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Madison Freewheel Men’s Thermal Bib Tights with Pad
 283g £59.99

The Madison Freewheel Men’s Thermal Bib Tights With Pad are another wardrobe staple that have delivered plenty of smiles per mile. Though light and noticeably thinner than traditional winter models, they’ve kept me temperate, when the mercury’s been plummeting and the pad’s better than some costing a good bit more.

Pros:  Lightweight but sturdy, excellent cut/fit, supportive pad, price.

Cons: Some bolder retro reflective detailing would be welcome. sizing is very accurate but check carefully if you’ve longer/shorter than average legs.

Specification 3.5/5

This is unremarkable in some respects, but nonetheless, very well executed. leg section is a Polyamide/Elastane mix (85%/15%) while the bibs are 81% Polyester, 19% Elastane, which promises unrestricted movement. The bib is mesh for warmth, while still offering easy moisture escape, while the main section employs a thin pile fleece lining for tactile warmth.

As we’d hope these days, seams are flat, preventing irritation and unsightly branding come the end of a long ride. Pads on budget models have come a long way in recent years and this is no exception. 

It’s a Cool Max model 1.5mm thick employing some gender specific contouring and pressure reliving grooves. Foam, rather than gel, A wicking finish and anti-bacterial layer is pretty much what we’d expect but again, seems sensibly proportioned and executed. Its reckoned best for rides around the two-three-hour mark. Either way, bodes well for middle distance training runs and general riding.

Silicone ankle grippers are in my view, more comfortable than zippers, while keeping things in situ. More about this later. 

cyclist cycling bike gear clothing bib tights

Sizing/Fit 3.5/5

Madison’s size guide is accurate and on a very personal note, a model of my height and build, gave a similarly useful snapshot, confirming that medium was my best bet. I am however, proportionately very long in the leg (33.5 inches) and the leg cuff elastic less tenacious than some. The bib sections come up a little higher, but the fabric is very stretchy and sits nicely around the shoulders. Perfect for a heavier, winter-weight base layer, without any bagginess, hugging my contours as a good bib long should.

Performance 3.75/5

Ours arrived in December and the gods of wintry weather weren't shy in coming forward. Temperatures have ranged between plus and minus 5 degrees. Winds between 7 and 35kmh and a fair bit of rain thrown into the mix. Pads have come a long way in recent years, especially at this end of the market. I’ve found the density has provided support to all the right places and the anti-bacterial has done its thing with socially acceptable finesse.

Not that we’d advocate this, but I’ve deliberately worn ours for a week’s riding without washing, over varying distances and durations. No issues with unwelcome funk, or worse. In terms of duration, 3 hours is about right- it's certainly not felt like the proverbial loaf of bread or turned into a pad of nails when I’ve been out for four hours, or so, with some trail exploration tossed in for good measure.

The bib and strap sections are very supple allowing complete freedom of movement- no issues with alternating positions, or indeed curing the full bladder shuffle mid ride. The mesh sections also allow a decent amount of rider generated heat to escape and without a clammy delay. The thin pile “Roubaix” lining has also performed faultlessly, keeping my legs temperate.

Even at minus 5, they’ve blocked icy winds and allowed me to concentrate on riding. At the other end of the temperature spectrum, they’ve not turned hot, or clammy. DWR (Durable Water Repelling Coatings) are a rarity at this end of the market and frankly, I’d rather money was spent on getting the basics right, which Madison has.


Factors such as mudguards play their part, but it’s taken a good hour before steady rain has begun to seep through the outer layer and even then, the fleece lining prevented chill striking. Just as well, since for the most part these wintry showers lasted the ride’s duration. Crucially I’ve only felt damp, not sodden, so comment, rather than criticism.

cycling bib tights cyclist gear

The legs have ridden up a little, due in part to my legs being long for my height. the right leg more so. Not uncomfortably, nor has there been any chill around the exposed area-I've only noticed post-ride. This was most apparent while riding my fixed gear winter trainer, where I tend to be in and out of the saddle more to coincide with climbs and general acceleration. This was also the case with some waterproof breathable socks, including these Dexshell Pro Visibility Cycling Socks .

Riding the Univega, I tend to sit, drop a few gears winch myself along the climbs. Again, this wasn’t an issue while sweeping through singletrack and other unpaved sections. Retro-reflectives were the only thing which felt spartan.


Not the biggest issue, since my helmet, shoes, gloves and tyre sidewalls all had these in abundance but some more around the calves/lower legs would’ve added a bit more presence on the darkest roads.

Durability/Care  3.75/5

Not so much as a loose thread, let alone trace of bobbling in 600 mixed terrain winter rides. Madison offers a limited lifetime warrantee- covering materials and manufacturing defects. Nice, especially at this end of the market. Pop them in the wash at 30 degrees, swerving fabric softeners and of course, tumble driers and that’s about it. Plucked from the machine, drying times vary- bargain on an hour with sun and a decent breeze, around. Experience suggests 2hrs at room temperature, on the clothes horse.

Value 3.5/5

A penny shy of £60 is competitive, especially given the performance. But there are some capable of giving them a good run for your hard-earned. Van Rysel Men’s Winter Road Cycling Bib Tights, which come in at £54.99 and feature a pad reckoned good for 7-hour rides and reckoned suitable for temperatures between 4 and 15 degrees.

They also come with a two-year warrantee. However, while they may be a good bet for the late autumn and early spring, they may not be warm enough for winter cold snaps.

I’m still a big fan of the Funkier Polar Active Microfleece Bib Tights , which have now been revised and currently retail for £59.99. These have excellent wicking properties, (cope well in milder temperatures) a decent pad and less bulk than I’ve come to expect from thermal models. A rear pocket is another nice touch. However, the front zipper was cut a little high for my liking.


I’d be inclined to spend a bit more, if you’re looking towards centuries, Audax and similar endurance riding. However, for general middle-distance training and riding, the Madison are excellent staples.

Verdict 3.75/5 Good Benchmark tights that won’t break the bank.


Michael Stenning – The UK’s largest cycle parts & accessories distributor




Ryton On Dunsmore

Coventry  CV8 3FH


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