Thursday, May 7, 2009

Step 10 - Giordana FormaRed Carbon Bib Shorts

If you tuned yesterday, you got to see how we arrived at the arrival of a pair of Giordana FormaRed Carbon Bib shorts into my cycling life. (Like most males, I compartmentalize my life so that the shorts entered my cycling life. If they had entered the remainder of my life, I would have had to tell my wife how much I spent on them or suggest that she spend a similar amount on something that was meaningful to her. I can sense most of the males nodding their heads.)

But I digress.

I purchased a pair of Girodana FormaRed Carbon Bib Shorts. This is their top of the line short and they retail for $250. Right now you are thinking one of a few things: a) Wow, a lot cheaper than the top of the line Assos; b) they are how much!?!; or c) I am so glad I prefer wool knickers and BVD's over those goofballs wearing lycra. I can see how you can come to these reactions.

If you had the first reaction, you pay attention to the various lines of cycling clothing and either want to pay the most for something as a replacement for quality or you recognize there is value in some higher end garments. If you had the second reaction, you are right, it is a lot of money, but the members of Team Two Wheel discovered that each of us has cycling shorts that we have been wearing for longer than the period of time we have known our wives. Collectively that is more than 40 years and I personally, well, more accurately, with my wife, will be celebrating 20 years of marriage later this month. So, for me, buying shorts is usually a long-term proposition and they can have a profound impact on how comfortable I am for the hours on the bike and for a good number of hours off of the bike. Anyone ever suffer chaffing? How about chaffing on some bits of one's personage that are particularly sensitive and should not be chaffed? I rest my case, which leads me to the third reaction. For the three of you who prefer the BVD's and wool knickers, I would say that I am glad you found a solution that works for you and allows you to smell like wet llamas after you ride, but for the vast majority of people, there is a reason that lycra (and carbon) shorts and new-age chamois/padding is a good idea.

So, let's hear about the shorts, I can hear you saying through the magic of blogging.

I am not sufficiently technical to give you the various numbers and proprietary fabric information, but what I can say is that these shorts are uncommonly comfortable. They are made up of different fabrics and have a liner fabric in some places. The purpose is to provide appropriate compression in places, appropriate breathability or wicking in places, and to keep the shorts in the right place while you ride. Coming from some less structured bib shorts, these do feel different as they are tighter and they don't "give" uniformly. They are designed that way. And, like the skinsuit described earlier, they are not designed for chamois time in the coffee shop; they are designed for chamois time on the bike. And for that they are about perfect.

Speaking of perfect, does this guy look like the perfect cyclist, or just the idea of a perfect cyclist? I think maybe he is a bit overmuscled on the top end, but hey, I keep tellling my teammate to tone it down a bit.

From Product Testing

Now in comparing various shorts, I tend towards the middle upper range, where I figure I'm paying less than the top end, but at a price point where most of the functionality is built in. I have confess to you, though, in this small and quiet setting, that I have a pair of upper end Assos shorts. They were a present from my wife (you see how you get to 20 years?) and children when they wanted to both indulge and reward me. The Assos shorts are similar in some ways - they also have more compression and have different "give" in different panels. I think the Giordana pad is more comfortable and the shorts are more comfortable for a longer period of time. Now, I could forgive the Giordana's if they lacked something that I got from the Assos, after all, these shorts sell for $120 LESS than the Assos, but instead, I would take the Giordana FormaRed Carbon shorts at even dollars. So, maybe $250 seems steep, but when they are functionally equal or superior to a $370 short, I have an easier time convincing myself that they are a good idea.

Carbon Fiber - I should mention the carbon part of the carbon shorts. I honestly don't know if it is just marketing gimmickry, but the shorts actually have a carbon component. Some layer of the fabric has carbon fibers added to change the stretch characteristics of the fabric. I can't swear that the carbon fiber is doing that job, because I don't know enough about it, but I can tell you the shorts do stretch differently in different directions and in different places. When I hear there is carbon fiber in the shorts, I think of bits of something like my experiences with 1970's fiberglass digging into my skin, but I assure you, there is nothing here that gives credence to that particular and odd worry.

Pad - As we left the natural and some unnatural chamois, synthetic pads got thicker and thicker, until a few years ago they hit maximum and started back the other way. I have some shorts with pads that are too thick and others that are too thin (and yes, I do have natural chamois lurking in the closet and, even worse, the faux chamois that was just as hard and unpleasant - why was it ever a good idea to put a beef jerkey-like substance in your pants?). Anyway, the Giordana pad is thick enough to offer great long-term comfort, but not thick enough to feel like you are sitting on a diaper. The pad has gel, multiple layers and densities and I'm sure some engineer who spent three years designing it will be disappointed that I just "like" it and can't explain it better, but it's the truth. The other thing about pads is that some are too big overall, others too small, some too far forward or too far back; I suppose all based on some personal issues about fit and riding position. However you want to explain it, though, this pad is like the Goldilocks pad - just right. Not too big, not too small, just right and, for me, in just the right spot.

Overall - So, at this point, the Giordana FormaRed Carbon Bib short has now attained "most favored short" status and it is either grabbed first or it is saved for the longest ride of the week (along with racing). I also have to confess, since it is just us and my wife gave up reading the blog (except for the Cycling Widow), I just bought two more pair. I realize this will strike some (most) people as excessive, but I found that once I had these shorts, I really didn't like riding in most of my other shorts as much, so I wanted a couple more pair so that I would have them for most rides. I haven't purchased any shorts in a number of years except part of team kit for prior teams, so I was lacking in this area. At least that was my rationalization.

I hope that Rider 1 and Rider 2 will weigh in with more information, maybe more marketing speak and maybe more specific detail, but we all agree: these shorts are awesome. Like nice components, if you shop smart, you get what you pay for and these shorts deliver.

From Product Testing


  1. Gotta love bike people. We are the only ones who would either(A)write more than 10 paragraphs about a pair of shorts or(B)take the time to read the more than 10 paragraphs and digest all that info.

  2. As a knicker/BVT wearing cyclist, I don't get the high-zoot lycra short thing. In fact, I don't get the padded short thing; it feels like a diaper and it disuades you from taking a swim on long rides.
    That said, you guys are racers and the ONLY time I wear padded shorts/cycling shorts are during cyclocross races, where I don't want to snag my droopy knicks on the saddle on a running bike mount. But I wear wool (ibex) bike shorts/knicks for that... for the wet Llama funk.
    Anyway -- to the point: as a fellow wanker-gear-head, I am not one to EVER discourage obsessing about bike-related gear and spending lots of coin on it.

  3. I think the fairytale you were thinking of is Goldilocks. Porridge, chairs, beds, cycling shorts - the latter so she could make a quick getaway after being discovered. Sadly that part doesn't make it into the books.

    I think I've got a long way to go before I could justify spending that much. Especially on my limited cycling related budget. Someday...

  4. Now that you've had these for a while, how do they appear to be holding up? Still think they were worth the $250?