The Aero Tech Designs Touring shorts were unique among the other shorts because they were specifically designed for touring, complete with leg lengths through the more modest American inseam and large side pockets on each leg.
While these shorts didn't win any awards, we honestly liked wearing them. They looked good, felt tight, and performed well. When we compare them to the rest of the field, they come in somewhere around the middle of the pack, not exceeding many of the premium items in most categories, but also not falling below the average pair of shorts out on the market. Below, we take a deeper dive into these shorts and show how they did across seven measures, including value.
The Touring shorts bring a mix of utilitarian black with yellow accented panels. They also come with black, grey, and blue, making pairing with favorite jerseys a little easier. They also include a mesh side pocket, but when unloaded, the mesh has a pretty good looking carbon appearance from afar. Overall, these are stylish shorts worth a look if you want reasonable, simple style.
Conducting side-by-side comparisons with the Designs Touring shorts.
If you want to look a little closer to what a pro might wear, you might want to look at last year's Editor's Choice winner, the SUGOi Evolution Pro Bibs. One of the most popular trends in pro kits right now is the wide leg gripper displaying decals, designs, sponsors, and the like. You might need to work a little harder to get a sponsor on your leg grippers, but at least the Evolution Pro bibs are designed to look like you should have sponsorship. We gave the same style rating to both the SUGOi and Aero Tech products near the top, bested only by last year's Top Pick for Short Course, the Louis Garneau CB Carbon 2 shorts - an extremely sleek product that looks more like an anthropomorphic carbon jet component than padded shorts.
The gel padding includes perforation for extra ventilation, which helps them export moisture, but overall, we found that these shorts took a long time to dry out compared to the other items in our review. Part of the reason could be that they also had the highest mix of nylon in their fabric, 84%, and the mesh side pockets could have added another layer to hold in moisture. More breathable were SUGOi's Evolution Pro Bibs, which would do as well as or better than the Touring shorts as touring shorts.
Padding and Protection
The multi-density gel pad gave about average comfort overall, offering better performance on short distances than long, despite having fairly good firmness and 10mm of gel padding. A better choice for short rides would be the Louis Garneau CB Carbon 2 Bibs. For longer distances, consider the SUGOi Evolution Bibs. Both items give targeted padding with good cushion and firmness.
Top chamois/padding. Zoot Active Tri shorts (top), SUGOi Evolution Pro bib shorts (bottom, left), and Louis Garneau CB Carbon 2 shorts (right). Note the malleability of the Zoot fleece padding as well as the highly concentrated padding of the two chamois below, especially the narrow neck along perineal channel to prevent folded padding.
As with the other shorts, the Touring shorts suffer from the drawstring issue (See: Zoot Active Tri and Louis Garneau CB Carbon 2). At the expense of a better waist securing system, these shorts employ a drawstring that cuts you in two as you try to secure them in just the right spot at just the right tightness and after about 20 minutes it becomes apparent that you're squeezing your top half off your bottom half with a small rope. Among the shorts, only the Canari Velo shorts lacked a drawstring, but we don't think they're a step up. Both the Louis Garneau and Zoot were more comfortable fits, though the Zoot's lack of thick padding makes it unsuitable as a long-distance touring option.
The Gel Padded Touring shorts.
We found that these shorts were a little restrictive compared to the rest of those in the lineup. We also found that the legs tended to wrinkle or bunch up a bit, leading to extra rubbing and chafing around the inside of the thighs. For a good long-distance alternative, we suggest the SUGOi Evolution Pro Bib, which uses less nylon in their fabric, allowing for greater flexibility and helping the legs to stretch out wrinkles and folds.
Given the high nylon content, we started from the assumption that the Touring shorts would be strong and long-lasting - they're meant for touring, after all. But first, their seam design places seams in high action areas along the saddle region, making them vulnerable to wear and abrasion. Second, by the end of our testing, we found their stitching was coming undone all over these shorts, everywhere from the leg grippers to the waistband, to the seam running along the center beneath the pad. The operating assumption here is that the rigidity of the nylon stressed the seams too much. Had there been greater flex and stretch in the fabric, it might have spared the stitching a little more.
The Gel Padded Touring shorts are made of 84% nylon and 16% spandex.
As their name suggests, these shorts advertise for touring, but that might mostly be due to their large side pockets. The pockets are okay, but not much beyond gels or cliff bars should be going in there. It's incredibly annoying trying to ride with extra bottles or keys or anything loose in there. The picture on their website includes a map. It's just to get the point across that they offer some additional storage utility, but consider for a second, the problem of a paper map being stuffed in a pocket on your legs for a week of touring. Do you think you'll not sweat it out after a few hours?
But still, these shorts would do fine for a tour, and those pockets would be handy for storing light items that won't shift around much (like a map in a ziplock bag, maybe). We also think these are suited to spin class and short rides, particularly given their accessible price tag.
At $79.99, the Touring shorts are affordable, given their performance and their suitability to touring. We are slightly apprehensive about their durability, though. It would be infuriating to have to replace shorts in the middle of a tour, but so long as you monitor the status of their seams, you shouldn't be too surprised when it's time to replace them. That said, it might make more sense to go for a more durable contender like the SUGOi Evolution Pro Bibs ($120), which also gives great comfort over the sorts of durations you would see while touring.
The Touring shorts make sense for someone just getting into riding or someone looking for a pair of low-cost shorts that will get them through a single brief tour. They certainly have some good qualities, like strong fabric, useful pockets, and gel padding firm enough to dampen the road as the miles wear on. And they will look good in the spin room (for those with cycling fashion sense). But we also think that there are better products out there to meet the demands of anything from longevity to long distance padding to style to quick rides. We think these shorts are fine if you get them, but many other products are both affordable and better performing.
Side-by-side comparisons with the Aero Tech Designs Touring shorts.