- 4.5 / 5 Bee's Knees -
Titling the video preview of this review “The Bib vs. The Race” may wrongly give the impression that we’re trying to establish that one of these products is better than the other. For any given rider, one may be better for their primary application but for the sake of this review it is merely a comparison. As a whole, the two bib shorts are more similar than dis-alike, but again their particular flavors will tantalize riders of difference palates.
For both shorts, materials are virtually identical. Varied use of the same padding within the chamois reflects the greatest difference between these two products. Starting from the base up, a multitude of silicone dots overlay the wide and generous thigh cuffs, the ends of which are seamless. Grip and slight compression is exceptional without being constricting. Premium lycra and mesh fabrics sourced from Italy’s MITI comprises the majority of the external garment shell. Stitching follows the panels depicted and in general is well placed. Mesh is found throughout the shoulder straps and back which offers a soft feel with ample security. Both chamois's follow the same basic materials with a three-level open cell foam padding topped by an ultra plush anti-bacterial cover. Reflective elements adorn both rear thighs to enhance nighttime safety.
Though The Race and Bib are both designed with three density layers, The Race chamois is said to be 30% less dense and 16% thinner than The Bib chamois in the mid layer section. Additionally, The Race has a design said to improve heat dissipation through the application of dimples. The concept that an increased surface area will increase heat dissipation seems a little exaggerated in this application but I did find The Race chamois to run slightly cooler possibly from the dimples increasing air permeability. Again, I suspect the dimples act more like gaps to increase airflow but ultimately it doesn’t matter how The Race model is cooler, it simply is. Where comfort is paramount, I found sizing to be more important than the design differences between The Bib and Race—more on the later under “fit.” It may be worth noting that RedWhite has now released a Women’s specific chamois. Also the Stealth and KOM models are nothing more than a different color scheme for The Bib and Race models. As you would expect, the added padding of The Bib model did increase overall comfort for your sit bones but with slightly decreased cooling. Therefore it is hard to say one was unquestionably better overall. It would be safe to say however that "The Bib" does overall gravitate towards a more endurance based model as it should. By contrast "The Race" felt more comfortable over shorter rides because of the reduced bulk. Out of the saddle, The Race is superior and conforms to your body shape better where The Bib has a tendency to fold about its center but only out of the saddle.
This is where things get interesting. Given my size and RedWhites advice, we both agreed that a size Medium was appropriate for testing. After The Bib arrived, the fit seemed appropriate but if anything a little snug. Testing commenced for hundreds of miles and exuded a number of issues. The small team at RedWhite was quick and eager to help resolve any issues and with no logical rationale for the minor discomfort we stepped up to a large Race model to have the opportunity to try both chamois's and both sizes. Surprisingly the large was the ticket for myself…bean pole and all. For my build, 6’1”, 150lbs, 32+” inseam, this wasn’t the first large I’ve ever owned but one of few. Riding both garments demonstrated just how important correct sizing is. For these two models The Race overall was much more comfortable because it is the more correct size of the two. However, The Bib could be tested on its own merit for evaluating the performance of the thicker and stiffer chamois. Beyond these hiccups, the Large fit very proportionately in each key area of the garment. Shoulder straps were snug without being too tight, the crotch was more accommodating yet still secure, the thigh cuffs weren't much larger and retained their effectiveness, and the shape adjusted well to every area of the fit. Again, The Bib Med Red (left), The Race Large White (right).
The Bib was presented to me as the most comfortable endurance bibshort on the market. The Race was sent out more to try another size without any fantastic claims implied. Putting the initial sizing problems behind me, The Race bibshorts are among the most comfortable I've worn. They do seem to diminish in comfort after 60+miles but then many of my favorites do as well. Objectively reviewing The Bib shorts for its chamois alone was easy enough and the advantages for sit-bone comfort are undeniable. Then, the question arises, are these the best bibs I've owned or tested? Quite simply no. That said, both are among a small list of the best and I might hazard to say these are the most comfortable bibs I've ridden for their pricepoint which is a more fair assessment. If you're familiar with Assos, Rapha and other premium brands you'll know that spending over $300 is not uncommon for brands of this nature. One pair I currently own in the $250 range is more technical, offers smarter placement of more breathable panels and those same panels have even greater conformity to provide a custom fit for each rider. Because of this its price tag is respectively higher. Both The Race & The Bib shorts are serious contenders in a list of ultra-high performance bibs. What might be more impressive is their pricing given their performance. Unlike some owners, I don't feel either is "the best" I've owned purely based on performance, but again both are among the best and may represent a "best value" bib short for their particularly reasonable pricing. Pick up a pair that's right for your riding style and drop a comment on the video below, help out our community of riders.