Pearl Izumi Women’s ELITE LTD Cycle Bib Shorts

pearl shorts 5 stars

Pearl Izumi has designed an innovative “drop tail” bib short for female cyclists.

I find bib shorts to be far more comfortable than waist-high cycling shorts, but there is a problem. Well, there used to be a problem. Before cycle short designers started to come up with various solutions, when stopping for a toilet break while wearing bib shorts I was required to peel off all my top layers to access the shoulder straps and then pull down.

While inconvenient in summer, during a winter ride the full undress was enough to out me off stopping.

In recent years, women’s bib shorts (and bib tights) have seen something of a revolution. A number of brands have brought out shorts that offer rear access. Gore Bike Wear, for example, have a zipped back entrance, while DHB have a halterneck drop-down system.

The Pearl Izumi drop tail design is new to me. With the shorts on and the shoulder straps pulled up it’s difficult to see how it will be possible for a toilet break. Yet, on closer inspection, the shorts are divided at the back.

The lower, shorts section rises up above the butt to just over the waist, at the rear. Above this, but not attached, is a long flap (like a vest) of lighter weight fabric. This forms the back of the bib but also tucks neatly into the back of the lower part of the shorts.

In this way, when cycling there is no gap at the back but when you need to go to the loo you simply pull down the back of the shorts. Afterwards, you can reassemble the shorts and tuck in the back of the bib.

At the front, the shorts form one panel and rise up above the waist before graduating into the shoulder straps. This is the area where I prefer bib shorts because there is no waistline or elastic to dig into the stomach area when bent over the bike.

Features include:

  • ELITE Transfer Dry fabric for “superior moisture transfer”
  • Anatomic multi-panel design
  • Flatlock seams
  • No grippers (on leg hems)
  • Female-specific Elite 3D Chamois with 13mm and three layers of padding
  • Active carbon yarns in padding to improve “thermoregulation”
  • Drop tail for convenience
  • 7½inch inseam [size medium]
  • Temperature rating: +/- 20C
  • UPF 40+ fabric.


On test: Pearl Izumi Women’s ELITE LTD Cycle Bib Shorts

The look of the shorts is lovely. Many women’s cycle shorts are plain black or include just a little colour but I like brighter and more colourful shorts, which these are. The striped coloured section at the side of the legs is really lovely.

I have the size medium and they fit really well. I am usually a UK10/12 and I am quite tall but the shorts fit beautifully. The leg length is as I like it, too. The hem reaches about three-quarters of the way down my thigh.

The hem is 4cm, which is also perfect. I do not like hems that are too narrow and dig into the skin/flesh.

The fabric feels super silky and is both supportive and stretchy. So, on first impressions, the shorts look and feel of good quality.
web_leg hem on shorts
I have tested the shorts over several rides. I like the depth and shape of the padding. I would describe is as “medium” thickness. I have shorts with less padding and some with more but this padding is about right for me.

The shape of the pad does not cause any bunching or rubs. We are all different shapes so it might not be ideal for other women but I like it.

The padding looks like it is perforated, as well as having what Pearl Izumi describes as “active carbon yarns”. I am presuming that all this is connected to the padding’s “thermoregulation”, in that it will not cause excess sweating and whiffiness. To be honest, I have not noticed if the padding is more or less “thermoregulated” than other shorts. It feels good and doesn’t cause discomfort so that is good enough for me.

The shoulder straps can be worn on the outside of the chest or clipped together down the middle of the chest. I prefer the unclipped version.

What I really like about these shorts is the tail drop system. It’s the simplest and most comfortable back access style of shorts that I have tested. I have no idea why more designers have not included this in their shorts before.

When “done up” the shorts feel like the usual bib shorts so they are very comfortable around the waist area (no waist elastic at the front to bunch up or dig in). The bib area at the back is a lightweight mesh to keep sweating to a minimum.

When you need a toilet break it’s very simple to pull down the back of the shorts, but without need to take off the shoulder straps or upper/outer clothing. Putting the shorts “back together” is very simple, too. Simply stand up and tuck the vested top area back into the back of the shorts. There is enough of an overlap in fabrics to prevent cold air getting to the back while cycling.

web_pearl izumi bib shorts

These shorts have moved to the top of my favourite bib shorts list. They are easy to wear, comfortable and make stopping for a refreshment break a no-hassle affair.

The shorts are sold in sizes XS, S, M and L. The RRP is £99.99 and are currently on sale at £69.99. This is great value for money for a good quality pair of bib shorts.

See Pearl Izumi Women’s ELITE LTD Cycle Bib Shorts

Also see Pearl Izumi.

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