When I got back on the bike in 2004 (health issues, another post, another time), it became necessary to do it in a way that would not take too much of a toll on my not-20something-anymore body. Clipless pedals/shoes, a bike that was not on the verge of falling apart, and something that would make it easier to sit once I got to work: The bib short.
The first foray into cycling apparel was the Performance Century Gel Bib Short, something that got me by until the saddle felt like less of an anvil and more like a, well, bicycle seat. A few months later, the local Performance store had a clearance on Santini Heineken badged bibs ($10 each, XL), which have served me well until now. They have been ridden to the point where I feel better riding with messenger shorts over the top in case of a catastrophic tear.
Since the cycling renaissance, I have ridden Performance Gel, Santini (my favorite), De Marchi, Nashbar Premium (now defunct) and now the Performance Ultra II. The original Performance Gel bib was a bit short on the thigh and baggy in odd places – the diaper bib. The De Marchi’s fit well, but the Lycra was a bit thin (still wearing these), and the chamois still looks brand spanking new. The Santini’s, while cut long in the thigh like I like them, had a very comfortable chamois, but it broke down a little too quickly. The Nashbar has nice thick Lycra, but was sized way too big and the chamois was like cardboard, but acceptable.
Performance bibs have been reviewed well over the years, but I never spent more than $30 on a pair, until now. There is a 50% off sale through Sunday on Performance brand bibs (among other things), so I rolled on down and grabbed a couple pairs of the Ultra II for $44.95 each. After this morning’s ride, I am a fan. The Material is thicker without being heavy, the compression is superior even to my favorite Santini’s, and the pad/chamois is barely noticeable despite being the firmest one I have ridden on. I have gone from an XL being almost too small to a Medium in this bib (235 lbs to 185 lbs), and probably could have gone with a Large, but the compression and stability of this material is just plain awesome. The silicone leg grippers stick to my thigh better than any other liner I have used. The final touch is the flatlock white stitching that really makes the bib look great, instead of just flat black.
One of the things rarely found in reviews of apparel is the size of the reviewer, and this makes online shopping difficult. It’s also hard to walk in and try on something that comes in direct contact with the nether regions, so there’s always a little guesswork involved.
To sum it up, at 6’1″ and 185 lbs the Medium is a little snug, but not at all uncomfortable. I think the Large would have been too long in the strap. It is only a ten mile review, but past experience with several brands of bib I think qualify it as a fair sample of comfort. Run, don’t walk to Performance if you are in the market for new shorts/bibs. This is money well spent.
…and be sure to either hand wash or at least machine wash on delicate and hang dry.