The Assos Mille GTC Kiespanzer bib shorts feature the excellent C2 chamois and are designed for gravel and adventure riding. The storage on both of the legs and the back is secure and easy to access. They’re some of, if not the most comfortable shorts that money can buy, but my word does it come at a price.
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The Kiespanzer bib shorts aim to combine the fit and comfort of bib shorts with additional storage. They have pockets both on the legs and in the back so that you’re free to wear a loose-fitting T-shirt or pocketless jersey. If you're feeling flush, Assos also released a pocketless jersey as part of their GTC range designed for casual gravel and adventure riding.
The idea of including pockets in bib shorts isn’t exactly a new idea, Specialized has been doing it with the SWAT Mtb bib shorts for years, and now that gravel riding is becoming ever more popular, we’ve seen a whole host of 'cargo' bib shorts hit the market with Assos’ offering firmly at the premium end.
The leg storage comes in the form of a mesh pocket on the front/side of each leg with the mesh doubling back on itself so you can tuck it over to keep things secure. You obviously won't want to fill these pockets with anything too heavy, but they are quite sizeable and plenty large enough for energy bars, a banana, or a phone. An obvious concern about any leg pockets is that the contents are going to cause annoyance when pedalling, but the GTC pockets are quite elasticated so hold lighter items firmly but not uncomfortably against the leg preventing them from crashing around whilst pedalling or freewheeling over bumpy stuff.
Then there are the two rear pockets. These are made of an elasticated mesh material and sit quite high up the back so the waistbands of baggy overshorts shouldn’t interfere. To aid access, there’s a pull tab on each and the entrance of the pockets are angled outwards so it’s easier to slide your hands in. Pockets in this area are never usually the easiest to access, but Assos has made them easier than most. Even so, I opted to store things that I didn’t need that often (such as an inner tube) in the rear pockets.
The four pockets give a total cargo space similar to three regular jersey pockets which meant I could happily carry the essentials needed for a typical ride in the shorts alone. If you do choose to pair the shorts with a pocketed jersey, then the rear pockets become slightly less useful. I put a few flatter objects in the short pockets and used the rear pockets for arm warmers and soft items but found it uncomfortable to stack awkwardly shaped contents.
Like the majority of bib shorts, the main body is made from a Polyamide/Nylon and Elastane mix which is compressive but not restrictive and this contributes to the overall athletic feel. The hip sections are made from what Assos calls 'bunny hop' material which is more durable against abrasion. In the name of rigorous testing, I have indeed had a tumble on a loose dirt road and the shorts brushed off well with only my dignity injured. On the whole, the shorts have a tougher feel than most road products which should mean they survive the rigours and hardship of adventure riding or grappling with overgrown bramble bushes.
Assos has achieved this without sacrificing too much performance or breathability either, they dry very quickly and don’t feel clammy when slowly plodding up climbs under the beating sun. Just like many people, as much as I enjoy riding gravel, I’m not a fan of the gravel cliché, but in this instance, it is advantageous to balance the durability of MTB with the performance of road.
The shorts also benefit from Assos’ two-year warranty which is above and beyond what many manufacturers offer, and if you’re really unfortunate and crash within the first 30 days they’ll be covered under the crash policy. It’s not much but could save a huge amount of frustration. Outside of the 30 days, they will repair damage, but it will come at a cost.
Inside the shorts, you’ll find a C2 chamois which is 19mm thick at its most plush. It is slightly thicker than you’ll find on the road range to help absorb bumps. It’s certainly a comfortable place to sit and I happily trundled my way around 7-hour rides in the shorts and was still happy to pull them on the next day. You’ll often find that the more padding shorts have, the more uncomfortable they get in aggressive riding positions.
Assos has shaped the pad excellently, putting more material where it’s needed and removing it where it’s not, this means that despite the thickness, it doesn’t feel like you’re wearing a nappy. The perforated construction and multiple densities of foam help it to dry quickly and as we’ve found in the past, the goldenGate technology is absolutely brilliant. This is only attached to the shorts at the front and rear, so as you move about in the saddle it moves with you rather than rubbing or causing irritation. This also helps to reduce seams and therefore other possible locations for discomfort.
The bib straps are wide and flat, they sit comfortably under a jersey without causing discomfort or red marks and the attention to detail is brilliant. The silicone grippers at the bottom of the legs do their job, there’s a reflective strip down the back to aid visibility in low light, and all the stitching is as you would expect from a set of shorts that cost as much as a cheap bike.
Let's talk about the price; £210 to be exact. It goes without saying that it’s a lot, and you can certainly pick up cargo bib shorts for a lot less. For example, the Pearl Izumi Expedition bib shorts come in at £120, or the Santini Gravel bibs for £160. Other options such as Rapha’s Cargo bib shorts are £215 and feature similar storage solutions as Assos' Kiespanzer shorts.
Overall the shorts are brilliant and quite possibly the most comfortable pair I've ever worn. However, despite the comfort, proven durability, and excellent build quality, £210 makes them significantly more expensive than some other high-end cargo bibs which also perform very well. If you simply want the best and don't mind how much it costs, then I’m confident you’ll be very pleased with the product, but for many, the price will just be too high to justify.