Hands-on Gear Review

Louis Garneau CB Carbon 2 Review

Louis Garneau CB Carbon 2 NEW
Top Pick Award
Price:  $150 List | $112.49 at MooseJaw
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Sun protection, sleek and flashy, breathable, smooth and fast
Cons:  Might wear out quickly, draw string uncomfortable, leg grippers ride up
Bottom line:  A little on the expensive side for shorts, but potential high performers for short rides.
Editors' Rating:   
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Main Fabric:  CB Carbon + LYCRA fiber, Endurexx, Carbon-X Mesh | 70% Nylon, 24% Lycra Spandex, 6% Polyester Carbon
Inseam Measurement:  9.25"
Number of panels:  11
Manufacturer:   Louis Garneau

Our Verdict

So here's the thing: it matters how good we look on the bike - at least it does to most roadies. The Louis Garneau CB Carbon 2 shorts look better than good, they look awesome (at least when they're not pulled up to the belly button while you're shirtless, in which case you still look like a giant dork, as seen farther down in the review). They earned the top score in style. Their textured fabrics not only look like carbon fiber finish but actually incorporate carbon fibers in their makeup. They come in solid black or black with red accents, giving them a little variety to help match jerseys, but these are probably worth buying a new jersey to match the shorts.

Not for style alone, these shorts earned our Top Pick for Short Course award. They also had outstanding fit comfort and efficiency/pedal friendliness while maintaining good breathability and padding. Their padding had the right cushioning, but wasn't firm enough for longer rides. It excelled in short rides. The shorts are ideally suited to something like a criterium where you'll be in and out of saddle during the race and spend the rest of the day walking around some closed down business district peacocking in your shorts.

The caveat here is that we experienced a tear in the lining and would be remiss if you didn't point out that we had some products that proved more durable and would do well over short courses like the Zoot Sports Active Tri shorts and Gore Power 3.0 bibs.


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Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Ryan Baham

Last Updated:
Sunday
May 28, 2017

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We chose the Louis Garneau CB Carbon 2 shorts as our Top Pick for Short Course because they looked good, felt fast, and worked with us. They had the right flex, tightness, and support so we didn't have to keep readjusting or pulling the legs down. Their padding was cushy and somewhat firm with targeted support areas under the heavy and sensitive contact areas. They felt really good for more than an hour, but they weren't as suited to long distance riding as the SUGOi Evolution Pro Bibs. We also dinged them for the hole that tore into a post-production butt vent, something we don't see happening with the short distance Zoot Active Tri shorts, which won our Best Budget Buy award. Read on to see how we broke these down for each of our performance measures and where they really shined and where they fell flat.

Performance Comparison



Style


This was the most attractive out of the bunch. Nine panels create fine curved lines, defining a smooth patch along the thigh that comes in black or red, set amidst a beautiful carbon mesh, capped by wide, smooth, laser-cut leg grippers. From our lineup, these are absolutely the most stylish and that is part of the reason we decided to give these our Top Pick for Short Course Award. It really helps that their color schemes match the reviewer's bike and favorite jersey.


But cycling can sometimes take a turn for the vain and matching colors can really make or break an article of clothing. If you are concerned with color schemes, you might consider some of the other stylish products we examined. The Editors' Choice SUGOi Evolution Pro Bibs were fairly subtle in their coloration, but using a black as the underlying canvas, gave three options to match, including solid black with white lettering along the leg cuffs, black with red seams, white cuffs, and red lettering, and black with blue seams and cuffs and white lettering.

The editor out testing the Louis Garneau CB Carbon 2 in Norfolk  VA (Norfolk International Terminal in background).
The editor out testing the Louis Garneau CB Carbon 2 in Norfolk, VA (Norfolk International Terminal in background).

We also considered the Aero Tech Touring shorts to be pretty attractive - and they have the virtue of being shorts in case you're set on shorts, not bibs. What is interesting about the Aero Tech touring shorts, from a style standpoint, is that if you don't load its pockets up with practical items for your ride, they have a similar visual effect to the carbon design of the CB Carbon 2, presenting a dynamic textured surface. Of course, in the case of the Aero Tech shorts, it is an actual mesh netting, whereas the Louis Garneau shorts are a single textured material containing carbon fibers whose design also mirrors the beauty we all recognize as carbon finish. The Aero Tech shorts also come with accents in black, yellow, gray (charcoal, apparently), and blue (they say it's royal).

