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Is an all in one thermal top and bottoms a practical solution for cold weather? Hannah tests out the Santini Women’s Vega Grido Bib Tights.
- Price: £219 (at time of writing, on sale at £142)
- From: ZyroFisher
In my experience, Italian cycling brands often fail at two things: sizing, and winter. You may imagine then that I was a little concerned at how wise my choice of clothing for a gravel trip to Iceland would be, but the Santini website spoke of thermal ratings and waterproofing, so I packed my bags and headed for the land of snow, ice, and… slush. Oh, and wind.
Now then… as we clear passport control and fly to colder lands, let me tell you a little story…
Once upon a time, when I was 16, I took a bus from Montpellier in the south of France, to London. Just before I boarded the bus, I tried to go to the loo, only to discover that you needed to pay. Having just spent the last of my French Francs on a French magazine containing a homage to Kurt Cobain, I didn’t have any money left. No problem, I thought, I’ll go at the next stop. Some four or five hours later, after phases of worry, wriggling, and outright pain, we stopped. I made my way swiftly to the loo, flung opened the door, and revealed… a hole in the ground. Unperturbed, I squatted, and let the pee flow. Moments later, I felt the fine, cooling spray of urine, as it refracted off the porcelain tray in a million molecules of fine urine mist. In desperation I clenched, I re-directed, I adjusted my squatting angle, but ultimately I got back on that bus lightly moistened all over, but nonetheless relieved.
I tell you this tale as evidence that I may be uniquely qualified to wear the Santini Women’s Vega Grido Bib Tights. If you cannot hold your pee, you should probably look elsewhere. Or, if you don’t mind fully undressing in public (oh, I find myself qualified on this front too!), read on….
The Santini Women’s Vega Grido Bib Tight consists of thermal lined long leggings with a thermal base layer top attached. There’s a built in chamois, and two large waterproof panels on the thighs. There are no pockets, and no wild wee facilities. It’s all about the warmth. That’s about it for features – there isn’t as much reflective detailing as there are on some other Santini items, though there is a little on that rear ankles.
In common with every other Italian cycling brand I’ve experienced, the sizing is on the confidence shattering side. I am reasonably tall at 175cm, and generally wear a UK 12-14 depending on the brand. In the Santini range, I am a large or extra large. Getting into the onesie, I certainly wouldn’t want a size smaller than the XL I had. It required a shoulder wriggling manoeuvre akin to that you need to get into a wetsuit. Once on, it fitted well, with plenty of length in the legs, and a snug but not pinching fit all over.
The chamois is fairly thick, though not too nappy like in feel. However, the onesie nature of the suit does present some challenges. Once it’s on, it’s on, and there’s not enough wriggle room in the top to unzip, reach in and, er… rearrange. You need to pull the legs on, hitch the bottoms up around your waist, make sure everything is where you want it down below, and then do your wetsuit wriggle manoeuvre. And don’t forget to have a last wee, either.
There’s quite a significantly sized label in the rear – I’d recommend cutting this out, carefully. If it bunches up it feels scratchy, and again due to the top and tight fit, it’s very hard to reach in and get it sat comfortably once you have the tights on.
On the bike in Iceland, with a jersey and softshell over the top, I never once felt too cold or too sweaty. Even at temperatures around zero degrees, with plenty of wind, and an occasional rain shower, my temperature felt just right. With plenty of melt water on the ground to splash, the water resistant coating seemed to perform well, though it would perhaps be nice to have a ‘bum panel’ of the neoprene fabric. Concerns that the neoprene panels may prove fragile – I’ve seen similar fabrics in triathlon suits tear at the merest hint of a rocky beach – were put to the test went I crashed. Landing fairly hard on my knee in stoney gravel and icy slush, I could feel the briefly cool chill of a dampened leg, but there was no initial sign of any external damage to the fabric. Upon finishing the ride, there was a clear muddy tide mark, where the muddy water had seeped through the fabric sections, but not apparently through the neoprene. Grazes on my knee attested to my crash, but the leggings appeared no worse for wear. However, I must somehow have compromised them, because after going through the washing machine back in the UK I have found that the site of the crash now has small holes in it. Darn it. Except, darning isn’t really an option, is it. Darn it.
Going for a wild wee was every bit as difficult as I had anticipated. I had to remove my soft-shell and jersey, plus my gloves, before being able to unzip and wriggle out of the suit to squat behind a rock. Even in the relative comfort of a cafe toilet this would have been quite the challenge – particularly one without a handy peg on which to hang the extra layers. At a push in normal bibs, you can kind of wriggle your arms inside your top and take the straps down, but that’s not an option here. Everything has to come off, completely. Brrr. It’s cold out isn’t it… I guess this thermal base layer top half was doing its job rather well…
Back in the UK, I’ve continued to use these Santini Women’s Vega Grido Bib Tights for cold weather commutes, where the threat of a wee stop is minimal but the benefits of being cosy are great. I guess you could use them for an XC mountain bike ride too, but I’d be wary of ruining the neoprene thighs with crashes and brambles. They’re rather fabulously expensive, so you really don’t want to damage them – otherwise they lose the bonus of the neoprene and you might as well wear something like Santini’s (rather good) Women’s H20 Nimbus Bib Tights – more normal fleecy bib tights. All in all these Vega Grido tights are better suited for less technical trails and nice clear double track – or indeed, the road. But they really do keep the biting winds at bay
For a commute in torrential rain I’d still be likely to reach for waterproof over trousers, but for a fast pedalling ride with mixed weather, or where the bagginess of over trousers is likely to be annoying, I’ll happily wriggle my way into these. The difficulties in getting them on and off for toilet breaks adds a significant limitation to their practicality, and I’d love to see a zippered version – like on the Endura FS260-PRO SL Women’s Bib Shorts DS – of these to overcome that. But if you can cross your legs a little and value being warm, these feel great.
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