Tested: Assos FI 13 Lady S5 Bib Shorts

Background and disclosure

Indie Bike, a cycling apparel shop (they’ve got a real, live store in addition to their web presence) based in Indianapolis, IN. contacted me to see if I would be interested in reviewing some gear in exchange for telling people about their wonderful little shop (free shipping on orders over $65!). I’ve been super curious about the higher-end women-specific bib shorts that have a clasp system in the front and claim to be easier to negotiate under overlayers when nature calls (and more comfortable all around). I agreed to test and review the Assos FI 13 Lady S5 Bib Shorts.

The Scoop

Retail: $339.00

Everything about these bibs feel premium: from the fabrics to the construction, presentation and packaging. When you open the box, you know you’re holding something special. The mesh panel in back is comfortable and the straps are wide and soft enough to stay comfortable for long rides. The 6-panel construction is top-notch and the bibs have a second-skin feeling that is super cozy: chafing is a thing of the past. The fabric is lightweight and super breathable and they feel noticeably cooler than some of my other standard issue bibs (great for warm weather).

Fit

The Assos fit is euro-lean, so I went up a size and ordered a large. (For the record, Assos urges you to asses fit from the tucked riding position, rather than a standing position. They claim that the bib was designed specifically to fit best while on the bike.) For me, I believe the large was the right call for overall fit, but it resulted in a bib that was designed for someone perhaps 3 inches taller than me. The front closure ABC-M (Assos Buckle Closure Mechanism) is adjustable (the adjustable buckle slides into any one of three loops in front), but even on the “shortest” setting, I found the straps were longer than I would have liked. On a traditional bib, this isn’t as much of an issue, but with the single-strap-down-the-front setup, it meant that the top of the front strap showed underneath my jersey when it was unzipped. I unzip my jersey a lot.

Beyond the strap length, the fit was fantastic: the bibs are very compressive with a nice mix of textural panels and flatlock seaming. The leg grippers do trend a bit into sausage zone (they’re very secure) but it’s not at all uncomfortable.

The Chamois

This is a substantial chamois but not overly built. I most often wear custom kits, which tend to have lower profile chamois, so it always takes a little getting used to when I get something that actually has a little more cushioning (I had the same experience with Rapha’s short). That said, when I was heading out on a longer ride this fall, I consistently reached for these bibs. They’re super comfy.

That strap

I was fairly underwhelmed by the front center strap construction and ABC-M (Assos Buckle Closure Mechanism). As far as I could tell, it did not offer any significant comfort advantages and introduced a number of problems:

  1. As I mentioned, it’s visible under my jersey when I unzip for ventilation. And I LOVE to unzip. It kinda messed with my mojo.
  2. I didn’t find it very easy to unlatch and pull over my head while wearing a jersey. In fact, it felt a little like a contraption. I’d rather stick with a traditional bib and full zip jersey. I don’t mind undressing a little to take a pee – I guess bike racing has taken the modesty out of me.
  3. The fabric opening that the plastic piece hooks into in the front ripped after just a few wearings (there are three of these, so I simply started using the other two, which meant the straps were essentially longer). I believe that Assos has addressed this issue for future products.

The strap, I believe, is intended for a more secure, comfortable fit for well-endowed ladies. I’d love to hear from them, because unlike the half-naked Assos girl on this page (by the way, she has a Facebook fan page), I do not fall into that category and can’t comment on whether it’s better or worse.

Bonus

Assos goes over the top with presentation and packaging for this premium bib: the box arrived with a small container of Assos cleaning solution and a small tub of Assos chamois cream (my favorite!!) as well as a wash bag. Classy for sure.

Main takeaway

I personally prefer a standard bib strap, but for those who like this center-strap design, these bibs are the mega-jam: they feel amazing, look great and are – most importantly – mind-bogglingly comfortable. That said, $339 is a lot of money. According to my personal value (purchase justification) calculator, I’d have to wear these 452 times in order to get my money’s worth.

