The Bike List

howies Men’s Bibshort £59 & Slipstream Long Sleeve Jersey £59

Tested by Oliver Laverack, tester for The Bike List

Probably more well known for it's casual clothing range, howies is in fact a brand with deep roots in mountain biking. They have been making thought provoking cycling related T-shirts for well over 15 years, as well as a host of other clothing from jackets to jumpers.

Although the company has produced the odd cycling jersey or jacket in the past I was surprised to see the addition of a number of cycling specific items to the range earlier this summer and then again later in the year.

The items that stood out in particular were their sleak and stealthy-looking men's bib shorts and short sleeve Slipstream jersey as a summer combo, and their bib tights and long sleeve Slipstream jersey as winter combo - all of which are available as women's items too. The bib shorts, tights and Slipstream jerseys are howies' first foray into the figure-hugging, cycle specific garments arena and at first glance it's good looking and competitively priced kit. And although cyclists tend to be a more colourful lot compared to Joe public, there are plenty that like the understated look that doesn't draw attention to their every lump and bump.

Over the last 3-4 months I've had chance to put both the men's bib shorts and long sleeve jersey through their paces. I've done a mixture of road cycling including some longer all day rides as well as a number of cyclocross rides covering around 4-50 miles in mostly dry conditions.

The first thing to mention about both of these items is their construction as they are made on machines that knit the yarn into tubes. On the bib shorts this means that the centre piece is essentially one large tube instead of a number of joined panels. There are obviously still a few seams where the centre tube has been stitched to the back panel and shoulder straps, on the inside of the thigh and across the crotch but that's about it.

Impressively the same sewing machines are able to knit different weaves in select areas which has allowed the designers at howies to integrate more breathable sections of fabric in a number of areas where we typically sweat more. This technique also allows for more compression in areas where you might need a tighter fit such as the hems.

Putting both the bib shorts and the long sleeve Slipstream jersey on for the first time I was impressed with how easily the fabric stretches making them really easy to slide into. It's not a major issue but I do have a few pairs of Lycra (nylon) bib shorts that can feel like a bit of a wrestle to get into. On the flipside the bib shorts offer less compression than traditional Lycra bibs and although they hold everything in there's much more give in the fabric.

So how does this translate when wearing both items? I'd describe the fabric as soft and very comfortable and the bib shorts feel more like a pair of tight fitting long johns. You won't get the red lines around your thighs where the fabric / leg gripers are normally stretched tight over your thighs because there's plenty of give. The top also feels really comfortable to wear and the super snug fit means the garment contours your body shape and stretches where it needs to without feeling overly tight in any one place.

Out on the roads and trails I've really enjoyed wearing both these items. The full black combo results in a flattering, stealthy look that I'm sure made me look thinner than I was. Particularly after I'd had a few months off the bike after being ill but had eaten the same as when I was training. The bib shorts are obviously designed for summer months but I have been able to combine them with some merino knee warmers and ride in them comfortably in temperatures as low as 5-6 degrees Celsius.

Although the bib shorts are good, the Slipstream long sleeve jersey has become my favourite top of late and it really is a pleasure to wear. For me this jersey is really well priced at £59 and I think you'd be hard pressed to find another jersey of the same quality that fits as well as this one for this kind of money. As well as ticking all the same boxes as a stand alone jersey I have also used this highly breathable top as a good thick base layer for those colder days. There are of course also the usual practical additions that you'd expect on the back of a jersey like this such as two cargo pockets either side and one larger zip pocket in the centre on the back with a reflective surround. On the subject of reflective material I would have liked to have seen a bit more high-viz material on both items as being completely black it's easy to not be seen on the road, particularly at dusk or in the dark. Thanks to the stretchiness of this fabric I've managed to stuff two 700C cyclocross tubes, a mini pump, a chain tool, a mini tool, a box of patches and spares, 2-3 energy bars and two tyre levers into the pockets without them feeling over-crowded or too heavy.

The only one gripe I have with the bib shorts is the Italian made 2-layer 'TMF Proffesional' cycle pad. For me the pad just isn't dense enough in the right areas for longer distance rides or tougher cyclocross rides when you need as much padding as you can get. For shorter rides lasting up to 2-3 hours the pad is fine but for any century rides or longer cyclocross rides these wouldn't be my first choice purely down to the comfort of the pad. In addition to comfort, the soft, elastic open cell surround that covers the pad has started to peel away from the pad which admittedly hasn't affected its performance but might do in time. If howies offered a high mileage version of these bibs with a thicker and more durable pad for about another £15-£20 extra then I think they'd be on to an all round winner.

