Cyclists spend the majority of their time bent double, with joints and hinges at the ankles, knees, hips and shoulders all needing a considerable range of movement to perform unimpeded. So when you think about it, meeting this need is actually quite a big ask for a piece of kit in comparison to the clothes you might spend all day in at work or off the bike.
Top to bottom these bib tights are easily the longest item from the HOY Vulpine range, meaning that they are designed to cover a large percentage of your body. As such, they must react to a lot of these movements while you are out in the elements and juggling your bike around. With Vulpine having focused on cycling apparel with less of a technical focus in the past, I was intrigued to see what Hoy’s influence might inspire.
Fishing the tights out of their postage bag, it struck me just how similar the flatlock seam and panel interplay was to a wetsuit. This was pretty encouraging, when you think about how dynamic a surfer needs to be to stay upright and paddle out to the waves in the first place. They also looked incredibly neat, with subtle contours and integrated branding only where necessary.
The first job is obviously getting them on, which is a bit of an unsaid thing when it comes to reviews but one that is actually pretty important – especially for something acting like a second skin. With a zip down the front of the tights, you can step into them and pop your feet through each of the silicone-lined foot holes. This definitely needs to be done sitting down though, due to the absence of a zip at the bottom. While this is no design flaw (where zips can seize and feel uncomfortable against your skin), the elasticated cuffs are pretty tight over your ankle so you need to give it a bit of welly – which could be hazardous if vertical.
Moving onto the next stage, the tights need a bit of gentle persuasion over your hips as the zip finishes perhaps an inch or two higher than to allow the widest point of the garment to be reached. There is a lot of stretch and it really only affects the two seconds getting changed before and after a ride so is no big thing, but just something to bear in mind when choosing your sizing. If you have an Evans Cycles nearby that stocks HOY Vulpine, it might be worth a trip.
Next, the top of the tights simply pull on like a waistcoat (who wears those these days?!) and you can pull the zip up. This resulted in feeling pretty darn snug due to about 75% of my skin being covered in Roubaix fabric – and without going into too much detail… some ladies would probably be able to get away without wearing a sports bra underneath.
One of the design features HOY Vulpine has highlighted about the tights is that they are anti-chafe (aptly shown on their website by an icon of a cactus in a plant pot). The care label is cleverly printed directly onto the Roubaix fleece on the inside and one lonely logo tab is stitched onto the outside, minimising the chance of irritation. This is a huge plus and through testing I can’t say that I’ve found any niggles.
The last thing to point out on the fit until I get on to what is probably the most important bit – performance on the bike – is that the legs are fairly lengthy. Now I don’t make a habit of comparing hip height with other women, but was told during a bike fit that I have quite long limbs. Said bike fitter is actually now my other half so perhaps it was a highly sophisticated (and effective) chat-up line… but that’s getting off topic. What I wanted to point out is that I could have stretched a couple of centimetres in the leg department and the tights would still have fitted – so again just something to consider (and a good sign that the bottoms will overlap socks and not ride up).
So with tights firmly on, I headed out to give them a try – and then repeated this process a few times on commutes and weekend rides. My overriding feedback is that they are quite an incredible winter layer to have in your wardrobe and there is really no flaw that I can pick. The fabric stretches and recoils in all the right places and doesn’t feel at all restrictive, while the single unit of fabric keeps the drafts out and effectively manages your temperature.
The pad is integrated so no need to pop a pair of shorts underneath. Here the female-specific Cytech pad offers a comfortable ride without being too large and cumbersome and the cactus icon may as well rear its spiky head again as they certainly don’t chafe. While my rides have recently been limited to around 40-50 miles, the tights have definitely gone the distance and there are no gremlins to speak of.
A pretty smart (if a bit in-yer-face) feature for the winter months is the ginormous reflective HOY Vulpine logo that sits on your right calf like a Jamie Staff tattoo. I actually didn’t spot this for a little while on first unpackaging the tights, but it’s safe to say that any trailing motorists would have a hard job to miss it. I’m also intrigued to the point of wanting to run a research study whether wearing the name of the country’s most successful (and arguably, recognisable) Olympians would cause drivers to overtake a little more widely or slowly. Not really something I have the capacity for at the moment, but perhaps there’s something in the theory.
So there you go! I hope I’ve covered everything in sufficient detail, but some of this is obviously pretty specific to the shape and size of me. It’s safe to say though that these bib tights swiftly made it to the top of the pile when it comes to my favourite kit. I’m quite looking forward to chilly morning rides where the Roubaix will be keeping 75% of me toasty. Luckily HOY Vulpine have a couple of other bits and pieces in their range to deal with the rest.
Sizes: XS to XL