Sunday, January 22, 2017

Kit Review: Shebeest Petunia Bibs and Divine Jersey

My kit collection has gotten sad over the past couple of years. There are multiple pairs of bike shorts about which I've said, "I should really get rid of these." This year, I finally had to (because no one wants to see my bum in spin class or on team rides). My beloved Specs Racing cycling kit--which I've had since '08 or '09--has gotten a little too much use. I finally threw out my Specs bibs this year when the seams that held the pad in ripped out, leaving tiny windows into my crotch from front and back. The non-bib Specs shorts are still in the spin class/TrainerRoad session rotation, but they won't hold out much longer. Most of the jerseys have held out much better, but I lost one to a broken zipper this year. I have some nice, new Veloworks-Spokes, Etc. kits for racing, but the Mt. Borah padding doesn't play well with my privates during 3+ hour rides.

All of which means I've needed for a long time to invest in new cycling clothing. In spite of the fact that I have more money now and therefore shouldn't have so much trouble buying new stuff, I find that my tastes in cycling clothing have also gotten way more expensive. I finally learned while training for Ironman Mallorca that bibs in the $50-$60 range are not good enough for my bottom. I budget $100-$120 for a pair of bib shorts now, and look for sales to get the best value. I can't quite bring myself to pay $200-$300 for a pair of fancy boutique bibs, though. Sorry, but you probably won't be reading any reviews of Rapha or Velocio kit from me!

That brings me to the kit I finally bought from Shebeest: the Petunia bibs and Divine jersey in black and houndstooth.

I got a pair of shorts (not bibs) from Shebeest a couple of years ago for Ironman training. They were marked way down on Nashbar, which is how I initially found them. The ones I bought, which have since been discontinued, were labeled specifically for 5+ hours in the saddle. Even marked down, they were the most expensive shorts I'd ever bought, excluding team kit buys, at $99. But I loved them so much that I ended up wearing them for the cycling leg of my Ironman, even though they weren't bibs. They had the most comfortable pad I'd ever ridden, and that's including my Castelli tri suit.

So I went directly to Shebeest for this purchase. I don't love many of their colors and patterns; too girly for my taste. But I found these in black and houndstooth, which looks stealthy but still has a pop of flair.

My first ride in them was a TrainerRoad workout, because they were the only shorts that were clean at the time. But my second ride in them has a two-hour jaunt on my 'cross bike. I still ride the stock saddle that came on my Specialized, even though the faux-leather doesn't allow me to slide on when re-mounting, because I am cheap and I am lazy and I don't want to try out a bunch of saddles to find one that works with my pelvis (which is not at all shaped for perching on a bike seat). It is not a comfortable saddle for me. If I sit on it for more than an hour or so, my butt (and other things) start complaining.

The Shebeest shorts made that a little better. I don't know if I'm ready to ride that stock saddle all the way to Cumberland in the Shebeest shorts, but they made a noticeable difference in my comfort level riding.

The real breakthrough moment with these shorts came when I had to stop to use the toilet on my ride. It was about 40ยบ out that day, so I was fully kitted out with tights and a jacket. As I pulled over next to the port-a-loo, I was dreading the imminent disrobing--take off the jacket, take off the jersey, pull off the bib straps, pull down the tights, find a place to hand the jacket and jersey that isn't on the floor of the john . . . Then I remembered that these shorts don't have standard bib straps; they have a halter. So I unzipped my jersey and jacket about halfway, pulled the halter over my head, and dropped trou. It was a revelation! No more removing all clothing in order to pee!

My first pair of Shebeest shorts were mediums, and they were a little too big. This time, I went with the smalls, which are a little tight. They're not so tight that I can't wear them, but they are noticeably compressive. The bib part is a polka-dot fabric that comes over the head in a halter, and it's attached by fishnet-type webbing. The fishnet part isn't very stretchy, but the halter is so stretchy that it doesn't seem to matter (at least for me). I have some concern that the halter will put pressure on my neck and shoulders during a ride, which may cause trouble on longer rides in the form of extra stress in my neck and tension headaches. The grippers on the legs are silicone woven in with elastic, like Castelli uses on their grippers. I like the feel of it very much, although I do still get some sausage-leg effect on these size small shorts.

The Divine jersey is a summer jersey, so I feel like I can't evaluate all of its benefits yet. I really like the cut and fit, especially around the hips. These jerseys are designed to be more generous for women's bodies, so the hemline isn't as stretchy. Instead, the rear panel below the jersey pockets has a silicone/elastic hybrid fabric that has lots of stretch but still holds the jersey in place. I didn't have any problems with the rear of the jersey riding up. The cut is a little tight through my arms, but the fabric is stretchy enough that it's not uncomfortable. It just makes me look even more muscular.

The fabric of the jersey is shinier, more sateen than I'm used to. I wasn't sure about its breathability at first, but it seemed to do fine, and the feel of the fabric is growing on me. It's very stretchy, though, so I'm not sure how durable it will be.

All things considered, I really like this new kit. I'm looking forward to putting it through its paces on longer rides, and seeing how the bib pad meshes with my road bike saddle.

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