Welcome to the first installment of the new RoadBikeReview.com Women's Test Team. This is our attempt to address what we believe is a substantial void in cycling journalism: product test reviews on women's cycling gear and apparel conducted and written by women.

As you'll see on page No. 4 of this debut installment, our quartet of testers possess a wealth of knowledge, experience and expertise. All four have worked in the cycling industry and all four are passionate cyclists who ride and sometimes race.

You'll also see that they don't always agree - or have nice things to say. But that's arguably the most important aspect of this new project. The RoadBikeReview.com Women's Test Team will be offering honest and unvarnished opinions about the products they use - no biases, no bull.

In this first review, we examine an item that is perhaps most indicative of the differing needs of women cyclists: bibshorts. We've taken a close look at fit, fashion and function. Or put another way, how easy is it to go to the bathroom while out on a ride? First up are offerings from Hincapie (below), Pearl Izumi, and Assos. Check back soon for additional reviews on options from Castelli, Capo, Panache, Primal Wear and Rapha. Have a read, then let us know what you think - and what other kinds of gear and apparel you'd like to see featured here.

Hincapie Power Bibshort

Sizes: XS to XL
Color: Black
MSRP: $130
More info: www.Hincapie.com

What The Manufacturer Says

Highlights include a unique buckle attachment on this bibshort that is ergonomically designed for women. It also has moisture-wicking AT2 Force Lycra Power construction that hugs and moves with the body. Proprietary Schoeller coldblack finish technology reflects heat away from the body to regulate temperature and provide SPF50+ UVA/UVB protection. Also the saddle area is reinforced with abrasion-resistant ABR Resistor Lycra that's moisture-wicking. The chamois is anatomical Hincapie Women's Power GT model with E.I.T. Max fabric and perforated, high density foam inserts. A comfortable, quick-drying VelociTek mesh upper wicks moisture away from the body, comfort-flex leg bands don't bind, and they have reflective treatment for better visibility.

Tester: Elizabeth Train (Size Tested: Small)

Function: It's mentally difficult to head out for a solo ride (or a ride with a bunch of guys) knowing that you'll need a wardrobe assist if you need to make a pit stop. But getting these bibshorts fastened without help and/or a mirror was nearly impossible for me. Also, the plastic clip in the back doesn't feel great on a bony spine and makes it nearly impossible to wear these with a hydration pack.

Fit: I really like the fit of these shorts. The legs are a good length, they've got great support, and overall, they're very comfortable. That clip didn't start bugging me until several hours into a long ride… and then again when I slumped into a chair during the post-ride beer portion of the test.

Materials: I really like the mix of materials in these shorts. They have nice stretch, good breathability and an interesting look. While the idea of a sun-reflecting UV protector in a short seems nice, I didn't really notice a difference between this material and ordinary Lycra. I like this chamois. It's simple, low-profile and super soft.

Fashion: These shorts look good and fit well. And the varied fabrics make them subtly distinct.

Overall Rating:
3.5 out of 5

Tester: Kate Powlison (Size Tested: Small)

Fit: These bibs have a standard fit and fit me just fine.

Function: The rear plastic clasp is poorly designed. Not only does it require upper body acrobatics or outside help to snap, but when I commuted in these, my backpack caused the clasp to dig painfully into my back. The rear clasp design means riding with a backpack or hydration pack is a no-go. It's also tough to remove these bibs without removing your helmet - a major deterrent for riders who want to make speedy bathroom stops.

Materials: I like how the panels alternate between a smooth and a ribbed fabric. The chamois is a little wide but didn't cause any issues.

Fashion: These bibs are pretty plain and nondescript.

Overall Rating:
2.5 out of 5

Tester: Liz Barcheck (Size Tested: Medium)

Fit: The length of the short fit well (mid-length of leg). The straps do not have an adjustable feature, and I found that they didn't quite fit right. They sagged in the front and fabric collected in my lap as I leaned forward on descents. These shorts have the same elastic band around the base that held in place, but weren't too tight.

Function: The chamois fit alright, I didn't really feel like I could do a long ride in it. I felt like it was placed too far back. I found these bibshorts to be the most inconvenient to get out of, mostly because the clasp is in the middle of the back and it was awkward to get it open and closed. I basically have to take off everything including my helmet to get these shorts off.

