When it comes to long-distance cycling, particularly for women, there are some very common barriers that can get in the way. While one is genderless — needing enough storage for all the snacks and essentials — the other impacts anyone who isn’t able to stand up while taking a nature break.
It’s a well-known fact by now that even among the best women’s cycling shorts, the majority of designs require you to completely disrobe when you need to drop trou, which is at best a minor inconvenience in a cubicle, and at worst a major barrier in the bushes.
With its Expedition Cargo Bib Short, Pearl Izumi has attempted to solve many of these issues, creating a lightweight summer bib short that comes with extra cargo space and a drop tail to make toilet breaks easier. Even better, they were actually designed by a woman, which is unfortunately still quite rare in this industry.
I’ve given them a huge amount of wear since I received them back in June, taking them over a multitude of distances including overnighters where you’re technically not supposed to reuse them (the things I do for this job!). Here’s how I’ve been getting on and whether or not I recommend them.
Design and aesthetic
The sleek, all-black design of the Peark Izumi Expedition Bib Short keeps everything subtle, with minimal branding on show besides two reflective logos. The shorts are made from recycled nylon and elastane, resulting in a soft and stretchy fabric that feels lightweight and comfortable against the skin.
Inside, you’ll find a bright orange Pearl Izumi Women’s Elite Escape 1:1 chamois, designed for long days in the saddle. Its seamless exterior also features what the brand calls a ‘floating top sheet design’, which basically means that the upper fabric layer is disconnected from the foam layer beneath it. The thinking behind it is to prevent friction, by having an exterior layer that moves with the body rather than against it.
The chamois is low-bulk, with a softer density at the rear than at the front, where it feels quite a lot firmer.
The upper half is seemingly more complex than the lower. The soft, laser-cut straps sit over the front torso and join together over the tummy with a small, plastic buckle. Meanwhile at the back, the straps crossover between the shoulder blades and, with a bit of fiddling, lay flat against the back. One strap is sliced open lengthwise while the other threads through, and this is the cause of the struggle. However, by tugging at the shoulder and the bottom end of the strap, it’s fairly easy to pull them taut enough to flatten them out, though you may need to also run your fingers along as best you can.
Just above the rear panel, above the hips, sits the drop tail design: a significantly stretchy panel of nylon and elastane sewn to the shorts and separate from the bib straps, that can be independently lowered and pulled back up again when nature calls.
The eight-inch inseam should sit fairly high on more leggy cyclists, while on me they sit comfortably about three inches above my knee. The hem is doubled over but remains low-bulk, while on the inside, there is a silicone print to help keep everything in place.
Finally, on the outer flank of each leg is a cargo pocket, measuring 7x5in and large enough to hold any modern smartphone without feeling bulky, or up to four protein bars or flapjacks if you don’t mind a bit of extra weight and drag.
Since receiving my pair of Women’s Expedition bib shorts in June, I’ve taken them on many outings over the summer. These have ranged from a few hours of road or gravel, all the way up to multi-day bikepacking trips, spending at least eight hours in the saddle at a time. I’ve ridden them until they were sodden with sweat, rinsed them in streams or lakes, and continued wearing them afterwards, and they’ve been through countless laundry loads at home. Still, they’re practically good as new.
In use, I find them to be extremely comfortable, with light compression properties around the thigh for increased blood circulation, and haven’t experienced any pinching or discomfort despite my weight fluctuating throughout the month. They’re supportive, while also having enough stretch that I have no qualms about wearing them on days where I’m menstruating and bloated and would normally shy away from Lycra. The high waistline is particularly useful in this fashion as well, holding the lower abdomen in place without any digging in.
The fabric itself is stretchy enough that it fits like a second skin without restricting movement in the slightest. More than that, having ridden with these shorts through some UK heatwaves this summer, they do a pretty good job of wicking away sweat and allowing your skin to breathe.
While I find the straps a little fiddly to get in place when first putting them on, once they sit flat they pretty much stay put and I don’t notice them again. They’re extremely soft, thin and lightweight, so you can fit and forget them.
The chamois, meanwhile, has proven to be superb over long distances and all-day riding. I’ve tried it with a range of saddles, from thin and firm to thicker and cushioned, and am pleased to say I’ve had no real issues with either, though I’d definitely favour the former. More recently I’ve been spending a lot of time on the Specialized Power Pro Elaston with Mimic and found this to be a winning combination.
The drop tail design is top-notch and works perfectly. I have no issue with popping behind a hedge for a nature break, with the rear stretch panel making it a total breeze. If I were to gripe about anything, it’s that over time and a huge amount of use, the drop tail panel has started to feel a little looser like it’s permanently stretched somewhat, which doesn’t carry much of an impact, though with time perhaps they may need replacing if it becomes too baggy. As things currently stand, they’re still working well.
As for the cargo pockets, these have been a game-changer for me. I love taking photos and filming reels for the ‘Gram while out on the bike, and only having to reach down to my thigh for the phone makes this a whole lot easier. I’ve also been known to carry an inordinate amount of snacks in them, filling them until they’re bulging. This tends to be when I’m bikepacking and less worried about aerodynamics, and I have a personal preference for wearing cotton tees rather than jerseys, so having cargo pockets has made it easy to still carry the delicious essentials while going for a more casual look on the bike.
There are no two ways about it, the Pearl Izumi Women’s Expedition has become my bib short of choice this summer, and I reach for these more than anything else in my rather abundant cycling closet.
Having combined them with a multitude of saddles and plugged many hours into them over multi-day bikepacking trips as well as all-day road and gravel rides, I find them incredibly comfortable, easy to get in and out of, super practical, and I cannot recommend them enough. Plus, while the price may be relatively high, it’s much lower than competing brands’ cargo bib short offerings that aren’t nature break-friendly. Treat yourself and get some before I buy them all.
Tech Specs: Pearl Izumi Women’s Expedition Bib Short
- Material: 80% recycled nylon, 20% elastane (Bottom Panel), 35% recycled polyester, 34% recycled nylon, 31% elastane (Top Panel)
- Sizes: XS-XXL
- Colours: Black
- Price: £120.00 / $125.00 / AU$199.00 / €109.00