Madison Roam Men's Cargo Bib Shorts
251g (Medium as tested) £59.99
The Madison Roam Men’s Cargo Bib Shorts are intended primarily for gravel and adventure audiences but over the past month or so, they’ve become my defaults for general riding. Especially on longer rides or hotter days, when the ability to carry extra food and water is a serious plus.
Pros: Great fit, design, supportive pad, generally secure and practical pockets.
Cons: Nothing of note, taking everything into account.
The Roam follow the 80% 20% Polyamide Elastane mix for the main, 83/17%, for the bib. Both are a slightly heavier tog weight at the legs and lower bib sections. The upper vest and strap panels are mesh for efficient wicking and have oodles of give. Straps are also sensibly broad to displace the load nicely and unobtrusively across the shoulders, avoiding uncomfortable pressure points.
Now, those pockets ...
There are five in total. A terrace of three around the lower bib- similar narrative as jerseys and with elasticated cuffs for added shape/structure and prevent ejection. Left and right are nicely sized for keys, and a small banana. The centre is dep enough for a glasses’ case type tool caddy, or indeed a compact bottle, such as the Back Bottle .
Then there are two big ones on the thighs. Phones are the obvious guests, but you could easily pop a spare tube and wallet in one map. multi tool and tyre levers and compact torch in the other. Alternatively, they make great parking spaces for arm and leg warmers, cap etc should temperature climb unexpectedly.
Either way, perfect for things you might want quick and easy access to. Internally, flat seams and uniform stitching are precisely what we’d expect, regardless of price point, though some still sit flatter against the skin than others.
Generous leg grippers promise to keep everything correctly aligned, and reliable hosts for leg warmers.
Pads, to a greater or lesser extent, can make, or break shorts and longs. Madison commissioned TMF in Italy. Fashions come and go, and pads are no exception. Designed for 5 hours, it’s thicker than typical of traditional road designs, illustrating that Madison has thought very seriously about the holistic design brief and not cynically tacked pockets to a road short. Pad density is different at various points but no pronounced cutouts. The foam is perforated, creating airflow for good breathability and wicking. The microfibre top fabric continues the breathable, moisture wicking narrative and, as we’d expect, has an anti-bacterial component.
Madison’s sizing guide is refreshingly precise, taking the guesswork out of online purchases. Our mediums were perfect for my 1m81 frame. Perfect in the leg, without feeling remotely baggy at the bibs. Now, these are marginally looser than a traditional road bib, to ensure enough stretch with full pockets. For the most part, I’ve been blissfully unaware, even wearing a “second skin” snug aero jersey atop.
I’ve tested ours through a very changeable July, in temperatures between 12 and 28 degrees and on rides between 90minutes and 4 hours plus. Advances in pad technology have filtered down over the years and as I suggested in my formative discussion, the Roam’s hasn’t missed a beat, supplying just the right balance of support, without feeling like the proverbial loaf of bread, or bunching up. This has been so, regardless of saddle choice.
Ursula is a good starting point, given the old girl’s more upright stance puts greater pressure on the sit bones. I felt some unexpected pressure on our first outing, but this was traced to a slightly misaligned saddle. Once sorted, happy backside for as long as my legs could spin. Same story on the fixed gear winter trainer, Teenage Dream and Holdsworth - all using different saddles, some narrower, some wider and with varying padding densities.
As expected, the pad does an excellent job of dispersing rider generated heat for a dry, funk free crotch. Again, I’ll give my usual “don’t try this at home, folks” caveat but no dubious odours after several days’ successive wears. The sensibly engineered cut means alternating between hoods, drops, tops and indeed, tri bars has been seamless, regardless of whether I’d stuffed the pockets full. Helpful for mid ride bladder stops, too.
Staying with pockets, there was trepidation on my part about stuffing my super zoom travel compact camera in the leg. However, mid hoss, I decided a section of lumpy bridlepath was the decider. To my relief, no issues, the mesh and elastic did their thing handsomely. Sure, it had bobbed up and down but hardly the proverbial playful Labrador and as the miles racked up, no fear of ejection.
This hasn’t impaired cadence either, I’ve just cruised along at a steady 85-100rpm. Temperature regulation is also impressive. Obviously, jerseys and base layers play their part, but the bib sections spirit rider generated heat efficiently. Expect 15minutes and a slight misting but the fibres quickly kick in and they’ve kept some welcome warmth on a few unexpectedly cool rides.
Despite the heavier tog weight, legs were similarly temperate, and the silicone grippers tether them at just the desired height with no hint of ride up. These and the stitching have left minor calling cards when it’s been time to strip and hit the shower but not something I’ve been conscious of in the saddle, or just mooching about at a rest stop.
Talking of which, on the few occasions when showery rains struck, the leg panels have repelled this longer than I was expecting. 40 odd minutes but obviously, a torrential downpour will make itself known sooner. Again, the fabric will dry reassuringly well, given a break in the cloud and a gentle breeze. From the machine, they’ll line dry, ready to wear in around 90 minutes.
Not so much as a loose thread to date, despite regular off-road shenanigans and the inevitable prickly encounters with thistles, thorns and brambles. Otherwise, it’s the standard 30 degrees cool wash, although to replicate real life “oops” moments I’ve tossed ours in with the household wash, with no ill effect. Bear in mind, this isn’t something I'd do habitually. Washing kit at 30 degrees, using minimal detergent and line drying means the longest and most productive life and won’t void warrantees.
Originally retailing at £79.99, the Roam represented excellent value for money. At £59.99, difficult to find rivals, let alone fault. Decathlon GRVL500 Cargo bib shorts are also £59.99 feature 5 pockets, with identical configuration, employ a high-density foam pad and come complete with a two-year warrantee. However, difficult to comment further since we’ve not tested them.
Otherwise, expect to pay a good bit more. Lusso Adventure Bib Shorts feature a pad designed for eight hours plus and I’ve found them a great fit, very rugged and extremely comfortable. There are four pockets in total. Those at the thigh are solid, rather than mesh and slightly deeper, albeit narrower than the roam. However, they originally retailed at £125 (now reduced to £99). Rapha Core Cargo Bib Shorts are another untested model and feature four pockets - two rear, two at the thigh and retail for £110.
For me, the Madison Roam Cargo Bib Shorts are a real winner. Arguably chameleon, design and execution throughout are excellent, and though the pad may not quite rival some, I’ve never felt sore over longer, mixed terrain escapes. Pockets are particularly good, although some may prefer solid stretchy, rather than mesh panelling around the thighs. Nonetheless, these are very minor points, especially given the price and overall performance.
Verdict: 4.25/5 Competitively priced and well executed bibs that deliver on road and trail alike.
PUBLISHED JULY 2023