19 October 2008

bikefix Exclusive Review: Endura Burner shorts

I am continually trying new “baggy” mountain bike shorts in the hope that I will someday find the perfect one. The holy grail of baggy shorts has to start with a great fit, and end with excellent function. Good looks don't hurt either. I have yet to find this short. The Burner, from Endura, is a good short but it doesn’t get us much closer to the grail than the rest of the field.

The benefit of baggy shorts over pure Lycra shorts is primarily the pockets and extra protection that the shell adds; however, most people probably buy baggy shorts because they don’t want to be seen in Lycra (that’s how I started). The drawbacks of baggies are of course that they are heavier, hotter, less comfortable than tighties and get snagged on the back of the saddle more easily. Designers try hard to eliminate or mitigate these issues and they have done a good job, but some of these traits can still be a problem.

Baggy shorts can be split into two basic constructions: those that use a sewn-in liner, and those that use a removable liner. The Endura Burner shorts are the sewn-in type. I know this goes against the recent industry trend, but in my opinion (and opinions vary greatly on this), while removable liner shorts may be more convenient, they never feel or perform as good as a short with a sewn-in liner. With so many manufacturers offering their high-end shorts only with a removable liner, it’s nice to see a premium short come with a sewn-in.

I bought the Endura's in a size large and it feels like they were made for me- meaning that they fit a stocky type man (with about 34-35 inch waist) very well. The chamois is not the highest-tech you will find, but more importantly has (grundle-sparing) comfort groves and feels just fine. The shorts have three mesh panels on the front/side of each leg (ala Fox Epic) to help keep you cool and they do their job very well. The shell is made of Cordura and seems impervious to damage- truly one of the tougher shells I've worn. The shell has some strategic panels of a stretch material that may not be as bomb-proof as the Cordura, but still seems tougher than most shells. If it weren’t for the dirt marks, these shorts could pass for new. The rugged construction means these aren’t the lightest shorts but that isn’t an issue for most people. One of the most important things for me is that the well thought-out cut of the Burners means that they rarely got caught on the back of the saddle when transitioning from steep downhills to the flats.

The two biggest problems I have with the Endura's were the Velcro front closure and the side waist straps. The Velcro wasn’t strong enough to keep the front of the shorts closed during all the movements one goes through while mountain biking. This was a recurring problem and an easy one to fix. Just add a big snap closure to the middle of the Velcro piece and I’ll bet that would do it. I would just as soon see the Velcro go away though. It wasn’t a problem on this short but Velcro placed that close to the sensitive skin around the waist has irritated me in the past. The side cinch straps are completely useless. They come undone immediately and are impossible to thread-through when wearing the short. I don’t even need them because the short fits great. If you need to use them, you should probably have bought the next size down. I’m going to cut them off after I write this review.

I love these shorts and will continue riding in them quite frequently, but I won’t buy another pair until they sort out the front closure. Once that's taken care of, I would call the Burners some of the best baggy shorts on the market. Endura is a Scottish company that makes some very fine cycling gear (though not in Scotland) and the burner tops their range of shorts at a suggested retail price of $119.99.



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