Ground Effect Exocet Shorts
Recently you may have witnessed some roadies wearing their bike knicks inside-out, looking like they have a baboon-bum with a brightly coloured pad between their legs. Well the chances are that it wasn’t a wardrobe malfunction but knicks that have the pad actually sewn into the shorts, as opposed to being stitched to the inside—unpick the chamois on these and you’d be left with a hole in your crotch! Ground Effect has just released their new Exocet shorts which are made in this manner, although the appearance is far more subdued, as both the knicks and outer face of the pad are black.
What’s the point? The design means you only have a single padded layer between your skin and the saddle for less slipping around, less friction and less chance of snagging the lycra on the nose of the saddle. The Ground Effect rendition of this design is also comparatively affordable at $149 a pair. They also offer the same ‘exo-skeletal’ pad design in their $179 Ringleaders bib knicks.
Like most items of clothing, achieving a good fit is really important and sizing depends heavily your individual body shape and measurements. Over the years I’ve used Ground Effect knicks as they fit me well and cause no issues to speak of on long rides. As such I really didn’t think these shorts would be all that different—all they’ve done is eliminate one thin layer of lycra between the pad and the saddle; how much difference can that make?
Well there’s more to the Exocet’s than just the exo-skeletal pad. The entire garment has been upgraded with different fabrics and extra panels; it has12 panels versus 10 on their previous top-end Supersonic short. Unlike most, Ground Effect shorts lack elastic leg grippers. As a hairy legged mountain biker, I’ve found this to be a great comfort feature and they’ve always stayed put without the rubberised hair-pulling elastic (although sometimes you had to sweat a little before the lycra really stuck to your legs). Their most recent top-end Ground Effect designs remain elastic-free but they’ve achieved a more secure leg fit by using a broad band of compression grade lycra around each leg. They now feel very snug and supportive when you pull them on and I’d rate this as a real improvement on their pervious design. It takes some effort to pull the leg cuffs up but they are very effective and work well in holding the garment snugly in place.
At first I found the new multi-thickness pad to be a little ‘lumpy’, with the raised patches of thicker padding attracting my attention. This sensation disappeared soon enough—I guess the pad softens up a little over time. With that hurdle surmounted, the knicks effectively disappeared—in a good way that is. Did I notice any direct benefit from the single-layer pad? I’d say the exo-design on its own isn’t a complete game changer, but it did offer some pretty clear benefits.
Even when seated, technical trails force you to be quite animated. You need to slide fore and aft, constantly readjusting your body position. The new shorts do feel better when moving around on the saddle and they’ll never snag or get caught up, as occasionally happens with a traditional knicks. When going from standing to a seated position, the pad moves with you and there’s no need to ‘readjust’ once you land on the saddle.
Whether all this is due to the exo-skeletal pad or the combined result of the more elaborate 12-panel cut and compression lycra cuffs is hard to say. It’s likely to be a combination of all these features. In any case the result is a pair of shorts that feel like a second skin. In fact, fully realising the level of comfort on offer has encouraged me to ditch my baggies for any longer ride, as I’ve become acutely aware of how much adding extra layers of material can detract from your freedom of movement on the bike. There’s a real sense that these shorts don’t budge and simply move with you no matter what. This means less friction and less to distract you from the immediate task at hand—pedalling and staying on the trail.