Assos: the Rolls Royce of cycling kit. Notorious for having the comfiest shorts and most divisively-designed jerseys in the shop, you equate the brand with huge quality at a huge price.
However, like Rapha, their close competitors in the luxury kit market, Assos have recently spread their wings towards a mid-range, 'everyday' line of kit. In what seems a direct response to the UK brand's 'Core' line, Assos have launched the T.mille collection.
The T.milleShorts are actually an evolution of Assos's old Neo Pro range, and the premise is still there - a continued focus on quality, but slightly pared back on the technicality in order to provide a more accessible pair of bibs. As Assos themselves put it, the T.milleShorts S7 are 'the new daily workhorse for riders looking for more comfort'.
Let's go back to basics briefly, shall we? Assos's wider S7 line, which covers a number of ranges from the most top end to the more pared down T.milles, are claimed to be the most advanced and comfortable cycling shorts Assos has ever created.
The key concept that the Swiss brand aim for with the S7 line is a reduced pressure in the genital department, more freedom of movement, less bulk and more aero cut, and less friction - a product of a reduction in seams. Pivotal to this is the 'Goldengate' pad design. Most chamois pads are fully stitched into the legs and crown jewel region; however, the S7 range is not stitched between the legs, allowing more freedom of movement and thus extra comfort.
The comfort and quality that Assos pride themselves on shines through as soon as you put on the shorts. Even before you get on the bike, you get a sense of prestige with the feel of the fabric, a feeling reinforced by nice touches like reflective strips at the back of the leg, and subtle branding via two small 'button' logos.
When on the bike, the pad fits perfectly and feels light and unobtrusive, unlike some that can feel a little akin to wearing a nappy. The waist is relatively low-cut, but doesn't pressure the belly when on the bike in your finest aero position - and, more importantly, when strutting around the café boasting-not-boasting about your recent FTP test results.
The straps are wide and comfortable, fitting over the shoulders without being tight and pressuring on the shoulders, yet keeping everything in place.
I've tested the shorts on a 70km ride through the Chilterns, and a short session on the turbo. During both rides the comfort really shone through. The pad felt cushioning but simultaneously like it's not really there, and there was certainly no friction.
As the sweat built up over an hour on the turbo, that clammy feeling around the waist that can occur with some shorts was absent; a testament to Assos's efforts to make the S7 range lighter. And the silicon grippers on the legs and shoulder straps meant there was no movement, even while I rocked in and out of the saddle in the Chiltern hills. The shorts fit so nicely you really do almost forget you're wearing them (hang on... was I...?)
One of the main differences between the T.mille range compared to the top-end Assos kit is a lower level of compression and less racy fit around the legs and backend. The point behind the compressive technology of the higher end ranges is that it promotes bloodflow through the muscles, minimising fatigue and accumulation of nasty products resulting from dem megawattz you're pumping out.
The T.milleShorts, in contrast, are designed with an emphasis on comfort. Assos say they are intended for a different body shape to the Equipe range, and the difference in fit is noticeable on the bike.
I'm built like a twig and so have pretty long and willowy thighs. The reduced grip and compression of the T.milles thus means that, although they don't feel loose or baggy around the leg, they lack that reassuring grip of the band at the bottom of the legs, holding onto your quads nice and tight like an annoying wheelsucker on a training ride.
Assos do point out that the T.milleShorts are specifically designed with a wider cut waist for comfort, so for riders with a sturdier, shall we say rouleur's physique, the fit would be ideal. But even on my slenderest of legs, the shorts were secure and, on my wintry test ride, didn't cause any issues keeping leg warmers in place.
However, if you're looking for a race-oriented fit with performance at the top of your agenda, then Assos's Equipe S7 shorts are probably a better choice.
Perhaps my only other trifle (mmm... trifle..) is with the leg length. As I've noticed with all Assos shorts, the legs sit a little high on the thigh compared to my usual bibs, and make me feel a little like Pantani back in the 80s, where 'short shorts' were the norm. The length difference is only around an inch, but it's noticeable when my perfectly cultivated tan lines are on display, revealing a little band of pearly white skin above my bronzed and golden guns (read: slightly tanned sticklegs). This is purely me picking a relatively unimportant hole however, as the length makes no different to the function.
At £100, these shorts are still pricey for an entry-level range. However, with Assos, entry-level is still superior to the rest of the chasing peloton's efforts. With the price of clothing ever-increasing, £100 seems to just about fit into the mid-market range of cost, albeit at the top end.
These shorts do boast the immense comfort that Assos pride themselves on; they just lack a few features that you may want from your 'best' shorts - those you dig out for a race, key sportive, or epic training ride. However, Assos want these to be the 'everyday workhorse', and they are just that.
If you need a quality pair of shorts that are going to get a beating over long commutes, intensive training miles, or long tours, these T.milleShorts are spot on. I would allow that with a bit of research and shopping around, you may find better value for the money. However, with Assos, there is quality dripping from every aspect. Especially if you have short legs!