Bicycle designer James Olsen puts the FWE Ridgeway shorts, a new, more casual style for this summer, to the test.
by James Olsen
It’s good to see these shorts named after the Ridgeway. The Ridgeway is a long-distance route near to me where I started to see how far I could ride in one go. It’s 87 miles end to end and although not all of it is open to bikes there are good alternate sections that make it an 85-90 miler whichever route I take. It’s a fairly long time to be on the bike anyway. It’s where riding in shorts like this started to appeal more, at first when stopping at a pub for lunch halfway. There’s nothing really wrong with lycra shorts but it’s not for everyone is it? So I often rode in MTB baggy shorts with lycra underneath. What I don’t like about baggy shorts though is that they’re often too baggy or they flap about and weigh down when wet or muddy, or they’re designed with odd liner systems. I just want bike shorts like normal summer shorts, but with features that make them comfier on the bike – seam and pocket design, fit, that kind of thing. Belt loops. Good fabric that I don’t wear through at the seat after a few months. Simple shorts that don’t cost too much and last, sounds easy to achieve but I’ve been through a good few shorts before settling on these.
As I started to ride the Ridgeway more often I began to do it as an out-and-back ride, end to end then home again in one go or with a ‘bivi’ sleep somewhere along the route. I used lycra shorts for most of those rides, common cyclist wisdom says chammy-pad shorts are comfier. But as I rode for longer periods I still felt a bit uncomfortable. Inevitable really. After a while I began thinking that spending too many hours sat on what’s basically a warm, damp pad sponge wasn’t nice, not good for the skin perhaps. So the padded shorts went but I still use the Ridgeway shorts, just with the right type of boxers underneath and the same old saddle shape that I find so comfortable. This combination for me is cooler, breezier, simply more comfortable for long periods. It might not work for everyone, we’re all different.
Underwear aside (thankfully), the fact that I can spend so much time in these shorts without padded shorts underneath is an indication of how well I think they’ve been designed. There’s no ‘bunching’, the stretch is only two-way in places but it means they stretch as I pedal but don’t ride up and then grip higher up my leg than some other shorts have done. Seems to work better than the 4-way in places. They don’t flap when wet, the fit means they don’t bug me when wet which is important. They dry fast. They’ve stood up to a lot of miles and look as pretty much as good as new. They’re normal-looking, no excessive designs or logos. Just simple, but that’s not easy to do well as I’ve found. I’m riding in the Alps for two weeks later this year, long days in the saddle planned and I’ll be wearing these, guaranteed.