Endura’s new Pro SL EMG women’s-specific bib shorts use a brand new chamois pad design that, instead of just using more traditional open-cell foam, opts for medical grade silicone elastomers.
Developed in conjunction with cycling health expert Phil Burt, the shorts are the first product to be released as part of the brand’s Ergonomistry Project, which intends to break taboos – particularly around female genital health – and improve rider comfort through a more holistic design process.
It’s unusual (and refreshing!) to see a brand lead a launch with a line of women’s products first, and it is clear that better serving the needs of female riders has been the key consideration of this project from the outset. Saying that, the concept is expected to be rolled out to men’s shorts down the line.
Is this just another bib short launch?
“[In designing these shorts], we are addressing head-on the particularly awkward topic of women riders’ genital pain and health”, says Pamela Barclay Co-Founding Director of Endura, setting the tone for the launch.
Leading by example, Barclay adds that the way women’s bodies are built means that sitting on a bicycle can feel “like having your entire body weight on your eyeballs such is the sensitivity of that zone of a woman’s anatomy”.
The Women’s 800 Series ConForm EGM chamois pad is the key feature of the shorts, and is designed specifically to better address the needs of female riders.
In designing it, Endura claims to have taken a fresh look at how a cycling pad should function as a whole system.
Starting with the construction, rather than just using more traditional open-cell foam, the pad is instead partly constructed from medical grade silicone elastomers.
Open-cell foam is great for moisture-wicking but can compress down to next to nothing, making it unable to redistribute pressure from the rider to the saddle.
The team looked at how medics and engineers worked with amputees to improve how pressure transferred from a stump into a prosthetic limb. Here, silicone is used as it doesn’t compress in the same way that foam does.
When applied in the context of a chamois pad, Endura claims it found the silicone pads transfer pressure much more effectively from rider to bike, reducing hotspots and genital discomfort.
In designing the shorts, Endura has also worked closely with world-renowned physiotherapist Phil Burt, who spent 12 years at British Cycling and Team Sky, and was part of the team who changed the UCI saddle tilt rule.
Burt explained that, because women’s hips tend to be wider (evolved as an adaptation to childbirth), the pubic bone arrives much more steeply at the front compared to men.
The working theory is that wider hips mean that the external hip rotators need to work much harder to rotate the pelvis backwards in the saddle. The result is that women don’t have much choice in how they sit – the pelvis always tends to be more forward-tilted on the bike. The new shorts are specifically designed to accommodate this.
Endura also enlisted the help of a test team that includes the likes of Lucy Charles-Barclay and Denise Schindler, with a further team of both professional and recreational cyclists acting as a jury when assessing designs.
With this approach, Endura believes it has consulted a cross-section that represents female cyclists across the whole sport.
With frequent iterations between testing, feedback and refinement of the pad, Burt estimates that Endura developed around 250 different prototype pads in the search for the holy grail.
“True innovation is really hard to do – it’s hard work, expensive and you’re challenging the status quo” declares Burt.
Professional triathlete Lucy Charles-Barclay adds: “In terms of technical cycling apparel, I definitely think female athletes are less catered for.
“Endura is trying to change this by making women-specific items for cycling, just to give us that comfort that we need, because we’re obviously very different to males, so we need our own range of cycling apparel”.
In addition to the female-specific pad design, Endura has also included its zipless drop-seat function and a simple vest-style front, which sits comfortably over your breasts with the new shorts.
The Pro SL EMG is the first in a line of releases from the project – next to come is a complimentary chamois cream ‘system’ comprising a cream, wash and moisturiser.
Endura also expects to expand beyond butts and will apply their findings to each area of the body in contact with the bike.
We have a pair of the new shorts in for review and will report back with a full review in the coming weeks.
Endura Women’s Pro SL EMG bib shorts key specs
- Women’s-specific 800 Series Conform EGM Pad with silicone elastomer construction
- Wide elastic crossover back straps and wicking front mesh panel
- Drop seat comfort break function
- Available in sizes XS-XL
- £129.99 / €139.99 / $194.99