32t ring and went with a 32t oval which was perfect.

So in addition to working well, Absolute Black makes in my opinion the most beautiful chainrings out there. They definitely stand out and they do their job of not dropping chains just as we’ve all come to expect.

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Daniel

Danielwrote a review of on September 24, 2019

Deep Chameleon Thoughts
5 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

Hardtails aren't for everyone and neither is the Chameleon but if you're looking for a hard charging trail bike efficient enough for all day riding you've come to the right place.

The aluminum Chameleon is a classic, the carbon shaves some weight and is probably a bit stiffer. Don't worry about damaging this carbon, it feels stout. The interchangeable dropouts make this frame real versatile and you can run it with up to a 140mm fork. I went 130mm for some extra cushion on the rocky trails, it definitely slacks the front end out a bit more than I'm used to but it still climbs ok. The frame builds up nicely, the only annoyance is the housing doesn't run through internal tubes but Santa Cruz gives you a large opening so routing isn't that big a deal. Dropper posts are recommended, you can fit plenty wide tires (up to 2.5" 29ers), and there's bottle cage bolts in and under the frame.

We'll get my fit comments out of the way first: I'm right between large and XL on the Chameleon and in the past on Santa Cruz I'd always recommend sizing up when between sizes but they've changed up the geometry on their newer bikes so it can be trickier to choose. Honestly you could probably ride a couple sizes and be fine, much of the choice comes down to your riding style. If you like a playful, nimble feeling bike that you can pop off roots and rocks on, I'd go with the smaller size. If you like a more stable feeling bike for fast, rough descents or long days in the saddle, go with the larger size. Now the other thing to keep in my is your body - I went towards the larger size as I have longer legs and can feel like I have the seatpost way up compared to the bars on smaller bikes, and I've got that paired with short stem. But if I did it again I'd probably go with a longer stem and some spacers under it to get that more playful bike. I'm finding on the steepest of steep climbs I can't get enough weight over the front end which a shorter reach would fix. If you're solidly in the middle of Santa Cruz's size recommendations just go with that!

This frame isn't for weight weenies even though it's a hardtail. My XL built up at just under 28lb with dropper, GX/X01 Eagle mix, XT brakes, Reserve 30 carbon wheels, 2.4” Ardent tires, and Deity carbon bar. As for ride quality, don't expect this to ride similar to your springy steel hardtail - the Chameleon is stiff. Wide tires will get rid of any real harshness but if you're looking for a cushy cruiser, this isn't exactly it. That being said, after a 45 mile day the bike didn't make me hate it. Ride quality can be real hard to evaluate as everyone has their own preferences but I'll say that I'd look elsewhere if I wanted a bikepacking rig or even an endurance racer. However if you want a trail bike that can handle some real trails while still letting you load it up on the weekends, this is the bike for you.

And be careful - when the trail points down, this bike wants to go! It's easy to get in over where a hardtail should be if you're not careful.

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Daniel

Danielwrote a review of on July 29, 2019

5 5

Familiarity: I've used it several times

I got the Sub-Compact Oval Rings but these are similar so I felt adding a review would be relevant. So far I've been vary pleased with them. First of all, they look really good - of course that's personal opinion, but 5 stars there. Be sure to get the Road Bolt Covers additionally for a clean transition from the beveled crankarm to the outer ring. Sadly those don't work with the subcompact rings so if we're considering those I'd dock a star.

But how do they work? I found after bolting the oval rings to my bike that the shape wasn't very noticeable. However switching back to a bike with a round ring definitely is. These do tend to smooth out my pedaling stroke, especially when I'm tired and it starts to get choppy. I have no complaints at all about the timing. Whether it makes climbing easier is hard to say, I haven't noticed, but I don't usually track my ride data. On oval rings I've used in the past I've noticed they've thrown off my rhythm on long out of the saddle climbs, I have yet to experience that with these but don't have much climbing on them yet.

Shifting has been decent. It does take some fine tuning of the front derailleur (and I have to make a couple more adjustments) and I'm coming from a single chainring so that's already a hassle, but they shift between rings when I want them to.

Oval rings are definitely worth switching to and that's especially noticeable when you try round rings again where I found a lack of smoothness which I had grown to love with these rings. Now that Absolute Black makes these for most modern cranks, give it a try!

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Daniel

Danielwrote a review of on July 24, 2019

3 5

Familiarity: I've used it once or twice and have initial impressions

I've had a few Garmins in the past and never fell in love so I've moved to a Wahoo Elemnt but I thought it would be worth testing out the new Edge 530. To start with, battery life is much better, which is a huge plus. The 530 handles routing and navigation better and faster, and there's some fancy new features, but honestly I didn't find anything else new I would use.

I mainly use my computer for basic ride data and following preloaded routes and Garmin of course does both of those but my frustration started when trying to load a RWGPS route onto the device over Bluetooth. With a Wahoo it's a matter of a couple button clicks, with this Garmin it involved installing an additional app, navigating buried menus on the app and the original app, waiting 10 minutes for things to download and restart things when getting errors, then navigating more menus on the device to find the route. It took an hour.

