Hands-on Gear Review

Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Escape Bib Review

Top Pick Award
Price:  $170 List | $169.95 at MooseJaw
Compare prices at 4 resellers
Pros:  Streamlined design, flexible, breathable, very comfortable
Cons:  Pricey, thinner padding, limited color and style options
Bottom line:  Premium performance bibs that dominate on short rides.
Editors' Rating:   
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Main Fabric:  46% nylon, 38% polyester, 16% Lycra elastane
Inseam Measurement (inches):  9.5"
Number of panels:  8
Manufacturer:   Pearl Izumi

Our Verdict

The Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Escape bib shorts ended up being our go-to shorts for rides in the 30-mile range. They looked good, felt quick, and were liberating on hot, fast rides. They aren't workhorses; they're quarter horses. They were great on shorter rides and fine on longer ones, but excelled on rides in the 30-mile range, bringing them the Top Pick for Short Course Award. An excellent combination of high-tech fibers and intelligent design allowed them to breathe so you're always cool and flex, and free and comfortable. Their multi-layered chamois is rated by many users, employing a handful of clever designs and technologies to maximize comfort without compromising breathability or durability. We were delighted to wear these and feel that most riders will be equally as happy.


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Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Ryan Baham

Last Updated:
Tuesday
May 29, 2018

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After weeks of research, analysis, and testing, we were able to break these down across our measures to bring you the rundown you need before plunking down your cash. Read on to see how they did against the top products on the market.

Performance Comparison



Style


Well, the world has seen prettier bib shorts, but these shorts are all about performance, which we'll get the chance to cover in later sections. At their price, if you're more worried about style than performance, you should probably be more concerned about why you aren't wearing a team kit. They have a few color choices with a stripe across the thigh: reddish, yellowish, light blueish. No one would accuse them of being creative with it, but again, these are performance shorts for serious riders.


If you are in the market for showy shorts, we suggest looking at last year's Editors' Choice winners, the SUGOi Evolution Pro Bib Shorts, whose Euro design fits into the peloton quite well. If you want to turn heads and impress, we suggest looking at the uniquely designed Louis Garneau CB Carbon 2.

They're not the sexiest shorts on the road  but the P.R.O. Escapes are just fine for the local rides.
They're not the sexiest shorts on the road, but the P.R.O. Escapes are just fine for the local rides.

Breathability


This was a difficult measure to effectively assess for these bibs. They really excelled in the body of the material, but retained more moisture in the padding than is ideal - and more than some of its competitors, notably the Pearl Izumi Quest Splice, which had slightly cushion in its padding. It uses a high mix of hydrophobic polyester in its blend - 38% polyester and P.R.O. Transfer Direct-Vent mesh in the upper to keep the trunk aerated, dry, and cool. Even though the padding retained a bit of moisture, they still dried out really well and weren't too hot out on the road.


Given their mix of body and chamois breathability, they scored alongside the Pearl Izumi Quest Splice bibs whose streamlined chamois allowed superior ventilation but had slightly less breathable body fabric. Scoring just above them were the SUGOi Evolution bibs with their thin design and 18% blend of hydrophobic polyester. They might be a better option for heavy sweaters or damp climates. If you want to go to the top shelf in breathability, you need to look at the Pearl Izumi Elite In-R-Cool bibs, which use a mix of 8% polyester and a fantastic material called ELITE Transfer In-R-Cool fabric to keep you cool while effectively wicking away moisture and drying quickly.

Breathable  cool shorts are always appreciated when you look down and find your entire leg is a sheet of sweat beads.
Breathable, cool shorts are always appreciated when you look down and find your entire leg is a sheet of sweat beads.

Padding and Protection


As expected in high-performance racing apparel, Pearl Izumi brings its top of the line premium P.R.O. Escape 1:1 chamois to the peloton for these. They use a multi-layer high-density foam to relieve the sitting bits and a free-floating top sheet to allow the fabric to form to your skin instead of allowing chafe and rubbing. They generally lived up to expectations, avoiding that overcrowding feel that sometimes happens with hard or excessive padding, but they did tend to bunch up a bit and could have stood to have a slightly thicker layer of padding. That said, most riders are pleased with these and truth be told, those of us who spend a bit too much time at the brewery and not enough time on the road probably don't fare as well as those closer to the bantamweight class.


As well as these did, there were still a few others that could be preferable or provide alternatives based on their other qualities. Notable options include the Louis Garneau Carbon 2 shorts, which picked up last year's Top Pick for Short Course and the Louis Garneau Fit Sensor 2. Padding and chamois ventilation typically go hand-in-hand, so if you're looking for something with more ventilation and padding, you probably found it in the P.R.O. Escape. The only other selection that did better in both fields was the SUGOi Evolution, topping the chart with fantastic chamois ventilation and comfortable, form-fitting foam padding.

It's difficult to tell  but this chamois includes three layers of premium foam and padding to keep your tail in the saddle and comforted.
It's difficult to tell, but this chamois includes three layers of premium foam and padding to keep your tail in the saddle and comforted.

