Bib tights - John C. Kirk
Nov. 12th, 2009
02:10 am - Bib tights
Last month, I said that I was looking at bib tights for cycling. Following up on that, I've had mixed success so far.
Initially I ordered some Santini Thermofleece tights. However, it turned out that the description on the website was wrong, and they weren't actually padded. (The website has now been updated to correct this mistake.) So, I then went for Shimano Windflex instead. These are the right design, i.e. they're lycra rather than fleecy, and they're padded (so I don't have to wear a separate pair of shorts at the same time). However, the tricky issue is sizing. There's nothing on the Shimano or CRC website to indicate what size to buy, so I've had to rely on trial and error. First I bought L, but they were far too small. Then I bought XL, but there was still a fairly big gap between me and the padding. I've now bought XXL: I think these are actually a bit too big, although the effect is much the same, i.e. the padded area is a bit loose.
When I buy trousers, there are two measurements: inside leg, and waist. These can both vary independently, i.e. you can get several different waist sizes for the same inside leg, and several different inside leg sizes for the same waist. Similarly, if I buy a shirt then I know my chest size and my collar size. However, with the bib tights there's just one overall size, so they must be relying on certain proportions, and I think that will cause problems if you don't fit those dimensions.
As I understand it, the main difference between bib tights/shorts and "normal" tights/shorts is that the bib version relies on shoulder straps to pull it up rather than having an elasticated waist, and this should be a bit more comfortable. Since I've gone for full length tights, I have straps that go under my feet, so the tights are basically being pulled from two different directions. However, with the XXL size, the shoulder straps aren't really exerting any pressure. They're not loose, but they have about the same grip as a pair of socks. I wonder whether this has anything to do with body dimensions. I've been reading about frame sizes for bikes recently, and apparently the ratio of torso:legs is important. If a man and a woman are the same height, the woman would normally have longer legs, whereas the man would normally have a longer torso. In my case, I wonder whether that's a bit skewed, since the XL tights were too short in the leg and about right in the chest.
Having said that, another option is that I'm still a bit too fat. Last year I started out with XL shorts, then I got a couple of holes in the sides (where the seams started to split), so I moved up to XXL, and I've been wearing those ever since. Thinking about normal trousers, I'd say that my waist and thighs tend to vary together. For instance, right now I can fit into jeans with a 34" waist (at a squeeze), but as an undergrad I had a 32" waist. If I try to put the trousers on that are too small, I typically find that I can't pull them up past my thighs, before I even try doing up the button at the waist. I wonder whether there's a similar issue with the XL tights, i.e. whether I might be able to stretch the legs up a bit more if my legs were thinner? (My Spider-Man catsuit is size XL, and I was a bit slimmer when I bought that.) With normal trousers, if I wind up between waist sizes then I'll wear the bigger size with a belt; later on, I may be able to fit into the smaller size, at which point I can ditch the belt. However, you can't wear a belt with cycling tights!
In fairness to Chain Reaction Cycles, they've been very good at accepting all my returns. However, now that I've worn the latest pair for a day, it's too late to return these. There was an article at Get Rich Slowly recently about maximisers and satisficers, the idea being that you can settle for something that's "good enough" rather than looking for the best possible solution, and I think that's what I need to do here. As it stands, I can fit into the XXL tights, they keep my legs warm without inhibiting my movement too much, and I get (some) padding between my bum and the saddle. So, they'll do for now, and if they last me for this winter then I can see about doing something different next year. I might be better off with "waisted" tights, or maybe I should just go to a local shop where I can try on several different versions instead of posting things back and forth.
In the longer term (once I'm happy with my size), it might be feasible to get something bespoke, i.e. specifically made for me. I had an email through from the Outdoor Swimming Society recently, offering a winter swimming wetsuit (made to measure) for £350. So, I'd guess that cycling gear would be a comparable price.
I asked before about the sequence of "layering" clothing. Something similar came up while I was putting on my socks: should they go inside or outside the feet straps? I initially tried inside, but the logic of the base layer implies that it should stay next to my skin. However, putting the socks outside (over the straps) meant that they went over the bottom of the legs as well, which looked a bit weird. However, I assume that's the way to go.
After I was dressed this morning, I thought "Right, I'll just nip to the loo before I leave ... ah." With my shorts, I can just pull them down and get on with it. With the bib tights, I need to take my shirt off, then pull the shoulder straps over my arms so that I can roll them down. So, that's a bit more of a faff. Still, I'm not wearing them all day, so a bit of advance planning can solve that problem.