Materials: I'm not in love with the way these shorts feel, the material feels a bit scratchy. I did appreciate the mesh in the back for airflow, though.

Fashion: The seams are not particularly flattering.

Additional Comments: My least favorite pair out of the first three. There is nothing special about these shorts. I don't like the straps because there is no option to adjust and they attach only in the back. I don't really care for the design of the single strap in the front and the circle of fabric hugging my neck.

Overall Rating:
2 out of 5

Tester: Lisa Sumner (Size Tested: Medium)

Fit: The medium is a larger-sized medium which led to bunching of material around my stomach and legs. Leg length is a little long for my liking, but I like the looser fitting leg bands. They have some elasticity but aren't so tight that my leg muscle/fat bunches. Straps are a good length.

Function: For me, the chamois was located so far back that I literally can't say if it's comfortable or the right thickness because I literally didn't use it. As for the plastic buckle in the middle of the back of the bib, it takes a bit of contorting to get it unclasped, but once off I was able to use the restroom fairly easily without disrobing. The design is not flawless but gets the job done.

Materials: The Lycra is loose fitting, but it breathed well and wicked away sweat. Some seams are smooth, but others protrude out from the bib. However, I was never bothered by this.

Fashion: Very basic. Simple, sleek, all black.

Additional Comments: As a result of the semi-loose fit and poor chamois placement I was not comfortable riding in these bibshorts. Also there is no gripper material on the leg bands for when you need to wear leg/knee warmers.

Overall Rating:
3.5 out of 5

Next: Pearl Izumi Women's Pro and Elite In-R-Cool Bibshorts »

Pearl Izumi Women's Pro In-R-Cool

Sizes: XS to XL
Color: Black
MSRP: $175
More Info: Shop.PearlIzumi.com

What The Manufacturer Says

The Women's P.R.O. In-R-Cool Bib Short is specifically tailored for women, featuring a closure that ensures bib straps stay comfortably in place and a unique separating center back strap for convenience when nature calls.

Other highlights include P.R.O. Transfer In-R-Cool fabric with coldblack that provides cooling and reflective sun protection, P.R.O. Transfer Dry fabric powered by Minerale that provides moisture transfer, dry time and odor absorption, P.R.O. Transfer with Minerale Direct-Vent bib, anatomic multi-panel design, silicone leg gripper, a W's Anatomic P.R.O. Seamless 4D Chamois, convenient drop tail design, and reflective elements for low-light visibility.

Tester: Liz Barcheck (Size Tested: Medium)

Fit: The length was appropriate, not too long or short. The straps were the right length, and it was nice to have the option to change the length by changing the clasps in the back. This short fit a bit tight, it has a strip of tighter fabric around the base of the legs that was too tight and created a "sausage leg" effect, a common problem with shorts that have a strip of elastic at the bottom.

Function: The chamois fit appropriately and was comfortable for short and medium length rides. The strap was easy to use and has two clasps. I appreciated the one in the front because it allowed more freedom when needing to use the bathroom. The one in the back was nice to adjust the length of the straps. Both were comfortable and weren't too bulky. Also the straps are thin and don't cover the whole core which allows for better airflow.

Materials: I think for a short or medium length ride the material works, it is a bit heavier/thicker than a light fabric, which I think also makes it a bit more durable. I was wearing these shorts when I crashed on my mountain bike, and the fabric held up well, did not wear or rip. The seams on the inside do stick out a bit but I didn't notice any chafing on my 3-plus hour ride.

Fashion: The shorts have a clean cut and the seams are flattering. But the sausage leg factor makes them not very attractive on me; eaner women may not have that problem.

Additional Comments: These shorts are pretty standard. There isn't anything about them that make me terribly excited or annoyed. The best feature is the option to clasp in the front and back of the bibs.

Overall Rating:
3 out of 5

Tester: Lisa Sumner (Size Tested: Medium)

Fit: The medium is a good fit in the short area, but the straps are long and loose even when the smallest setting on back clasp is used. This didn't bother me when riding, but did make the bibs feel looser in the front when riding. The leg length is a nice mid-thigh length, but the leg bands were fairly tight. This caused a bulging of leg muscle/fat that's not very flattering and it makes the short less comfortable.

