Monday, December 10, 2012

dhb Vaeon Zero Padded Bib Tight - a review

This is the second part of my review of some dhb cycling clothing, sent to me to review by the internet bike shop Wiggle. Wiggle selected this blog, and hence me, to be a reviewer of some of their house-brand equipment. For a bit more about dhb, Wiggle and the review process, see my previous post.

Keeping your legs warm whilst cycling in winter I think is harder than your top. Put enough layers on and your legs will stay warm in any weather but you start to feel lots of drag around your knees plus you need to think about not getting the bottom of your right trouser leg stuck in the chain. Starting to ride a cyclocross bike as my everyday bike, I've noticed the clearance between my calf and the chainset is much less - far more like my road bike as opposed to my old commuter hybrid, let alone my mountain bike. So when the weather gets colder, regardless of how silly they look, tights are the answer.

The best bibs I've ever tried for winter riding.
dhb call the Vaeon Zero Padded Bib Tight their warmest. Having a pad in them, they are obviously designed to be either your only layer, or at least your inner layer if you are tempted to wear something over them. The pad (or "insert" as they call it - perhaps to make it sound a little less like a feminine hygiene product) is very comfy. I first used the Vaeons last month on an overnight bikepacking trip and they were great. Putting on some brand new cycling tights and immediately using them for two days in the saddle in cool, drizzly weather might have been a silly plan, but they worked perfectly - no rubbing or chafing at all. You can read all about the "triple layered" and "3D anatomic construction" of the insert on Wiggle's page if you wish, but I can say I've found them as comfy as any other cycling shorts or tights I've used in that specific department!

"Windslam" sections over knees/thigh
More interesting is the material and construction that make up the Vaeon Zeros, because this is what sets them apart from many other bib tights. dhb have used a windproof material called "Windslam" for the panels on the Vaeons that cover the knees and go up the outside of the thighs (it is the less shiny looking material easily visible in the picture to the right). Despite being some sort of membrane fleece, Windslam doesn't suffer noticeably from either of the old problems that made the first windproof fleeces such disasters: neither stretching nor breathing well. I've not noticed the Windslam panels seeming either more sweaty nor more restrictive that the other sections. My overall impression is that the Vaeon Zeros are as comfy as my other various bib tights, just noticeably warmer.

The mix of different fabrics seems to makes these bibs hit a sweet spot of good breathability and loads of stretch from the non-membrane sections, but with the added warmth with the Windslam making them partly windproof. One result of the mix of panels and materials is that the Zeros have a lot of stitching on them. From past failures I've seen on both cycling and mountaineering clothing, stitching together stretch materials is not easy. The stitching that dhb use here looks excellent - many of the seams are, I think, a quadruple cover stitch and everything is neatly finished. The only worry I would have is that cover stitch seams of this type are vulnerable to wear, and if the seam breaks it's very hard to fix yourself. I guess you need to just try not to rub them on anything (like the road whilst sliding out at 30 kmph or passing tree trunks when mountain biking!!) and keep the grabby side of velcro away from them - it has a nasty habit of grabbing on to cover stitch seams and breaking them.

Cold night by the fire. Bikepacking in the Vaeon Zeros .
So; the Vaeon Zero Padded Bib Tight: comfy, well designed and well made. But that leaves the final, BIG question: if they are dhb's warmest longs, just how warm are they? Wiggle suggests a temperature range of 8 to -2 degrees. I think that's actually not a bad guide at all, although I've worn them at lower temperatures and been amazed at how warm they have kept me. They are fine to wear at +5 or +6 degrees, but I've also worn just them on my legs for riding on a windy, snowy day when the temperature was between -5 and -6. My legs stayed impressively warm - normally by those temperatures I would be using a number of layers. At the weekend I rode out to our nearby cross country skiing area to see whether there had been enough snow yet for them to prepare the tracks. I got chatting to guy there who was doing the same and we ended up chatting for half an hour to 40 minutes before I rode on. Over all, I must have been out from the house for a couple of hours and never got cold legs - either actually riding or just standing around, and despite the wind. I did a similar ride in the same sort of weather a few days later wearing some old, thick unpadded longs with bib shorts underneath and was amazed that my thighs were quickly cold and, by the end of the ride, unpleasantly so. I find it pretty hard to believe that the one layer of the Zeros could be so noticeably warmer than the two layers I used on the second ride, but that would appear to be the case!

The Zero's list price is a hefty 90 quid (although that remains considerably less than similar products from more famous brands cost) but are currently on sale for £62.99. When you consider the complexity of the construction and quality of the materials, meaning you can keep riding comfortably even as the mercury goes below freezing, the Zeros seem rather good value. If I had a snowy-rider-in-the-north seal of approval, Vaeon Zeros would definitely get it.

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