Hot Cheeks: Pearl Izumi Pursuit Thermal Bib Tights

Hot Cheeks: Pearl Izumi Pursuit Thermal Bib Tights

Winter has arrived in Northern California. This isn’t winter in the classic make-a-snowman and shovel the drive scenario. It is, by the standards set throughout most of the U.S., not verifiably winter. What defines winter in the North Bay are days where the temperature may only drift up or down by 12 or 14 degrees, rather than 30 or 40. Also, winter is marked by a noticeable uptick in rain. So while we can go two or three months with no rain at all, in the winter we can’t seem to go more than two or three days without some rain. In last winter’s record-breaking precipitation (for Santa Rosa, anyway), I managed to kill a drive-side pedal and bottom bracket bearing in a single, rainy, five-hour base-mile ride.

I commented to a friend the other day that riding in the rain is when you know you’re really a cyclist. That’s love. It’s the cyclist’s equivalent of cleaning the bathroom with your sweetie.

And honestly, I’d almost rather clean the bathroom than ride in the rain. Fortunately, I’ve encountered some stuff that is making riding in our wet weather much less unpleasant. Of late, I’ve been wearing Pearl Izumi’s Pursuit Thermal Bib Tights. What makes this piece noteworthy is Pearl Izumi’s use of the PI Dry fabric. This is a brushed-finish fabric that receives a water-resistant treatment that causes water to bead up and run off the garment. And while PI Dry is water resistant rather than waterproof, I’ve watched water poured on the material sit on top of it and not soak through.

It may seem counterintuitive, but I don’t tend to wear tights in wet weather. The sages who trained me advocated embrocation over knee warmers in the cold and wet, with application running from thigh to ankle. The reasoning was that knee warmers simply soak up water and while they were warmer than nothing, holding that cold water against your skin didn’t do you any favors. Tights were just more of a not helpful thing. The Pursuit Thermal Bib Tights are a welcome exception.

These bib tights come chamois-included, using Pearl’s Elite Pursuit 1:1 pad, which features four-way stretch and a high density foam that has kept me comfortable on a three-hour ride. The front of the tights features Elite AmFIB Softshell for protection against the wind as well as the rain. When I reviewed Pearl Izumi’s P.R.O. Pursuit Bib Tights last year I admitted that I had some trouble getting the tights to sit right, to stay up high enough that the pad stayed against my skin, rather than pulling away. Fundamentally, the fit issue had to do with the lack of stretch in the legs due to the windproof fabric they were cut from. I’m pleased to note that the Pursuit tights don’t have that issue. Pull ’em up and they stay up. Short zippers at the ankles allow you to pull your socks on after you have donned the tights, a handy thing in my eyes as I’m bad about thinking through what socks I should wear until after I have selected my kit.

I’ve done two hours in these tights, waterproof socks, a rain jacket and on a bike with a rear fender and arrived home damp only from my perspiration. In a driving rain, with no fender, the spray off your rear wheel would eventually soak the chamois, but when I rode on still-wet asphalt following rain my butt stayed dry.

I’ve got such a long-standing issue with tights pulling down, that I normally only wear pad-less tights and then put them on before my bibs to make sure they can’t pull down and catch on my saddle. Because the Pursuit Thermal Bib Tights fit so well and help me stay dry when I might otherwise go soggy I can say they are my favorite pad-included tights ever. That they can be this good and only cost $160 amazes me.

Pearl says the normal operating range for these tights is 45 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s stingy, in my view. I’ve been comfortable in these at 42 degrees and didn’t melt when the mercury rose into the low 60s. Cheers to Pearl for including reflective elements and three BioViz Screaming Yellow panels for increased visibility. I’m seriously tired of companies sending all-black garments. I’d like to survive my rides.

The tights come in five sizes (S-XXL); I wear the medium. They come in both an all-black version, plus the black and yellow edition, seen here.

Final thought: So tight I’ll use them.


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    1. Author

      When conditions get super-cold, go to Assos. No one does cold gear the way they do. A pair of the Habu tights combined with thermal bibs will get you through weather that cold. Your lower half, anyway.

  1. Tominalbany

    I may have to try these come spring in Albany! I appreciate the review and the comparator to Pearl’s other tights.

  2. Winky

    A set of PI AmFib tights lasted me for years. These look good, too. I just hope that the green fabric that covers the upper crackal areas is of sufficient thickness and opacity.

    1. Author

      Meant to mention that in the review: I had someone sit on my wheel and tell me if they got any plumber effect. Nope.

      As to the hi-viz fabric, if it gets really dirty, a soak in Simple Green will do wonders.

  3. Ron Reed

    Which Assos tights do you recommend? Here in Seattle WA it’s a real harsh winter thus far. It’s been cold and very wet. I’m overwhelmed by the variety of products available out there and don’t have the cash to buy a boatload of pricey gear to see what actually works!

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