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Editors’ Choice: 100% Celium Shorts

Haute, not hot

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It’s hard to make good baggy riding shorts, and I’d say there are two main reasons why. One is that riding in baggy shorts inherently sucks. They trap heat, they add friction, and they’re only good for when you crash or when you’re concerned about looking like a roadie. The other reason is that we all seem to have accepted the drawbacks of baggy shorts, so the bar for fit and comfort is pretty low. But not to some brands. 100%, quite surprisingly, has made remarkable leaps in lightweight baggies. I say “surprisingly” because 100% is more of an enduro brand. And not just mountain bike enduro; motorcycle enduro. The name … err … number is on plenty of boots, goggles, full-face helmets and full-length pants. But 100% does minimal shorts really well. I rode the previous version of the Celium shorts for nearly two years, until they suddenly and dramatically ripped open. It was a tragedy. I looked like a roadie for the rest of my ride.

The reason those previous generation Celiums failed so scandalously is because the seams were all “welded,” as they say, not stitched. It’s a very light, supple way to put a garment together, but it’s not very durable. The new Celium shorts still use fancy taped seams, but all are fully sewn first. 

The fabric itself is not quite as silky smooth or paper-thin as the previous Celium shorts. I’d call them middle-weight, and the level of stretch they offer is equally Goldilocks-approved. Not too rigid, not too elastic. They’re the lightest weight shorts I’ve worn that don’t remind me every time I wear them that the clock is ticking. I don’t get nervous through the occasional bushwhack, and I don’t wash them in the delicate cycle. But I do hang them dry. I’m not a barbarian.

The pockets are probably the only unremarkable thing about the Celium shorts, though that’s actually pretty perfect. I don’t ride with stuff in my pockets, so their position isn’t that important, but I do drive with stuff in my pockets, and I tend to kit up before my 20-minute drives to the mountains. It’s nice to have the pockets in a traditional, secure spot for temporary keys/wallet/phone portage until it’s time to move my essentials to my pack or bib pockets. But both can zip up with ultra thin zippers that close clean and flush. 

You know where there isn’t a zipper on the Celiums? The fly … partly because there also isn’t a fly, which is brilliant. Let’s be honest, fellas. When you’re wearing a chamois, especially bibs, there’s absolutely no use for a traditional fly. The only reason to have more relief than the waist closure is to make shorts easier to get over the hips, and the thin flap of elastic material where the Celium’s fly would be is more than enough. 

Oh, that waist. That Boa-enclosed waist. It seems like the bike industry is treating Boa like CBD nowadays. We’re suddenly finding all sorts of new uses for it. We can put Boa on flat-pedal shoes, we can cinch down our jackets’ hoods with it or secure our on-bike storage. Why not use it to hold up our shorts? The dominant Velcro-based waist adjustments rarely work very well. And elastic waists always seem to find the lowest possible position after enough trips on and off the saddle. The Boa system is quick and secure with no need for elastic. I was surprised to find that the Boa lace itself is permanently affixed to each side, meaning you can’t fully open the waist. Even loosened all the way, the Celiums are still a little tight when I’m sliding over my hips, but once on my waist, they cinch up to be perfectly form-fitting. 

I’m not about to say they disappear wearing them or that they feel like a second skin. There are some ultralight baggies out there that actually may come close to that, but the Celiums take a more pragmatic approach. Through smart features and an economy of design, they strike the perfect balance. They are the elusive good baggy riding shorts.

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Photos: Anthony Smith