Italian brand Alé has been around as long as I remember. In fact, they date back 37 years, and have made a name for themselves making incredibly bright – in fact fluorescent – road cycling kit.
Just like for most major clothing brands, the rise of gravel riding has been a new opportunity for Alé. We were asked to take a look at their off-road specific new shorts, the Alé Stones cargo bibs. Somewhat surprisingly, there’s not a touch of fluoro in sight…
Fit and comfort
When I first tried on my pair of large bibs (a size bigger than I’d tend to opt for), the fit was noticeably snug, like a compression short. A number of black lycra panels give a contoured fit, with a wide 3 inch leg gripper backed with thousands of small silicone dots. For the bibs, a thick but very elastic mesh makes up the back panel and the straps. I can only assume that these bibs stretched a little over time, as after a few uses the fit is noticeably less constrictive than that first day.
Worn on short road rides to multi-day bikepacking tours, the comfort of these sleek shorts have really impressed. They simply don’t move a millimetre – thanks to the close fit – and the wide leg grippers don’t pinch or constrict at all. The series of silicone dots on the reverse of these grippers are minimal and don’t leave your skin with any irritation or marking either.
The chamois is the ‘Green 4H’ for men and ‘Green W4H’ for women, which you’ll also find in their Off Road Padded Liner shorts and their Green Road Bib Shorts. The green outer is constructed from recycled Polyamide, over a 12 mm thick open cell foam that’s highly perforated with 3 mm holes to aid ventilation. It certainly did the job for me for a couple of rides measuring over nine hours in the saddle!
So what’s this ‘cargo’ all about?
There are four pockets in total; two on the lower back and one on either thigh, made of a finer elastic mesh than the bib straps, giving the bibs their ‘cargo’ name. This really seems to be the only difference between these and their ‘road’ bib shorts; the ability to stash more kit. While I don’t dispute that you often need to take more things with you when you ride off-road or in more remote areas, I’m a little cynical about calling these off-road specific shorts just by adding some on-trend pockets!
I used the thigh shorts for my phone, which would usually be in a baggy short pocket or in a stem bag, plus bars or any empty bar wrappers. Despite my paranoia of my smartphone bouncing out without me noticing over some rocky ground, I was pretty pleased that it stayed snugly in place on my thigh the whole time. I wouldn’t want to put too much more in these though; certainly not tools or anything that could be dangerous with a spill.
These pockets were really put to the test when we battled our way through a really overgrown byway, brambles and nettles galore. Despite coming out the other end with pretty shredded knees, I was surprised to see that this thin, elastic mesh on the thighs was actually totally intact. It’s light enough to not feel the extra layer in hot weather, yet not at all fragile. Impressed.
By Alé standards, the branding and colourway is very muted. The only exception to the all-black appearance of the shorts is the Alé logo, half hidden under the mesh on each thigh pocket, plus the ‘a’ logo on the centre of the lower back, all in a reflective print.
Once you get over the fact that these ‘off-road’ bibs are just road cycling shorts with some added pockets, I think the Alé Stones cargo shorts are actually pretty neat. They’ve been my first encounter with this new trend of thigh pockets on bib shorts and I’m relieved that they’ve been carefully thought through to be robust and secure.
I’m all for colour and patterns, but nothing really beats a pair of plain black shorts, so I think Alé have nailed it on the subtle branding. Most importantly of all though, they’re super comfy for long days and you don’t get the dreaded sausage leg! One thing I would suggest though, is that you check out the sizing guide like I did before you order, as you might find you’ll have to size up from your normal like I did, and Mark found out the hard way!
Besides that, the only negative that I could think of would be that the traditional bib design doesn’t do anything to aid the nature break situation for women. I’ve been spoiled by other bibs recently with some innovative designs in that department.
For an RRP £140, they’re middle of the road in terms of cost; not sub-£100 budget and not too ridiculous either. I think considering the quality of the chamois and comfort that’s a pretty fair price, although you can currently find the Alé Stones shorts online for a much reduced price of around £85-£110.
Photo credits: Tim Wilkey
Alé Stones cargo bib shorts£140 $169.99 €132.90 (women’s) €138.90 (men’s)
Close fitting, lightweight and comfortable for long days in the saddle, the Stones bibs from Alé add extra storage capacity to decent road cycling shorts8.0/10
- Great fit
- Wide leg grippers don’t shift, and don’t constrict either
- Hard-wearing mesh cargo pockets
- Traditional bib design doesn’t make nature breaks any easier for women
- Sizing is very ‘Italian’, so make sure you check your dimensions and size up
Last modified: 3rd August 2020