Beyond that I found the buttons on the device to be non-intuitive, it's probably something I would get used to but in comparison my first ride on the Wahoo Elemnt the menus and buttons all seemed very straightforward.

If you currently use an older Garmin and like it and want to upgrade, consider this a solid option. I give this 3 stars as Garmin has done nothing to improve their tedious menus and frustrating setup.

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Daniel

Danielwrote a review of on June 24, 2019

5 5

Familiarity: I've used it several times

I've ridden a few of Devinci's bikes and they've impressed me as a solid option. I had the chance to do some steep climbing and mellow descending on the Django and overall would recommend this bike to anyone. Based on the geo and suspension I'd put it in the light duty trail category but it rides more capable than the specs led me to believe. I've been on other bikes that climb better but this will get you uphill just fine, it does shine more on the descents though. It felt more stable than playful but I imagine some of that had to do with the XL I was on. Devinci specs their bikes quite nicely for the price as well, I had no complaints on components.

I would caution on fit - at 6'1" I'm usually between a large and XL and the XL felt almost unmanageable long compared to other XLs I've rode. The large has a short-ish seattube but would certainly be my choice.

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Daniel

Danielwrote a review of on June 18, 2019

4 5

Familiarity: I've used it once or twice and have initial impressions

I had the opportunity to demo this bike for a few hour ride and wanted to leave my thoughts.

Weight is fairly average for this type of bike at around 30lb, I'm often between a large and XL at 6'1" and rode a large, the seat tube is short enough fit a long dropper post but the seat tube angle was a touch slack for my long inseam. the Django I rode in an XL felt too large and unmaneuverable so I still preferred the large.

Parts spec is solid, lots of folks knock the Reverb dropper but if it's serviced annually it works great. And Super Boost rear spacing isn't as big a deal as some folks make it out to be.

My preferences in bikes lean towards efficient, lighter duty trail bikes so when the trail started with a climb I was not overly excited by the Troy's performance. It wasn't quick but it did get me up the several mile grind to the top of the trail just fine.

Headed down though, the bike certainly impressed - it was confidence inspiring and made up for my lack of skill. It felt plenty plush, handled quick enough while remaining very stable, and really wanted to pop off the small kickers in the trail. All in all this is a bike I'd love to spend more time on to dial in the suspension and push the bike to its limits!

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Daniel

Danielwrote a review of on May 29, 2019

5 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

First of all, saddles really come down to personal preference and you'll probably have to try a few to see what works for you. After several trials you can narrow down your options by width and amount of padding. The Dynamic has minimal to average padding and is a medium width a 138mm - keep in mind that Selle SMP's saddles do fit a bit wider than the stated widths and that it will take a lot of angle adjustment to find the perfect position.

Selle SMP saddles have a dramtically different shape than most other brands and that's what makes them work - the idea is that you fit into the concave area where you're supported by your sit bones and soft tissue at the same time, with the cutout taking concentrated pressure off the soft tissue. It's best to start with the nose a few millimeters down from level and then adjust from there - I find every few degrees of angle change can dramaticlaly change the feel as it shifts your weight back so you're more supported by your sit bones or forward so you're more supported by soft tissue. Find a good balance and it works. The nose slopes out of the way so when you're in the drops your it's out of the way of your anatomy.

For me at least the perfect saddle that takes away all irritation doesn't exist but this is probably the closest I'll ever get to that. It's definitely not lightweight but the quality and durability is unbeatable.

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Daniel

Danielwrote a review of on May 29, 2019

5 5

Familiarity: I've used it once or twice and have initial impressions

It will take a few more rides to know how this works for me but so far I've been happy with the MK3 Bib Short. The first thing you'll notice is how stretchy the materials used are, especially in the bib straps. This is great for us taller riders and didn't seem unsupportive as I expected it would. There's not hem at the leg, just cleanly cut material with a gripper material inside, so that gives a really nice fit. Materials seem tough yet light enough to be breathable. I especially like the chamois design in that they somehow eliminated the stitching that appears in most brands around it which is often one of the first fail points in that high wear area. All around the workmanship is quite nice as 7Mesh is becoming known for.

I went with a large which I wear in many bibs brands (Giordana, Pearl Izumi Pro, Assos, DeMarchi) and that seems right although due to the stretchy material a medium may have worked and provided more compression.

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Daniel

Danielwrote a review of on May 29, 2019

5 5

Familiarity: I've used it several times

Quite impressed by these bibs. Castelli's Free Aero Race shorts have always been a favorite and it looks like these will be at the top of the pile in my closet. Materials are excellent - the Progetto X2 Air chamois has padding in all the right places without excess bulk, the main fabric of the legs is compressive yet lightweight (I expect these will breathe well in summer), and the bib straps seem to lay especially well against my body and are once again quite airy. Usually I prefer seamless elastic bibs (like Giordana uses) but I have no complaints here. Even without the dimpled material on the legs I'm not winning races but it certainly makes me feel fast. Some of Castelli's lesser pieces have had occasional quality issues with the sewing of the seams but construction is excellent here. Lastly the leg grippers are wide and unobtrusive and the inseam length is perfect.

