When Endura invited VeloVixen's own Fran to be part of a testing panel for their new women's bib shorts project in early 2021, we knew they were serious. Fran doesn't mince her words when it comes to bib shorts! And she knows her stuff.
Endura's Ergonomistry Project, led by renowned physiotherapist and ergonomist Phil Burt* (below), has reinvented the wheel for women's cycling shorts. The team have re-imagined bib shorts from every conceivable angle that could be relevant to female cyclists.
(That includes comfort breaks - the biggest traditional issue with bibshorts - which are now incredibly straightforward! - scroll to the bottom for the video...)
The result? They say that their new, ground-breaking Women's Pro SL EMG Bibshort is both more comfortable and more efficient than any that have gone before - meaning that they will allow riders, both pros and amateurs, to ride harder in greater comfort. Fatigue will be reduced, discomfort minimised.
How have Endura worked this miracle, you ask?
First, they've embraced the perennial problem of saddle discomfort and worked with a wide pool of serious riders - pro athletes Lucy Charles-Barclay and Denise Schindler amongst them.
Lucy says: "In terms of technical cycling apparel, I definitely think that female athletes are less catered for. Endura are trying to change this by making women-specific items for cycling, just to give us that comfort that we need, because we’re obviously very different to males, so we need our own range of cycling apparel."
They drew extensively on Phil Burt's unparalleled medical and physiological expert. The combined team of medical pros and cycling pros tested and tested, including over 250 chamois pads... until they got it right.
'Right' is a hard word to quantify when it comes to female comfort on a bike - every human body is different, of course. But from Fran's reaction, as a rider with 25 years of experience, they're very close this time:
"For cycling shorts, I've never seen attention to detail on this level before, or commitment to re-examining things from a female point of view. And the results are remarkable."
Other bibshorts we LOVE this season...
Ergonomistry is planned to be an ongoing project for Endura. Look out for the mark - it's truly a badge of honour that they will only be bestowing on their products that have been beneficiaries of the full process.
The first result of this partnership is the NEW Women’s Pro SL EGM bibshort featuring the revolutionary Women’s 800 Series ConForm EGM Pad. And there will be more Ergonomistry models landing with us at VeloVixen!
It's the enticing combination of comfort and performance that really excites us. We love the lateral thinking and passion that has gone into them.
Phil Burt explains the motivation for the Ergonomistry Project with the clarity of a global expert in his field: “If you are thinking of your saddle pain you can’t focus on your training or race performance. If saddle injuries are preventing you from training back to back days you can’t develop to your full potential as a rider.
"A lot of people adopt a riding posture that is suboptimal to alleviate saddle pressure – pushing back in the saddle or sitting in a more upright position. Good shorts allow you to sit where you want to sit and achieve the position that allows you to perform to your best.
“It can be really hard and distressing to talk about saddle sores and their causes. We don’t know how many women give up cycling and are lost from the sport. The ones we know about are the tip of the iceberg.
“Saddle sores are caused by four specific things; heat, water, pressure and friction, which is why we have developed a complete system to approach the problem. The new short pad with medical grade silicone elastomer prevents pressure, it sits within a foam pad that wicks sweat and aids breathability.
"To reduce friction, we have developed a pad cream, plus a wash to remove it after your ride and a post-shower moisturiser to support skin health."
Phil says positioning of the gel in the short is key: “gel at the back supports the sit-bones but we know women have problems further forwards. Because of a woman’s mechanical structure, the hips tend to rotate slightly forwards transferring weight on to the soft tissues at the front, so we have put more gel in this area.
"Gel doesn’t wick away sweat and foam doesn’t fully protect against pressure so you need both. To house the gel and foam together Endura has employed a chamfered edge so you can’t feel where the gel begins or ends.”
The pad is the heart of the short design but only part of the story. “The short itself is really important, the pad needs to be positioned and held in the right place throughout your ride. In the past there have been over-engineered solutions for going to the toilet, or how to position straps over breasts, but with this design we have kept it simple.
"Throughout the process we checked every detail with our team of female product testers to ensure legs are the right length, grippers stay in place and that whilst you can easily wee without taking off your jersey it’s secure and doesn’t impact the fit of the shorts.”
The proof of the pudding is in the riding (as cyclists will tell you!). Pro triathlete Lucy Charles-Barclay says:
“The finished pad feels really good, it just gives you the right amount of cushioning on the saddle. I am riding for up to 5 or 6 hours on the bibshorts, so I’ve put them through their paces, and I definitely can feel the difference in comfort. I am not getting any rubbing or any irritations, I am really happy with the final product. It’s comfortable, I am not really noticing that it’s there, so I am just getting on with my job and riding my bike.”
Danni Shrosbree of Team LDN - Brother UK, also loves them: “As a female rider I’ve definitely come across many issues when it comes to chamois. And sadly I think that’s something that myself and many other women accept, you know, we just accept pain after a ride and we dread the first time we get on the saddle the next day, but it’s something that we’ve just got used to.
"It’s great to see brands like Endura focussing on the innovation of chamois and really putting a lot of research into what women need, and the comfort they need, to make their riding so much more enjoyable.”
Experienced cyclist and journalist Hannah Reynolds is infectiously passionate about how the development process took place: “Working with Endura has shown me how quickly changes can be made. Phil would phone me up, ask for my feedback, and within a week something would be winging its way to me that addressed that particular issue, I’d get on my bike, and it was sorted. That’s such a refreshing thing for a female cyclist, to be really, really listened to.
“Endura have really, really done their research, and that shows – in the conversations we’ve had, in the shorts that have been created. And ultimately in the fact that the pair of shorts that I’ve got now, I don’t even know that I’m wearing them, and that is the biggest compliment that you can pay.”
Susie Cheetham, a professional long-distance triathlete, says: “Helping develop this new gel women-specific pad has really changed the comfort of my cycling, and I really look forward to in the future being able to doing my training and racing with something that’s a lot more comfortable for me.”
* Phil Burt (above) is an internationally recognised cycling health and performance innovator. He spent 12 years as the Head of Physiotherapy at British Cycling, plus 5 years as Consultant Physiotherapist at Team Sky. After a long career supporting some of the world’s best athletes at three Olympic Games and seven Tours de France, Burt has teamed up with Endura.
As promised, here's that video showing how much simpler these bibs could make your life!