Assos’ Equipe RSR S9 Targa shorts are the Swiss brand’s latest flagship offering. When they were launched in April, Assos claimed the shorts were designed for the rider “who demands the fastest and lightest equipment”.
They represent an update to the existing Equipe RSR S9 shorts, with the headline features including the use of a more compressive fabric, as well as tweaks to the bib straps and chamois pad.
The result? These flagship shorts impress with their excellent comfort and compressive fit, representing a marked improvement over the previous S9 shorts. However, this performance comes at a significant cost and there are plusher options for endurance riding.
Assos Equipe RSR S9 Targa construction
The shorts are made from a range of futuristically named fabrics, as we’ve come to expect from Assos, all designed to offer compression and comfort in a suitably luxurious package, given the £255 / €290 / $350 / AU$499.95 price tag.
The ‘type.701kompressor’ fabric is used across the bulk of the shorts and is said to actively reduce fatigue thanks to the ultra-compressive woven construction.
The brand’s ‘Ossidia’ fabric is then used in the front and saddle areas to offer additional breathability and reduce pressure in the genital area.
The shorts also feature a ‘skinGrip Finish’ that, according to Assos, combines compressive leg bands with silicone grips reminiscent of micro-suction cups, to keep the cuffs and leg panels secure.
The shorts retain the ‘rollBar’ bib straps found on the previous S9 and other Assos shorts. The straps are updated with ‘a dual-face carbon material’ that’s claimed to reduce drying time compared to the previous single-sided application. In certain areas, the straps also feature additional ventilation holes.
A bib short is never complete without its chamois and the ‘S9 sundeck insert’ padding has been revised with a similar design brief in mind – to decrease weight while increasing ventilation.
The pad features a three-layer construction, with perforations in the fabric called the ‘whirlKrater’, placed strategically throughout the insert and foam layers, and said to create “a whirlwind of cooling airflow”.
Assos Equipe RSR S9 Targa performance
So far, so Assos, but how do the Swiss brand’s latest shorts stand up to testing? I wore the new S9 shorts in a variety of conditions, from toasty five-hour mountainous road rides in northern Portugal to a humid but rainy UK club run. I also ventured off-road on gravel riding escapades, as well as a sweaty 30-degree cross-country mountain bike ride in Germany.
The shorts were tested on a variety of saddles, too, including the Specialized Power Pro Elaston, Fabric Scoop Radius Elite, and a Bontrager P3 Verse Comp (the latter of which I really didn’t get on with wearing these shorts).
Smiles for miles
I’ve owned the outgoing Equipe RS S9 (which was the second-tier short) for a couple of years and, while I loved the construction, I didn’t find the padding particularly comfortable on rides longer than three hours.
Fortunately, the updates to the seat pad are just the ticket this time around because the shorts are very comfortable over longer rides.
The pad isn’t quite as cosseting as that found on the brand’s Mille endurance shorts, but what you get in exchange is better ventilation.
The strap system looks convoluted and the two A-lock straps are visible at the rear when riding, which looks a little odd. Appearances aside, they do a great job at keeping the pad firmly in place – there was never any shifting of the material. Extra points for integrating ventilation holes into the straps, too.
The shorts helped keep me cool on warmer rides, although not to the extent of a dedicated warm-weather short. Assos’ own Equipe RSR Superléger S9 would be the shorts for you if you are after specific hot-weather shorts.
Although the shorts do not feature Assos’s ‘Impactor’ crash-protection feature, I unfortunately got to test the short’s impact resistance in a grisly off-road crash. While I sustained an impressive bruise to my thigh, the shorts came away completely and utterly unscathed, especially impressive considering they had slid along a rocky surface.
There’s always an element of luck when it comes to crash damage but, while many summer shorts may typically feature a more fragile, lightweight fabric, the denser ‘type.701kompressor’ material used here might have been a factor.
Crashing aside, the dotted silicone grippers keep the shorts in place impressively well, but I would question their long-term durability over a single-piece gripper. After half a dozen rides, the material isn’t quite as grippy as at the start of testing.
Performance at a price
The main drawback with these shorts is the cost – at £255, they sit at the very top end of the market for a hot-weather racing short, though they are not without competitors in this premium price bracket.
Castelli’s recently updated Free Aero Race 4 bib shorts come in at £175 and, on paper, are the Italian brand’s closest match to the Assos Equipe RSR S9 Targa shorts, with the intention of combining comfort with a race-focused design.
Castelli also offers the Premio endurance (£240) and super-light Superleggera (£200) shorts at the top of its range.
Rapha’s Powerweave shorts cost slightly more than the Assos shorts at £275. The Powerweave fabric is said to improve moisture management and reduce weight.
I’ve ridden in these shorts and found the fit and ventilation management to better Assos’s effort, and this is where I would part with my cash if I was spending north of £200.
However, as always, it’s important to caveat that bib shorts are an incredibly personal choice and what works for one person may not work for another.
Assos Equipe RSR S9 Targa bottom line
The Assos Equipe RSR S9 Targa bib shorts are an excellent proposition if a supportive fit and ventilation are the key attributes you are looking for. The compressive construction is impressive, as is comfort.
Although on paper, the updates to the outgoing Equipe RSR may seem evolutionary, the increase in comfort is significant, although that comes with an almighty price tag.