Waterproof shorts are one of those garments you don’t realise how useful they will be until you own a pair. For years I’d unflinchingly accepted a soggy chamois as a simple reality of rain affected races; something you just put up with. But as race distance increases, so too does the value of keeping dry and comfortable. Add snow, sub-zero temperatures and the splattering mud from thawing trails (such were the conditions in this year’s Strathpuffer 24 Hour race) and comfort quickly begins to correlate to performance. So how do the Scott Gore-tex Paclite waterproof shorts handle challenging weather conditions and are they really a valuable addition to the XC and Endurance racer’s armoury?
In the world of XC racing; close fitting Lycra is the de facto clothing choice with only a handful of rebels (think the Cannondale Racing duo of Marco Fontana and Manuel Fumic) breaking the style mould by racing in baggies. In terms of appearance I was impressed by the Scott shorts, black and charcoal colouring with a couple of diagonal reflective trims. The shorts are relatively close fitting and the small size hugged my thirty inch waist and finished just above the knee, with elasticated pull cords around the waist and each leg to refine conformity. The adjusters were easy to use but pulling them very snug as I did meant a lot of the elastic was exposed to potentially get tangled with bike and accoutrements.
[caption id="attachment_11344" align="alignnone" width="657"] Very adjustable to make them more 'racer' than 'baggies'[/caption]
Settling into the race rhythm…
These shorts do not have a chamois or insert and are designed as an additional waterproof layer to be worn over Lycra shorts or tights. This means it’s important to ensure a good snug fit so they don’t slide down over whatever garment you are wearing underneath. In practice this wasn’t a problem and at no point did I get tangled with the saddle.
The interface between the saddle and crotch of the shorts is more of a concern with significant signs of wear already starting to show. Abrasion between mud, grit, shorts and saddle is a factor with all types of shorts; I’m sure many of us have endured the horror of riding behind someone with old, worn, cling-film like Lycra shorts so this shouldn’t be a major surprise, but I would expect a product designed to be used in harsh conditions to offer more resilience.
It’s also worth noting that these shorts do not have any pockets, the minimal design making itself more appropriate for the racer rather than the casual trail rider looking for cavities to store car keys or spares.
[caption id="attachment_11343" align="alignnone" width="370"] No pockets but light, dry and effective[/caption]
The last lap…
In terms of key performance criteria; keeping the racer dry and comfortable the Scott Paclite shorts scored very well. Firstly, they succeeded in keeping both the Lycra shorts I was wearing and ultimately my lower torso dry, warm and comfortable. I first started wearing the waterproof shorts roughly five hours into the race as the course thawed and spray became more of an issue. I was able to continue to wear the Scott shorts through to the race finish nineteen hours later, testament to their ability to repel water and avoid moisture absorbance. The protection they offered the Lycra shorts below meant I could run multiple laps with same against-the-skin layer and overall cut down the number of clothing changes needed. These shorts were a life and race saver for me as without them I would not have had sufficient kit changes to cover all sixteen laps completed without resorting to repeat wearing of cold/wet clothing. In sub-zero temperatures that is not an acceptable option for safety or performance. The cold conditions at this year’s Strathpuffer didn’t offer much of a test for breathability but I have used in milder wet races and have never noticed any comfort problems caused by overheating.
[caption id="attachment_11342" align="alignnone" width="661"] Showing early signs of wear but essential equipment all the same[/caption]
In summary, I highly rate the performance and fit of the Scott Gore-tex Paclite shorts to such an extend I have made these an essential part of my endurance race wardrobe, ready for duty should the rain start falling in 12 and 24 hour events. For shorter XC races the comfort benefits are less critical and for many the temptation will remain to put up with a wet chamois for the hour and half that the race lasts. However, there is a performance benefit for inclement XC races when you look at the potential weight saving. A 225 gram pair of Lycra shorts with a chamois can more than triple in weight when saturated, so even accounting for the 218 grams the Scott Gore-Tex shorts weigh, you would still be saving over 200 grams by keeping that chamois dry. Hopefully the 2015 racing season will be kind to us, with not too many wet and gritty events so the shorts can survive many more years.
Weight: Approx. 218g
Price: RRP £99.99
Tester: Craig Bowles
Team: Bike Motion Racing
Test race: Strathpuffer 2015
More info: www.scott-sports.com/us/en/sports/bike