I hate baggy shorts.
Whether it was off road or on the asphalt, I grew up in the days when Lycra was the norm. Since then I’ve spent more time on the road than on dirt. I love the snug, secure fit of a nice pair of bib shorts. No flappy material to catch on a seat collar, no loose-fitting chamois pad migrating all over my nether regions. Bib shorts are lighter, better ventilated, and simply designed for riding.
But as long as my XC bike bears no number plate, the vagaries of dirt-rider style bear no tolerance for my sweet Castelli bib shorts and Assos jersey. I can’t show up to a group trail ride, media event, or festival with Lycra, or I’ll be subtly shunned by mere sidelong glances, crossed arms, and shifted posture.
Even one of my favorite colleagues in the media business once said under his breath, “I hate baggy shorts. I’m actually wearing bib shorts under these things.” Asking around, I discovered that many of the journos at whatever product launch we were attending were also wearing proper road bib tights under their “cool” baggies.
This phenomenon of baggies over bibs is what makes Mavic’s Stratos Short Set so appealing to me, and so head-slappingly brilliant. The Stratos baggy set combines a nice tight liner short with an extremely lightweight baggy that goes over the top. I’m sure this concept has been done before, and maybe better, but it’s my first experience with such a combo.
And in a word, it’s awesome.
Fishnet? Oh Yeah!
The Stratos liner short is mostly composed of some kind of fishnet mesh material. What’s outstanding about it is that it’s almost 100-percent seamless. The material transitions from highly breathable fishnet mesh on the legs to more compressive and substantial (but still soft and breathable) cloth around the butt and crotch. The leg gripper is a very gentle, unobtrusive stretchy cloth, but the waist elastic is a stout and supportive band.
The chamois is the best I’ve ever ridden – Mavic’s Ergo 3D Pro Insert is the same as that used in the Helium road short (also a top favorite of mine). It’s small, soft, dense, and thin, and PERFECTLY located on the taint. I hate thick, giant diaper-pads that completely numb all sense of saddle. I also hate awesome, perfectly shaped pads that are sewn into the shorts too far up the butt-cheeks. The best chamois in the world is useless if it rides up the small of your back.
Mavic makes some of the best chamois pads in the world, and puts them EXACTLY where your sit bones hit the saddle. Love it.
Over the top of the Stratos liner, you’re supposed to wear Mavic’s Stratos baggy short. There’s no reason not to, because for $150 you get the complete set with both. But if you wanted to use it with another short of some kind, the liner is available separately for $85. Or, you could buy several liners as back up and just get away with the one Stratos outer short.
In any case, the Stratos baggy outer short is just as sweet as its liner. The first thing I notice is its weight – 200 grams on the scale. That compares to 300 grams for what I’d consider to be a comparable trail-type baggy, minus its liner. Weight isn’t a huge deal, but when the short feels light on your waist and against your skin, it’s a bonus.
The material is thin and stretchy. The zippers seem sturdy but not overbuilt. The waist is broad with snaps at the closure, Velcro tabs for adjustability, and elastic to the back for snug fit. Ventilation perforations dot the hips, and a pair of small zippered pockets adorns the legs. I’m 6-1 and 165 pounds, and the size medium Stratos fit my hips and legs just fine. It’s a little long in the legs, but not as long as some, and the fit is trimmer compared to typical full and flappy baggies. And I guess the kids are wearing the longer legged shorts these days …
In short (ha, ha) it wears more like lightweight running shorts than what I’ve come to expect as typically cumbersome and overbuilt baggy riding shorts. On that point, I can’t vouch for crash-worthiness. I can’t vouch for long-term durability. And I don’t know how they handle bad weather. They’re not heavy, padded nylon canvas like typical all-mountain shorts.
But for my needs – ultra-light weight, no chafing, outstanding ventilation, best-in-class liner and chamois pad, great fit and cross-country style and sensibility – Mavic’s Stratos short set can’t be beat.