These were certainly interesting bibs that we were excited to learn about and test out. Across the board, they measured at least as good as the average product on the market, but they have a few qualities that stand out from the field and definitely make them worth a look. Pearl Izumi claims that their ELITE Transfer In-R-Cool fabric and Direct-Vent mesh make for a bib with superior breathability and cooling. We were glad to see that those claims not only held up, but pushed these to the top of our breathability scale. These bibs did a fantastic job of staying cool and breathing. We also found that they had superior durability, which is owed to their panel design and seam placement as well as the strong fibers used in their fabric.The Elite In-R-Cool are a mixed bag of strong qualities and averages. Those in moist climates or with specific preferences for breathable clothes will and should be drawn to these bibs. Likewise, the guys who insist on buying one thing to last, no matter its high-end qualities, should take a look at these. It might not have a ton of beauty or outstanding padding, but it will last for a lot of seasons. We think the most comparable product to these was the Gore Power 3.0 bib, which didn't quite stack up in terms of durability or especially breathability, but performed better in comfort, padding, efficiency, and had better style and it even came at a better price. Even so, we think the Pearl Izumi Bibs are a good product and worth a look.
Pearl Izumi Elite In-R-Cool Bibs Review
Cons: Plain look, not very flexible, padding lacks firmness
Manufacturer: Pearl Izumi
Our Analysis and Test Results
TheElite In-R-Cool Bibs are unmatched in breathability and come with great durability. They didn't win any awards, but the company is really pushing its innovative edge in fabrics and design. We hope they'll build on the successes of this product to put out even better products in future editions. We think there are riders out there who will benefit from the breathability and appreciate the longevity of these bibs. Read on to see how they did against the rest of our field.
These bibs are a very down-to-business, no-nonsense, shimmery black. Social roadies and group riders tend to appreciate a bit of color, but the solo riders sometimes tend toward the utilitarian monotone. There is a slight reflective logo on each leg gripper to break up the monotony and enhance visibility. Their cut and form fit are pretty average, though the wide leg gripper will set their wearer apart from the local freds.
We felt that the Gore Power 3.0 and Evolution Pro were both more stylish bibs that offered more color options and might be a better fit for someone looking to stand out in a group ride. The Louis Garneau C B Carbon 2 shorts topped our charts with extremely attractive shorts which used bold panel designs, multi-textured cloth, and come in multiple colors.
If you are concerned about breathability and keeping cool, these top scoring bibs are for you. On this measure, no other bibs or shorts could touch these. Pearl Izumi claims that its ELITE Transfer In-R-Cool fabric with coldblack reflects heat, provides 50 UPF sun protection, and transfers moisture to the exterior of the fabric for superior evaporation. This really seemed to hold up. For one, they use a blend of 8% polyester, which is itself hydrophobic. But after a single spin session, it was clear that the bibs were not soaked - most of the moisture was blown away by the fans or on the ground. These really were tops in breathability and none of the other products could quite compare. Just below these were the SUGOi Evolution Pro Bibs, followed by the Gore Power 3.0 Bibs, and the Zoot Sports Active Tri.
Padding and Protection
Pearl Izumi uses the ELITE 3D Chamois in these bibs. They include variable density padding up to 13mm, including a perineal channel. These were nicer than the average on the market, but they brought up the rear of our pack. The pad is on the thicker side of padding, but as we pointed out in our Zoot Active Tri shorts review, thicker, cushier padding isn't necessarily the key to good padding. Better examples of padding can be found in the Louis Garneau CB Carbon 2 shorts for shorter distances and the SUGOi Evolution Pro shorts for longer distances.
Comfort and Fit
One of the unfortunate downsides of having such a strong pair of bibs is that their toughness makes for greater resistance to stretch and adjusting. There is nothing more confounding than driving an hour out for a ride, already being somewhat sweaty, and trying to pull uncooperative bibs up in a hot parking lot under a towel, then spending a minute or two spot-adjusting being the legs are stuck in place instead of sliding into a more comfortable spot when you do a quick stretch and twist. In much the same as the Gore Power 3.0 had a small waist area, these also suffer from too little room to allow for comfortable adjusting.
Another interesting detail was their leg gripper scheme featuring small bands of silicone. It is certainly creative and unique, but they lacked uniformity and were pretty annoying. The Power 3.0 grippers employed the time-tested exposed elastic and gave a solid performance. The Canari Velo shorts employed a double silicone band that absolutely did not budge.
Efficiency and Pedal Friendliness
The Elite In-R-Cool Bib is made up of 80% nylon, 8% polyester, and 12% spandex. That high nylon content and comparably high polyester makeup create a very tough material that will take a lot of abuse. Because the Pearl Izumi fabric is so strong and tough, it sacrifices some of the more flexible qualities of the spandex. This translates to tight bibs that fight you when you try to get in and out of them and when you need to get a full range of motion, especially apparent when standing to climb or attack.
A better choice for efficient and pedal friendly bibs are the Gore Power 3.0 bibs, which offer comparable durability. Our favorite choice for this measure is the SUGOi Evolution Pro Bib, which has a significantly higher mix of spandex to really flex and move with the legs.
One of the things we loved most about the Pearl Izumi bibs was their seam design. Their seams were largely protected from outside wear, especially notable along the inner thighs and saddle region. Some of the other shorts and bibs had exposed stitching in that area, which made them vulnerable to quick wear and seam degradation. An example of that is the Performance Elite bib, which saw many negative reviews across the internet complaining of exactly that problem - and we saw it after just a few rides.
These bibs actually earned the top score in this field, coming in ahead of the Best Bang for the Buck winning Gore Power 3.0 bibs. We think if your goal is to have a product that will take years of abuse, the Pearl Izumi are probably your best bet, but the Gore Power 3.0 come at a better price and give better performance with durability that is still pretty high.
The Elite In-R-Cool Bibs are best suited to mid-distance riding in the heat. They have great sun protection qualities to protect the skin that's usually neglected under your kit and work hard to gather up moisture and send it off into the air along with any excess heat. As we previously noted, they have fairly cushy padding, which makes them pretty comfortable for an hour to 90 minutes, but as the road noise accumulates and the miles go by, it would be nicer to have a firmer pad to dampen that noise and a little less cushion.
The Elite In-R-Cool bibs retail for $135.00. We think this is paying a premium for the durable, high-performance fabrics alone. If users are concerned about extra UPF protection (no shame in that), breathability, and high durability, the price is easily justified. But we think that there are other products that might not be as durable or breathable, but deliver other qualities that make them better options. The SUGOi Evolution Pro bibs have a high degree of breathability, superior comfort, padding, style, and pedal friendliness, and retail for only $120. The Gore Power 3.0 retail for $119 and also offer a good degree of breathability and durability, as well as superior fit, pedal friendliness, and style.
Overall, this is a good bib with some outstanding features, but we think Pearl Izumi can work through some of its shortcomings and come out with a more versatile product in future releases. It did really well in durability and breathability, which are extremely important for riders looking to get a lot of use out of their bibs. In style, padding, fit, and efficiency, these bibs did about average or maybe a little better than average and those performance aspects really make shorts worth the investment - durable and breathable or not.
— Ryan Baham