26 October 2013

Review: Gore Bike Wear Xenon 2.0 Shorts

Gore Bike Wear Xenon 2.0 Lady shorts
Everyone has a go-to pair of padded lycra shorts. For me, they're the Gore Bike Wear Xenon 2.0 women's shorts, which I've owned for about a year and a half now. They're so much better than any other shorts I own that when I saw Wiggle suggesting they were being discontinued, I panicked. I'm buying another pair and trying to decide if two is enough! In fact, I'm not sure why I'm writing this review, since if they are being discontinued it would be in my self interest to hoard all remaining pairs!

(The Gore website doesn't suggest they're being discontinued so it may be a false alarm... or maybe that's wishful thinking).

I've always found it really difficult to buy padded lycra shorts, since you can't really know how they'll work for you until you've worn them on a 100 mile ride, by which time they've been rendered un-returnable. So I thought I would review my favorite pair of shorts in the hopes it makes someone else's search a bit easier. Scored out of ten:
The shorts on the Camino de Santiago - when they were new.

Padding: 9
These are far and away the most comfortable shorts I've ever ridden in. The padding is made of a nice smooth material that doesn't chafe, and is nice and thick for good shock absorption. I have ridden a 400km audax with these shorts with minimal amounts of discomfort. I have noticed that they work better when riding in a more upright position, such as on a tourer or mountain bike, than on my road bike (even though I use the same saddle on all three). On our most recent tour of Scotland I ran into trouble because even though I had a perfectly good clean pair of shorts in my panniers, I only wanted to wear the dirty Xenons over and over again. That's how good they are.

Overall comfort: 8
In addition to the padding the shorts are overall very comfortable. The elastic around the legs is very wide which minimises pressure on any given part of the thigh. There is a small amount of silicon to grip the legs, but not a solid band like in some shorts. This is better for me because I find the silicon irritates my skin when I sweat. I nearly always wear these shorts with knee warmers (trying to protect my legs from the sun unless it is so hot as to be unbearable) and almost never have issues with the knee warmers slipping down. The shorts are high waisted, which can occasionally be uncomfortable (normally after I've just wolfed down a massive meal!).

Durability: 6 
I initially bought these shorts ahead of our first ever two week bike ride, on the Camino de Santiago. During the space of that trip (when they were only ever washed in sinks) the cloth that covers the elastic at the legs became somewhat separated from the elastic itself. This doesn't affect the fit at all but it was concerning that it happened so quickly. The reflective diamonds on the side of the shorts also began to come up at the edges fairly quickly into the life of these shorts. However, a year and a half later and nothing much has changed since the initial issues. Neither the padding nor the lycra itself isn't thinning out, which would be the only durability issue that would affect my wearing of the shorts.

Appearance: 6
I'm not really a fan of all the reflective diamonds. They make the shorts too flashy in my opinion. Although they do come in handy for night riding. The above-mentioned elastic issue also makes them look sloppy, especially when worn with knee warmers. But really, you can't have too high expectations of lycra shorts in the aesthetics department.

A view of the reflective diamonds in all their glory. You can also see the strip of white elastic where the black fabric has detached and ridden up slightly.
Overall: 8
If you just take the average of the above scores you would come out at 7.25. However, we're talking about padded shorts here -- comfort is really the only thing that matters. So I decided that the first two categories in this list should count double. That takes the total up to 7.66, happily rounded up to an 8.

PS: In case it isn't already obvious, we don't get paid for our reviews and we buy all our gear with our own money unless otherwise stated!

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