Guest staring: Albion Abr1 pocket, Giant Pioneer Gravel & Madison Roam Cargo
I will freely admit that I thought the idea of a pair of bib shorts with pockets on the legs was a silly idea. I could see the value in some pockets at the base of your back where jersey pockets sit, especially if you were wearing a jersey or a casual shirt, but leg pockets? nah.
I can’t deny the popularity these shorts seem to have gathered though and when Giant UK got in contact to see if I’d like to review a pair of their shorts I thought I’d say yes just to see what all the fuss is about. Needing something to compare them to I did a quick poll on the ukgravelco instagram page to see which companies the followers thought I should try. Albion Cycling got a lot of votes so I contacted them and they agreed to send out a pair of their ABR1 shorts. Madison Sportive bib shorts have long been a favourite of mine so when I saw they also did cargo shorts I bought a pair to try those too.
Madison Roam Cargo Bibshorts
As mentioned, I’ve been a fan of the Madison Sportive bib shorts for a few years, they are a great medium ride length short that fit me like a glove. The cargo shorts with 5 rear pockets and two thigh pockets don’t lack carrying capacity so they are ideal to wear with a pocket less jersey or a standard shirt. the shoulder straps are wide and there’s a guide on both shoulders to route a hydration pack hose if that’s your thing. mesh panels cut down on the sweatiness on hot days. The pad is “Premium Italian TMF chamois” designed to be comfortable on hour long or multiple day rides.
I was so disappointed in these shorts. The size chart is exactly the same as the standard Madison bib shorts I like so much but the Roam cargo shorts were a world away from that sizing. The pad feels like you are sitting on a massive naan bread and tends to creep up where the sun doesn’t shine. Weirdly though, the legs feel baggy and you feel you constantly need to adjust them. Adding the weight of something in the thigh pockets such as a phone only exacerbates this. This and the pad don’t make for a comfortable long distance riding short. The rear pockets and mesh sections though are well though out and useful.
Giant Pioneer Gravel Shorts
The Giant shorts are advertised as “replica Giant off road team” shorts. They have two thigh pockets and two rear pockets. The pad is described as “MS-2 Chamois for optimal performance and comfort on any ride” and the legs are gripperless to allow natural movement. They are heavily branded with Giant logos and come in the team colours and are on the shiny spectrum of lycra.
These shorts are described as a pro replica and although you don’t need to be a pro rider to wear them you will need to check the sizing. I usually size bib shorts by height and being over 6ft tall I go with XL sizing just to stop the feeling of being squeezed longitudinally. These shorts were perfect in that sense but are definitely a “pro fit” I’ll admit they are also advertised as a compression fit so that does add to the feeling of tightness and you can feel your muscles supported. What I didn’t like though was the seam that runs from the hip around mid thigh which digs in and gives a definite crotch bulge. I was conscious of this pressure all through the rides in this short. The pad is very comfortable for short and long rides. I did feel a little silly wearing Giant branded shorts on a non Giant gravel bike though. if you are pro sized (I’m not sure what that is or the connotations of it) and like big logos and perhaps ride a giant bike these are a short to consider.
Albion Cycling ABR1 Pocket bib shorts
I’m embarrassed to say until followers of the ukgravelco instagram page mentioned Albion Cycling I’d not heard of the company but took their advice and tried out their cargo short. They have two mesh thigh pockets and one large horizontal rear mesh pocket. There are mesh panels for ventilation, wide shoulder straps, wide silicone leg grippers and the shorts have reflective tabs at the rear and sides. The pad is described as ” x Elastic Interface ultra pad technology for long distance riding (with recycled face fabric)”
The Albion ABR1 shorts are a much different design to the other two with the wide straps and wide leg grippers, the rear pocket too is unusual as is is horizontal. In practice though nothing fell out and it’s actually easier to access while riding, especially if you are wearing a gilet with a side entry rear zip. Straight from the first pedal turn I have liked these shorts on short and long rides. the pad is very comfortable even in the 30+ degree heat the UK has experienced recently. The wide straps spread the load evenly and you forget you are wearing the shorts they are that comfortable. The thigh pockets are slightly elasticated and I’ve taken to putting my phone in there. It doesn’t seem to get sweaty there as it does on the rear pockets of any of the shorts on test and the accessibility means grabbing things from that pocket is safer that riding with hands behind your back. I’ve even gone so far as to delay a ride while I waited for the ABR1s to come out of the wash even though I’d got lots of different shorts ready to go as I knew the Albion’s were better performing.
Out of the three there’s clearly one set of bibs that stand out, the Albion ABR1 pocket bib shorts as recommended by ukgravelco followers, it seems that sometimes you can believe what you read on the internet!
Albion Cycling have so much confidence in their product that they offer a 60 day trial window, if you don’t like the shorts they’ll refund or replace them. no other company I know of does that.
more info on the Albion Cycles ABR1 short here
Giant Pioneer shorts here
Madison Roam Cargo Shorts here