Riding comfort and nature break convenience for less? Rodeo Adventure Labs Explorts 1.1 review

I’ve written before about bib shorts and their inherent incompatibility with the biological functions we humans need to perform, and that, over on the women’s side at least, cycling apparel manufacturers have started addressing this concern in a variety of ways. With the Pearl Izumi Expedition Pro bib shorts, we got a representative of the “highly elasticated drop tail” variety, and it was notable in bringing this same technology over to the men’s side. But what if, say, you wanted the same nature break convenience, but didn’t feel like spending $265?

Rodeo Adventure Labs – purveyors of gravel bikes and supporters of that lifestyle – may have a solution.


  • Meant for gravel riding and all-day rides
  • Drop-tail design for easier nature breaks
  • Quick release buckle system on bib straps
  • Bar tack stitch on rear bib straps for easier reattachment of buckles
  • Gender-specific “Ultra Distance” medium-density chamois pad by Elastic Interface rated for 10+ hours of riding
  • Choice of three fabrics
    • Dark Bronzite fabric has lighter weight and more compression for riding in warm climates
    • Black Tuxedo fabric has slightly more weight, softer feel, and less compression
    • Black Thermal fabric for riding in colder temperatures
  • Size options: S, M, L, XL, XXL, XXXL
  • Storage: One mesh pocket on each leg
  • Reflective tags
  • Price: US$148 (PhP8,325)


Out of the packaging, the Explorts cut a good impression. I got mine with the Dark Bronzite fabric, which definitely looks unique next to all my black bibs with its rich chocolate hue. It’s a nice dash of subtle, unexpected color, without attracting unwanted attention the way that, say, white bib shorts would.

My old phone, a 2017 Samsung Galaxy A5, stuffed into the right pocket.
My current phone, a Galaxy S20 FE, is slightly larger but fits about the same.

The mesh pockets on each leg are adorned by the “R-A-L” lattice graphic, giving away that these are version 1.1 of these shorts, with improvements over the original model which I have no experience with. The pockets have no problems swallowing my phone, a Samsung Galaxy S20 FE that measures 15.7 cm (6.2″) diagonally. If anything, they appear slightly longer than the equivalent pockets on the Pearl Izumi Expedition Pro shorts and hide the full length of my phone better. Each leg terminates in an impressively wide gripper band which I felt was well-judged when the shorts are actually on your person, although they can make putting on said shorts a bit of a challenge.

Those are some seriously beefy leg grippers.

In basic overall construction, the Explorts feel more like waist shorts that ditched the elastic waistband and grew a pair of slightly stiff-feeling bib straps. There is a distinct stop to the fabric a bit above the waist. From here go the wide, white bib straps that just so happened to also grow a pair of in-line buckles connecting them to the shorts for nature breaks. These buckles are impressively slim and unobtrusive; it’s easy to keep riding in these shorts and forget they’re even there. While the straps feel a little plasticky, they aren’t bothersome, and I think their construction also helps in avoiding any undesired bunching up within the loops of the buckles.

On my person, once I’ve finagled the leg grippers into their final position, these bibs feel…pretty racy. They are a little more compressive than most other pairs I’ve had, and that appears to have been designed into the Dark Bronzite material. The leg grippers’ width ensures no undesirable “sausage thigh” while keeping their position tenaciously. The cut of the waist is also rather high up front, similar to the abdomen-covering front panel of Le Col’s bibs.

Rodeo Labs makes a big deal of the Elastic Interface chamois pad being suitable for very long days on the bike. For the uninitiated, Elastic Interface is a firm that specializes in chamois pads, padded gloves, and other related applications of closed-cell and open-cell foam. While I don’t have any reason to doubt that claim, I got along with Pearl Izumi’s Levitate Pro “suspension” chamois a little better on the saddle despite its noticeably increased bulk. That, in particular, is just uncanny in how well it takes the sting off and goads you into riding longer.

In the Explorts’ defense, they’re about as good as a more traditional high-endurance chamois gets. It certainly doesn’t have the bulky diaper-like feel of the chamois on a brand-new pair of B’Twin bibs, which needs a half-dozen rides to break in and mold against one’s bum and taint. By contrast, this medium-density pad is something you could crank out the hours on right away, and it’s well-located within the shorts.

So – how well does the nature break drop-tail function work on these?

Undoing the buckles and dropping the tail is remarkably easy, and true to the claim that no removal of your jersey or upper garments is required. As slim as the buckles are, their generous width makes them an easy target for your fingers to squeeze, even through your jersey. With both undone, dropping the tail on the Explorts is almost as easy as taking off any normal pair of shorts. This is where they unequivocally win over the Expedition Pro bibs; because the straps are effectively disconnected, there is a lot less tension your neck and/or shoulders have to resist while you are jackknifed and seated on the toilet.