Breathability


The CB Carbon 2 shorts include four mesh vents to increase breathability while the materials overall give better than average breathability. The tight fit and inclusion of polyester in the main material certainly add to their ability to soak up and shirk off sweat. The chamois includes the Ergo Air ventilation design, which seems to help dissipate moisture and dry faster. These scored better than average in breathability, but they weren't at the top of our ranking in this category.


If you are concerned about having exceptional breathability, our top scorer in breathability was the Pearl Izumi Elite In-R-Cool Bibs, whose highly engineered fabric and tight fit helped it lead the pack in this measure. Next down the line is the SUGOi Evolution Pro Bibs, which also featured a high mix of polyester (which is hydrophobic) and a clean, tight fit. Next down the line, but scoring just above the CB Carbon 2 shorts is the Gore Power 3.0. Their tight fit and unique elastic interface chamois breathe very well on the road.

The editor conducting side-by-side comparisons with the Louis Garneau CB Carbon 2 shorts.
The editor conducting side-by-side comparisons with the Louis Garneau CB Carbon 2 shorts.

Padding and Protection


The 4 Motion perforated foam with bacteriostatic properties is certainly a welcome feature. We are choosing not to get into the details of chamois bacteria - you can research hygiene in other places - but having such features in a chamois automatically boost the rating of any pad, irrespective of its comfort. But they also do a good job of designing a pad with the right density in the right places. Their design included a special ischial relief zone, but once we identified the ischium, we weren't sure that the feature made a serious difference because it's such a broad region and relief is so relative.


Pictured below are the fleece pad of the Zoot Tri shorts on top, the SUGOi Evolution Pro Bibs on the right, and the Louis Garneau Bibs on the left. The thing that all three of these shorts have in common is that the pads are form-fitting and don't bunch up or double fold and that makes all the difference in the world and it's why they share the top spots for padding and protection.

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.
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.

It's clear that the Zoot fleece pad is skimpy compared to the rest of the field, but they do very well on short rides like sprint triathlons or spin classes, which edges into the territory of Louis Garneau shorts. We gave the Zoot shorts the same score as the Louis Garneau because they both work well for their intended purposes: short, fast rides. The SUGOi padding had similar qualities to the Louis Garneau shorts, but with added firmness to get through more hours of riding more comfortably. Our suggestion here is to follow your activity's need: if you are looking for padding that only needs to get you through a spin class or bike segment of a short triathlon, go for the Zoot. If you are cranking through an hour or so of a criterium or local sprint ride, go for the Garneau. If you want to be in the saddle for hours and hours, go with the SUGOi.

Comfort and Fit


For some, the draw strings might be uncomfortable or even awkward as you try to figure out if they should go on the inside or outside of they remain untied. And if they're tied, they can end up cutting off circulation. The other thing to consider here is that shorts are typically high-riding, so if you're riding shirtless (shame on you), you might have the geezer look if you don't roll the waistband down. One design flaw we really found was that the leg cuffs tended to ride up as we rode, especially as we got sweatier and rode more aggressively.


Overall, we still felt that these shorts were at the top of our group in terms of fit and comfort, rivaled by only the SUGOi Evolution Pro Bibs, which had the same score. The key for both pairs is that they created light, stretchable material that both hugs and flexes while remaining light and breathable. The deciding line between these two depends on your need. If you are looking for a high-performance premium pair of shorts for quick, fast rides, we suggest going with the Louis Garneau if you can shell out the money. If you want an everyday bib that will serve you on both short rides and long rides, the SUGOi is the right choice. If you are concerned with fit, but might not want the top of the charts, consider looking at the Zoot Active Tri shorts, which also had great maneuverability and flex, good fit, and didn't ride as high, though they still suffered from the slipping thigh grippers.

Louis Garneau CB Carbon 2 shorts.
Louis Garneau CB Carbon 2 shorts.

Efficiency and Pedal Friendliness


Louis Garneau really concentrated on freedom of movement with these shorts, taking its nylon content down and adding in a good deal of spandex along with a small mix of polyester carbon. Its various fabrics, CB Carbon + LYCRA® fiber, Endurexx, and Carbon-X Mesh, combine to hug and support (compress) the thighs while allowing a good range of flex and mobility. We did not have to spend time pulling legs up or down or adjusting much.