Comfort and Fit


These were definitely among the best-fitting shorts in the lineup. The first thing you notice when you straighten out the shoulder straps is their broad, smooth edges that prevent rub, chafe, and nipple Band-Aids - something you'll appreciate on hot rides after the salt starts to cake. The next thing to notice is the gripper, which effectively grasps the leg to prevent riding up, but they might be a bit too grippy, causing you to fuss and adjust from time to time. But what they really have going for them is their flexible, second skin feel, created by the fine velvety P.R.O. Transfer fabric made up of 16% Lycra, 38% polyester, and a finishing base of nylon.


There are not many superior options to these. They ranked alongside the Best Bang for the Buck winning Quest Splice bib, which Pearl Izumi also endowed with well-fitting, adaptive fabric. If you are on a budget, we suggest looking at the Splice, but if you can afford to go top shelf, take a closer look at the P.R.O. Escapes. The top spot is occupied by the Editors' Choice SUGOi Evolution, which combine the right panel design and fabric makeup to deliver what we feel is the most comfortable bib shorts out there.

The Louis Garneau Sensor 2s (left)  Izumi P.R.O. Escape (middle)  and Izumi Quest Splice (right).
The Louis Garneau Sensor 2s (left), Izumi P.R.O. Escape (middle), and Izumi Quest Splice (right).

Efficiency and Pedal Friendliness


This quality comes from tightness so as not to interfere with your pistons by getting caught on the saddle, bunching up, wrinkling, or anything else that will be annoying or slow you down, but not so tight or firm as to restrain you or make you feel sluggish. This is a field where these excel. This can be largely attributed to their mix of 38% polyester, which increases resistance to fraying, piling, and other degradation that could cause the shorts to stretch and sag. Their tight-fit design also takes advantage of that fabric mix to keep the shorts malleable, but skin-tight and out of the way.


These are at the top of the range for this measure, so if you're looking for a more efficient, friendly pair of shorts, you won't find any. They scored alongside other overall high scorers like the Best Bang for the Buck winner, Izumi Quest Splice and the Editors' Choice winner, SUGOi Evolution Pro. If you are looking for an excellent pair of bib shorts that will tear it up on your shorter training rides and races, we recommend sticking with these. If you're after a model that will last a long while and won't cost you a fortune, take a look at the Quest Splice. For longer rides and all-around training, we recommend the SUGOi.

Yes  that is the look of a man who is standing in extremely comfortable bib shorts. Yes  we see he's awkwardly standing without a jersey and no bike in sight.
Yes, that is the look of a man who is standing in extremely comfortable bib shorts. Yes, we see he's awkwardly standing without a jersey and no bike in sight.

Durability


Lycra and polyester can help imbue these with fantastic flexibility, moisture wicking, and breathability, but that means the strongest material, nylon, makes up only 46%, compared to other shorts like the more durable Quest Splice, where nylon makes up 88% of the body. That said, the material didn't appear to wear down in the high-abrasion inner-thigh region. It's also helpful that they did not opt to place seams along the inner thigh and the obligatory seams placed around the chamois were tough and streamlined to avoid wear and tear.


They came in around the bottom of the barrel on this one, just above last year's Top Pick for Short Course winner, the Louis Garneau CB Carbon 2. If longevity is the goal, we suggest looking at the Pearl Izumi Quest Splice, which uses simple features and high nylon content to offer a long-lasting product. The top scoring SUGOi Evolution took the crown on this measure with excellent seams, resilient padding, and strong nylon fabric.

These did great out in the hills  even in slightly nippy weather.
These did great out in the hills, even in slightly nippy weather.

Best Applications


These are made for serious riders who want long-lasting, hard-working shorts. They do as well on short crits as they do centuries and touring. These are high-end bib shorts that will last a few good seasons.

Value


$170 can be a lot to ask for shorts, but with the P.R.O. Escape bib shorts you're getting quality, longevity, and performance. These are premium shorts that are worth the investment if you have the cash to spare. If you want a good pair of shorts, but don't want to drop the money, we suggest taking a look at the Best Bang for the Buck winning Quest Splice, also from Pearl Izumi.

Conclusion


Second-skin flex, smooth fabric, functional padding, sleek design, and reasonable longevity. What else would you want in high-performance shorts? These are some of the best shorts out there for short events like crits, amateur-distance road races, and local rec rides that don't include the going long segment. Given their excellence across measures, and awesome performance on the road, they were an obvious choice as Top Pick for Short Course. If you spend most of your time in the saddle training for short races or hammering out on the first fast segments of local rec rides, we suspect you'll be extremely pleased in the Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Escape bibs.

The Pearl Izumi Escape bibs are a great choice for temperate weather and anything up to mid-distance rides.
The Pearl Izumi Escape bibs are a great choice for temperate weather and anything up to mid-distance rides.
Ryan Baham

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Most recent review: May 29, 2018
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