Function: The chamois was well placed and was a good thickness on the back portion, but I found the front part to be slightly uncomfortable at times due to thickness and width. It was a bit too narrow for my body. There is a bra-like clasp on the back strap of the bib which allows for easier restroom breaks and it was adjustable (three sizes). However, I found it very difficult to re-clasp and eventually just took my jersey off to do it. Maybe with practice it would get easier. Also there is a buckle in the front to hold straps together and make them come up the middle of my chest, but I didn't notice any difference whether I had it buckled or not.

Materials: The Lycra is a nice material, and breathed well. The seams did protrude onto my skin but besides the seam lines on my skin when I took the bib off, they didn't bother me when riding.

Fashion: I like the subtle white seam line accents on the bib. There were also more diagonal seams which I think looks more flattering. Overall, the bib looks nice and I like the white accent of the seams, but the tight leg bands and long straps dropped my overall rating down.

Overall Rating:
3.5 out of 5

Pearl Izumi Women's Elite In-R-Cool

Sizes: XS to XL
Color: Black
MSRP: $145
More Info: www.PearlIzumi.com

What The Manufacturer Says

The Women's ELITE cycling bib combines ELITE Transfer fabric with In-R-Cool with our new Women's ELITE 3D Chamois for on-the-bike comfort and a unique convenient drop tail for when nature calls. The ELITE Transfer In-R-Cool fabric powered by coldblack provides superior cooling and reflective sun protection. Other highlights include anatomic multi-panel design, silicone leg gripper, reflective elements for low-light visibility, and a form fitting cut.

Tester: Kate Powlison (Size Tested: Small)

Fit: These bibs are skimpier than most, bordering on a tri short. Despite the small size, they still ride up and bunch - enough to start chafing shortly into a ride. My riding friend looked at me and said, "I can tell those shorts are uncomfortable just by looking at you." Comfort aside, the short length will cause hesitation for anyone who doesn't want the cellular structure of their rear upper thigh on display.

Function: These bibs aren't comfortable and well-fitting enough to trust on a long ride. However, when I wore them under a pair of bib shorts on a mountain bike ride, the short length was less of a problem, and actually more of a benefit. I liked how the minimal length kept me cool and didn't peek out from beneath my baggies.

The drop tail feature is intriguing. It makes taking care of business on the road slightly more efficient and discrete, but not significantly so. I would be more inclined to buy cold-weather bib tights with this feature, for when lowering bib straps means removing multiple layers.

Materials: The chamois, short, and strap fabrics all perform and look fine.

Fashion: Even for someone with short legs like me, these bibs run short.

Overall Rating:
2 out of 5

Tester: Elizabeth Train (Size Tested: Small)

Fit: I found them tight with excess fabric and too much stretch. For me, the beauty of bibs is that they don't cut off crucial tummy circulation on long rides. But somehow, these bibs managed to do that.

Function: I'm not sold on the "drop tail" design. There's all this droopy mesh material that sort of drapes all over your back, but is not actually attached to the back/top of the short. It just hangs there. This feature is supposed to enable one to pee without taking off the top portion, which it does, but not with any grace or ease. It's very awkward.

Materials: The aforementioned mesh material is itchy and doesn't seem that breathable, so I found myself uncomfortably hot in these bibs.

Overall Rating:
1 out of 5

Manufacturer Response

At Pearl Izumi we take women's cycling apparel very seriously and strive to make the best performing gear at every price point. Obviously, we're disappointed that the women testers did not have a better experience in our shorts.

In an effort to continue refining and developing women's cycling apparel that truly speaks to what women are looking for - comfort, functionality and aesthetics - we used our test group of 90 women to get feedback on every style in the 2014 line, and made changes accordingly, before it went to production. It is clear that women often have very specific requests regarding inseam lengths, leg openings and waistbands, so the new line will include 16 different styles to offer female cyclists a variety of options to best suit their tastes and body type.

Additionally, both of the reviewed styles have been redesigned for the 2014 spring season and the new shorts will be in stores starting in January. Many of the specific comments made by the testers, such as leg gripper elastic, have been improved to resolve the issues they noted. We are committed to building the best cycling apparel for women and are continuously striving to bring innovations in material, fit and function to market.

