Mavic Helium Bib Short, reviewed
When people buy a new bike and get into cycling or the first time they always tend to focus on the bike first (naturally enough) - then they ride around in a cheap pair of shorts and crap shoes. My first piece of advice to them (if they ask, and even if they don't) is to invest in a good pair of shorts - preferably bibs, and then a good pair of cycling shoes. They really will impact the comfort, efficiency and feel of your ride far more than an expensive pair of forks or some fancy branded glasses will do. A bad short experience could be enough to damage your undercarriage and deter some people from ever getting on a bike again.
With a lifetime of wearing different types of cycling shorts beneath me (pun intended) I tend to think a lot about what sits between my butt and my saddle, and on sometimes uncomfortable rides I can spend hours reflecting on decent shorts I've had in those long lost and worn out days, even decades, in the saddle.
Trends often shape the shorts and gear we use, and although they have improved amazingly over the years, you can't help but think that technology and materials have somehow been lost somewhere down the the line of fashion consciousness, and choosing between shorts often comes down to a flip of a coin over the padded insert.
A few weeks back I was handed a pair of Mavic Helium shorts to put through their paces. Black, discreet, they looked pretty run of the mill at a first and distant glance, which wasn't a surprise, I was just trying to figure out what new angles I could slice onto their padding to separate them from every other pair of shorts I've tested in recent years.
Pulling them on for the first time soon changed my thinking, these shorts really were different, it was very clear than someone had put some serious thought into their design, and flown against convention in a few very sublime directions. I was intrigued to see if it did actually make any difference to their function.
The shorts I have are all black, but do come with optional white flashes. The only colouring on them comes from the tiny Mavic labels and reflective branding and tiny side flashes. They are very "Frenchly" discreet to look at, and equally so when you slip them on.
The first thing you'll notice is that they are very light, yet also very robust - with some of the finest panelling and stitching I've seen in any shorts. The bib is mesh, with the obligatory rear "pistol pouch" (radio pocket), while the leg grippers are double layered and elasticated, making them far less likely to turn to flares or constrict in the way many other shorts do.
Under the "hood" the padding is a a red "low profile" insert, which is obviously well thought out and not just thrown in to cushion the blows. Saving the best for last; the thing that really separates these shorts from the rest is their side panelling. It's a kind of mesh-meets Lycra hybrid material, a technology Mavic call "Hot Ride", which is designed to keep you cool when the heat is on, such as it so often is here in Southeast Asia.
Interesting, they look good, seem well thought out, and are extremely well put together - but what about the ride?
As soon as you pull these shorts on they feel right, just right. They're so comfortable and well fitting in all the right places, and the padding is hardly noticeable -- but will that be an issue out on the road? The answer is a big NO, I have no idea how the guys at Mavic managed to make the padding so sleek yet comfortable, you hardly feel it, you'd be hard pushed to sense the stitching, yet you can feel the padding benefits as if you had a mattress strapped over your saddle - great.
The mesh like "Hot Ride' panelling adds a whole new dimension to comfort in hot weather riding, it's what shorts have been crying out for for years - some well ventilated comfort.
The bottom line - I've been using these shorts for a few weeks now, and have to say that it's been a long time, if ever, since I've worn such great shorts. They really are the ideal short for hot weather riding.
For details check outwww.mavic.com