Cold weather riding requires the proper gear. And, I’m all for full-length bib tights when necessary, but by the time the weather gets that cold, I’m most often going to be on Zwift. So, for cold, but still temperate rides from 40-55 degrees, a good set of 3/4 bib tights (a.k.a. bib knickers) does the trick. The Pearl Izumi Thermal 3/4 Bib Tight is the Goldilocks solution for cold, but not-too-cold rides.
Pearl Izumi Thermal Cycling 3/4 Bib Tights Features:
- Ultra-soft Thermal fleece fabric
- PI Dry® permanent water-shedding technology
- ELITE Escape 1:1® Chamois
- BioViz® reflective elements
- Form fit
- MSRP: $165
The Goldilocks of cold weather bibs
I think it’s safe to say that full-length bib tights are great, when absolutely necessary. Otherwise, the humble 3/4 bib tight is my pick for the most versatile cold-weather kit there is. After seven years of extensive use, my previous pair of bib knickers (Castelli NanoFlex) finally bit the dust. When the new Pearl Izumi Thermal Cycling 3/4 bibs arrived, I couldn’t have been happier. The fit, construction and chamois had all the trappings for a long-term affair.
Let’s talk fabrics. The bib is constructed using fleece-backed panels that feature PI Dry embedded waterproof technology. What that means is that you can wash these again and again and they will continue to shed water perpetually. Because the fabric is thicker, panels are reduced to a vertical side panel and inner main panel only. You wouldn’t want a bunch of bulky seams everywhere, so the panels are strategic and relatively simple. This also reduces seams for water to penetrate.
The uppers are flexible and soft, like you’d find with summer-weight bib shorts. The beauty with that is you can choose your layers much more easily. Oftentimes, thermal bib tights also have thermal uppers that end up interfering with layering. With these thin uppers, a sleeveless base layer (or none at all) are all you need before adding your chosen jersey, jacket or vest. There’s no need to calculate the added warmth of fleece uppers as you’re planning out your kit.
As you can see, the length hits just below the meat of the calf. And, with that location, the cuff remains flexible and never restrictive. I never thought about it once while riding, so it must be good. The light silicone backing keeps the cuffs securely in place for road, gravel or mountain biking. Instead of adding a different fabric for the leg cuffs, it’s just double-backed fleece, which ensures that consistent, unrestrictive fit that went unnoticed.
The aforementioned minimalistic panel structure does mean that compression isn’t quite as dialed as you might see with summer weight bibs. But, proper sizing goes a long way to ensure a good fit. Still, I did wish for a little more lower-back compression. In general, Pearl Izumi’s fit is “American” sizing. At 5’11” and 170 lbs, I’m a solid medium for tops/bottoms in the brand.
When riding in the low-40’s, these knickers are good, so long as you aren’t descending at speed. So, if your terrain is mostly flat or rolling, you could even remain comfortable into the upper 30’s. Because speeds are generally lower, mountain bike or gravel rides do remain comfortable at the lower end of the temperature range. However, if you anticipate long descents at higher speeds, your legs will start to feel pretty chilly in the low-40’s with speeds above 30 mph.
The Elite Escape chamois is great overall. It’s not the best chamois I’ve used, but it’s suitable for the length and type of rides you’d normally do in cold weather. There weren’t any chaffing issues or major discomfort. It’s just a good, reliable pad on par with the $165 price point.
Fit: I’m 5’11” and 170 lbs. The size medium offers the ideal fit for me.
- Fleecy comfort is always nice
- Leg cuffs aren’t restrictive at all
- Permanent waterproof technology
- Lightweight, minimalist uppers make layering easy (and are way comfortable)
- Better than winter tights for most cold rides
- Could use a little more lower-back compression/support
- High speed descents can get chilly at lower temperatures
The Bottom Line: Pearl Izumi Thermal 3/4 Bib Tights
With the popularity of Zwift, riding in extreme cold is less common, but rides in the 40’s are still fair game in my book. At those temperatures, the Pearl Izumi Thermal 3/4 Bib Tights are a great option and are way easier to live with than full-on winter bib tights. You get excellent weather protection and warmth on rides from 40-55 degrees.
Buy Now: Available at CompetitiveCyclist