There you stand in a Portosan, facing that cloudy little mirror stuck to the door and hopping, out of urgency, from foot to foot. It’s a chilly spring day, so you’re unzipping and peeling layers of cycling tops, onion-style, to reach the straps that will liberate your one-piece bib shorts. There’s no hook on the wall, so maybe you’re shedding garments directly onto the dirty floor. Then, an alarming Thunk! Your smartphone has just dropped out of your jersey pocket and bounced to the floor, missing by inches tumbling into the toilet.
Maybe you’ve been there. Maybe this scenario, which improves marginally when shifted to a clean public restroom and dips into comedy when played out behind a roadside clump of shrubbery, has inhibited you from making the switch from bike shorts to the otherwise sterling qualities of bibs.
For the bib-curious and current fans of this garment, Giro Sport Design is introducing a new design for spring 2015. The stroke of genius: A one-piece halter strap (top photo) that the cyclist stretches over her head, then pulls down from below to free the pants without having to remove a single layer up top. In the reverse process, the strap is eased up the inside of the jersey, and slipped back over the head.
Let’s just pause to appreciate that. To dwell on it. To consider: Why didn’t anybody think of this before?
I got a preview of the bibs recently at a bicycling and active outdoor media event focused on women’s products, hosted in New Jersey by Interbike. There, I pulled the sample bibs on, zipped into a jersey and vest, and gave the garment the undress test.
The ‘Aha’ Moment
It took me years to make the switch to bib shorts, but once I did, I became a fan. Bib shorts feel aero and fast and yes, sexy, as they eliminate drafts and peekaboo gaps between pants and top.
But with the exception of one winter-weight style that unzips at the rear for union-suit-style utility, women’s bibs come in a variety of strap configurations that require undressing to use the bathroom. Whether suspender- or vest-style, all are worn over a sports bra and base layer, and under a jersey and outerwear.
Karany Nhim, senior designer for Giro, says the objectives in building a better bib were to eliminate the need for hardware – zippers or clasps that can rub – and make the garment intuitive to use. In considering the top, she looked to the world of fashion for inspiration and landed on the halter form.
“That was my ‘aha’ moment,” says Nhim, who arrived at Giro in 2012 from designing denim for Levi Strauss. “The rest was in fabric choices, how much of an opening in the back, and how to use the structure of the pants to diffuse possible pressure on the shoulders.”
Leading with Lifestyle
Known for cycling helmets, Giro first entered the men’s apparel market in spring of 2013, not with traditional cycling shorts and jerseys, but with the ground-breaking New Road collection that acknowledges cycling’s growing role in everyday active lifestyle.
The apparel merges performance features like technical fabrics and strategically-placed vents and pockets with sportswear styling, much of it in Merino wool, that transitions smoothly from the Saturday morning ride to lunch in town.
In what must be considered an unusual move for the male-focused cycling industry, Giro introduced a similarly well-rounded New Road collection for women in spring of this year. It includes base layers, tops, pants, shorts and outerwear that work on and off the bike, combining quality fabrics with fashion styling and performance features.
Tellingly, I got my first look at that women’s collection and initially met Nhim at Capsule, a fashion and lifestyle trade show in New York City.
Thoughtful Features for Women
With the spring 2015 collection, the company is focusing its spirit of innovation on traditional road cycling apparel. And the same femininity, quality and attention to detail flow into the new pieces for women.
“You want these to hold you in, support you in the right places and not limit you,” says Nhim, as she points out the features of the garment, which is constructed of Italian-made fabric.
Giro worked with Luigi Bergamo, who previously served as development director for Assos on the placement and ergonomics of the Italian-made Cytech chamois. It contains a carbon filament that’s anti-bacterial, “so you stay fresher longer,” Nhim says.
The Lycra leg grippers (no silicone) offer lots of give and feel lightweight. The same stretchy, breathable material is used for the waistband of the cycling shorts in the collection.
The proof of performance will be in the riding. How will the halter top compare with current strap systems over long hours in the saddle? I haven’t worn these on a bicycle. But if my bathroom stall test is any indication, the road ahead could be bright for this thoughtful innovation.
Giro New Road Women’s Halter Bib Shorts, $150 (Spring 2015)