Right off the bat, the Annabelle’s integrated base layer is a big win for Café du Cycliste. If you don’t wear base layers in warm weather, you won’t like this, but if you’re like me and wear some sort of base layer year round, the Annabelle’s upper solves the chafing-bib straps problem by integrating what amounts to a sleeveless base layer into the upper. No uncomfortable bib strap tugging or rubbing. The zipper up the front makes it easy to get the bibs on and snug everything up tightly for a form fit.
Even in hot weather (the Colorado front range frequently experiences temps in the high 90s) the Annabelle bibs felt airy and comfortable. Café du Cycliste touts the upper as efficient when it comes to moisture-wicking, and that seemed to play out on the road. Perhaps this was more noticeable because the Annabelles don’t have any bib straps to rub against the rider’s shoulders and chest, which leads to discomfort and chafing — especially when the skin gets coated in sweat. The built-in base layer distributes the weight of the bibs evenly across the shoulders and sits flush against the back and chest, which contributes to a second-skin feel.
The shorts themselves are plenty compressive, though the thigh cuffs pinch a bit tighter than was necessary, allowing for some uncomfortable seam-rubbing on the inner thigh. That was really the only fit complaint I could find, and it was a minor one; the rubbing wasn’t significant enough that I was distracted much beyond the parking lot. Still, a rub’s a rub and there’s room for improvement here.
Racers will recognize the feel of the thin CyTech chamois. Fondo riders will find it a bit lacking. Café du Cycliste says the chamois features three different density foams that add up to supreme comfort, but personally I found the chamois too thin to stand up to all-day grinds.
These are pricey bibs, but considering you’re getting a base layer built-in and a fantastic fit, that price seems slightly easier to swallow. Ultimately, the Annabelles stack up as an excellent three-season bib, as long as you don’t mind a fairly thin chamois.