Lately, Assos has stepped up its off-road game, first adding a Trail Kit as their first official mountain bike clothing. And that was so good, I included it in my Editor’s Choice list for 2018. Next, they announced bibshorts with abrasion-resistant Dyneema panels, along with arm and knee sleeves made with the same material on the outer sides. There’s even a Trail Hoodie with Dyneema elbow pads. But it’s those Dyneema-enhanced XC Bib Shorts that we’re testing here, paired with their XC Short Sleeve Jersey, which make an excellent gravel road racing kit.

We also tested their top-end Equipe RS S9 Bib Shorts, which worked great with their entry-level Mille GT jersey on hot days around the globe. Let’s start with the gravel, er, XC kit…

Assos XC Bib Shorts & Jersey Review

what is the best gravel cycling kit from assos

What sets the XC kit apart from the rest of their line is the addition of Dyneema side panels on the legs, which help resist tears and cuts should you go down. Which is more likely on trails and gravel, so it’s a great bit of insurance without weighing down the clothing or affecting breathability.

The dark gray main material on the bibshorts is just a bit denser than typical bib material, which made these a great choice for The Rift gravel race in Iceland, where temps varied from hot and sunny to mid-40ºs (F) and rainy.

The XC Jersey has a mostly mesh back panel, which helps keep it cool under a pack, but also just cool for warm weather. Similar mesh panels run on the front of the sleeves, too.

That gray material will darkens with sweat a bit, and the shaping of the bibs includes Assos’ signature “pouch” front, which, um, accentuates things. Not in a bad way. Part of that  comes from the way the pad is sewn into place (see below). On the back, the straps (which are nice and wide and stretchy) run down into the mid panel, which offers good support without any weird pulling. Despite the straps’ soft material, they did cause a bit of chafing on longer rides…not to the point of nipple bleeding, but definitely a little tenderness after 11.5 hours on the bike one day.

why does assos keep their chamois pad unattached at the sides

Assos’ pads are attached at the front and rear, but the sides are left unstitched, a design they call the Golden Gate. This, they say, helps the pad move with you more freely to reduce friction and chafing. After many, many miles in them, I have to say it works.

The rear pockets use the same dark gray material as the bibs, so they have a bit more structure, and do a decent job of holding a bunch of stuff when crushing gravel. I don’t usually stick stuff in pockets for real XC riding, but for gravel, they work great and can hold a couple bars, phone, a wind jacket, and even a water bottle…without bouncing around. The fourth zipper pocket is a welcome addition.

Retail for the XC Jersey is $169, and XC Bib Shorts are $239. Not cheap, but if Assos has proven one thing to me over the years, its that their stuff lasts. As with so many things, you get what you pay for.

Not shown, I also brought the arm and knee skins along for The Rift, and they do a decent job of adding wind resistance and some insulation without any bulk. So, they’re somewhere between nothing and arm/knee warmers. And definitely lighter than arm/knee pads if you’re just seeking a bit of skin protection without needing impact protection.

Assos Equipe RS S9 Bib Shorts & Mille GT Jersey Review

assos equipe RS S9 is one of the most expensive bibshorts but they are worth it

For roadies, the Assos Equipe RS S9 bibs are their top of the line offering. I’ve ridden them plenty around our local roads, but the longest day was during a stage of the Samarathon mountain bike stage race. And since this was the first mountain bike race I’d ever done without wearing a pack, I tested the limits of pocket stuffing:

Construction is similar to the XC kit, but without the mesh rear panel, and the sleeves are slightly shorter here. The pockets can hold a ton of stuff…full bottle, wind breaker, bars, phone, and I think even my gloves were stuffed in here for this photo. It looks like the back panel is sagging a bit here, but in the riding position it’s surprisingly stable with a full load, even during spirited cross country racing.

The straps are similar here, but get a striped reinforced section on the lower back half. And they go even deeper into the mid back panel, which similarly provides solid midsection support…but the fronts of both bibshorts are really low. As in, if you reach over your head, you’re going to expose your midsection when standing. The upside is that makes them super easy to pull down for mid-ride bathroom breaks.

The Equipe RS S9 bibs run $249, and Mille GT Jersey is $119. All items tested here are size XL. While the S9 bibs are their top end item (and are panel cut so as to create even more of a “pouch” than the XC bibs), the Mille jersey is designed as a more affordable entry point into Assos’ world…but you wouldn’t know it from the fit, construction and materials. The fabric is soft and just dense enough to prevent sunburn through it, but light enough for mid-summer use. The collar come up slightly, and is comfortable even when zipped all the way up. I do wish the sleeves were just a bit longer, but at 6’2″ I’m admittedly on the taller end of the spectrum.

Other than that, these have become two of my more frequently worn kits, but they’re showing remarkably little wear. If the price of entry doesn’t scare you off, it’s likely you’ll get many years of use out of these to amortize the cost…and the simple styling and basic colors won’t look out of date before they wear out. And there are a lot of colors to choose from for the Mille  GT jersey.

Assos.com

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