I am in that class of female rider who can define their riding career (a generous term) via a long list of shorts, saddles, chamois cream and saddle sores! The hunt for the elusive dream combo will probably be never ending in truth as, no sooner do I find a combination that works, than it suddenly doesn't work any longer and I'm back on the hunt, antiseptic cream in hand.
Women's kit has, to be fair, up until recent times been badly designed. To demonstrate this point, most of my kit comes from men's ranges, including my much worn Sportful bibs. I do not like pink. I also do not like being forced in to XL, especially when shops don't stock items that big and I have to ask someone to order it in for me: "I'm tall, you see...". Much better to go for the men's version in Medium.
Lianne reviews Bontrager's 2016 Meraj Bib Shorts "Nature Breakaway" Design
One of the major problems I've had as a female cyclist, is trying to pee on the go. I'm just not designed for it. I've been very creative trying to get round this one, but apparently I'm not allowed to share my research here, so I'll just say that nothing works. Stripping down to your base layer on any icy January day is no fun, and trying to pack as many layers underneath your bibs as possible to avoid the strip-down is about as un-cool as pushing your bike up a hill.
So, with a week of mountain biking ahead of me in the Lakes recently I dived straight in and bought a pair of the Bontrager Meraj Women's Bib Shorts – with their Nature Breakaway Design, "providing bib support while allowing for loo breaks", no less! Trying them on, I was impressed with their lightness – they'll be great if summer ever arrives – and the fact that they didn't look like hot pants. I have long legs (but certainly not the longest I've seen on a bike) and I usually have no choice other than to avoid women's shorts because the legs are sooo short! My one area of concern was that the leg grips didn't fit all that tight – another issue I have with women's shorts in general – they are too loose. But, I gave the Nature Breakaway Design a test drive, and it worked a treat so I bought them!
Out on the trail I was actually really impressed with the Arca inForm BioDynamic Chamois. I'm not sure what that is, but it was comfortable! Especially when paired with my Yatra Elite saddle – hooray! No soft tissue pressure! On-the-fly comfort breaks were easily dealt with by that Nature Breakaway system (quite simply, it's adjustable bibs which allow you to pull them down and then secure them in place again) and I had one of the most comfortable rides I've ever had over four hours of technical terrain and grinding road climbs.
I did have to pull the legs down regularly, thanks to them being slightly too loose, and I guess because they weren't quite tight enough I didn't benefit from the Profila Power compression technology which is supposed to fight muscle fatigue, but to be honest, nothing was going to save me that week anyway so I don't feel as though I missed out!
Back in the Cotswolds, and back on the road bike the Meraj's didn't let me down. With my Ajna Pro saddle, this is one of the most comfortable pairings I've ridden with; the hip, waste and lower back construction is sublime. Considering the 'leg creep' I have to give the Meraj 8/10 – it would have been a 9 otherwise – good job Bontrager.