Sugoi RSE Bibs

RSE Bibs

Before I begin addressing the Sugoi RSE bibs specifically, I want to make a general statement about cycling shorts. Compared to what was available 20 years ago, today’s bib shorts are barely distant cousins. Few items have evolved as thoroughly (frames, wheels and helmets deserve a nod) in the last two decades as cycling shorts. To everyone who has had a hand in this, my entire undercarriage thanks you.

When I think back on the best stuff I had to wear 20 years ago, the RSE bibs would have been an off-the-chart hit had they been around then. Hell, back then bibs were still exotic; the shops I worked for all stocked regular shorts and if you wanted bibs, they were a special order item. Even 10 years ago, these would have been Prius (Pria?) among Ford Torinos. But it’s not the past, thankfully, and even the worst bibs out there are acceptable for two hours.

It’s summer, so I want to talk a bit about wicking. I encounter a lot of garments, both bibs and jerseys that claim to wick better than your garden-variety kit. Rarely do they turn out to actually keep me drier. The relative humidity of my environment makes an order magnitude greater difference than any fabric ever has. Put another way, when I lived in the desert everything wicked well. When I ride in Memphis, nothing wicks well.

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I don’t expect a lot from a pair of bibs. To keep me happy, all you really need to do is use a fabric covering the chamois that will wick enough to keep me from feeling like I’m wearing swim trunks. And this isn’t something that happens by degrees. I’ve noticed that if I’ve been out for more than four hours and the pad isn’t keeping me dry, my hindquarters will get uncomfortable due to moisture on my skin. Keep me dry and it doesn’t happen. It’s pretty simple.

The FXE pad used in the RSE bibs features a center channel for pressure relief, an anti-microbial cover cut from Meryl Skinlife (which is what helped keep me reasonably dry) and four-way stretch to keep the bibs moving with your body. It’s also worth noting the the construction was laminar, meaning the layers weren’t sewn together. I encounter a lot of shorts where the pad seems good until you enter the fourth hour. With the RSE bibs, the thickest foam is reserved for the sit bones, while there’s still enough under the perineum to allow you to roll your hips and not feel like you’re riding some witch’s broomstick. I was pleasantly surprised by this one. It’s better than anything Sugoi has ever used in the past, the way Ernest Hemingway is better than Jackie Collins. Not really worth the conversation.

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The construction of the bibs features a combination of flat-locked and laminated seams. It reduces bulk, which gives two benefits. First, it reduces the amount of material that can hold sweat, which helps keep you drier, and thus, more comfortable and second it reduces the irritation on your skin that can come from traditional serge or overlock seams. And the patterning is such that they eliminated the traditional inseam that runs down the inside of the thigh, to result in less chafing. The straps of the bibs are cut from a knit material that doesn’t require a finishing hem to keep it from unraveling. Nearly every manufacturer has a piece that uses this stuff, but Sugoi, to give the straps a bit more structure, laminated a second layer of material to each edge. It reduces stretch to better keep the bibs in place. The practice of laminating a second, narrow, strip of material is used at the top of the short to add durability.

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At the back of the bibs just above the waist is a radio pocket with a buttonhole for the cable plus an extra guide loop at the top of the bibs. It’s all very well done, but it strikes me as about as useful as a second speed of reverse on a family sedan. When are you going to use it? Not many riders actually need a race radio at this point and for those who use a music player when you’re riding (this is something I do, but only when mountain biking), you’d never be able to change the music or adjust the volume if your player is in that pocket. Great execution but something I don’t see many people putting to use.

The leg grippers feature the same clean-edge knit found elsewhere in the bibs, only here there’s no extra layer of material laminated at the edge. The shorts are either all black or all white except for at the gripper, which is the one place where some sublimation is used for branding. The bands feature a weave with the silicone integrated into the fabric, so that it’s not a few dots to tug on your skin. The upside is that these bands don’t budge unless you’ve got embro on your leg. The bad news is because these bibs are cut to feature some compression, getting these bibs all the way up is a challenge. I kept readjusting even when out of the road to make sure that the chamois was properly docked in the harbor.

