Albion ABR1 bib shorts review: simple, sustainable, brilliant

Why offer a huge range of options when you can do one thing really well?

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Long-distance comfort for the most demanding days in the saddle seems to be the new proving ground for high-end bib shorts. The last two bibs I reviewed, the Castelli Premio and the Assos Mille GTOs, both promised new levels of comfort for your longest rides, and these ABR1 bib shorts from Albion are said to offer similar benefits.

As you would expect from modern bibs, the ABR1 features fewer panels, compression fit, wide leg bands, and a mesh back for added breathability. What’s different about the ABR1 bibs is Albion’s relatively lower price point and its use of recycled materials as part of its mission to be more responsible with all garments (which includes the Burner windblocker I reviewed just last week.)

The ABR1 bibs feature 80% recycled nylon in the main fabric, with nylon making up the other 20%. The mesh back on the bibs is constructed from 73% recycled nylon and 27% recycled elastane. The use of recycled fabrics certainly gets a tick of approval in my book, plus Albion offers free lifetime repairs on all garments to further extend their lifespan.

What do those recycled fabrics mean for the bibs’ performance though? Albion claims these fabrics provide a four-way stretch for increased comfort on the bike. That stretch is certainly noticeable, but more on that later.

As with all bibs, though, the pad can make or break even the best-constructed, most plush fabric shorts. On this front Albion has turned to Elastic Interface – arguably the industry leader in pad design – and its Ultra pad, designed for long-distance riding. There is no hyper-engineering here nor any complex structures in the pad design or its attachment to the shorts. And while the pad is on the thin and narrow side, it is certainly more a bib hit-maker rather than a deal-breaker.

Banging tunes

I have had the ABR1 bibs for a little over a month now and they were an instant hit for me. Like a FaceTok video from a little-known artist breaking into the top 10 singles chart, these bibs by Albion are a new entry high on my list of favoured bibs and have been on repeat since the day I got them.

My immediate impression was just how plush the fabric feels. The shorts are delightfully soft, and that four-way stretch gives a lightweight feel without any of the compressive restriction modern bibs can sometimes create. This stretch and lightweight feel give a sense of freedom and an ultra-comfortable fit, both on and off the bike. 

This chamois arguably feels and looks basic, but don’t be fooled – it’s every bit as comfortable as anything I have ridden in.

As noted, the multi-density and comparatively small Elastic Interface pad is another hit for me. All too often (in my opinion) bibs intended for longer rides and ultimate comfort feature large, bulky pads. I am a fan of a smaller and thinner pad whose design and construction provide comfort rather than a mass of padding. That’s exactly what the Ultra pad offers. It’s narrower and thinner than most pads and goes about its job without ever alerting you to its presence.

Shifting from in the saddle to standing and back again, the pad keeps position and quietly does its job. Walking about the house or at a café stop, I was never conscious of its presence – exactly what you want in a pad.

Sizing

One word of caution: the ABR1 bibs do size up slightly big. The mediums I had on test provided more leg length than almost any other bibs I have tried, and the leg band really could have been tighter for me. I know I waxed lyrical about the subtle compression of the legs, but the leg band is one area that could have benefitted from more compression.

The legs do hold position without riding up, but tighter leg bands would have made for a neater fit (or maybe I just need some more meat on my thighs). I most likely could have got away with size small if I wanted shorter leg length with my shorts. 

The waistline also sits higher than many bibs, but the high stretch properties of these bibs meant it was never really an issue. However, the rear mesh panel is not as lightweight or breathable as some. I wonder if the combination of a high waist and this rear panel could create some breathability issues on hotter days. Unfortunately, the Irish climate didn’t provide me with an opportunity to test this.  

The Albion ABR1 bibs are not cheap. At £125 (US$158 / AU$218 / €135) they sit well above the budget bibs category. But compared to those two endurance style bibs from the bigger brand names I reviewed earlier this summer – the Castelli Premio and the Assos Mille GTOs – they are around half the price and very close in terms of performance. That makes them a bargain to me.  

Keep-it-simple styling

The plain black bib, almost. Apart from this Albion logo the bibs are available in three solid blocks of colour (black – pictured, slate, and navy) for a classic look.

The ABR1 bibs are as subtle as they are comfortable. The plain black bib is only interrupted by one (admittedly pretty large) Albion logo on the left leg. The fanciest thing on these bibs is a small reflective tab on the side/rear of the legs. Albion has even thought to include this tab on both sides, presumably because we don’t all ride on the same side of the road. “Obviously”, you say? Well not always, I have plenty of kit with reflective tabs that are completely useless for riding on the left-hand side of the road.

This stripped back and timeless design is in keeping with the styling across Albion’s entire range and another example of narrower focus reaping reward. Albion has just one pair of bibs to offer (in three colours) but they are a hit.

Albion seems to have focused on making one pair of bibs really well rather than having an array of bibs or price points to choose from. I like this approach. My go-to lunch place in town is a tiny low-key coffee shop with up-cycled design features and a menu with only three or four options. The Coffee Tree might only have a small menu, and seating so limited it hardly changed post-pandemic, but it consistently delivers the exact same superb sandwiches, salads, and cake every time I visit.

Albion is my cycling Coffee Tree. Its website does not feature endless options but instead keeps its offering simple and focused. Albion has one jersey (the aptly named Short Sleeve Jersey), one rain jacket (the Rain Jacket 2.0), and one gilet (the Ultralight Windproof Gilet). Albion knows what it’s offering, and I know what I am getting. Other brands take note.

For more information, head to AlbionCycling.com

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