Why You Want: You need a top-end, winter weight bib short and leg warmer combination, and prefer the adjustability of a multi-piece system versus bib knickers or bib tights.
Pros: Warmth. Period. Both the G.S. Panache fleece bib short and leg warmers work as advertised. On numerous occasions these past few months, I rolled out the door when temps were in the low 30s, and managed to stay comfortable.
Both pieces are lined with 220-weight Roubaix fleece that's soft on chapped skin. The bib shorts also incorporate a longer-wearing nylon under the chamois, which means they will hold up to the rigors of sloppy-conditions riding, when grit and grime often end up between shorts and saddle.
The adjustability factor is also nice. Unlike with bib knickers or tights, if the temperature suddenly goes up, you can stuff the leg warmers in a jersey pocket. I also appreciate the simple, yet elegant design that permeates the entire Panache line. Their apparel looks good without screaming, look at me, look at me.
Cons: The fit on the shorts is tighter than that of Panache's same-sized summer weight pieces (I own a few). The rationale, according to Panache, is that the fleece bib shorts use a tighter weave material, which sits closer to the skin to provide additional warmth and muscle compression. The Roubaix fabric is also dyed as opposed to printed like with the polyester Lycra on my custom summer-weight kit. Bottom line, the fit is definitely different and some riders may want to consider sizing up. The bib short's $200 price tag may also scare off some people.
RoadBikeReview Take: Once you get fit dialed in, this is a great winter-weight combination to have in the apparel arsenal. The fabric on both pieces is high quality, and it shows both in function and feel. The bib shorts are constructed from nine panels, which helps put material where you need it.
The all-important chamois is made from high density open-cell, all-way stretch foam padding with two layer X-TRACT fabric. Translation, according to Panache, is that it breathes well and dries fast. Frankly we never put this to the test, since we mostly rode when it was cold out. But the chamois did provide plenty of comfort without unwanted bulk. The complete lack of cross seams meant no unwanted chaffing, which is especially critical in winter when skin is usually more tender. One caveat is that at times, the chamois rode a little too far forward for our liking. This was in part due to the snug fit, and could be remedied with a little tugging and pulling.
Grippers on both pieces did their job. Even during aggressive out-of-the-saddle efforts, everything stayed in place. Flatlock seams and tagless construction further enhanced comfort. And if you'd like to have a pair dressed up with custom graphics, Panache utilizes digital printing, which means crisp and accurate imagery that wont bleed.
Price: Bib Shorts, $200; Leg Warmers, $65
More Info: www.panachecyclewear.com