- Gore Alp-X shorts
We’ll admit to a degree of initial scepticism when these showed up. Although they might look like a pair of fairly ordinary baggy shorts, the Alp-X shorts are made from Gore-Tex PacLite breathable waterproof fabric. Yup, waterproof shorts. Actually “degree of scepticism” isn’t quite right – we may perhaps have speculated that Gore’s designers were in some way on crack.
However, it turns out that they’re really rather clever and insightful people. There are a lot of things that you don’t want when riding your bike, but a Lycra-load of water, mud and grit between your bum and the saddle is high on most people’s list of undesirables. Yes, you can run a rear mudguard, but a mudguard isn’t guaranteed to always be in exactly the right place and lots of riders just plain don’t like them. And if you’ve got several bikes, surely one pair of waterproof shorts is better than a whole load of mudguards?
You’d need to buy quite a few mudguards for the economics of these shorts to stack up, of course – £90 is clearly a very great deal of money for a pair of unlined riding shorts. But they put up a pretty good case for themselves in the construction department. PacLite is top-notch stuff, and the Alp-X shorts have panels in the stretchy version in key areas. The seat is reinforced to prevent all that grit from wearing through, the waist is elasticated with a drawcord to fine-tune the fit and you get a single pocket round the back. The cut is actually quite close for a nominally “baggy” short, and if you’ve got particularly large legs you may find the elasticated drawcords at the bottom of the legs run a bit tight. You don’t want much of a gap down there, though – you can have shorts as waterproof as you like, but it won’t be any good if the first puddle you ride through shoots straight up your leg…
Obviously you’re not getting as much protection from the elements as a pair of full-length rain pants, but such things do tend to run a little on the warm side – even when it’s raining, it’s not necessarily cold (as long as you keep moving). Shorts have the additional advantages of being well away from whirly transmission parts and packing up smaller in the (admittedly unlikely) event of the rain stopping.
Positives: Keep your bum dry, pack up small
Negatives: A tad on the expensive side
After a fair number of extravagantly wet rides (including the last two days of the TransWales stage event that came perilously close to redefining “wet”) we’re convinced by the concept. A somewhat cheaper execution would be welcome, but at the end of the day it’s hard to put a price on a dry, non-abraded backside. They’re one of those products that’ll be worth every penny to some and ludicrous to others – just like the regular night-rider will see the value in £200+ lights, so the regular battler of the inclement may well value these.