Next: Assos T.Lady_S5 Bibshorts »

Assos T.Lady_S5

Sizes: XS to XL
Color: Black
MSRP: $279
More Info: www.Assos.com

What The Manufacturer Says

The T.Lady is the new standard of performance in bibshorts, specifically tailored to fit the female body. The T.Lady has two lady-specific Assos innovations, the ABC Closure System specifically engineered to fit a woman's body, creating the perfect female fit solution for bib construction. Providing total wearing comfort, by means of the Y-panel design that contours in between instead of over the breasts, it incorporates the ABC Closure System, which allows you to tailor the bib length to your liking and to more easily dress and undress.

The second patent is for the construction of the leg grippers. Instead of full-circumference leg grippers, Assos developed a sewing construction that allows half-circumference grip without losing stability, because the female body naturally stores bit more fat in the thighs, and the leg grippers on female shorts often provoke an esthetically unpleasing picture. Now women can enjoy a proper leg fit without the unflattering skin impressions.

Tester: Lisa Sumner (Size Tested: Medium)

Fit: The size medium was perfect for me and the straps were a good length. The straps come up the center of the chest and V's out at the neck. Like the Hincapie shorts, the strap did end up fitting right around my neck when I was riding but this didn't bother me. The leg length was good, just slightly above mid-thigh and the leg bands were of adequate tightness.

Function: The chamois was well placed and was a good thickness all around. It was very comfortable while riding. The front part of the chamois was about a half inch wider than the other chamois and fit my body type well. The buckle feature at the bottom of the strap is well constructed and has three different inserts allowing the straps to be adjustable. I also found this the easiest of the three bibs with "restroom capabilities" to use. It takes a bit of skill to get the strap up the back side of the jersey but once it's over your neck it's really easy to reconnect to make bib whole again.

Materials: Nice, smooth feel on the skin and no chaffing. But the material is thick, so on a really hot days it wouldn't be my first choice. There is a lot of extra material that made me feel hot. But it also wicked away sweat really well.

Fashion: The bibs are black and sleek. They have contoured seam lines which I think is more flattering than straight lines and makes the bibs look really nice.

Additional Comments: I thought the chamois was really comfortable. Instead of just flat padding, the padding has small divots all throughout the chamois, which felt comfortable while riding. There was also a small sticky area only on the back of the leg bands for when needing knee/leg warmers. I like this aspect because it makes the leg bands more comfortable without the sticky material on your skin all over, but still allows for the functionality of holding up knee/leg warmers

Overall Rating:
4.5 out of 5

Tester: Kate Powlison (Size Tested: Small)

Fit: I've always heard Assos has a reputation for tight-fitting clothing, so I was surprised when I tried on these bibs. They were some of the larger bibs I've worn lately. At first I was skeptical, but then I grew to appreciate how these bibs show very little thigh bulge around the grippers. The longish, slightly looser fit is flattering, sleek, and comfortable.

Function: I really wanted to like these bibs. On my hour-long lunch rides, they were easy, breezy, and beautiful. But two hours into a five-hour weekend jaunt, I was literally clawing the chamois away from my nethers. It's much too thick, and the interior chamois seam is an X-marks-the-spot for saddle sores.

The Assos shorts share an adjustable, between-the-chest bib strap design with the Hincapie bibs. To me, the main benefit of this design isn't avoiding large boobs - it's the adjustable strap length. For women with an upright riding position, the shrunken bib straps of racing-oriented designs can feel too tight. For women with short torsos or aggressive bike positions, loose bib straps can slide and get in the way. I appreciate the adjustability of this design. However, the design also makes it a major pain to put the bibs on. For me, it brings back all sorts of bad memories of when overalls were in style. I ended up twisting the Assos straps or stretching them awkwardly over my head.

The way the bib strap falls in the center of my chest feels a bit stifling, though it doesn't get wildly hot or uncomfortable on long summer climbs. Still, I'd prefer to be able to unzip my jersey and have the full breeze on my décolletage.

Materials: From first glance, it's obvious these materials are luxurious and top of the line. I just wish the chamois wasn't so thick.

Fashion: These bibs are both high-end and flattering. The minimal branding is a welcomed touch.

Additional Comments: Great bibs for an hour ride. Leave them at home on longer expeditions

Overall Rating:
3.5 out of 5

Tester: Liz Barcheck (Size Tested: Medium)

Fit: I liked the length and overall fit of these shorts. The straps also fit well and were relatively easy to put on.

