This is a bit of a different kit review than usual. As you may or may not know, I did run – not particularly far, but fairly fast, and rather enjoyed it. I say did, as I was at my keenest whilst at school, college and university. However, due to one too many niggles, an inability to keep still and a national talent identification programme, I turned to two wheels…
So now as a cyclist, running is restricted to strength and speed drills and short repeated sprints for those occasions in cyclocross where riding a bike really isn’t possible. Obviously I still have a large shoe collection, but that’s nothing to the amount of cycling kit I now own! Riding isn’t like running, where you tend to warm up quite quickly in all but the most Arctic of temperatures. The constant wind chill and shark’s tooth elevation profile of the Peak District combine to make layers a necessity and extra layers a jolly good idea.
Thanks to Skins’ continued support of our Race Team, and my involvement with the physiological testing of team members, I had the opportunity to get hold of some Skins Compression Pro Bib Tights. I was both thrilled and a little sceptical. The scientist in me was aware of the equivocal nature of the research into the efficacy of compression garments, yet the practitioner in me was also mindful of the power of the placebo effect.
Firstly, the fit was excellent. I tend to wear unisex or men’s cycling clothing – partly due to wider choice and partly due to slimmer-cut shorts and tights (I do NOT have child-bearing hips!). The Skins method of sizing is particularly useful as it is dependant upon weight, body shape and height – rather than an arbitrary dress size. The super close fit around the legs and the bibs was without restriction. The legs reached the ankles and the slimline chamois pad stayed in place. The UV 50+ material was noticeably thinner than the usual brushed back roubaix fabric commonly used in cycling tights, but did have a multi-directional ‘hugging’ feel. Fit: 9/10
In the dry, the tights stayed in place very well – avoiding the chafing behind the knee that can happen with less well shaped garments. Even when wet, sagging was kept to a minimum, due to the very close fit. The lack of chafing was also due to the flat-lock seam placement – away from joint lines. What was noticeable was the density of the weave. Despite the thin nature of the material, they blocked the wind surprisingly well. In deepest winter, I would need to bring out my tried and tested super-roubaix fabric tights, with a fleecy feel to the inner and a more weather-proof outer. However, even in temperatures in single digits the Skins’ form fitting compression somehow managed keep the limbs sufficiently warm whilst moving. Feel: 9/10
It’s difficult to rate the compression of the garment. No matter what the manufactures say, they eventually sag – perhaps slightly – but they do! So far, after several hundred kilometers, and many cycles through the 40 degree wash they are still as form-fitting as ever. I do notice that there is less muscle vibration when wearing long tights – and less again when wearing these compared to my other tights. I can’t comment on whether the blood flow is better wearing the Skins, but they are certainly my ‘go to’ tight if I’m stiff or sore or know I have a hard or long ride to do. The only situation where I don’t choose the Skins above anything else is when I’m riding off-road, and that’s because I can’t face shredding them on undergrowth or in a crash. Perceived compression: 8/10
Overall, they are an excellent piece of kit. I would recommend to anyone who is serious about their training. The close fit and price tag won’t suit everyone, but for cyclists who train year-round, the seamless, multi-density, unobtrusive pad is almost worth the cost alone, never-mind the fact that they really do feel like you’re wearing a second skin (sorry, couldn’t resist!). Overall: 9/10