Review: Howies Women’s Cycling Bib Shorts
For the past ten months, I’ve been lucky enough to have my cycling career supported by ASSOS, who’ve long had a reputation for producing the best cycling bib shorts that money can buy and needless to say I cannot recommend their products highly enough! But in the interest of keeping my lovely readers up to date with interesting cycling products, in particular those designed for women, here on Bikes n’ Stuff I continue to offer unbiased reviews of all brands.
In case it’s not obvious, all the products reviewed on this site are sent to Bikes n’ Stuff either by the manufacturer, distributor or PR. I never receive payment for reviewing a product, and the views presented are always entirely my own. If you notice a lack of bad reviews, it’s because I can’t be bothered to write about rubbish products – I just don’t have the time – however I will bring up any issues I have with products that I do decide to review, and likewise, I’ll sing their praises whether I ride for them or not.
And with that out of the way, back to the Howies Women’s Cycling Bib Shorts!
Based in Wales, Howies are not a cycling focused company, but the brand like to celebrate the active side of the great outdoors which is where the cycling stuff comes in. The range is is really small, just a couple of jerseys and these bib shorts for the ladies, and a few extra bits for the men (of course…) and all are quite plain, or pared down, if you put it more nicely.
The shorts are totally different to any others that I’ve tried, as they’re made with a circular knitting machine, which means they’re tubular and without any seams that might rub. The weave has been varied to provide increased support or stretch, depending on what is needed.
With such a unique construction, pulling them on for the first time they felt a bit odd! The weave around the thighs is very supportive and offers a degree of compression to the legs, so though I’ve never worn them, the strong weave of the cuff and very supportive feel made me think of SPANX, those ‘body-scuplting’ knickers that people wear to hold their stomachs in. Either that, or surgical stockings!
Despite my first impressions, the shorts are very comfortable – the fabric is very soft on the skin – it just feels totally different to the lycra that I’m used to. The weave around the stomach is stretchy and thinner than on the legs with some perforations to increase breathability. The strap up the centre of the back is thinner still and feels light and soft. The two ‘bib’ straps are wide and comfortable, though would have been improved by being made of the same density of material as the strap up the back. There’s a small pocket in one of the straps too – presumably to stash emergency money?
Overall, the material is sort and comfortable, with a density that would work well in most of the weather we experience in the UK. It’s not the kind of super lightweight material you’d opt for when riding in blistering heat, but we don’t get much of that anyway. In winter, they’d give a bit of warmth when layered with other items such as leg warmers.
The length of the legs is flattering and there are no silicon grippers around the bottom leg cuff, but the shorts don’t ride up at all so clearly there was no need for them.
Overall, the cut is not bad. I like the feel and look of the shorts but did find there was a bit of a trampoline effect in the small of my back – rather than cling to my curves the material was suspended between my bum and the middle of by back. When on the bike in riding position, it doesn’t matter too much. Due to the construction – differing densities of material offering different levels of stretch – I’d recommend trying the shorts on before buying them; because the legs are quite supportive they could feel a bit tight if you have quite developed legs with small hips and torso.
The pad is perfectly ok. Howies have decided to buy one in from Italian manufacturers TMF and it’s made of foam with some anti-bacterial properties (apparently). Here’s what Howies say:
“The women’s specific 2-layer TMF Professional cycle pad is manufactured in Italy comprising 2 layers; one 40 density, 4mm thick foam bonded to a second, shock absorbent 90 density, 8mm foam in higher impact areas. Covered with an antibacterial finish to stay fresh and an elastic open cell surround that moves with your body.”
Here’s what I say: “It’s fine. Nothing to write home about, but no complaints.”
So what’s the verdict? They’re not the fanciest pair of shorts, but they do the job pretty well for the price tag. They feel comfortable and look pretty nice, and as they’re £59 they represent good value.