Wearing pants is a necessary evil. We’re all born free, but “society” has these weird hang-ups about naked people eating in restaurants, going to movies, and riding bikes… well, I guess pants are kinda necessary if you’re riding a bike. But in a way, they’re kinda evil too. Adding layers where your body generates most of its heat and motion is less than ideal. If you happen to ride a road bike, or if you happened to ride a mountain bike in the early '90s, you know how comfortable a bare set of Lycra shorts can be. There's no friction and no trapped heat. But when you're descending, there's no initial deflection to take the edge off of a hip-first crash. And in some social circles you might get shamed into putting on a pair of baggies if you want to be invited to the next ride.
Fortunately, baggies have been getting thinner and simpler. They've been getting lighter and stretchier. They're removing pockets, zippers and Velcro. They're becoming more sensible. They're becoming more like the 100% Celium shorts. The Celiums are made of an especially stretchy polyester/spandex blend. Nothing too fancy in itself, but combine it with the short’s structure and design and they become a piece of apparel worth writing about. The seams are welded to feel like one single continuous piece of material. Stitches aren’t immediately noticeable on the outside and the reinforcements on the inside keep bonds tight and smooth.
A single reinforced snap keeps the shorts buttoned up and 100%’s Cohesive Shock Cords keep them tight, but not too tight. The cords hide in clever plastic buttons inside the waistband replacing bulky Velcro outside it. The elastic is pretty slack, and it stretches relatively far. Together, the two Cohesive Shock Cords cover nearly 14 inches of the waistband. That means the Celium’s barely-there feel extends from bottom to top. But it also means that, unless you’re sized near-perfectly to them, they won’t hold on as well as more firm-waisted wares. That’s especially true if you plan on carrying anything in your pockets during your ride. But doing so would ruin the Celiums’ light and airy feel.
Much of that feel is thanks to the lack of hardware. There’s one zippered pocket on the right, at mid-thigh, and another on the left, just below the waist. There are no back pockets, no extra stretch panels, and no Velcro. There’s also no zippered fly. That’s one of my favorite features on the Celiums. In an area where comfort is crucial, there’s no extra material or plastic. It also helps allow the shorts to flex freely below the waist. Plus, it’s one less thing to weigh the shorts down.
The Celiums are remarkably lightweight. That helps with their overall subtle feel, but also aids in keeping them cool. It takes very little wind or movement to get the breeze into where it counts, and the strategic bits of ventilation on the inside of each thigh help as well. I luckily haven’t truly tested the Celiums’ durability. I’ve hip-checked a couple trees with no damage, but I haven’t slid into first yet. This is a gamble with any lightweight short, but I think they’re worth it, even at $130 without a liner. Living in Southern California means battling the heat between 10 and 12 months out of the year. My battle plan usually means climbing in lycra with my baggies strapped to my pack next to my knee pads. But when my one pair of Celiums aren’t too covered in dust, sweat and/or poison oak, I can comfortably wear them for an entire ride, which makes my more fashion-conscious riding partners happy. This is Southern California, after all.
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