Assos Equipe RS Spring Fall S9 Bib Review
Cons: Not cheap, chamois might be a bit large, grippers slide
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Assos Equipe RS Shorts S9s were among our favorite bike shorts for longer rides. We found ourselves constantly reaching for them on the longer rides. They had a lot to live up to after the S7 model, and they did a great job of it, but there were a few areas where they came up just barely short. Read on to see where they need a little work and where they kick ass.
Padding and Protection
From the outset, we'll say that the shorts definitely evoke ideas of 15th-century codpieces. There could be an element of aggrandizement or embellished ambitions there, but the padding in higher-end Assos shorts is usually oversized and effective. That's what you get with the Equipe RS S9s.
The padding is made up of the superAir microShock foam (we're not sure why they've chosen to squishandCapitalize). It's an effective shock-absorbing material that you appreciate out on the road and on the trainer. It cuts out the road noise and seems to limit that chapped-ass feel you start to get after about 60 minutes on the trainer.
It also has an antimicrobial top sheet that helps cut down on the colonization and subsequent saddle sores. It's called the mod.Dep S9 Basalt top sheet, which is meant as an homage to lava stone, which Assos says gives us strength, stability, and courage. We're not particularly thrilled about the ethereal invocation, but the color is fine, the material is smooth and comfortable, and it seems to do its hygiene-based job.
The chamois uses Assos' 3D waffle, which is a 3-layered perforated foam. It's lighter and allows more air into the padding, which is usually pleasant unless it's chilly out. One of the things we super like about them is the goldenGate design. It's basically just less stitching, so the chamois floats around with you instead of being nailed down to the rest of the shorts. It cuts down on chafing and helps the padding move with you.
The new S9 insert is smaller than its predecessor. The idea was to reduce weight and real estate. However, it seems that the new pad bunches up ever so slightly while the earlier version didn't have the issue. It's not a big interruption, but you notice it from time to time. Somehow it just doesn't have the same excellence of the S7, but you still get the big, protective, boisterous codpiece effect.
Comfort and Fit
This is another area where the S9s beat out most of the competition. Both materials and design put them above almost everyone else. Their Type.441 knit fabric is made of 80% polyamide (nylon) and 20% elastane (Lycra). It's an ideal material mix for strength and flexibility, but their 40-gauge warp knit has a soft felt feel to the skin and a gentle compressive feel to the muscles. Not to mention they use some sort of space magic to make the material especially moisture-wicking with fastDry treatment.
Material aside, quite a bit goes into the actual design of the shorts. They use a so-called butterfly design for the lower portion, which means that each leg gets one panel of fabric, with a single seam binding it together at the back around their ergoBox (the panel holding the insert). It improves overall compression, stability, and fit.
Take that along with the butterfly design of the shorts and their reduced inseams, and you have a compressive, comfortable pair of shorts girded by a forgiving band at the waist. Or, in our experience, pretty far up the waistline, like the belly button. It's their zeroWaist edge that lines the top of the bottoms that limits chafe and…let's say…spill-over. While we'd prefer a lower-cut rim for side-of-the-road-related activities, the effect does seem to make up for the additional stretching and leaning that has to happen. Well, we don't need to be too pusillanimous about this: what we mean here is that it's worth having the higher waistline, which limits the uncomfortable belly poking out (for us supple riders) for 3 hours of riding, in exchange for it being slightly less convenient to pee for 45 seconds once or twice during that same ride.
The shoulder straps are well designed too. Across the top of the shoulders is a soft, wide elastic that minimizes chafe (and the ol' nipple rash). It has enough flex to move with your body, but it's anchored near the small of the back in Assos' A-frame, which is just a linkage to a tougher strap that attaches at the waist. It seems to allow the suspenders to maintain their tautness with the lower section without taking it out on your torso. We're not clear if this is a placebo or if this is actually happening, but it seems to be legit.
