Pearl Izumi's new PRO Octane bib shorts fit noticeably tighter and more Euro-like than other similarly sized bibs we've tried from the brand in the past with an aggressively cycling-specific cut that is absolutely spot-on for the intended roadie market. They're definitely not the most comfortable things to wear when standing upright but everything settles in quite nicely while on the bike with nary a scrap of extra fabric to bunch up and chafe.
The high quality materials feel cozy on the skin and transfer moisture well, too, and the lower half offers a distinctly smooth and luxurious feel. More open mesh is used for the bib straps and both top and bottom breathe very well in warm conditions. Seams are also intelligently – and rather unconventionally – placed to move them away from rub-prone areas like the front of your hips, too.
As is becoming popular these days, the usual leg grippers have been replaced with a wide elastic band and just a row of silicone dots inside to keep the shorts from riding up while a laser-cut edge further enhances the minimal feel. However, the material used isn't terribly elastic: the band is very tight when you put the shorts on but there's still a very slight gap on the back of the leg when the legs are bent on the bike.
Pearl Izumi's new stretch P.R.O. 4D chamois is absolutely superb with outstanding long-day comfort and perfect placement in the short. Its body-hugging form is actually made up of three separate parts that allow for a more complex shape than one- or two-piece inserts while cushy multi-thickness and multi-density padding makes for a not-too-thick feel. The chamois is a tad on the big side overall though so riders who prefer ultra-minimal pads might not still want something smaller.
Pearl Izumi is clearly going for a clean black, white and red look here but the execution is a bit polarizing – we heard enough 'Shamu' comments to make us start attempting backflips and wonder if we'd relocated to Orlando. In addition, some thought the bold red leg bands were a bit too much and we couldn’t help but notice that the white side panels on the shorts and the matching jersey don't actually match in appearance or texture. Still, it's still one of the most attractive kits to come out of Pearl Izumi in quite some time.
Better bring the black card
Unfortunately, the Pearl Izumi PRO Octane bib short's only major flaw is also the one that is most likely to keep consumers from buying it. The shorts retail for a stratospheric US$275 (and the matching jersey another US$225), making for a jaw-dropping US$500 total and a stark departure from the company's usual value-oriented M.O. – Pearl Izumi will invariably face an uphill battle to convince high-end customers to part with this kind of money for something that doesn't feature an 'A' on the leg.
A bargain the PRO Octane bib shorts certainly aren't but those willing to spend the cash will at least be rewarded with a near-flawless fit, top-notch materials and a distinctive look – if only because few others will be able to afford it.