I find it helpful to evaluate my gear starting with the most important question: how well does it do its job? How well does this mattress help me sleep? How well does this stove cook my food? All other concerns about weight, durability, cost, style, etc may be important, but their importance diminishes if the item in question is really good or really bad at what I need it to do. It doesn’t matter what kind of great deal I got, or how light something is if it doesn’t actually do it’s job well. Conversely a bit of extra weight or a higher price are more palatable if the item works perfectly for its intended purpose.
So when considering my on-bike clothing for this trip, the number one concern is how comfortable it is while riding. This isn’t to say that the other factors (durability, cost, packability, etc) aren’t important, but if the item of clothing isn’t appropriate for its main use, the other good points about it have less redeeming value. Once you meet that first, most important point, any combination of the secondary priorities you can achieve just increases your appreciation of the item.
I decided on this trip to bring one pair of shorts and one pair of pants. Wanting clothes that would first and foremost be comfortable for day in day out riding, I looked to New Zealand based Ground Effect clothing company.
These guys tick a lot of boxes for me as a company. They’re a small privately owned operation, doing most of their manufacturing in house. They’ve set up their workspace in a way that encourages cycling, and they have a fund that distributes money to help fund trail creation projects. With all sales going direct through their website, you won’t have a situation where you’re paying 50% more to get it through a distributor in the US, for example. All in all, they seem like the kind of company that I like to support.
For my shorts for this trip I decided on the Ground Effect Snipers. The Snipers are the least baggy option out of all of GE’s shorts, which I thought would be good for me.
As noted in my criteria above, the most important factor in these shorts is how the perform on the bike. In this regard, I can’t imagine a way you could improve on them. They’re so comfortable that they absolutely seem to disappear when I’m riding. The legs are loose enough that there’s plenty of room for movement, while the band of stretchy fabric below the waistband in the back allows the shorts to stay in a comfortable position even as your body position changes on the bike.
Obviously you can see that the shorts have faded quite a bit in the sun, but I have been wearing these riding almost every day for a year. I’ve been blessed with incredible weather in this trip, so that’s a lot of sunny kilometers. It’s understandable that the fabric will fade.
The stretchy band of fabric in the back seems like it might be a weak point. After all, the fabric is a much softer and lighter weight material than the rest of the shorts. However, I have had no problem here on the shorts (side note: my Ranchsliders pants from GE have actually developed a small hole in this band, despite much less frequent use).
Directly under my sitbones you notice a fair amount of wear on the shorts. One section I had reinforced as it was beginning to wear through. I don’t blame the shorts for this at all, however, as all of the damage was caused during the brief period of time it took me to discover that my backside does not appreciate the shape of a Brooks Cambium saddle. Prior to using the Cambium I didn’t notice any wear, and since changing to a regular padded saddle I haven’t noticed any further wearing. I have to conclude that this damage is solely due to the interaction with the cotton top of the Cambium, and not a weak point of the GE Snipers.
The shorts are a little longer and baggier than I would normally wear casually. When standing I feel like they flair out a bit more than I want, but not to the point of looking goofy. They are true to size and fit comfortably around my waist and hips, with velcro tabs available to adjust the fit at the waist. The look of the shorts off the bike is certainly down the list of priorities though, and it’s possible that a snugger or shorter leg would decrease comfort while riding.
I added belt loops to the shorts as I use a PacSafe belt. In addition I wish the shorts had hip pockets. The one pocket low on the left leg is not really useful for much. Even a key or two will make it swing around quite a bit while walking or cycling. Hip pockets are useful while walking around town or for those cool mornings in camp while the water for coffee is heating up. To be fair to the GE guys though, their other shorts do have hip pockets.
These are fantastic shorts for riding. They’re not cheap, but the quality of the product is evident. After wearing these just about everyday for a year, in all conditions, multiple hours on the bike each day, the only real wear is some sun fade. That’s an incredible outcome. To really make the perfect touring short for me I’d like to see hip pockets and a slightly trimmer fit. As it is, the GE team have made an incredible all purpose pair of riding shorts. The ultimate achievement for my cycle clothing is if I don’t even notice it’s there, and the Ground Effect Sniper shorts definitely hit that mark.