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In partnership with Pearl iZUMi
Are Pearl iZUMi’s PRO bib shorts any good? I was determined to find out, so jumped into a pair and took them for a spin.
The short answer is that, yes, they’re awesome. For short rides, they’re a fantastic indulgence: I really don’t need to put them on for a quick trip down to the grocery store, but I like these bib cycling shorts so much that I’m going to anyway. But it’s on long-distance rides where they really come into their own.
And it’s that long-distance longer answer that we’re going to look at today. First up, we’ll take a look at what Pearl iZUMi say about the PRO bib shorts. Then we’ll take an in-depth look at the features that I like about the bib shorts and how I think they can benefit you. Keeping it balanced, we’ll then dig into a few of the aspects of these bibs that I’m not so keen on. Finally, we’ll take a look at who these bike bibs would be best for.
Let’s dive in and take a look at the details.
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What do Pearl iZUMi say
“most supportive and breathable PRO Escape 1:1 Chamois”
“luxurious Italian PRO Transfer fabric”
“Wide, laser cut bib straps for a barely there, yet supportive fit”
“raw edge hems create a smooth transition from short to skin”
“printed silicone gripper [at the leg openings] to hold it securely in place”
What do I like about the PRO bib shorts
I’ve been testing out the bib shorts in Men’s size Large and color Black. There are 3 colors available in the men’s shorts (Black, Black Eclipse, and Navy). The Black Eclipse has awesome pattern detail on the bib straps, though once you get a jersey over the top of your shorts, this will be hidden. The men’s shorts have 6 different sizes available (XS through XXL, though the Black Eclipse are only available in S-XL). For reference, I’m 5’8” and around 180 lbs and the Large is a good fit – I’ll talk a little more about the sizing in a moment.
There is a women’s specific PRO bib short available. This is also available in 3 colors – Black, Navy, and Black/Beachglass Eclipse. Have to say that I love the Black/Beachglass Eclipse colorway of the women’s shorts (as does my wife!) – a very cool pattern on the straps – though, again, hidden once you get your jersey on. The women’s shorts are available in 6 sizes also, from XS through XXL.
Both of these PRO bib shorts are part of Pearl iZUMi’s PRO Collection of cycling gear. This is their flagship road cycling range and includes almost every item of apparel you need to get you on the road, and in all weathers too. Shoes, socks, shorts and jerseys for year-round riding plus weather-proof jackets and waterproof shoe covers for when the conditions take a turn for the cold and soggy.
The PRO bib shorts are one rung down from the top-of-the-range bibs in the PRO range, the PRO Air Bib short. These are available in a men’s cut (no women’s version) and in black only, with 6 sizes (S-XXL). I haven’t had the opportunity to try these out yet but, on paper (well, computer screen, anyway) they look very similar to the PRO bibs – similar cut (though in a French rather than Italian fabric) and the exact same PRO Escape 1:1 Chamois. Price is substantially more ($275 vs $210 at the time of writing) so the choice possibly comes down to whether you prefer a French croissant or Italian gelato on your mid-ride refreshment stop.
As I said, I’ve been testing the Large men’s, and I’m 5’8” 180 lbs and would normally take a Large size in bibs from other manufacturers. When I took the bibs out of the packet and pulled them on for the first time I thought, “oh, they’re a little snug, not too tight, just a little snug”. But then I headed off on the bike and suddenly they felt just right. Every time afterwards (having been washed in between) they’ve also felt just right. Have I lost weight? Nope. Have I just toned up a little? Sadly, no. So, I think the bib fabric has just relaxed a tiny bit. Not so that they’re baggy or loose, and now they feel great when I put them on.
I think the sign of a perfect item of cycling apparel is that you forget you’re even wearing it and that’s the case with the PRO bibs. The fit is just right. I’m not re-adjusting the legs or the straps or the chamois as I cycle along. For short journeys, as I’ve said, they feel like an indulgence. For longer rides, it’s the biking equivalent of “set it and forget it”: you pull them on, start pedaling, forget about the bibs, and focus on the road in front of you.
The Italian fabric, the chamois and those raw edges
The fabric that the shorts are made from feels good next to the skin. It’s a combo of nylon, polyester and Lycra and this gives a material that is smooth and slips easily over the skin. I’ve found that it keeps me warm on cooler rides and wicks away sweat on hotter days in the saddle. There are a few printed reflective elements to help you be seen in low-light conditions on the road, which is a handy feature.
The chamois has a good thickness to it and, unlike many bibs I own, doesn’t compress down to paper-thin after a couple rides. The thickness varies across the chamois, with thicker padding at the critical areas (mainly under your sit bones), where you need it most. Plus, there’s also the floating top sheet feature of the chamois which allows it to move with your skin, whilst the rest of the chamois padding stays put. That’s useful because it means less chance of irritation and skin chafing in your most sensitive areas.
