The Pearl Izumi Pro Escape bib shorts have lots of up-to-date features and offer a good fit. It's a pity that, for me, the pad wasn't more comfortable over the longer ride; of course, they might suit you better.
Like the Pro Escape Short Sleeve Jersey I was testing alongside the shorts, the Pro Escape bibs use Pearl Izumi's PRO Transfer fabric for the main part of the construction. I found this resulted in a lightweight build that's comfortable to wear on long summer rides, even in the variety of weather conditions this summer has delivered.
It's augmented by a band of mesh fabric around the midriff (PRO Transfer Direct-Vent mesh to be precise) and this certainly aids in the temperature regulation around the stomach and lower back. This makes them definitely a summer pair, although if you are in the habit of mixing and matching layers then you could adapt these for cooler conditions. It's always easier to make a layer warmer than to make it cooler, I find.
The panel construction is surprisingly simple, with two symmetrical templates used to produce the whole of the lower stomach, crotch, inside leg, seat and lower back, joined by a central seam. That's kept away from your skin by the pad in all the places that really matter. The pad, sewn into this construction, puckered the material a little between the legs but this was a visual annoyance rather than a physical one, and once on, all wrinkles were pulled out. The outer thigh panels are one-piece and offer a good, supportive fit.
That leaves the upper back and straps, cut from a single piece of PRO Transfer fabric and left seamless (raw-edge in the jargon). It looks basic, but the fit is really good and the shoulder straps never threatened to roll over or bunch up. It was about as near as I have found to an 'invisible' bib. I like it.
The raw-edge approach is also applied to the leg cuffs, which have plenty of stretch and a tidy flat seam on the inner thigh. They probably would have been quite secure on their own, but Pearl Izumi has added silicone grippers for good measure.
Construction is by oversewn seams throughout. The stitching is strong but a little uneven in places. Since it's all on the inside, that hardly matters. Only the leg cuffs and underarm hems on the mesh back panel use flatlock stitching, but I had no issues of lumpiness or chafing anywhere.
One small niggle – the shorts are meant to be worn as a set with the Pro Escape Short Sleeve Jersey, but the fabrics used in each are different shades of black.
I would be writing about one of the more comfortable pairs of shorts I've yet tested if it wasn't for one thing – the pad. This is Pearl Izumi's own 'P.R.O. Escape 1:1™ Chamois with floating top sheet', which, it claims, 'delivers unmatched comfort'. It's a simple affair – at least to look at – with no messing around with inserts or multi-panels. There's certainly plenty of thickness where it matters, but I think the problem – for me anyway – is that it lacks density. After 30 miles or so I was beginning to wriggle around in the saddle, which is never a good sign. After 50 I was standing up on climbs, not because I needed the power boost but to give my backside a rest and get the blood flowing again.
Pad comfort is, of course, subjective and certainly for many a shorter ride I found these just the job. There's a lot of choice out there, though: for £45 less you could have the Endura 90s, or, closer in price but still a £25 saving, the Santini Magos, contenders for Mike's 'bib shorts of the year'.
Lots of good features, a tidy fit, and comfy for up to four hours – maybe even longer for you...
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Pearl Izumi Pro Escape Bib Short
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
From Pearl Izumi's website: "The Men's P.R.O. Escape Bib Short combines luxurious fabric and our premium P.R.O. Escape 1:1™ Chamois to make it a cycling bib short that is crafted for adventures on both known routes and new roads."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Again, from PI:
New P.R.O. Transfer fabric provides superior comfort and optimal moisture transfer
P.R.O. Transfer Direct-Vent mesh bib upper provides optimal moisture transfer, dry time and odor absorption
New P.R.O. Escape 1:1™ Chamois with floating top sheet design delivers unmatched comfort
Anatomic multi-panel design
Raw edge fabric at leg opening for soft stretch comfort with silicone for added grip
Sculpted raw edge bib upper with mesh panels for breathable comfort
BioViz™ reflective elements for low-light visibility
BioViz™ Screaming color option for added daylight visibility
9.5" inseam [size medium]
Body: 46% nylon 38% polyester 16% LYCRA® elastane, Weight: 225 g/m2; Mesh: 89% polyester 11% elastane, Weight: 175 g/m2, Technology: Minerale™ (in bib mesh); Printed Lower Panels: 82% polyester 18% LYCRA® elastane; Made in Vietnam
Sizes: S, M, L, XL, XXL
Some of the overstitching of the seams was a little uneven, but that didn't affect the strength. The attachment of the pad is tidy enough but rather basic. Otherwise, very good.
A lightweight summer bib that's well ventilated and a good fit. Performed very well on rides up to about four hours, but for me the pad lacked enough density to remain comfortable over longer rides.
I see no reason why this shouldn't give a few seasons' reliable wear.
Snug and wrinkle-free. I found them a little short in the legs but I could easily have sized up.
I found them slightly smaller than previous PI kit; I'm used to buying medium but I think this time I would probably have chosen large. That's not a reflection on Pearl Izumi's sizing guidance, though.
Very good up to around four hours, after which I started to feel the saddle through the pad.
They should provide lots of riding and, if you can get on with the pad, would be worth an extra point in this department. But I've worn well-made, more comfortable shorts that cost considerably less.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
These are well made from robust fabrics and washed well without any special care.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Faultless in most departments, these shorts have lots going for them. For me personally, I'd like Pearl Izumi to look again at the pad to make it as comfortable as the shorts it adorns.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
I liked the raw-edge shoulder straps, the well-ventilated back panel and the overall snug fit.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The pad was only moderately comfortable for me. The Pearl Izumi squiggles seem strangely placed on the inside front of the thighs, like two eyes gazing out.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes, up to around 50 miles.
Would you consider buying the product? If they were £40 cheaper, yes.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Worth considering.
Use this box to explain your score
Pad comfort is a personal thing, but for me these started to let me know about the saddle around the half-day point. If you are a pro or super-fit club rider you may already have covered 100 miles by this point, in which case that may be good enough for you. The shorts have lots of other good features that make them worth considering.
About the tester
I usually ride: Cannondale CAAD10 My best bike is: Tomassini Prestige
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: touring, sportives, general fitness riding, mountain biking