Once again, the fit is compressive to reduce muscle fatigue in hard efforts or on long days. If you're not familiar with Castelli, in general their apparel runs smaller than American brands and sometimes even a bit smaller than European brands. I wear a large bib in Assos, Giordana, and Pearl Izumi's PRO line, I went up to an XL in this for the strap length as Castelli's straps run short and dig into my shoulders in smaller sizes. The XL's straps are perfect and while I was worried that the body of the bib would be loose and baggy, that's not the case at all due to the compressive material. So if in doubt, size up!

The only difference between the Free Aero Race 4 LIMITED EDITION and Free Aero Race 4 is colors/graphics.

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Daniel

Danielwrote a review of on May 29, 2019

5 5

Familiarity: I've used it several times

Quite impressed by these bibs. Castelli's Free Aero Race shorts have always been a favorite and it looks like these will be at the top of the pile in my closet. Materials are excellent - the Progetto X2 Air chamois has padding in all the right places without excess bulk, the main fabric of the legs is compressive yet lightweight (I expect these will breathe well in summer), and the bib straps seem to lay especially well against my body and are once again quite airy. Usually I prefer seamless elastic bibs (like Giordana uses) but I have no complaints here. Even without the dimpled material on the legs I'm not winning races but it certainly makes me feel fast. Some of Castelli's lesser pieces have had occasional quality issues with the sewing of the seams but construction is excellent here. Lastly the leg grippers are wide and unobtrusive and the inseam length is perfect.

Once again, the fit is compressive to reduce muscle fatigue in hard efforts or on long days. If you're not familiar with Castelli, in general their apparel runs smaller than American brands and sometimes even a bit smaller than European brands. I wear a large bib in Assos, Giordana, and Pearl Izumi's PRO line, I went up to an XL in this for the strap length as Castelli's straps run short and dig into my shoulders in smaller sizes. The XL's straps are perfect and while I was worried that the body of the bib would be loose and baggy, that's not the case at all due to the compressive material. So if in doubt, size up!

The only difference between the Free Aero Race 4 KIT and Free Aero Race 4 is the graphics/logos.

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Daniel

Danielwrote a review of on May 29, 2019

5 5

Familiarity: I've used it several times

Quite impressed by these bibs. Castelli's Free Aero Race shorts have always been a favorite and it looks like these will be at the top of the pile in my closet. Materials are excellent - the Progetto X2 Air chamois has padding in all the right places without excess bulk, the main fabric of the legs is compressive yet lightweight (I expect these will breathe well in summer), and the bib straps seem to lay especially well against my body and are once again quite airy. Usually I prefer seamless elastic bibs (like Giordana uses) but I have no complaints here. Even without the dimpled material on the legs I'm not winning races but it certainly makes me feel fast. Some of Castelli's lesser pieces have had occasional quality issues with the sewing of the seams but construction is excellent here. Lastly the leg grippers are wide and unobtrusive and the inseam length is perfect.

Once again, the fit is compressive to reduce muscle fatigue in hard efforts or on long days. If you're not familiar with Castelli, in general their apparel runs smaller than American brands and sometimes even a bit smaller than European brands. I wear a large bib in Assos, Giordana, and Pearl Izumi's PRO line, I went up to an XL in this for the strap length as Castelli's straps run short and dig into my shoulders in smaller sizes. The XL's straps are perfect and while I was worried that the body of the bib would be loose and baggy, that's not the case at all due to the compressive material. So if in doubt, size up!

The only difference between the Free Aero Race 4 TEAM and Free Aero Race 4 is the white Castelli logo on the legs.

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Daniel

Danielwrote a review of on May 29, 2019

5 5

Familiarity: I've used it several times

I'm not overly picky about bibs but that doesn't mean I can't appreciate a top quality short. The FR-C Pro bib checks all the boxes to really stand out, first being I put it on and forget about it. Like all Giordana it is a European fit, so size accordingly. But unlike several Euro brands the straps are stretchy and accomodating for us taller riders. Inseam length is fairly average, not too long or short and the leg grippers are wide and stay in place quite nicely. Going back to the straps, they are wide and lack stitching that can be irritating. The top of the shorts come up a little bit at the stomach in a stretchy waistband that's nicely supportive. The chamois works well for me and is sufficiently thick without being bulky. All around the tailoring is perfect so everything moves with your body and these are the bibs I reach for out of the 5-10 in my closet when I'm expecting a long day in the saddle.

The Moda version of the FR-C Pro Bibs only differs from the FR-C Pro in that it gives you some stylin' color choices.

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