Reattaching these buckles, however, isn’t as easy or as quick. One improvement Rodeo Labs made with Explorts version 1.1 was to stitch the two straps together as they crisscrossed at the rear, in a bid to make it easier to consistently locate the buckles for reattachment – a welcome touch. However, I’m not sure they could do anything specifically to address the whole rear straps-and-buckles arrangement hiking up your back while on your nature break, so it takes some doing to pull down the straps so that they could mate with the buckles on the waist. It’s not ideal, and the less limber among us will struggle a bit, but I guess better to have this added complication of reattachment if it means easier, quicker dropping of the tail – especially if you encounter Tom Dumoulin levels of gastrointestinal distress that, uh, require immediate attention.


In terms of ultimate quality and ability, Rodeo Labs’ Explorts 1.1 definitely play second fiddle to Pearl Izumi’s Expedition Pro bibs. I return to the question at the beginning of this review, however: Are you willing to pay US$265 (PhP14,900) for those?

When you consider that the Explorts deliver many of the Pearl Izumi bibs’ benefits at a whopping US$120 (PhP6,750) less, they’re a lot more impressive. Fundamentally, they’re just great bib shorts. Rodeo Labs bakes a degree of customization into them with three different material choices, along with gender-specific tailoring and chamois, and the Explorts’ sizing is more accommodating of rider body types and sizes – something rare to see with most cycling apparel brands. You could comfortably ride in these and never even think about using their toilet break functionality, which doesn’t even exist yet on many a cycling bib short at this price level. While that feature isn’t quite the home run I was expecting it to be, I reckon it would be perfectly acceptable for most of us mortals who aren’t concerned about saving one or two seconds.

There’s still an early adopter tax with nature-break-friendly bibs like these, and the Explorts definitely still command a premium. However, Rodeo Labs’ offering is the most approachable of the lot I’ve seen yet, and it’s a pretty good one all things considered. That you can buy two of these Explorts – in different fabrics, even – for the price of one Expedition Pro bib is just icing on the cake.

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.

Indoor training, part 9: Increasing comfort in the pain cave

Spending a considerable amount of time cycling indoors in 2020 gave me a lot of time to think about comfort while putting my miles and watts in. After all, the more comfortable you are on the saddle, the more inclined you will be to stick to regularly cycling indoors and using that as your physical exertion. This is especially important when multiple factors conspire to make it your only practical form of exercise.


Photo credit: LeCol.cc. Retrieved November 16, 2020

Your bib shorts should be as form fitting as they can be, with minimal looseness or slack material. “Second skin” is a good indicator of just how tightly they should hew to your body. Pedal indoors in bibs that are too loose, and eventually your groin and genitals will go uncomfortably numb from the friction with the shorts, especially for men.

If you have bibs that have a baggier or looser fit, you can still adjust them for better, tighter fit as you pedal by raising the hem line of the leg sleeves, then pulling everything else up closer to your groin and smoothing things out. This way, you can keep excess shorts material over your genitals to a minimum and mitigate unwanted friction.


This next tip is especially applicable for those with shoes tightened by Boa dials, but will also work as general advice. I find that tightening the fit of the shoe to your foot helps a lot in fighting off foot pain later on. It’s normal for sprinters to twist their shoes’ ratchets tighter in preparation for a final sprint to the finish line, but I’m talking about making the shoes tighter as early as possible, especially around the forefoot.

Across multiple posts, I’ve documented my woes with forefoot pain while cycling, and I went down the rabbit hole chasing its potential root causes. Whether it be a lack of arch support for my feet with the Northwave Core Plus; insufficient outsole width with the Shimano XC5s; or simply a cleat placement that yielded a narrower pedaling stance, I got closer solving it with each observed problem. While the Specialized S-Works 6 XCs got closest, this pain has not totally gone away, and I still feel it on prolonged efforts.

As it turns out, I wasn’t looking at foot support from a large enough perspective. You can make the insole and outsole of a cycling shoe as crazily stiff as possible, but a lot of the support also comes in the shoe’s upper and how it wraps around your foot. If you approach shoe fitment with a view more toward walking or running, you will tend to leave your toes with wiggle room. Once on the bike, though, I find it’s much better to tighten the upper as much as possible at the forefoot area, so that the lateral forefoot (outside edge) is braced and supported better. This helps prevent forefoot pain on the bike, and mitigates it if it does become an issue later.


Wearing gloves? While cycling indoors? In a tropical country? Yes. Hear me out.

There are two reasons for keeping your hands gloved up indoors. First, they act as a sponge for your sweat. You can use your gloves to wipe it off your face, sure, but the main benefit is for your bike. It will help reduce the sweat buildup that leaks through your handlebar tape and eventually ends up on your handlebars and control levers. Sweat carries corrosive salts, which are bad for your bike even if your sweat isn’t as acidic as mine.

The other reason for using gloves while cycling indoors is to help mitigate hand numbness. Even without the vibrations of the road, your hands can still get numbed from the simple pressure put on them as you hold the handlebars over a prolonged period. Not only is this uncomfortable, it may also lead to “cyclist’s palsy” later on.