With how cycling works with your body, the chamois and shorts/bibs determine a rider’s comfort which greatly influences the experience of riding. That chamois is the foundation of a good experience on the bike and has three key hallmarks.
The first element of that foundation is the skeletal support and suspension on the saddle at the contact points. The second is tissue health, allowing for proper blood circulation in a relatively delicate area of the body. And the third element is skin comfort with moisture management and friction reduction.
New cyclists have often asked what all the hubbub is with cycling chamois, and rightfully so. They are a complicated feature-filled thing to explain. And while every manufacturer tries to explain why their chamois are superior, most riders don’t know that we’ve been working in partnership with an Italian manufacturer for over 25 years on our proprietary chamois development. Whereas many other cycling brands go to trade shows and pick out a pre-engineered chamois to simply stitch into their own designs and claim it as theirs.
In 2011 we started the process of completely updating our chamois lines to engineer and refine some of the best riding chamois in the market. This culminated in 2017 with the PRO Escape 1:1™ Chamois, featuring our floating top sheet design and delivering unmatched comfort. It’s featured in our men’s P.R.O. Escape Bib Short and Short and is currently used in all PRO shorts and bibs in our lineup. We can validate this claim of the most comfortable short through the comments and “missing” bibs and shorts our wear testing program provided us.
Our network of nearly 500 wear test riders across the globe puts prototypes through hundreds of hours of riding and testing to provide unbiased feedback into product development. Refining our products to make them better so you can focus on the ride and forget what you’re wearing. The feedback we get directly from these riders guides how we improve, and even at times revert to designs that work the best on the body on the bike.
For example, in the process of testing to develop the all new P.R.O. Escape 1:1™ Chamois, women testers found that even with the women’s specific shape and designed chamois, a softer yet thinner chamois was better than a thicker or more robust chamois that was being initially developed. And while you can certainly ride an opposite gender-specific chamois if warranted, our chamois are developed with gender needs in mind for fit and function. The human anatomy is different in that area on the saddle.
Historically, the process of pressing and bonding multiple fabrics to create a chamois pad has been used to make and place into cycling shorts and bibs. Some of these fabrics and processes result in what ends up being more of a modified piece of plastic. The materials are fused together in a way that may provide suspension but lack the other two key elements of circulation protection and moisture management. And in the end making for a less than desirable experience on the bike.
Pearl Izumi uses fewer layers of material and strategic bonding in spots to allow for stretching and form shaping to the body. Using a patent pending process through “skiving” we are able to shape and deform the different foams to contour the chamois ideally to the body. The ability to skive the foam allows us to maximize the suspension of the skeleton and blood flow to tissue. We then invert the construction so the top sheet is completely smooth removing the potential for friction on seams or bonds within the foam and making moisture transfer more efficient.
Since the chamois is produced independently of the rest of the shorts/bibs, there are guide marks that are skived on the chamois pads to keep the sewing placement into the final shorts or bibs critically quality checked. Controlling these processes through manufacturing may increase some costs to make the shorts or bibs, but a quality final piece is more important to riders. And imperative to us.
Lastly, moving on to the ingredients of a chamois, various kinds of foam are used with different densities and ingredients to provide different levels of resilience. Our higher quality chamois the P.R.O. level utilizes more resilient foam which allows for more enjoyable experience when riding for long periods of time. When considering the P.R.O., ELITE, or SELECT chamois consider how long your rides will be to determine which may be best for you. Simply adding more foam and charging more for it doesn’t equal a functional and comfortable chamois. Using the gear that fits the way you ride is the best option for you.
So picking your ideal chamois and short really comes down to identifying your riding style in terms of duration so that you have the proper tool for the ride. Then you can focus on where you’re riding and forget about what you’re riding in.