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So how much compression do they offer? I would otherwise swear I had worn the wrong size, but according to their sizing guideline a guy with a 32-inch waist should be wearing a medium and medium I had. Put another way, don’t even dream of making a quick potty stop with these things on. You’ll need to ditch your jersey and pull the straps down (the front of the bibs rose above my belly button). To get them on, I advise using either embrocation or a shoe horn. With continued use I came to the conclusion that I’d be more comfortable going up one size and the act of pulling these one probably wouldn’t take five minutes. So like I said, while their sizing guidelines put me and my 32-inch waist in a medium, I’d be happier in a large. That also fits with my experience with other brands: If I wear their medium jersey, I’ll be a large in their bibs, and with the RSE jersey, their medium fit me. Me and my big, fat, American ass.

The RSE bibs go for $230 and come in two colors (black or white) and five sizes (small through 2XL).  That might seem like a lot for a pair of bibs from a brand that isn’t first-tier, but these are as well made as anything at this price point. Except for how tight they are overall, the cut was good for me in that they allowed more room in the caboose for my aforementioned hindquarters than does a pair of bibs from some brands, such as Castelli. Were I shopping for a set, I’d try both the recommended size and the next larger size. My greatest concern about these bibs (and the jersey) isn’t the sizing, though. I wonder how many shops are going to sign on as dealers for Sugoi. My suspicion is that they’ll mostly be Cannondale dealers, and while that will help signal likely outlets, the RSE bibs and jersey deserve broad exposure. They are better than much of what I see people wearing.

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10 comments

  1. Jay Fromkin

    I’m diabetic. The race radio pocket would be a great place to stash my insulin pump, rather than just clipping it on to the side of my bibs. I’ll have to take a look at these.

  2. Les Borean

    I’m not diabetic but I can always use another pocket. Especially now that I’m stuffing my jersey pockets with Food Zone Portables snacks.

    A lot of the description here would apply also to my Giordana EXO’s, which is a line specifically designed for bodily compression.

    I wasn’t cycling 10 or 20 years ago, so I can’t draw my own comparisons, however I really do appreciate the brilliant design of the modern bib. Riding with a super comfy bib and feasting on the Portables, I feel quite cushy while immersed the pain and suffering of a grueling ride.

  3. Keith Hatounian

    I agree with most of the article. I have been cycling long enough to remember wearing wool with an animal skin chamois. I am not sure how I stayed on my bike for 100+ miles back then compared to wearing the modern bibs I use now. This statement is incorrect. “you’d never be able to change the music or adjust the volume if your player is in that pocket” If you are using an Apple device and a set of earbuds that support it you can use the inline remote and VoiceOver to hear Song Name, Navigate Songs, etc. I use the Bose SIE2i which support this. My iPod goes in my back pocket for rides and I have complete control on the remote never touching it.

  4. BR

    Great description of these fantastic bibs. One thing I wanted to point out is SUGOI has been making performance apparel for over 25 years now with distribution through North America. So any SUGOI products can be found at over 1700 bicycle dealers, not just Cannondale dealers.

  5. Dave

    $230 for a pair of bibs? Sorry, I’ve got kids to feed, medical bills to pay and a future to save for, not to mention day-to-day expenses. There are a lot of good less-expensive options.

    Don’t mean to be a “troll” but let’s be real!


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Thanks for the comments everyone. I should add that Sugoi has a completely separate sales team from Cannondale and the rest of Dorel’s holdings, so while I’ve tended to see them in Cannondale dealers, that’s not the only place you’ll find the line.

      Mike Hogan: I measure the inseam at 10″; they definitely didn’t seem short in the wearing.

      Dave: The only way not to be a troll is not to troll. The comments section is meant to be a place to further conversation. No one is saying you need to spend $230 on a pair of bibs, but only a troll complains about quality. I suggest you not tune in when I review the Assos Fi.13 bibs if you are unable to avoid trolling.

  6. Darwin

    Yeah Dave did not complain about quality so relax, consider decaf.
    Boure makes very nice shorts, made in American and half the cost of these but I bet just as good quality if not better.

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