But let’s back up a bit before we get ahead of ourselves, who are Ashmei? Founder Stuart Brooke has been involved with the sportswear business for over twenty-five years, working for some very well-know brands along the way. Starting out with clothing for runners, it didn’t take long for Ashmei to stat producing cycle specific clothing when they noticed riders were choosing to wear their running kit.
When Ashmei produce an item of clothing they start with the fabric first. They look at what is required by the athlete and will design a specific fabric if they cannot find an exisiting one. They will then evaluate which fibres are best used in each part of the garment for the best result. Features are then added to the garment based on what the athlete needs. Once it’s ready to go to manufacture, Ashmei choose factories for their skill, technologies and quality; rather than price. All this suggests that Ashmei focuses on the product first, rather than the price. This does mean their kit does inhabit the more rarified areas of the market; no BOGOF offers here!
When I read about the Ashmei bib short I came away with high expectations. Which is why when I first received them I was a little surprised. The Ashmei bib short is woven rather than knitted like other shorts. This allows Ashmei to “engineer” in the amount of stretch they want, where they want. What this means when you first pick up the shorts is that they have a very unusual feel and sound; they rustle!
This is not what I expect from a pair of shorts. I’ve never noticed any of my bib shorts making a noise, but the Ashmei bib short definately rustled. They also had an unusual feel to them, slightly stiff and a little crisp. So before they’ve gone anywhere near my rear-end I’m already thinking “hmmm?” It’s this unusual woven rather than knitted fabric that gives these shorts their special characteristics that make them more than just another pair of bib shorts.
What are there special characteristics you ask? Well the dense woven
construction makes these bibs wind and rain resistant. Water just beads off the surface and the dense weave blocks chilly winds. And because this resistance is a part of the fabric, rather than an added surface treatment, it won’t wear off. Despite being water resistant, the micro-fibre that the shorts are made from, will also draw moisture from your skin and dissipate it over their surface.
What this means on a wet spring ride is that you can keep riding without the cold chilling you. Warm legs work so much better than frozen ones and I found that long wet rides weren’t such an ordeal anymore. Riding the Sean Yates Spring Classic back in April in inclement weather was a perfect test for them. Paired with a set of weather proof leg-warmers I was able ignore the conditions and enjoy the ride.
As well as all this foul weather protection, the tight weave also produces a compression effect. I’m not sure where I stand on compression clothing. After a tough session, I do appreciate compression clothing, it just feels nice and research tends to say it’s helpful. However during a ride, especially if I’m not 100%, it can feel like I’m fighting against the compression.
The folks at Ashmei had warned me that the shorts would feel tight until they had been worn and washed a few times; they didn’t lie! I was going to send them back and ask for a bigger size, but the guys at Ashmei were very helpful and so I stuck with my size, small. To give you an idea I’m 172cm tall, with a 78cm waist and 52cm thighs. Pulling these shorts on the first time did require a lot of pulling and did leave me feeling like an over-stuffed pudding. But after a few rides this did get better, it still takes a bit more effort to get them on, but once on they’re fine.
Ashmei are very proud of their chamois as it’s got some unusual features. The first thing I noticed was the thickness of the pad under your sit-bones. There are two pads that feel about 20mm deep, the rest is about 10mm and you can see where everything’s positioned by looking at the outline printed on the chamois. The padding is a high density foam and Ashmei say that unlike normal pads it doesn’t absorb as much moisture as other pads. This means it’s quick drying, handy if you’re travelling light. I did a quick test at home and yes, the pad did dry quicker than the pad in another pair of shorts. And a thinner pad at that!
I found the chamois to be a little odd at first, it gave the front of the shorts an unusual ‘ruched’ look and felt thick when walking around. However as off the bike looks come lower on my list than on the bike feel, I was prepared to let that one go. Anyway, if anyone is paying too much attention to your chamois maybe you need to move away? Once on the bike and riding the chamois has proved to be very comfortable. Whether riding in the cold Sussex spring, or long summer climbs in Portugal, I had no issues. No chafing, rubbing or sore spots, Ashmei have got this part dead right.
Another benefit of the dense woven fabric is that it can take a tumble. I came off on a greasy downhill when a tractor pulled out in front of me. With nowhere to go, I dropped the bike and slid almost under it. As I rode off I could see a dark brown stain on my hip, signalling there was a fair amount of blood under there. What confused me was that the shorts weren’t marked. I was expecting to see ripped lycra and pale skin poking out, but no. Once I got home and peeled my shorts off I was greeted by the sight of three long and deep gashes – the scars are still there – but no damage to the shorts. Pretty impressive, as I would have been most annoyed at the tractor driver if he’d caused me to ruin such an expensive pair of shorts.
Other details on the Ashmei bib short include a full mesh bib. This helps keep the heat down, so you’re not too sweaty during your ride. The short’s thin, wide straps stayed flat and were very comfortable, if you don’t notice them they’re doing their job! Logos are minimalist, so you can wear them without clashing with your other kit.
So to round up, Ashmei have produced an excellent pair of shorts. The chamois is one of the most comfortable I have sat on, a major point when choosing a pair of shorts. The fabric’s compression does take a while to get used to and does look a little odd around the front, but if you’re more worried about performance than looks, then it’s not an issue. I was concerned about their robustness – especially considering the effort it takes to squeeze into them – but after experiencing how well they dealt with my little tumble, that’s not an issue any more. They aren’t cheap, but Ashmei never set out to produce the cheapest kit, just the best that they could make. I think they’ve achieved that goal.