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Sugoi RS Century Zap Bib Review

Good-looking endurance shorts that still perform on high-intensity rides
Sugoi RS Century Zap Bib
Photo: Backcountry
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $180 List | $179.95 at Amazon
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Supportive, targeted chamois padding, breathable, side pockets
Cons:  Grippers may slip, can be too tight, chamois may chafe some riders
Manufacturer:   Sugoi
By Ryan Baham ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Apr 9, 2021
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79
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#5 of 12
  • Padding and Protection - 25% 8
  • Comfort and Fit - 20% 8
  • Breathability - 15% 7
  • Efficiency and Pedal Friendliness - 15% 9
  • Durability - 15% 7
  • Style - 10% 8

Our Verdict

After weeks of riding in tempestuous spring weather, hot, cold, wet, windy, dry, wet again, we're happy to deliver our completed review of the SUGOi RS Century Zap bib shorts. Their practical pockets, ideal support, and targeted padding allowed them to excel both over long distances, hence the name, and shorter, harder training rides. This mix is what earned them our first choice for touring shorts. They're ideal for back to back days in the saddle whether you're standing half the time cranking up 8 and 10% grades or sitting in just plodding along to the next hotel or camping site.

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Awards Top Pick Award Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award 
Price $179.95 at Amazon
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$130 List$159.99 at Backcountry
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Pros Supportive, targeted chamois padding, breathable, side pocketsComfortable, dries quickly and wicks away moisture on rides, reduces saddle chafe, affordableGreat flexibility, second-skin feel, don’t strangle your legs, highly breathableAffordable, supportive, durable, breathableCost-effective, durable, breathable, flexible, form-fitting
Cons Grippers may slip, can be too tight, chamois may chafe some ridersPouch seams can chafe, threading might come undoneLimited support, small front chamois panel, tighter groin compartmentLimited padding, fabric can be restrictiveLimited padding, less supportive
Bottom Line Good-looking endurance shorts that still perform on high-intensity ridesAwesome comfort and performance delivered at an easily accessible priceThese thin, second-skin shorts are ideal for crits and short hammer sessions on the trainerThese are the right shorts for quick, hard-hitting ridesAffordable, dependable intro bibs that will last
Rating Categories Sugoi RS Century Za... SUGOi Evolution Bibs Louis Garneau CB Ca... Gore Wear C5 Bib Pearl Izumi Quest S...
Padding And Protection (25%)
8.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
Comfort And Fit (20%)
8.0
9.0
9.0
7.0
8.0
Breathability (15%)
7.0
9.0
7.0
8.0
8.0
Efficiency And Pedal Friendliness (15%)
9.0
9.0
9.0
8.0
9.0
Durability (15%)
7.0
7.0
5.0
8.0
8.0
Style (10%)
8.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
6.0
Specs Sugoi RS Century Za... SUGOi Evolution Bibs Louis Garneau CB Ca... Gore Wear C5 Bib Pearl Izumi Quest S...
Main Fabric Ultra Aero, Mobil mesh Evo Plus (polyester/spandex blend) CB Carbon+, Endurexx, Highlander Mesh, Carbon X-Mesh 80% polyamide 20% elastane 88% nylon, 12% LYCRA elastane
Inseam Measurement 9" 9" 9.25" 10" 9.5"
Number of panels 12 8 11 5 6
Fit Type Bib Bib Bib Bib Bib
Chamois Formula FX RC Pro 4 Motion Yes Yes
Weight 7.55 oz 7.08 oz 7.72 oz 6.42 oz 6.49 oz
Other Features Stow pockets, Zap legband with silicone gripper, Mobil mesh Compressive EvoPlus fabric, Powerband leg cuffs Coldblack fabric - UV reflective, reflective accents, pressure relief zone in back of leg Advanced Road insert with Windstopper Cup, reflective logo, flat hem Reflective elements, silicone print holds short in position

Our Analysis and Test Results

These shorts were a little surprising. Pocketed long-distance shorts are typically a little more cumbersome, lending themselves less to shorter high-intensity rides, obviously are designed for long, slow slogs. The SUGOi RS Century Zaps hit the right mix of practical storage for touring and lean, supportive materials and padding to accommodate high-intensity rides. We spent weeks out on the road and trainer testing them and comparing them against other top bike shorts.

Performance Comparison


The RS Century Zaps ended up being among the most versatile shorts...
The RS Century Zaps ended up being among the most versatile shorts in our bunch.
Photo: Ryan Baham

Padding and Protection


The SUGOi RS Century Zap uses their Formula FX chamois. It's a multi-density Poron foam pad that targets the hard contact points for the greatest density and thickness beneath the ischia and varied densities according to the relative sensitivity of the spot being padded. There's actually a nice channel that runs through the center of the pad so you're not bearing weight along the center of the perineum, which is a no bueno situation as long rides grind on. Their lamination process allows them to cut down on surface seams, which is also a relief because chamois seams mean chafing. There were, however, complaints that the upper edge of the chamois cause chafing for some riders. We didn't experience it, but it's a fairly robust flatlock seam that could be a little rough if it's grating against the skin.


It's not for nothing that we chose the Century Zap as our choice for touring. The targeted density and smooth surface adhered to the body really well, didn't bunch or fold, and had pretty solid ventilation. It wasn't the best chamois we've tried, but it was still superior to the average padding out there.

