Reviewed: rh+ Shark Bibshorts, Jersey, Arm and Leg Warmers
- Product: rh+ Shark Bibshorts, Jersey, Arm and Leg Warmers
- Price: £140 (Jersey), £125 (Bibshorts), £45 (arm warmers), £65 (leg warmers)
- From: rh+
- Tested: 1 month
- Tested By: Rob Dobson
Over the last month I have been testing the “Shark” line from rh+, which form part of the range topping “Powerlogic” offerings from the Italian brand. The key selling point of the Shark line is that it aims to offer protection from the elements thanks to Polartec fabrics, but also an aerodynamic fit. I felt good in the gear before I even threw a leg over my bike; heading out in fully co-ordinated get-up for the first time, I did not feel like a prize pilchard.
That feeling got me thinking about cyclocross and whether its icons are ever considered to have style. Sven Nys certainly had verve, brio, éclat. But panache? It conveys bravery and daring played out over a soaring operatic score by Puccini; it is swagger and romance, and the players just look the part. This is difficult to pull off in cross no matter how heroic you are, what with all the bike carrying whilst covered in snot and muck, and when soundtrack of your career is Antwerp Hardcore.
Still, even for cross racers and trail riders, getting dressed up to go riding is theatrical. In selecting your wardrobe, you are preparing for whatever dramas may lay ahead, and looking smart puts you in the right frame of mind: through the little ritual of it, you prepare yourself for entry onto the stage. So, you can be forgiven for having a little day dream during the process of selecting the layers. In the absence of cyclocross style icons, do you cast yourself as Coppi? Merckx? Fignon? No? Me neither. I become Frank n Furter: the sweet transvestite from transsexual Transylvania, thanks, of course, to the transformative power of black lycra leg warmers. No idea what I’m talking about? Then clearly you’ve never stopped and looked at yourself in the moments between pulling up your leg warmers, and slipping into your bib shorts.
For anybody starting out, once you have a bike that fits, I think the essentials are: padded shorts, a jersey, a jacket, clipless pedals, a track pump, and for me, leg warmers. You could be forgiven for thinking that, provided they stay up, leg warmers are much of a muchness. The Sharks, however, are the most luxurious I have ever had the pleasure of pulling up my hairy thigh. The fleecy lining is very comfortable and warm, and though noticeably thicker than most leg warmers, they were breathable and did not restrict my movement in any way. Rh+ recommends them for use in temperatures ranging from 12 down to 5 degrees C; my experience was that they did the job at -1. However, do not assume that just because the Shark line has good water resistance, that chafing won’t ever be an issue. Having been rained on for the first two hours of an all-day ride, by hour 6 the back of my knees were being rubbed raw. I still recommend these leg warmers, but also recommend that chamois cream is not only for your bottom. Buyers should however pay close attention to sizing- which is a recurring theme of this review of the rh+ garments. I have an inside leg of 88cm, and I am 185cm tall. My thigh measures 52cm at the point where the top of your leg warmers sit. Surprisingly, size Small in the leg warmers was perfect for me.
The arm warmers, like the leg warmers, use Polartec’s Wind Pro® fabric, so also provide a good level of water resistance and warmth. Also like the leg warmers, the elastic gripper has anti-slip silicone on both the inside and the outside. Sizing is important with arm warmers. I tested size Small, and had no issues at all with them slipping down my arm (despite my puny 27cm guns).
The bib shorts in size medium were on the short side for me as a prefer a longer leg, although this becomes irrelevant once paired with the leg warmers, and the bib straps were the right length for my height and didn’t pull my shoulders while on the bike. The shorts have two great redeeming features. First, the back panel is made out of Polartec’s Power Shield® Pro fabric. It provides waterproofing to 5000mm/ca, so perhaps best described as being highly water repellent rather than waterproof. Nevertheless, going off road I stopped caring about riding fast through puddles when I realised that the spray off my rear tyre was not immediately finding its way down the crack of my backside. For some reason, rh+ doesn’t put it quite like that on their website. Secondly, you get a very high quality pad. Manufactured by Elastic Interface, another Italian company that supplies to other well-known roadie brands whose shorts are frequently named best in class. The “Liege” pad used in the Shark line is suggested for both on and off road use. Though the double density foam pad is squishier and wider than my normal preference, it was extremely comfortable. Once used to the thickness of the pad, and irritating length of the shorts, I barely registered that I was wearing any. If only the legs were longer, these would be my new favourite winter shorts.
Which brings me finally to the jersey. Like the rest of the Shark line, and in keeping with the rest of rh+ designs, it’s a simple but classy affair: black with turquoise trim, and some reflective details. The rear pockets are on the smaller side, but there is also small zipped mini pocket – a helpful addition for trail riders. Throughout the test I remained in two minds about the size. In size Small, it was certainly an aerodynamic performance fit for me. I liked the longer sleeve length. If I had sized up, I would have perhaps appreciated having an inch more length in the body, but potentially at the expense of excessive fabric around the mid-riff. Clearly, fit will depend on your shape and whether you prefer a tight fit or not, but for information I am 6.1 (185cm) tall, and measure 76cm around the waist and 87cm around the chest.
The front of the jersey also uses Polartec’s Power Shield® Pro fabric. Rh+ recommends the jersey for 12-18 degrees, but I had no issue at lower temperatures. I was particularly impressed by how windproof the garment was. Riding downhill at speed without a baselayer in 7 degrees, the cold air was kept at bay.
In summary, while the RRP of the jersey (£140) reflects the range topping “Powerlogic” badge, pay £125 and you get shorts that feel a lot more expensive. £45 for arm warmers is steep, even when they are of this quality, but £65 for the leg warmers represents value to me. During the winter months, you might end up wearing them on every single ride. During those damp dark days, look out the window, and recall the words of Susan Sarandon’s Janet in Rocky Horror: “I’m cold, I’m wet, and I am just plain scared.” Then hoik up your leg warmers, grin like Tim Curry, and say: “How do you do.” Then immediately close your bedroom curtains before someone calls the police.