These shorts performed as well as the Performance Elite Bibs and Gore Power 3.0 Bibs, both of which used a lower nylon ratio in their fabrics. We don't think either of these have superior efficiency or pedal friendliness, but their unique designs might better suit other riders. We should note that the SUGOi Evolution Pro Bibs did rate slightly higher than the CB Carbon 2s and might be a better guy if this category is your primary concern. The SUGOi Bibs had the lowest nylon content from our lineup, but partially supplemented the flexible spandex by using a higher portion of the tough, but flexible polyester.

The editor conducting side-by-side comparisons with the Louis Garneau CB Carbon 2 shorts.
The editor conducting side-by-side comparisons with the Louis Garneau CB Carbon 2 shorts.

Durability


These shorts were a struggle for us. They felt great and their materials as technical details add up to a strong product, but after just a few rides a hole tore in the back and we were reminded of that fact on multiple rides. It is difficult to give these shorts much more than an average durability score based on that occurrence. But, despite our experience, user reviews across the internet were overwhelmingly positive and there were no other reports of tearing or serious breakdowns in quality, so it is difficult to say that all pairs are of similar quality. If there were mass quality gaps, the internet would be alight with angry reviews, but there were none of that nature.


Based on the makeup of their materials (CB Carbon + LYCRA fiber, Endurexx, Carbon-X Mesh, that is, 70% nylon, 24% lycra spandex, 6% polyester carbon), we guessed that these shorts would not make a serious trade-off in strength by swapping higher nylon content for higher polyester and spandex. For example, the most durable product in our lineup, the Pearl Izumi Elite In-R-Cool Bibs have a nylon mix of 80% with only 12% spandex and the remaining 8% is the polyester meant to help dissipate moisture without sacrificing too much strength. The catch here is that the In-R-Cool end up being fairly inflexible while the CB Carbon 2 are highly flexible.

The Louis Garneau CB Carbon 2 developed a large hole in the left flank.
The Louis Garneau CB Carbon 2 developed a large hole in the left flank.

But, as can be seen from the unplanned portside vent pictured above, the CB Carbon 2 materials were not as strong as we guessed. We think a good middle ground for durable shorts that maintain many of the qualities of the CB Carbon 2 are the Zoot Active Tri shorts, which also won our Best Budget Buy award. Their simple materials and tough, straightforward stitching scheme appear to hold up better to wear and abuse.

The Louis Garneau CB Carbon 2 materials are noted on their tag above.
The Louis Garneau CB Carbon 2 materials are noted on their tag above.

Best Applications


As the winners of the Top Pick for Short Course, we endorse these shorts for short, hard rides, especially in hot weather. Given their thin, breathable material, they do much better in the heat than the cold. We think these are perfect shorts for a criterium in town - they are showy and really pay off when you need to jump in and out of the saddle for 45 minutes and 5 laps. They will certainly stand up to a 90 or 120-minute ride, but the draw string starts to wear on the waist and the leg cuffs might begin to more freely drift up once the legs are good and oily.

Value


These shorts retail for $149.99. If they can be bought at a steep discount, they are worth owning. We might endorse the premium if we thought they had the sort of tough longevity of other shorts like the simple Zoot Active Tri shorts, which won our Best Budget Buy and have the versatility to double as triathlon shorts while maintaining enough padding for at least an hour on the road. We think the problem is that the Carbon CB 2 are a little too finely made, which brings a higher cost to materials and manufacturing techniques, but might not always translate into long-term quality. At the price of these shorts, you could buy a good pair of bibs like the SUGOi Evolution Pro Bibs, which are also very attractive and allow great freedom of movement and breathability with about the same durability in terms of material qualities and manufacture.

Conclusion


We were really surprised and disappointed by the tear in the seam because these shorts performed so well across the board. They are a beautiful pair of shorts with both flex and support - and they just feel great to put on. Overall, we think they earned the award for Top Pick for Short Course. They were great for an hour and we know these should be at the top of anyone's list looking for a flashy pair of show shorts at the local crit, but they should recognize they're paying a premium for top end shorts that might only make it to a few races.

The editor out testing the Louis Garneau CB Carbon 2 in Norfolk  VA (Norfolk International Terminal in background).
The editor out testing the Louis Garneau CB Carbon 2 in Norfolk, VA (Norfolk International Terminal in background).
Ryan Baham

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Most recent review: May 28, 2017
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
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