Swiss clothing manufacturer Assos have been around since 1976, when they started out making pioneering carbon fibre frames, and then shorts. In fact they are widely credited with being the company that invented the skinshort.
Over the years Assos have made quite a name for themselves, which they are very proud of. They are known as “the shorts company” – or at least they like to be referred to that way, and there is no doubt that their top shelf shorts are widely regarded to be the ultimate strides for slaying Tarmac.
The other thing Assos is known for is its price; its gilt edged five star price tag. Their kit comes at a premium, which costs way above and beyond most other products on the market. They are the Rolex, the Leica, the Maserati of cycling clothing. But then value is a strange thing at times, it’s often far removed from the sum of the.
Road is where the heart of Assos is at, and always has been, and although their kit has been worn off-road with great success by the Swiss national team for many years they had never produced a specific mountain bike range, until now that is.
After getting involved with the Cape Epic event Assos decided to produce a short range of summer MTB kit; shorts and short-sleeved jerseys – the Offroad Rally range, not exactly and inspiring title, but hey, it’s the goods that count, right?
The S15 is cleared for take off
A couple of months back I went along to the Assos HQ in Switzerland to attend the launch of their all-new S15 shorts. There was little pre-product info available, but being Assos we guessed that they would not be baggies, and that they would be expensive, and of course we were right. These “skin shorts” come with a RRP of $444.95, which to say the least is expensive.
We’re told that Assos did not want to rush into the mountain bike market, and that these garments took some 3 years to reach release stage, that’s three years of testing and tweaking, around 80 incarnations of them all cooked. This could be taken many ways – over engineered, over thought, or acute attention to detail and perfection, or perhaps a mix of them all.
At first sight, with their low hung waistline and heavyweight bib straps the shorts could pass for Lycra lederhosen, although the theory is that this low cut offers support in the lower abdomen and leaves the stomach and lung area free and un restricted to manoeuvre and breath – which seems to make some sense.
The shorts also come with two internal “hip slips”, which are compartments for inserting two re3movable “crash pads” which are supplied with the shorts.
Hands on contact came afterwards, and the trail testing after that. When you pick these shorts up you can immediately feel the quality – these are heavyweights, thick, bombproof, have industrial strength stitching, and are not of a shiny nature. You can tell that they are made to last, and Assos will guarantee that; it’s all part of their high-end pricing quality.
Inside is a smooth and adequately padded insert, which is not fully stitched in places, which they say allows air to flow between layers and for less slipping around on the saddle on technical sections, although I was a tad sceptical about that at first.
Pulling on these shorts is a tight affair. I had a pair of XL’s, which is my norm, but I would definitely have opted for an upsize. On fit, there is no doubt that these shorts are made for a racing snake – not somebody with an 8 pack over a 6 pack, like me.
The bib straps slip nicely to each side of your nipples, so no chaffing – but again, at this price point some form of adjustment for differing torso lengths would be nice to see.
It’s snug in these shorts, and despite the theory I did, and after several rides still do find the “hipster” low cut effect a little strange, you can feel that line squeezing you in beneath the waist, and then cutting loose – which is not to my personal taste, but could well work for a skinny rider.
When it comes to the ride, things do make a whole lot more sense. There’s no quibbling with the quality and bellow the waist comfort of the shorts – they are silky, made for all day riding – as long as you can get used to the low slung waist sensation.
The long and short of it
There’s no question that these are mainly well thought out shorts, and of supreme quality – but at the price? $444.95 is a heck of a lot to pay for a pair of offroad shorts, that you may end up burning after a ride, which even at half the price would make them hard to justify risking on the trail.
Design wise – it would seem like they were designed by and for roadies who mountain bike occasionally, and not for a regular but non-competitive mountain biker. The pads? Surely you’d go for baggies if you wanted pads, and highly snap-proof of not you would not want to crash and trash these shorts anyway.
If you’re an Assos fan and can splash the cash these are quality strides, for most they could be a luxurious exercise in risk and investment.