Craft Performance Short Review
Our Analysis and Test Results
An aggressive, high-performance pair of cycling shorts, we got nothing but enjoyment from wearing the Craft Performance Short.
The Performance Short uses Craft's Performance Pad, their three-layer, 4-way stretch, anti-microbial, and anti-shock chamois. It tied with our Editors' Choice Award winner, the Giordana Laser Bibshorts as the highest rated short/bib in this category. The whole chamois is labeled, basically providing a map of what is going on with the interior of the padding. We were surprised to see that the thickest part of the pad is 10 mm — it feels much thicker. This is probably due to the 100 kg density, which gives the chamois a heavily padded feel.
The chamois itself is made of two mirrored parallel lines of padding that are thickest where the ischium (sit bones) rest, and narrowest as they run to the front of the perineum (the soft tissue on your 'underside'). There is a small gap between them, which help keep the pressure there to a minimum. Surrounding the main padded area is the 'Comfort Zone', 4 mm, 40 kg padding that gives extra protection to the other parts of your body that bear weight while in the saddle.
The chamois in the Performance Short varies from the ones found in the Giordana Laser Bib and the Louis Garneau Equipe Bib with its precise shape and specified foam cells, but is highly functional and does a great job and protecting the rider in the saddle.
The compression fit and shape of the chamois aid the Performance Short in its efficiency by reducing extra material and drag. You can definitely feel the compression in these shorts for the duration of your ride, but the fit helps support the quads and hamstrings, in addition to dampening vibration from the road (which causes fatigue). Pedaling in these shorts is always a pleasure, especially when we were able to go hard. The Craft Performance Short tested similarly to The Castelli Velocissimo Due Short and the Pearl Izumi P.R.O. In-R-Cool Bib in this metric, with a solid showing in efficiency/pedal friendliness.
After we were finished reading up on the chamois from inside of the short, we decided to try them on to see if they felt as good as they looked. We were impressed with the compression fit right from the start. The Performance Short does a good job of supporting the whole upper leg, with panels running from the hip across the quad to Vastus Medialis muscle (interior, above the knee).
The cut of the short is definitely on the aggressive side, swooping low in the front to limit pressure on the abdominal region, and also supporting the lower back with a strong elastic band and panel. In the saddle is where this short shines, and we were able to ride for several hours without feeling fatigue from sitting. The Performance Short did a good job of staying in place while riding. We had no issue with the chamois riding down or the leg cuffs coming up. If we took a break to shake out our legs or get a drink, it was always a good idea to make sure the shorts were where we wanted them before hopping back in the saddle, but this is standard procedure for road cyclists.
The extra grips on the inside of the compression leg cuffs may be a little much with this short. There was a time or two where they caught the hair on our legs, which made us focus on something besides pedaling for a minute.
The Performance Short has a great cut that allows airflow over more uncovered surface area of the body. It benefits from not having an upper (like bibs), and the Lycra is a moisture wicking, thermal regulating fabric that has been with the industry for a long time.
That being said, the Craft Performance Short doesn't take the same considerations for breathability as our other contenders. Every short/bib, besides the Pearl Izumi Quest Short, incorporates a fabric change that is specifically designed to allow airflow and help breathability. Mostly, this is located on the outside of the legs and uses a mesh or low thread count fabric for the area. The Performance Short does utilize a fabric change, but it is located on the inner-thigh panels, which don't get the same amount of airflow as the outside of the legs. This was not a deal breaker by any means, but we noticed it – especially since the Performance Short encourages you to go out hard and fast.
Craft does a very good job with the Performance Short in taking the simple black bike short and adding details to make it their own. The first item you notice is the white stitching that contrasts with the black fabric. This is visually appealing and allows you to easily see the eleven panels that make up the short. The Craft logo is emblazoned on the front of the left thigh in reflective material, and the Craft mark — the triangle of six dots – is on a back panel in reflective material as well. Each leg cuff has the Craft logo in black, repeated around the perimeter –a detail that isn't immediately seen, but adds to the overall aesthetic appeal of the short.
Although the Performance Short is made of two fabrics, the contrast isn't utilized the same way as on the Girodana Laser Bib. However, Craft does keep one style secret on the inside of their shorts – they cleverly label different parts of their chamois directly on the fabric. It has information specifying the 100 kg Density, 10 mm Thickness, Anti-Shock E.V.A. System, and more. This definitely isn't a necessity, but it earns Craft style points, as well as providing useful information when shopping or reminding you of the difference between chamois you own.
We found the Craft Performance short best for harder training days. The short works well for all types of riding, but the extra support and aggressive cut make it a prime candidate for tempo rides, intervals, and hill workouts.
The Performance Short retails at $135, which makes it the most expensive of the shorts, but less expensive than the bibs we tested. We rank this Performance Short as having a 'fair' value. The price is a little expensive, but this is a solid piece of cycling apparel that would round out any athlete's collection. However, if you were to purchase one cycling short to have on hand, we would suggest the Castelli Velocissimo Due Short, our Top Pick Award Winner.
We love this pair of shorts and think they perform admirably. If you prefer shorts over bibs, this is a pair to consider.
— David Mackey