The light but hard-wearing and weather-resistant Chapeau Gravel Shorts impressed seasoned bikepacker Laurence McJannet

Men’s Fitness verdict

At last, a pair of off-road cycling shorts that are lightweight and tapered, yet still hard-wearing and weather-resistant. Chapeau’s shorts have plenty of casual, off-bike appeal too.
  • Lighweight but robust
  • Keeps the worst of the wind and rain at bay
  • Appeals to MTB, gravel and adventure riders alike
  • Comfortable with bibshorts underneath
  • Rear pockets would be better zipped
  • Only comes in four sizes

How we tested the best cycling shorts

I tested the shorts over a range of distances and in a variety of weather conditions for at least two months. I only used them for the type of riding they were intended for, i.e. road or gravel riding for bibshorts; gravel or off-road riding for MTB shorts etc.

Details include zipped front pockets, belt loops and adjustable waist bands

Chapeau Gravel Shorts design

I don’t think I’m alone in my skepticism for the bike industry’s term ‘gravel’ riding. Particularly as a lot of cycling apparel that now falls under this banner was once just called ‘off-road’ gear. And looking at the technical but loose-fitting garments that almost every cycling brand now produces – often garnished with extra cargo pockets to differentiate them – I don’t see any real difference to the off-road jerseys and baggy shorts of yesteryear.

One such offering is the Gravel Shorts from traditionally road apparel brand Chapeau. They have all the hallmarks of a baggy MTB short – linerless, with zipped pockets, made from 4-way-stretch fabric and with a DWR finish for waterproofing. But after wearing them on rides that encompassed forest singletrack, gravel fire roads and broken tarmac, I started to notice subtle differences.

Chapeau Gravel Shorts features

Firstly the fabric is lighter than your usual MTB baggy short. And, perhaps because of that thinness, there are no hip cargo pockets to pull the shorts out of shape. Because they’re linerless, you’d need to wear a pair of bib shorts or padded cycling shorts underneath. And you’d probably want to for all but one month of the year in the UK. That’s because the fabric is pretty thin and even short rides without a liner short would leave my thighs feeling chilled.

But having ridden with them for three months on commutes, Welsh weekend trail centre visits and night-time torchlit blasts round my local trails, I’ve come to see their weight as a positive. Because it doesn’t take long before you forget you’re wearing Chapeau’s Gravel Shorts. The 4-way-stretch fabric works incredibly well to increase comfort, particularly over long distances.

Another thing that marks these shorts apart from baggies is the legs. They’re a little more tailored than MTB shorts, and slightly tapered. That offers a flattering fit, and they have as much off-bike appeal as they offer on-bike comfort. I would notice that closeness more on singletrack rides, when you tend to shift your bodyweight and ride out of the saddle more. Those with substantial thighs might find it a bit uncomfortable (I’d advise going up a size). But for most these shorts shine on hilly trails and gravel-strewn byways alike.

Chapeau Gravel Shorts weather resistance

They will cope with all but the heaviest showers too, with the quick drying polyamide-elastane mix and the DWR coating working in tandem to shift or repel moisture. For summer months you’re got UV 50+ protection too.

Despite the relatively low cost, Chapeau hasn’t skimped on the details. There’s adjustable waist straps as well as belt loops, two zipped front pockets and two open rear ones (though these aren’t much use for stashing stuff while riding), and a reflective rear bowler hat Chapeau logo.

Overall for the price the Gravel Shorts are pretty faultless. I wouldn’t use these as out-and-out trail ripping shorts but they are robust enough to withstand a steady mix of road, gravel and trail use. And they don’t look out of place at your regular café stop of a pub garden either. I’m looking forward to riding my first gravel race in them too.

Chapeau Gravel Shorts technical specs

Materials96% polyamide, 4% elastane
Pockets2 front zipped, 2 rear open
FeaturesBelt loops, adjustable waist band, button fastener
ColoursPine green, phantom
SizesSmall – XL