Photo by Jason DeVarennes

Thursday, January 12, 2012

My Love/Hate Relationship with Bib Tights

I must admit to having a love/hate relationship with bib shorts and tights. When I first starting cycling, I was thrilled to find women's bib shorts. I gave Dawn Urbanek lots of business back when she was making some lovely stylish women's bibs. One of the advantages of bibs is the lack of a binding waistband, which for me, seems to add pressure on a full bladder! The disadvantage, especially for women, is that they add a little hassle, when the bladder is full and in need of emptying.

OK, maybe if I didn't start out every ride with coffee...
Or if I kept my rides short...
Or if I only rode in temperatures where jackets aren't needed...
Or if I didn't want access to jersey pockets...

Then I wouldn't have to deal with running out into the woods and removing jerseys, jackets, etc, and then freezing while I'm just trying to pee.  It doesn't help that cold weather seems to make me pee more. So at some point, I gave up bibs, just for the convenience of quick stops.

But bibs are great for warmth, especially on the lower back, where they eliminate any chance of a gap between the top and bottom. I am amazed when I see a rider whose shorts or pants don't quite meet the jersey or jacket, leaving exposed flesh on the lower back. In the summer, this can result in a small, but nasty sunburn! But in the winter, it has to lead to lower back pain from the chill. Suspenders can help keep the shorts/tights, pants up, but they have the same pitfalls as bibs.

My catch-22. One thing that has helped me, is finding shorts with a less binding or wider waistband. It can be tough to find the magic combination of enough elastic to stay put, but not so much to annoy.  But in the winter, as I add tights or pants to the mix, I either get too many waistbands, or suffer the ride down factor.  So I end up going back to bibs.

I haven't really solved my dilemma, but I do really like my new Rapha ladies bib tights enough to put up with a little hassle factor these days. The ladies version addresses the other issue many women face with suspenders or men's bibs, eliminating straps in awkward places. They have no chamois, so are won over shorts, meaning I can wear them several times between washing. I do not like tights with a chamois for exactly this reason. They have a reinforced seat, which is exactly where I usually wear out tights or pants. Mine have a nice big white stripe, on one calf, which adds the visibility from behind. As a UK product, I am a bit surprised that the stripe is on the left side as it is most visible where folks drive on the right, but it works for me in the US! There is also a bit of reflective piping for added visibility when riding after dark.

I still have my love/hate relationship, and unless I get  bladderback surgery - it will stay that way.

BTW, for even more info on clothes for winter riding, see this article on the website. 

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