While we didn't have any issues, you can see the edge of the SUGOis'...
While we didn't have any issues, you can see the edge of the SUGOis' padding (bottom) is a little more intense than the Louis Garneau CB Carbon 2 chamois (top).
Photo: Ryan Baham

Comfort and Fit


This is a really important aspect and another area that sets these apart from other bike shorts. Their shoulder straps are made of a strong, soft mesh material called Mobil Mesh. It's a fine gauge mesh with good flexibility and breathability, but still keeps the body of the shorts in place and your upper supported.


The Firo fabric that makes up its body is very supportive, almost to the point of being cumbersome, but results in a good, tight fit with fewer creases and superior comfort. The caveat is that the high mix of nylon makes them just a little harder to slide into, especially if your legs are already oily or sweaty and the cuffs stick to your legs as you're pulling them up. No one likes hearing the micro-tears on premium bike shorts as they're scraping them up their thigh. Depending on your shape and size, this could be a thing to watch out for.

The Century Zaps are tight enough to support without fighting...
The Century Zaps are tight enough to support without fighting against you.
Photo: Ryan Baham

To that end, one of the notes we found and verified was that the crotch was a little small. The cut of the shorts does lean a little more toward athletic with a narrower pelvis, so the higher mix of 78% nylon leaves a little less flexibility in the body. You don't really notice it when riding, but you'll feel it if you stop at the cafe and go about man-spreading. Thicker riders will notice it a little more.

Breathability


The Firo fabric composition (78% Nylon 22% Spandex) and tight cut help these shorts pull moisture off the skin and into the wind.


They do fairly well here, keeping you cool and dry on warmer days, but we still found that if you run into some rain, the shorts will hold a little more moisture than you'd like when it's cold and overcast. The Mobil mesh for the shoulder straps and the small footprint along the lower back also go a long way to keeping you cool and dry.

Broad mesh coverage keeps the air flowing across your skin, pulling...
Broad mesh coverage keeps the air flowing across your skin, pulling off heat and moisture.
Photo: Ryan Baham

Efficiency and Pedal Friendliness


The first thing to note here is that fabrics with a higher mix of nylon tend to be a lot harder to stretch. They're usually intended to squeeze and support, but sometimes that also translates to resistance to pedaling, especially when you're tired and grumpy in the back half of a long ride. The Century Zaps walk this line and do it just right. You get the compression and minimize excess fabric getting caught in the pistons or nose of the saddle, but you also have enough flexibility to move around when you need it.


One area of annoyance is the leg grippers. They're comfortable, which is really important on long days, but once you get a good salty oil sheen going (or if you hit some rain), you'll find yourself pulling the cuffs down repeatedly. It's not an easy problem to solve. This happens with most leg grippers.

You get a little cuff creep as the ride wears on, but nothing beyond...
You get a little cuff creep as the ride wears on, but nothing beyond an annoyance.
Photo: Ryan Baham

Durability


The high mix of nylon in the Firo fabric that makes up their body ensures that they're tough and will take a lot of abrasion and abuse. The liability this brings is that you're at a higher risk of tearing them if you stretch too much, particularly when you're clawing them on before a ride. If it's going to happen it's usually at a seam. While there's a risk of this happening, their sturdy flatlock seams seem to do a good job of girding against it unless you're determined to tear a hole in them. We'd also be remiss if we failed to just mention the nature of fine mesh, of which the shoulder straps consist: it won't last forever. We expect a few good, hard seasons out of these though. The pockets are also a fine mesh, but with more lycra to accommodate more stretching. This is great for a while, but the pockets may lose some of their elasticity or even tear as the years go by and the abuse accumulates.


Style


As expected, this is an area that requires a bit more nuance and taste, as it's an evaluation of aesthetics, which is open to broader interpretation. That said, the SUGOi RS Century Zaps are a pretty good-looking pair of off-the-shelf shorts. The seams outlining its 12+ panels create a nice visual complexity of curved and intersecting lines made that create a nice mirrored pattern, though it'll mostly just be visible to you as you look down at your computer.


Their reflective cuff also contrasts against the body for a nice effect, slightly accentuating the lower quad heads. Maybe a detractor here, depending on your preference, is the short inseam combined with the tighter material, which will probably cause your tan lines to migrate, possibly even a little unevenly.

Value


As the name implies, long-haulers are the guys who will get the most out of the Century Zaps and find their value. You're not sacrificing much in the way of performance for your typical workouts, but there might be better shorts out there. However, if you find that you're doing 60, 70, 80 mile rides pretty frequently and always maxing out your saddlebags and jersey pockets with tubes, pumps, phones, bottles, keys, cards, and sandwiches, these can be really useful, all the more so on centuries and out touring.

Nothing like a nice, tight pocket on a pair of touring shorts.
Nothing like a nice, tight pocket on a pair of touring shorts.
Photo: Ryan Baham

Conclusion


We chose the SUGOi RS Century Zaps as our first choice for touring shorts for a handful of reasons, of course including their side pockets. But pockets alone do not superior touring shorts make. You really need a good pair with moderate support that doesn't become a struggle or tire you out the way some of the super-tight pairs can be. And you want a supple chamois, but not something that will fold or bunch up, transforming into this foam golf ball after a few hours that you get to grind into for the second half of your ride. That balance is exactly what you get with the Century Zaps and why we even chose to wear them on shorter rides when we didn't need pockets at all. We thoroughly enjoyed them and we suspect lots of other riders will too.

It's very hard to overestimate the value of a pair of good bike...
It's very hard to overestimate the value of a pair of good bike shorts in keeping you out on the road in the saddle.
Photo: Ryan Baham

Ryan Baham