Update: howies have since updated the pad in their bib shorts with a stretch layer to prevent the open cell surround from peeling away.

In terms of keeping both items clean the instructions are really straightforward and there aren't any special directions as they use man made materials. I was pleased to find that both items seem to smell fine even after a long day in the saddle and once they've been in the wash they always come out looking good and smelling great.

One thing to watch out for though is the tendency for the material to snag if you're off-roading through the trees. I managed to catch my right arm on a few branches which has punctured the material slightly. There's no major damage and it's not that the material will unravel itself but next time I'll do more to avoid the branches to prevent the same happening again.

Size wise I'm 6 foot 1 with a 32in waist and a 36" chest (at least it is now that I'm back training again) and for me a small/medium pair of bibs shorts and a medium jersey seemed to offer a great fit leaving no baggy areas. The stretchy fabric also meant that both items fit fine when I'd put on a bit of weight.

howies have done well with their first bib shorts and figure hugging jersey but what impresses me most about both items is the price. They really are a bit of a billy bargain at just under £60 each. At just £10 more the men's bib tights look like good value too.

In conclusion then I'd recommend this kit for anyone who's new to cycling and looking for kit that will match your shape even if it changes. I also wouldn't hesitate to recommend the jersey for the more demanding enthusiast, but for anyone looking to spend long days in the saddle the bibs shorts wouldn't be my first recommendation. If howies upgraded the pad then that might be a different story.

I haven't got any reason to believe that the fabric won't hold its shape over time but I'll be putting plenty more miles in wearing both items and will update this review if I find anything to the contrary.

*The performance score for the bib shorts is 7 and for the jersey is 9 giving an average of 8. Both items scored 9 for value.

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At a glance

Verdict A very comfortable, competitively priced bibs shorts and long sleeve jersey ideal for beginners and enthusiast alike.

Howies Says:

Men's Bib Short

Seamlessly knitted padded bib shorts, with contoured panelling and a second skin fit. Integrated breathable panels minimize the need for seams and helps avoid chafing, as well as having a high density foam insert which means fewer sore bits on longer rides.

The 2-layer TMF Professional cycle pad is manufactured in Italy with a base construction of 40 density, 4mm thick foam bonded to a shock absorbent 90 density, 8mm foam in higher impact areas. Covered with a soft, elastic open-cell surround that moves with your body and an antibacterial finish.

Info & care

- Seamless circular knit design
- TMF® High density foam antibacterial cycle pad
- Integrated breathable panels
- Bib strap pocket (for keys / emergency cake money)
- Fast wicking
- Ribbed hem
- Flatlocked stitching
- 96% Polyamide / 4% Elastane
- Made in Portugal

Machine Wash 40°C  Ir_Tall_L  Use A Non-Chlorine Detergent  Do Not Dryclean  Do Not Tumble Dry  Go get the fun.

Wash dark colours separately

Sizes - S-M, L-XL

Slipstream Long sleeve Jersey

Seamless knit long sleeved cycle jersey, with contoured panelling and a second skin fit. Integrated breathable panels minimize the need for seams and helps avoid chaffing. Two rear cargo pockets, large enough for a lightweight jacket or a couple of bananas, maybe even a pump, an innertube and some jelly babies. Rear reflective zip pocket for securely carrying keys, money and a phone. Flexible full length coil zip. Ribbed cuffs and hem.

Race cut; designed to fit tight, with no flapping or excess fabric. Also available in short sleeve.

Info & care

- Seamless circular knit design
- Integrated breathable panels
- Fast wicking
- Two large rear cargo pockets
- Rear reflective zip storage pocket
- Flexible full length zip
- Ribbed cuffs and hem- Flatlocked stitching
- 96% Polyamide / 4% Elastane
- Made in Portugal

Machine Wash 40°C  Ir_Tall_L  Use A Non-Chlorine Detergent  Do Not Dryclean  Do Not Tumble Dry  Go get the fun.

Wash dark colours separately

Sizes - S, M, L, XL

Supplier: howies Ltd, 01239 614 122,