Function: I rode a few longer rides with these shorts (one ride 5+hours) and the chamois was really comfortable. It isn't too big or bulky, and it stays in place. The weirdest/hardest part to use on these shorts are the straps. I basically needed to undress totally if I wanted to go to the bathroom. I did like that the straps had three different adjustable lengths, and the clasp stayed in place and was comfortable when riding.

Materials: I really liked the material, soft and comfortable. Seams are clean and on long rides I felt like these shorts were doing their job. The mesh on the back of the bibs helped keep me cool.

Fashion: I like the way these shorts looks, clean lines and appropriate leg length complimented my body type. Fellow riders also complimented me on the way these shorts look. The base of the shorts have the same elastic band as the Pearl shorts, but they didn't give me sausage legs because the elastic only went around half of the base. I think this is a great design because it helped the shorts stay in place, but didn't suck my legs in to create that "too tight" look.

Additional Comments: They fit well, stayed in place where I needed them to, and were flattering. The only downside to me was the design of the bib, and perhaps it's just because I'm not used to the single strap between the boobs. I don't personally like this design, and also find it extremely annoying that I have a circle of fabric that fits so closely around my neck rather than over my shoulders more.

Overall Rating:
4 out of 5

Tester: Elizabeth Train (Size Tested: Small)

Fit: The overall fit was good, though the straps were a bit tight for me even on the longest setting. Nice leg length, good support.

Function: Getting into these bibs was a bit of a chore. I couldn't push the little hook thing through the small narrow fitting … and in my haste to get it done, I punched the hook right through the fabric. It seemed to get easier after a few rides, but it still takes a little concentration. While it's easy get these bibs off in a pit-stop without removing your jersey, it's difficult to get them back on without taking off your top. Also unless you have a friend to help you out, it's hard to tell if the back is twisted or not.

Materials: Aside from the aforementioned hooking issue, these bibs felt like they are made from high quality materials. They breathe well, offer great support, and are extremely comfortable. Nothing chafes or rubs. However, the chamois is too thick for my tastes. I've never had to lower my saddle to accommodate a pair of shorts, but that might have been the right move in this case. After my first ride in these bibs (a four-hour mountain bike ride) my hip flexors felt strained due to the unusual bulk, and I noticed slight discomfort on shorter rides, as well. For me it's just too thick and too wide - especially through the crotch. However, the material and breathability of the chamois were great.

Fashion: These are solid looking bibs. Nothing too visually fancy, but there's something nice - even elegant - about them.

Overall Rating:
3.5 out of 5, which could be upped to 4 if the chamois packs out over time.

Next: Meet the Testers »

Meet the Testers

Kate Powlison

Kate Powlison lives for the lunch ride. Invite her on a midday ride, and the answer is almost always "yes." Bicycling is her essential outlet and personal passion. It's also her solution to society's most pressing problems in her work at PeopleForBikes, the national bike nonprofit. In fact, Kate loves bikes so much that she rode all 2,161 miles of the 2012 Tour de France course with a team of five women. Whether on a lunch ride, commute, or Grand Tour adventure, Kate believes that good design can make a great ride better.

Liz Barcheck

Liz Barcheck rides and resides in Boulder, Colorado. She received her first "real" bike in her early twenties from her now husband, owner/head builder of Mosaic Cycles. Since then she has developed a love and affinity for long road rides in the mountains of Colorado and bike commutes to her middle school classroom. Currently she helps to manage and race for local cyclocross team, Team Small Batch, and continues to work for Mosaic Cycles as a product tester and advocate of custom bicycles.

Elizabeth Train

Elizabeth Train believes that few things compare to great rides with great friends. While she loves to spin on gorgeous roads, it's singletrack that truly has her heart. She's also been in the bike industry for nearly a decade, working for organizations such as Bikes Belong and Boulder B-cycle, and logging loads of volunteer hours with the Boulder Mountain Bike Alliance.

Lisa Sumner

Lisa Sumner's cycling career began later in life when she landed a job as the advertising coordinator for VeloNews. Lisa worked there for five years and quickly discovered a love for cycling on asphalt and singletrack. Lisa has done a handful of racing over the years, but her real passion is going out for long rides in the mountains of Colorado with good friends.

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