You’ve probably heard of Katusha, headline sponsors of the Swiss pro cycling team Katusha Alpecin. They’re often most visible in Grand Tours through their Russian climber, perennial top ten GC man, and occasional spectacular stage winner, Ilnur Zakharin.
Katusha, the company, are in the business of cycling kit. They’re Swiss based and somewhere near the premium end of the market.
When you pull on a pair of bib shorts they tell you, immediately, like almost no other piece of kit, whether you’re going to get on with each other. Rather like with shoes or saddle you just cannot afford to compromise. There are degrees of comfort, but there is a minimum standard below which no sensible cyclist will venture.
With the €200 price tag and the Geneva head office I was expecting high quality and precision. Lazer-guided bib-shorts designed to make me look good, ride fast, and remain free of chafing.
And, to a large degree, they did.
With a pair of bibs I like to get a feel for the materials right from the off – check out the seams and the construction, examine the luxury and the substance – and the Icon hit the spot. If I had to pick out one highlight of these shorts it would be the quality.
At the price it should be a given, and it’s all present and correct.
Style wise, my black version feature a pleasingly stealthy pin-stripe texture down the legs, a nice sharp elasticated gripper above the knee, and a subtle K just above the rear end.
And that’s that.
The very definition of simple and understated; a pre-requisite, many would argue, for a top-class pair of shorts.
You do not need patterns down your thighs. There shouldn’t be too much writing. Colours are not required. Let your jersey and socks do the attention seeking while your shorts get on quietly with their job.
Which is, as we’ve agreed, is comfort.
The overall cut and fit works for me beautifully; wearing a size large, and with me at 1m 82cm and around 80 kilos. The pad, perhaps the key to it all, delivers an unfussy, functional, chafe-free, and all-round pleasant ride.
The marketing blurb on the Katusha website is pleasingly free from too much of the pseudo-science that other bib manufacturers like to claim for their pad. It’s sort of unremarkable in that it didn’t cause me to shift and shuffle in the saddle, nor hoik and stretch at the the material to get all the right bits in the right place.
It just sat there, unobtrusively, being comfortable.
The website talks of the Icon shorts as delivering ‘comfort and durability’ and they do give a sense of hardwearing performance. This is not flyaway flimsy Lycra but material that suggests it will cope just fine with real world cycling and won’t need replacing this time next year, or even the year after.
It’s not heavy duty, nor function over form, but gives every sign of being built to last.
With all this is mind, however, I do have one issue: in length, they fall just a bit short for my taste.
I like a longer leg, heading down towards the knee, in the modern style, where these are designed to come up short. Not full-Sean-Yates-tan-line-disruption short, but reminiscent, I would suggest, of the T Equipe Evo from fellow Swiss kit manufacturer Assos.
Not a fault, so much as a matter of taste. Maybe it’s a Swiss thing?
Were they a touch longer the Icon bibs, from Katusha, would be an absolute winner.