I was a little concerned to begin with about the raw edges on the bib straps as these roll up tightly when I pull them on, forcing me to unroll them before putting my jersey on. Whilst that’s a minor inconvenience, I was concerned that they would roll back up as I cycled along. Has this happened? No, not once. In fact, the raw edges of the fabric adds to the barely-there feeling that these bibs have. Pearl talk about the smooth transition that this creates from fabric to skin and that’s been my experience – there’s less bulk and it feels more comfortable than with other bib straps.
The shorts legs have a 10.5” inseam, which gave a perfect leg length for me. Turn over the lower hem of the shorts and you’ll see printed silicone grippers which keep the legs firmly in position but don’t irritate your skin like some that I’ve tried previously.
Bib shorts and bathroom breaks
The gorilla in the corner of the mist (or whatever the damn phrase is) of bib shorts is that, whilst they’re great for keeping the chamois in place, they’re not the most convenient for bathroom breaks. Pearl have made good strides here in addressing this issue. For the men’s bibs, the front hem (which sits just below your belly button) can be pulled down to allow relief from all that coffee you drank pre-ride. On the women’s bibs, the rear hem can be pulled down for similar relief. I can’t speak to the women’s bibs, but for the men’s bibs, it’s certainly possible to, ahem, gain access to the necessary equipment, though it does require a degree of maneuvering.
Another useful feature of the women’s bibs is the front chest clip. For smaller cup sizes, the clip can be closed up to keep the straps securely in place on the shoulders or, for larger cup sizes, it can be left unclipped to give a little more room to breathe.
I’m a stickler for watching the ounces and pounds, so I was keen to get these bibs on the kitchen scales. Total weight for the Large men’s bibs was 6.7 oz, which put them in a similar weight bracket to all my other bibs. That was interesting as the chamois on these feels noticeably thicker and so I’d expected to see a little weight gain vs the others. The fact that there isn’t a weight difference makes me wonder if the raw-edge hems are giving some weight reduction. Logically this would make sense. A standard hem requires extra folded-over fabric and thread to stitch it up. Multiply this by the length of all the hems on these bibs and it would likely compensate for a more substantial chamois. That’s fine by me. The raw edges feel great and a thicker chamois will always go down well with my butt cheeks.
What do I dislike about the PRO bib shorts
The PRO bib shorts are fantastic and there really aren’t many negatives to mention.
If I had to nitpick I’d say that I’d like to see a couple things different on the shorts. Firstly, it would be great to have a thigh pocket (or two) – this might add to weight – but I always find it useful to have easy access to things like a credit card or a car key. Those important items that you like to check are still there every two or three minutes as you ride along.
I’d also like to see a little more stretchiness to the front hem (and potentially the rear hem on the women’s bibs). I’ve mentioned that this drop hem is there to allow simpler bathroom breaks. Pearl have done a great job with the cut of the bibs to make this possible. However, I’d like them to go a little further with the design to allow relief-from-too-much-coffee-drinking to happen more easily.
If I were choosing a pair of bib shorts for long rides, that delivers in large shovelfuls on both great looks and superior comfort, then Pearl iZUMi’s PRO bib shorts are a hard one to beat.
Who are the PRO bib shorts for
It’s clear that the bibs are designed for road cyclists heading out for big mileage days in the saddle. And the PRO bibs excel at this, so Pearl have down a great design and manufacture job here. For me though they also have many other use cases when they’d make the difference between a ride where all you think about is your shorts to one where all you think about is the ride itself – the mark of a perfect pair of bibs.
I’ve worn the bibs for mountain biking on a number of occasions – sometimes with and sometimes without a pair of baggy shorts over the top. They’ve been incredibly comfortable every time. Unlike previously when I’ve worn baggy shorts with liner shorts underneath, when I’d be constantly re-adjusting the liners to keep the chamois in the right location, the PRO bibs stayed put. Thumbs up, Pearl.
I’ve also taken the bibs on bike touring and bikepacking trips. They’ve been ideal for this for many reasons. Comfort? Totally. Low weight? Definitely. Ability to wear them for a few days without washing and not have your riding companions cycling 200 yards in front to keep away from the stench? Yep.
If the price tag on the PRO bib shorts is a step up from your usual bibs purchase, then I’d advise you to make the investment. They’re now my go-to pair of bibs for any kind of cycling and so, on a per-ride basis, they’re working out to be great value for money. Certainly better value than many of the cheaper bibs I’ve had.
Possibly you’re unsure whether to make the switch to bibs from strapless liner shorts. All I can say is that I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. For me, liner shorts mean constant readjustment as I cycle. Irritating and, in fact, often leaves me with skin irritation. Bib straps keep the chamois in place where it’s needed and the straps on these PRO shorts have such a barely-there feel that you’ll think you’re wearing liners anyway.
Whatever kind of cycling you do, Pearl iZUMi’s PRO bib shorts make a great choice.