Feedback

Have you worn this bib? Do you have an opinion on it? I’d love to hear from you.

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11 comments

  1. the chamois is hard to beat! however, the over-the-head strap did not rock my world either. I don’t consider myself to have a long torso but the hole is so small it pulls up against my throat. I’m not very well endowed so be in love if assos made a regular bib with two straps that went over the shoulders.

  2. What attracts me to the women’s bibs with the central uni-strap is not the method of closure, but the strap’s positioning on the chest – you know, it being “in between” so that nothing is rubbing/chafing against anything sensitive. Would love to try these, if it weren’t for the price. Good to know about the sizing, too.

    • Lovely, If you get a chance to try a center-strap bib, I’d love to hear from you. I don’t find traditional straps at all chafing or rubbing, so for me the center strap “fixed” a problem I never had, while introducing a whole host of new ones.
      And, yes, $339 is prohibitive for most I’d think.

  3. I think the center strap is a pretty good idea even if in this case its execution may leave something to be desired. I am not super well endowed but do ok in the boob region and I find that ALL of the straps on my bibs end up straight over the front of the girls. They don’t chafe but I do find it to be … awkward.

  4. Not in the same price (or quality) category, but as someone on the well-endowed side of the equation, I’m really happy with the Pearl Izumi drop tail. The center tab pulls the straps to the middle, so they don’t run straight over the girls, and the drop tail means you don’t have to strip mid-ride.

  5. I have the 3/4 lenght’s with the ‘mono-bib’. Much as I love the pad I just can’t get on with the mono bib.

    First off, I doesn’t stay shut, pinging open. I kinda have a workaround for this which involves twisting both sides of the fixing through 180 degrees. But really a work around on something this expensive shouldn’t be needed. Then when it does come open it feels like being slowly strangled.

    The you can see it under tops has been covered – and no it isn’t easy to get out of in the loo.

    My perception maybe misguided, but I feel the monobib is designed for men to look at on the Assos model, rather than for people to actually wear. Until the perception of designing womens clothes for titillation, over the rigours of wearing them changes i’m unlikely to buy more Assos.

    …But then i never had a problem with regular bibs

  6. Nice pic. Thanks for doing your part to set women’s cycling back 100 years.

    • Hey e,
      That’s a stock image from Assos.
      And I don’t think it sets women’s cycling back 100 years, but that’s just me.
      HS

  7. I’ve been using Hincapie’s bib short that has a similar style and never had a single problem. Was always comfortable and the connection is actually on the back so it makes it easy for “nature breaks”. I went and purchased these bibs thinking I was already used to this style of strap/monobib. While I could see the quality of the bibs was excellent, I did not find them nearly as comfortable as my Hincapie’s. The Assos strap would sometimes unhook on me and like someone else said, feels like slowly being strangled. Sometimes it would unhook and then snap up at me very quickly and if I was unzipped a little bit, I would get hit in the chin. A bit disconcerting while riding a bike. All in all, I could see the quality but I requested to send them back during my 30 day unconditional return policy from the place I bought them from. I was sad they didn’t work out but for the price, I wasn’t willing to come up with ways to make them work. They should be perfect at $349.

  8. I wanted to update my previous review…

    I decided to take Heidi’s advice by going a size up and so I reordered these shorts and went from medium to large. I was a bit surprised but the fit was EXCELLENT. The strap is staying exactly where it should, it’s not unhooking and the overall fit was just right. Even no sausage leg!

    I have ridden twice (38 miles and 52 miles) trying them out and I am so glad that I decided to try again with a larger size. I have a feeling this summer, spring and fall I will be relying on these shorts a lot.

    For anyone curious about fit, I am 5’8″, 36 bust and 36 hip. I think the strap was feeling too snug and pulling with the medium but the large feels perfect. Nothing felt loose around the hips or waist and the mediums did trend a little sausage like but the large has no issue like this at all but the shorts do not move or pull in any way. Perfect fit.

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