When you hear the name Northwave, you think well-made Italian cycling shoes like the Extreme Tech we reviewed a month ago. However, the Treviso, Italy company makes a wider range of cycling gear including apparel and eye wear.
We’ve been testing the new Northwave 53/11 bib shorts (€120/$156) for the last few months and the dominant story is light. First off, the fabric is what Northwave calls Lycra Performer 210gr. The lightweight thread promises muscular support and reduced fatigue. In our experience, yes, it’s noticeably thinner and lighter. It also has a generally soft feel to the fabric. This should make the this Northwave bib a good choice for hot Summer days.
The light also goes for the Carbon Tour pad insert. This isn’t one of those bulky pads that take ten minutes of riding before they settle into position. The pad is highly pliable and moulds to your posterior the second you slip in on.
Initial comfort is excellent but this feels like a crit pad and not necessarily built for for a long day in the saddle. The design in on the thinner side so if that’s your preference, then you’re good to go. However, those who prefer a more robust pad should beware. We like the 53/11 for a 2 to 2.5 ride — after that we’d prefer a cushy Rapha pad for the four hour adventure.
As far as style points, we like the contrast of the white stitching on black panel Performer Lycra. It’s classic and understated. The thinner fabric also gave us a form-fitting look that displayed our massive thighs to dramatic effect. Just kidding on massive.
One thing the Northwave 53/11 does extra well are the thigh bands. They sort of split the difference between the old school design with the silicon on the inside and the newer, sleeker, laser cut bands that don’t aways grip as well. There’s a nice triangular reflective insert sewn on the side just above the band.
We were also impressed with the strength and abrasion resistance of the 53/11. Just last week we had a bad crash on a winding high speed descent. Miraculously we walked away with no head or facial injuries, just a ripped-up knee, elbow and bruised hip. Our left knee and arm warmers were shredded but even though we landed hard on the left side and slide about six feet across the road, there’s not a mark on this North Wave bib — which we can hardly believe.
The mesh straps up top is the industry spec that you’ll find on most every bib in this price range. No issues with fit or strap length and overall, these look great from top to bottom. We will say Northwave went a little overboard with the signage — the bib has Northwave written down the side, Northwave several times across the thigh band, the word “carbon” and a clear plastic tag with 53/11. Overkill.
Overall impression: the Northwave is about moving fast — a lightweight fabric and pad that’s ideal of high speeds but not longer rides. In this price range, it’s a great option but not dazzling.
53/11 bib short