The Equipe RS S9s are among the most breathable shorts out there. Their premium fabric and tight fit do the heavy lifting here. They use a high mix of nylon (80%), which helps kick out sweat. They also use idroFil's fastDry, which looks to confer some sort of additional, but minor hydrophobic or evaporative qualities like isopropyl alcohol. The only drawback here is that the felt-like inner lining of the shorts, while super comfortable, does seem to insulate a little more than you'd like on warm days. That said, here in coastal California where it's chilly every morning, it was pretty nice.
The arrangement of the shoulder straps also goes a really long way to reducing the heat that would otherwise build up. It's part of Assos' A-Frame design. It's super strong, but tends to have much reduced surface area coverage than a lot of other bib shorts.
The chamois also has its own breathable attributes as well. We already mentioned the 3D waffle design, which is comprised of 3 layers of foam. The insert also employs the kraterCooler system. This is an effective design that simply uses a bunch of holes in the front for ventilation. You notice it on the chilly mornings the most…but it's also good as the fog burns off and the day warms up.
Efficiency and Pedal Friendliness
There's very little here to complain about here. These shorts basically have it all. Their shoulder straps perfectly hold the shorts in place where they ought to be without giving you that wedgy or toddler in a swingset feel (nevermind that all bib shorts are modified cloth diapers). Though, speaking of big diaper, that's maybe the only point of note here: the S9 chamois doesn't seem to move with the body as elegantly as the previous padding. It seems to bunch a bit more, which is a slight annoyance, but certainly not a deal-breaker.
Otherwise, you get a pair of clean, tight shorts that compress, support, and flex as your body does on the bike. There's very little chafing anywhere and not a lot of waste. These are very much among our favorite bike shorts, especially for the longer, harder rides.
There wasn't a lot we could find that concerned us with the S9s. Their material is thick and strong, able to take a lot of abuse. Seams are minimized, reducing the areas that can wear down, crucially including the inner thigh area where most of the hammering-induced friction occurs. The straps are made of a tough elastic with strong attachment areas in the front and rear. Even the chamois uses a top layer to reduce microbe colonization.
Still, there are two areas for concern. The first is the cuffs. We didn't experience this issue, we did find reports that the cuffs eventually wore out, causing slippage. The other area is in the chamois. The goldenGate design that allows the padding to float with your body means that the padding is not stitched down along the edges, which is an inherently less stable design. There are fewer anchor points to hold down the fort should bits of thread come undone from normal wear and tear and new spots that are now vulnerable to tearing. Now, we don't think the padding is especially weak. We've put these and especially the predecessor through tons of abuse and didn't see a single stitch come apart, but…it's still something to keep in mind.
So long as you're not wearing them without a jersey, they look pretty darn good. They're tight, have a sleek, seamless look to them, and just the tiniest bit of accent to them with the cuffs and Assos decals. We've given them an above-average score here, but you'll need to decide for yourself.
This is a tough call here. Our general view is that while the RS S9s are excellent bib shorts on their own, they just aren't as brilliant as the S7s. If you have the budget and haven't been in the S7s, you'll probably get what you're expecting with the S9s. If you've been in the S7s, you might want to look a little higher up in the Assos closet.
The Assos Equipe RS Bib Shorts S9 are high-flyers for sure. There's no shortage of high-tech material and design that have gone into making them some of the best on the market today. They deliver comfort, fit, support, and breathability in troves. They're truly a delight to ride. That said, we should also mention that they were meant to be an improvement over the Equipe S7s.
We enjoyed riding them, but replacements they are not. The padding just isn't quite there. It's a bit larger, causing bunching, while the front pouch for your bits doesn't really improve comfort. The straps seem like they mostly do their job, but we're not entirely convinced about their utility. This isn't to say that the shorts aren't excellent and worthy of being considered top-tier, but they just aren't quite as good as the S7s. Still, most riders coming to these without having been in the S7s beforehand will be in for a huge surprise of comfort and performance.
— Ryan Baham