Would Tom Dumoulin approve of these shorts?

One of my favorite posts from 2021 detailed just how jealous I was of the innovations being made with women’s cycling bib shorts – specifically, the multiple ways to facilitate bathroom breaks for the female anatomy while keeping jerseys and modesty intact. Because yeah, we all know and remember – with a chuckle, I might add – how Tom Dumoulin got caught out by sudden gastrointestinal distress while he was leading Stage 16 of the 2017 Giro d’Italia…

I still can’t believe just how quickly Dumoulin stripped off his jersey to lower his bib shorts and empty his bowels. Man deserves an award for that.

Realistically speaking, traditional bib shorts were never designed from the outset to account for the very natural biological task of defecation. Ladies have it worse, since bibs make either call of nature much more awkward. Which is why I was so interested in these frankly amazing modern women’s bib shorts that took all of that into account.

Was there no analog for the men? I wondered.

It turns out, someone somewhere at Pearl Izumi was reading my mind. For 2022, they revamped their Expedition Pro bib short line, and snuck in this exact feature – along with a few other tweaks.

That “dark ink floral” print is very gravel, I guess.
Photo credit: Pearl Izumi


  • Meant for gravel riding and all-day rides
  • All-new Levitate Pro chamois design and construction
  • Drop-tail design for easier nature breaks
  • Italian PRO Transfer fabric
  • PI Dry water-shedding coating
  • Storage: One pocket on each leg; one pocket at the back
  • Color options: black or dark ink floral
  • Size options: S, M, L, XL, XXL
  • Suggested retail price: US$265


I didn’t pay full price. Thank goodness for Strava challenges

I got these bibs on Competitive Cyclist, assisted by a discount code I won on a Strava challenge so that damage to the wallet is a little more palatable. Because holy smokes, this thing is premium. Had I not wanted to test the drop-tail design badly enough, these would just not be on my radar.

So what does all that moolah get you? Quite a lot. None of it goes into packaging though as this pair of bibs was shipped to me in a simple plastic bag.

Photo credit: Pearl Izumi

Unworn, the Expedition Pro bibs have a pretty unusual construction. The back of the bibs eschews the traditional center strap in favor of a H-bar configuration. The rear also has a strange partial overlap of material panels around where the bibs would sit against the small of a rider’s back; without the tension of being worn against a human torso, this droops loosely. This is to facilitate the drop-tail function for bathroom breaks, which I will talk about later.

That PI logo on the hip is the only bit of reflective on the shorts.
Photo credit: Pearl Izumi

Coincidentally, this overlap panel also plays host to the bibs’ rear pocket, which is a decent size for a wallet or an energy bar or two. A phone could go there, but my Samsung Galaxy S20 FE, measuring 15.7 cm (6.2″) diagonally, would have about a third of its length peeking out.

The leg edges and grippers are just really nice on these.

These are, appropriately, some of the most luxurious bibs I have ever worn.

That Italian PRO Transfer fabric makes up almost the entire thing – no mesh anywhere to act as an “extender” – and it is fancy stuff. The wide straps are practically borderless, with no edge seams or piping like on most bibs. When worn, the material feels very supple next to the skin, with a slight hint of compression. Finally, the leg edges are cut cleanly, backed by some very effective silicone grippers.

Photo credit: Pearl Izumi

Given the popularity of so-called “cargo bibs” nowadays, the Expedition Pro pair fits this bill. While the back pocket was a slightly precarious location for storing your phone, the leg pockets will swallow my S20 FE with ease, with just a sliver of the phone peeking out. I have no doubt it’d pass Rapha‘s infamous banana test too.

Photo credit: Pearl Izumi

Central to any bib short is the pad, or chamois. Pearl Izumi takes a page off its more premium competition, such as Assos, and anchors the Levitate Pro chamois’ inner, higher-density foam pad with front and rear stitching such that it is free to shimmy sideways.

This chamois is thick, certainly, and you will feel it once you put the bibs on. When in place, however, it just disappears under you and molds to the contours of your undercarriage, helped by the lack of odd folds and how the chamois tapers off at the edges. This is in contrast to Decathlon’s ultra-affordable bibs, which need at least a half dozen “breaking in” rides before the chamois becomes truly comfortable and molded to your bum.

Nether-region numbness is kept at bay very well, too. Normally I’d be inclined to stand up out of the saddle for 30-second spurts every now and then when on the indoor trainer, but with these I found I could keep seated for much longer. Seems like it’s a combination of the fit of the shorts and the construction of the chamois.

So, returning to the main question: Would Tom Dumoulin have appreciated these bibs back in the 2017 Giro d’Italia?

Photo credit: Pearl Izumi.

The drop-tail function does work. You put your thumbs to the “corners” of the two back straps where they meet the waist of the shorts, then pull down. The first time you do so, it feels wrong, as if you’re asking the shorts to do something they’re not supposed to. Fight that urge though, keep pulling until you can “sit over” the dropped tail of these shorts, and you will successfully moon someone – er, expose enough of your bum to do your business. All without having to take off your jersey!

This might not be the most comfortable position to hold for prolonged periods, though, since you’re bent over jackknifed and fighting the elasticity of the (now slightly twisted) bib straps the entire time you’re doing your business. After all, male cyclists will be familiar with “dropping the front” of their bibs and bending over to take a wee; this is simply the inverse.


There is definitely a “first adopter” tax to these bibs. I wanted to vote with my cash to tell cycling apparel companies like Pearl Izumi that there is a demand on the men’s side for bib shorts that will make answering the call of nature easier. I can confirm that the drop-tail concept works well enough. (If these kinds of shorts take off in popularity, you’re welcome.)

Paying too much attention to that aspect ignores everything else about the Expedition Pro bibs, though. These are genuinely wonderful shorts, and everywhere I looked, it’s obvious Pearl Izumi didn’t hold back. The fabric is so good, the chamois excellent for purpose, and the three available pockets are pretty well thought-out, allowing you to carry stuff without wearing a traditional jersey, if you so choose. Doing away with any mesh and strengthening key areas with more stitching, it feels these shorts will last quite a long time, strange construction aside.

These are the bibs I’d snatch from my wardrobe if I had an audax to ride. I’d get another pair had pricing been much friendlier – which is a good segue into my desire to see the drop-tail concept applied at lower price points.


As an aside, Tom Dumoulin is calling time on his pro cycling career at the end of 2022. He leaves the pro peloton as one of my personal favorite cycling athletes. If the thought of sampling some gravel ever crosses his mind, I think he’d approve of these bibs.


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