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With plenty of pockets, an extremely comfortable pad and fabric made from recycled materials, the Pearl Izumi Men's Expedition Bib Short (there's a women's version too) is ideal for gravel and adventure rides – or even for road jaunts when you want easy access to essentials.
As the name suggests, the Expedition bib shorts are designed with gravel/adventure riding in mind, but that doesn't mean that they're only good for that. The chamois pad and overall cut work just as well out on the road, especially for those longer jaunts.
The obvious telltale these are for more than just road riding is the presence of pockets. You get one on each thigh and a rear one on the bib section.
When I'm riding on the gravel, I tend to wear technical t-shirts or one of the new gravel jerseys that don't tend to have pockets on the rear (or not as many, at least), so shorts with pockets help with carrying the extra little things I don't want to pack in a top tube or bar bag.
The thigh pockets are generously sized, being deep enough to swallow my phone (just) at 160mm, and about 130mm in width. They are a handy place for sections of maps, bars or gels. Anything you want easy access to without having to stop, really.
I was a little sceptical at first about how secure they'd be as when you aren't wearing them, the pockets look a little baggy.
My kids have an old replica iPhone 6 (one shops use to put on the shelf) that's accurate for size and weight, so on my first outing – three hours on some tough terrain – I dropped that into the pocket.
With the material stretched over my thighs the pockets were much tighter. I had no issues with the phone jettisoning itself, or even moving around much at all.
The rear pocket is a similar size, but made of mesh. Again though, it is very secure. Personally, I wouldn't put anything too solid in there, as if you come off then anything in the pocket is going to focus the impact on your spine.
As for the rest of the shorts, there is a lot to like.
The Elite Transfer fabric offers a good level of compression, which I think aids muscle fatigue when off-road. On rough, quick sections there is a lot of vibration going through your muscles, and compressive shorts cuts down on that movement.
The majority of the fabric is recycled nylon and polyester, with some elastane added for stretch. We are seeing quite a few pieces of clothing using recycled materials now, which can only be a good thing.
It's a comfortable fabric against the skin, with a smooth feel. The seams, although prominent, are soft and unnoticeable when riding.
The bib section is laser cut from a similar fabric blend as the leg part so again, comfort is great as the wide straps pass over your shoulders without any pressure points. At the other end, the leg grippers keep the shorts in place without feeling overly tight.
The back panel isn't quite as breathable as the mesh found on a lot of other shorts, but it's not by a huge amount.
Chamois wise, the Expeditions use the Elite Escape 1:1, and it is very good indeed. It's a simple affair with just a couple of thicknesses, and no channels to (supposedly) relieve pressure.
This is how I've noticed pads going over the last few years – becoming less and less separated by channels – and I haven't noticed any difference in comfort.
I've worn the Expeditions on some decent length gravel rides, and they've been totally comfortable throughout thanks to this pad. It's firm enough to support you on the rough sections, without being so thick that it bunches up or takes away from ride feel and feedback.
The Expeditions are £119.99, and I'd say that's a fair price considering the very high build quality and choice of materials. It's around the same as the Lusso Adventure bib shorts that Shaun was impressed with at £125.
Rapha’s Core Cargo Bibshorts are close too at £115. They have four pockets, although I'd say the mesh thigh pockets don't look quite as robust as the Pearl Izumi's. They won't be as good at keeping dust out, either.
Also impressive though are the Madison Roam Cargo bib shorts. You get an extra four pockets on the rear compared to the Pearl Izumis, and they're just £79.99.
I like the Expeditions a lot. The pockets bring plenty of versatility and secure storage for your bits and pieces, and while a lot of the opposition have more pockets, it's not a major deal. These are top-level shorts and very comfortable for riding road or off-road, long or short.
Very comfortable bib shorts for getting off the beaten track, with plenty of pocket space
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Pearl Izumi Men's Expedition Bib Short
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product is for
Pearl Izumi says, "When your next ride is a big one, the Expedition Bib Short is the right choice. We integrated low profile cargo pockets on the thighs and lower back for easy access to smartphones and snacks, and the flexibility to wear any top you prefer without worrying about carrying capacity. This bib short was created to go the distance with a plush and breathable Elite Escape 1:1 Chamois that's the perfect companion for long days in the saddle."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
* Compressive ELITE Transfer Fabric: made with recycled content
* Additional Storage: thigh cargo pockets
* Central Rear Pocket: fits a shell jacket or nutrition
* Reduces Friction: ELITE Escape 1:1® Chamois with floating top sheet design
* Superior Next To Skin Comfort: laser cut bib straps
* Silicone Print Holds Cuffs In Place: and provides a smooth transition from the short to skin
* Top Panel: 35% recycled polyester, 34% recycled nylon, 31% elastane
* Bottom Panel: 80% recycled nylon, 20% elastane
* Pockets: 47% recycled polyester, 42% polyester, 11% elastane
* Made in Vietnam
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
These have been washed many times after wet gravel rides and are showing no issues.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Really comfortable shorts, regardless of terrain.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Very comfortable, supportive fabric.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
A mesh panel on the rear of the straps would give better breathability (it wouldn't be as comfortable though...)
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
They sit in the middle of the Lusso Adventure and Rapha Core, but the Madison Roam bibshorts are a fair chunk cheaper.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
The Pearl Izumi Expeditions are competitive on price without compromising on comfort or quality. I'm a big fan of the materials, and the pockets work a treat on rough surfaces.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,
With 20 years of road cycling and over 150,000 miles in his legs it's safe to say Stu is happiest when on the bike whatever the weather. Since writing his first review for road.cc back in 2009 he has also had a career in engineering including 3D-CAD design and product development, so has a real passion for all of the latest technology coming through in the industry but is also a sucker for a classic steel frame, skinny tyres, rim brakes and a damn good paintjob.
His fascination with gravel bikes is getting out of control too!