Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Thermal Bib Shorts - review
Versatile fleece-lined bib shorts for spring and winter riding
by George Scott
I don't like three-quarter bib knicks (or three-quarter tights - whatever you want to call them). There, I've admitted it. The size, the look and the fit - with the odd exception - doesn't do it for me. That can make the transition from winter bib tights to shorts a tricky one.
Combining bib shorts and leg or knee warmers - particularly Roubaix-lined knee warmers - works to an extent, but, while your lower leg may stay warm, cool air will penetrate regular Lycra shorts. Thermal bib shorts offer a solution.
These fleece-lined shorts from Pearl Izumi - the clothing arm of Shimano - weigh 336 g/m2 so are significantly denser than regular shorts without feeling too heavy or restrictive. The shorts are also fairly long in the leg, which is useful when combining with leg/knee warmers as intended. The bib straps are made from what Pearl Izumi call a "Direct-Vent" material, a 52 per cent Minerale polyester and 48 per cent polyester mix which they say "provides superior ventilation". In reality that translates to straps which are wide (two and a half inches) and offer plenty of support and I didn't feel myself getting particularly hot and sweaty under straps which are wider than the norm.
Flatlock seams sit comfortably next to the skin, as does the PRO Seamless 4D Chamois. The pad is 13mm deep and there's plenty of technology packed into it, like the active carbon yarns which are said to "improve thermoregulation and eliminate static induced fatigue." What matters, though, is that the pad is comfortable over long rides. It's also worth noting the positive amount of reflective material, with six areas of reflective detail spread across the back and sides of the shorts.
Pearl Izumi kit is generously sized, in my experience - and these shorts are no exception. While I'm normally a size medium, and sometimes a large in kit from some Continental manufacturers, a medium in these left significant excess material - the dreaded baggy Lycra - around the back of the leg when off the bike, particularly if you don't have legs like Thor Hushovd. When in the hunched riding position we adopt on the bike - where, of course, the shorts are meant to be worn - it was less noticeable and the fit was comfortable, with the excess material stretched across the body, seams in the correct place and the various panels working as they should.
These shorts have got plenty of use through back-end of winter - that means they've gone through the washing machine plenty of times and show no sign of wear - and they will continue to do so through the start of spring, particularly on early morning rides and now we've returned to temperatures we're more familiar with a this time of year. So thermal bib shorts make for a versatile item of clothing, particularly if bib knicks aren't your bag. The £109.99 retail price attached to these shorts places them midway between equivalent offerings from Wiggle's value-conscious dhb brand and Rapha's high-end Pro Team range. More realistic sizing would seal the deal on an otherwise impressive offering, so be cautious when ordering and consider going down a size.