Optimum 2 vs. Optimum
Louis Garneau released the Optimum 2 since our test cycle. The two models are largely the same when it comes to their features, but the new shorts have an increased amount of compression fabric, and the waistline is designed to better hug the wearer's body. Compare the two below; the Optimum 2 is shown first, followed by the model we tested.
We're now linking to the Optimum 2, but be aware that the following review is our account of the original Optimum short.
Hands-On Review of the Optimum
Our reviewers were kind of shocked to learn that Louis Garneau considers this a "great entry level short." Compared to a lot of what's out there, the Optimum has a lot to offer along the lines of fit, comfort and breathability. For many of our testers, this was their go-to option for impromptu lunch hour rides, century rides with friends, and longer training sessions.
What we loved so much about this short is true about the Louis Garneau brand: high-quality and highly breathable fabrics made with quality construction and obvious care. There's little danger of a seam coming loose and LG doesn't cut corners (no slider silicone leg holders on their shorts). For two years in a row, their shorts have been highly ranked by our reviewers, and receive gold stars across our performance metrics.
There's so much to love about the Optimum: it's soft, it's highly breathable and...it offers really great value.
Comfort and Fit
Our testers super-loved that this short that fit like a glove with no awkward places where the fabric bunched or pooched, even after a serious ride. This is due, in part, to the dynamic ten-panel design that allows the design to conform to a variety of body shapes. Our testers loved the shorter length (especially on these hot summer days) although taller riders might want to take not; these only have a 7" inseam.
All the seams are reinforced, and this short features absolutely NO raw edges. In fact, in true Louis Garneau fashion, the leg ends and waist feature a double layer of fabric. This does two things: 1) keeps everything in place and 2) avoids that awkward "pinch" that comes when too-tight is paired with too-thin (think: those awful thin silicone leg bands meant to keep shorts in place). You won't find those within 25k of these shorts.
In addition to avoiding "sausage-leg," these shorts sit higher on the waist, which gives a rider two distinct advantages.1) You can avoid unexpected sun exposure on your lower back from your jersey riding up, and (more importantly) 2) this short keeps your stomach in check, so there's no "belly-flop" roll-over (a.k.a.: the muffin top effect) that can happen on lower-waisted shorts.
Frequently called "the most comfortable shorts I've ever owned" by reviewers from online retailers, trust us: this is a short you've GOT to try, especially if comfort is key to your saddle sessions (we bet it is!).
These shorts took our testers on all sorts of adventures. No matter the conditions, they performed extremely well.
Padding and Protection
The worth of any bike short is found in its chamois — that technical, padded material that separates your tender regions from the bike seat. Chamois aren't all made equal, and chamois--like a lot of things in life--come down partially to individual preference. That being said, there are a few things to look out for, and you'll be glad to know that the Louis Garneau Airsport chamois has all the elements of a quality product.
The Airsport chamois is heat-stitched, which means it will bend and conform to your body and body position in the saddle. The chamois is also made of a high-density foam that performed well in our tests. While it doesn't offer as much protection as a few other options we tested, but compared to most shorts, this little chamois performed remarkably well.
These shorts are so comfortable, you won't mind taking a nice relaxing break in them before hopping back on the bike for the next leg of your adventure.
Wicking, comfortable, and chafe-free, our testers agreed this short perform well for two hours in the saddle. Moreover, it has reinforced stitching around the chamois, so there's little chance of chafing due to a raw edge down yonder.
The size and shape of the chamois fit most of our testers to a T. Not too long, and just wide enough: the Optimum follows the rule of moderation gracefully. No diaper-butt is going on with these shorts.
Breathability and Fabric
Who would have thought that a blend of 80% nylon and 20% spandex would feel so soft and comfortable? We weren't immediately sold based on the literature, either, but once we tried on the shorts, we came arouind quickly. Light as a feather and highly breathable, these babies kept us high and dry even on rides in 100+ degree Fahrenheit temperatures.
The Louis Garneau fabric guide for their product line places these shorts in the "less than an hour category"--something our testers challenged. We wore them beyond two hours and found the breathability and fabric to absolutely suffice. Granted, we spend a lot of time in the bike saddle, so you might want to try them out on a training ride before you commit to riding a century in them.
We also loved the highly technical fabric that sheds water, almost like a duck's feathers. So, if you're caught in a downpour, as long as it stops raining, and you keep riding, these shorts will dry out quickly.
Another plus? The way the fabric is put together. Without any "raw" seams, there's no worry of the fabric fraying anytime soon. The seams held strong through our testing period, making our testers fairly confident in stating that the only thing ripping a hole in this short is either: a heck of a lot of miles or a nasty crash on the pavement.
In some ways, this is one of the hardest metrics for us to test. While we do our best to wear out the shorts put in our care with months of constant wash and wear, we know that you're looking for a product that will last you not months, but years. So, let's be real: we are extra-hard on these shorts to see how well they take what most cyclists will give them.
The Optimum took everything we could dish out in stride, which is basically what you would expect from a product made with attention to detail. No seam left unfinished means no seams should come undone — which they didn't during our testing period.
Another reason why we test durability is that we understand that it can be expensive to replace a product that usually costs around $100. The awesome thing about the Optimum? If you're unsure, you can buy two of them, which certainly increases the shelf life of the short for the same price as one of many others included in this review.
This short went with us on every sort of ride, and no matter how hard we tried, we couldn't leave a dent in them.
In a word, the Optimum offers a no-frills classic bike short look-- that won't dry much attention for the right or the wrong reasons. No color accents and no fancy seams-- these shorts are about as straightforward as you can get, offering riders with an understated, function-forward design.
Some testers weren't sure about the dark blue color we tested, but unlike other "not-black" shorts, these handled sweat pretty well. Nothing is worse than showing the world your sweaty crotch after a long ride. Some of our testers really dug the color because it matched their favorite jerseys!
Pssst...there's a tiny hidden pocket on the back. We think this is supposed to be for a cell phone.
For added visibility, the Optimum offers reflective accents on the side and back of the legs, as well as a reflective "Garneau" down the right leg.
Finally, Louis Garneau paid extra attention to the seams around the chamois, so there's no "puffing" around the front or back of the short where the chamois is attached, thus avoiding a style faux-pas, and in our opinion, definitely worth mentioning.
We really loved the subtle reflective details on the back of both legs offered by the Louis Garneau Optimum.
According to our testers, these are a great all-around short, appropriate for short to medium-long rides. Some cyclists may prefer a beefier chamois for super long days (anything over 100 miles). However, for hot, cold and everything in between, the Optimum impressed us with its quality construction, simple and straightforward design, and technical chamois that wicks away moisture while giving our backsides plenty of protection from the hard bike saddle.
These shorts are good for short, medium or long rides. Basically, they will take whatever you dish out and come back for more, which is why we love them so much.
It honestly doesn't get much better than this. We were shocked that the Optimum performed as well as it did, given the price tag. This is why we awarded this short with the Best Buy Award. The Optimum is leaps and bounds above other shorts in this price-point in terms of the short's design, material, fit, and performance. Sure, there are "prettier" shorts and brand names that carry an air of recognition. But if you're just in the market for a bike short to do its job and to keep you happy in the saddle, we can't say enough about the Optimum.
Trust us: you just won't want to stop riding in these shorts.
If you aren't convinced to at least give this short a shot, we're not sure what else we can say. High-quality construction, breathable with a technical chamois to handle the miles, and that is built to last. There isn't much more you can ask for in this gear category.