many years ago, when i still saw myself as the predecessor to mark beaumont in the adventure stakes, i would, less frequently than such a description might advertise, cycle from islay to the scottish mainland. though i'd love to say i took the long way round, via the rest and be thankful hill climb, in point of fact, i took the easy way out and rode via the isle of arran, eventually arriving at ardrossan, only a few miles down the coast from my parents' home in prestwick.
i wasn't much good at reading maps in those days, and it hasn't improved any over the years. but as the islay ferry made its way to the pier at kennacraig, i spied a rather steep looking road heading towards the kintyre skyline. thank goodness i had no need of riding that road. of course, that was exactly the road i had to traverse on my way to the claonaig - lochranza ferry. a mere five miles according to the ordnance survey; i had simply failed to note that at least one of those miles bore a gradient of 14%.
however, having made it to arran and slogged my way up the road between lochranza and brodick (oddly 14 miles in one direction but signposted as 15 miles in the other), i met up with another gent far more practised in the art of cycle touring. this could not only be surmised by his bicycle carrying less than half the stuff i'd forced upon mine, but the fact that he rode with a lightweight waterproof jacket and cycle shorts.
this wasn't at the height of summer, i might point out.
i, on the other hand, wore a rohan waterproof jacket and a pair of goretex waterproof trousers. those of you experienced in such matters will be well aware of the fact that supposedly breathable garments rarely fufil their promise in the cycling milieu, so it will come as no real surprise to learn that i was probably as wet inside as my companion was outside when the rain started halfway to goat fell. which was sort of his point in the first place.
one therefore has to wonder if there's really any point to purchasing so-called waterproof bibtights in the first place if all that's going to happen is getting wet legs either way. couple that with the fact that any waterproof material is likely to be less flexible and thus less comfortable than good old roubaix lined lycra, and you may prefer to stick to the tried and trusted non-waterproof variety.
however, livingston-based endura have recently released their stealthlite ii biblongs which purport to be crafted from a more flexible fabric than previous editions, combined with ultrasonically welded seams to keep precipitation at bay. therefore it ought to be a practical reality to ride all day in the rain without legs and nether regions getting wet. the stealthlite bib tights do have to be worn over a pair of bibshorts, for adding a pad to the former would likely interfere with the waterproofing, so any improved flexibility is more a necessity than a luxury.
throughout the years i've been reviewing cycling apparel, i have almost without exception worn small sizes in shorts, tights and trousers. therefore i requested the small size of stealthlight tights. that may have been a minor error, for though i thought it likely that the need to wear shorts underneath would have been taken into consideration, they were a bit strenuous to pull on. though the new fabric is undoubtedly more comfortable and flexible than its predecessor, and the tight fit offered no noticeable restriction when pedalling, a few more millimetres would have been most welcome.
endura also contend that having lengthy, waterproof ankle zips will allow fitting outside waterproof overshoes. however, in practice i failed miserably to do so, trying three makes of overshoe just to make sure. in fact, to be honest, i couldn't get the zips to fasten all the way to the bottom even over a pair of waterproof socks. room for thought i'd imagine.
however, all that aside, did the stealthlites keep me dry? it's actually a harder question to answer than you might think. i wore them in an hour and a half's worth of torrential rain, i wore them while pretending to be jeremy powers in bridgend woods and on several occasions in conditions in between the above two. though i did experience mild internal dampness on my legs, on the basis that the endura infiniti bibshorts seemed almost completely dry on my return home, would tend to favour the integrity of endura's claims. since the cross bike has no mudguards, even the brown stripe up my back failed to migrate through to the shorts. with regard to breathability, no matter the numbers offered by any manufacturer, the sad fact is that i doubt anything can be both fully waterproof and fully breathable.
there is a slight bunching around the back of the knees, something that's almost inevitable given that they're not made from lycra, but it's more a visual problem than one of comfort. and if it's as wet and windy as it has been over the past week, i shouldn't think anyone's going to notice in the first place.
at £160 per pair, they're well priced with regard to the (almost negligible) competition, though it is worth bearing in mind that you'll still need a pair of shorts to wear underneath. however, if your winter training schedule knows no bounds, and hypothermia is not on the menu, it may be worth your while taking a look, but try for size before you buy.
endura stealthlite ii biblongs retail at £159.99 and are available in sizes small to xxl from your nearest endura dealer.
monday 27 october 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................