Years ago, when Castelli’s Nanoflex Thermal Bibs were introduced I found myself actively wishing for rain. I know this makes my judgment sound questionable, but I’ll plead that it was all in the spirit of journalistic duty. Or some such. The thing about the Nanoflex Thermal Bibs is that they, like all Castelli bibs are cut for people with a less ample caboose than the one I was blessed with. As a result the fit was never quite right. They were too tight across my cheeks and as a result, pulled tight up front, leaving less room in the man cave than was necessary.
Pearl, I’m pleased to report, is more than happy to cut their bottoms to accommodate one’s junky trunk. Like the Pursuit tights, the P.R.O. Escape Thermal Bib Shorts use the PI Dry fabric making these bibs the ultimate in secret weapons. They make look like ordinary bibs, but the combination of water resistance and thermal fabric make these ideal for rides in the fall, winter and spring where conditions are either drying out or could turn wet. The Roubaix fabric used in both garments is pleasantly stout; it weighs in at 261g/m² (9.2 oz.). In an age when the weight-obsessed are asking for lighter jerseys and bibs, I like having bibs that use a heavier fabric. I’ve fallen and on occasion hip-checked a tree and one of the great things about thermal bibs is how they almost never show any wear.
The P.R.O. Escape 1:1 pad features a floating top sheet to allow more natural movement as you ride. The difference it makes isn’t huge but I do detect a bit more freedom of movement when I get out of the saddle. The pad itself is cut from a high-density foam that has proven to be comfortable on a five-hour ride. gripper elastic isn’t so grippy that you need to cite the legs for loitering to get the gripper to move. Some bibs I’ve worn in the last year won’t move no matter whose name you invoke.
While the bibs come only in black, they do features some reflective hits so that you can be seen by any driver whose lights are on and eyes are on the road. Big caveats, I know, but there’s only so much Pearl can do. The bibs come in five sizes (S-XXL) and I, with my 32-inch waist, wear the medium. The mediums have a 9.5-inch inseam, just a bit longer than some of the bibs I encounter; for cold-weather riding, I do like my thermal bibs to have a longer inseam.
The P.R.O. Escape Thermal Bibs go for $175. Considering that they are both thermal and water-resistant, I think that’s a killer deal.
Pearl gives an effective temperature range of 50 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit. I agree that 65 degrees is about as warm a day as you’d ever want to wear these. However, 50 degrees is the practical floor for these, temperature-wise, only if you don’t add knee or leg warmers, or embrocation. Combined with warmers or embro, these are useful down into the low 40s. And on really cold days, I’ll pull thermal bibs over a pad-less pair of thermal tights. And while I don’t face the prospect of riding in freezing temperatures more than once or twice a year, I don’t see me going outside on a frosty day without thermal bibs in conjunction with tights.
I’ve gotten some questions about just how dry Pearl Izumi’s PI Dry fabric will keep you. I’m impressed with the fabric, but the dividing line between what it can do and what it won’t do is stark. For splashes and misty weather, PI Dry will prevent your but from getting doused. However, if you’re riding on a road covered in water from rain, it won’t solve a soggy chamois. You’ll need a fender for that.
Final thought: Is there a more obvious piece to add to a winter wardrobe?