Pearl Izumi Pro Bib Shorts Review

Shorts can make or break your time on a bike. The right design helps you feel comfortable and confident, whether your commute is an hour or two across town or an epic journey across country. Not only do you need a chamois that protects your seat bones from bruising, you also need a design that helps wick moisture away from your body. Then, when it comes to fabric and patterns, everything has to be perfect so that everything fits, looks good and there are no stray seams to rub. Considering the complexity and importance of all these design decisions, we’ve put together a list of the best cycling shorts available.

Our list has a ton of great options, but one company that has yet to make an appearance is Pearl Izumi. For the 2022 model year, Pearl Izumi is making a big play to be one of the best options available for those who want to ride all day. The new Levitate chamois uses a multi-density design that the brand makes bold statements about. Over the past few months we’ve spent some time putting these claims to the test, so if you’re considering a new bib short, keep reading to see our thoughts on the Pearl Izumi Pro.

Pearl Izumi PRO rear view bib shorts

The entire design uses a single fabric. (Image credit: Josh Ross)

Design and aesthetics

Pearl Izumi offers three bibs in the PRO range, each catering to a different category of runners. If your riding takes you off the beaten path, you’ll want to check out the Expedition PRO Shorts. If you spend more time riding on warmer days and want the lightest design available, check out the PRO air bib shorts. That leaves these, the PRO bib shorts, as a versatile option.

What ties all of these options together is the brand new Levitate PRO chamois design, which is a big investment for Pearl Izumi and they break down the technology in three different ways. The first thing they cover is the multi-density nature of the design. What Pearl Izumi claims to be different is a specific density blend that prevents the chamois from completely bottoming out. The idea is similar to what Castelli does with the gel it uses in the seamless Progetto X2 Air chamois. Pearl Izumi however has a different view. Instead of using gel, it starts with a higher density foam against the skin, then goes to a slightly lower density against the saddle. The strategy is an attempt to create a linear range of motion as the pad compresses.

The next point of differentiation with the Levitate Pro chamois is a central decompression channel. This concept is the same idea as a saddle like the Cloth line-S. There is a break in the highest density foam that runs down the center of the chamois padding. It actually looks a lot like a saddle in silhouette.

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Pearl Izumi PRO bib shorts detail of the new chamois

The new Levitate Pro chamois is definitely the star of the show and it’s very good. (Image credit: Josh Ross)
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Detail of the Pearl Izumi PRO bib shorts on the front panel

This focal point across the bibs lets them down a bit in the looks department. (Image credit: Josh Ross)

The final set of features that set the Levitate Pro apart are actually two different concepts that work together. The top layer of the cushion uses a soft, dense fabric that is only attached to the two layers of foam at the front and back. Assos uses a uniquely similar front and back attachment strategy in their bibs, but Pearl Izumi places the attachment points farther from the edges of the top layer than Assos.

The other partner feature here is the shaping of the foam layers. There are no hard edges as the foam transitions from layer to layer. Instead, Pearl Izumi cuts the foam at an angle to create a smooth transition from layer to layer. It works in parallel with the upper boundary layer so everything against the skin feels soft and smooth.

Although this year’s Pearl Izumi Pro Bib Shorts update was all about the new chamois design, there’s more to what makes a bib short. The rest of the design uses seven panels according to Pearl Izumi but I would call it eight. The way it breaks down is that each thigh has an outer panel and a panel that wraps around the inside and runs down the back. The panel at the lower back also forms the straps that rest on the back. Each of the front straps is a separate piece and the end panel covers the lower belly. Each edge uses a raw, unfinished cut and the inside of each thigh has silicone grip material printed on it.

Pearl Izumi PRO bib shorts silicone leg grip detail

The silicone grip is comfortable and the bibs stay in place. (Image credit: Josh Ross)


The first impression and lasting impression of the Pearl Izumi Pro Bib Shorts is all about the next-to-skin feel. The fabric used is the same throughout the room and it’s a pleasure to touch. I’ve been wearing them several times a week for months and even after all this time and all these wash cycles, it’s amazing to feel the fabric.

What is remarkable about this fabric is that it is also used in the shoulder straps of the bib. It’s a strategy I’ve seen Pearl Izumi use in other bibs I’ve spent time in, but it still feels unusual to me. The fabric has less structure than the dedicated strap material used by other brands, but Pearl Izumi counteracts this by adding structure with a connection between the back straps in the upper back. It’s a strategy that pays off with a barely there feel but plenty of support. Just be sure to tie it with a loose knot before washing or it can wrap around the agitator.

When it comes to the design of the chamois, the feeling of touching next to the pad is again the most dominant. The fabric used for the boundary layer is dense, with an almost foamy feel and incredibly soft. It feels great even after a long day of riding and the multi-density foam does as promised and keeps your seat bones from getting injured.

If you’ve spent time in other Pearl Izumi garments, you’ll want to check your fit in these. I found it consistent with other brands but Pearl Izumi has a reputation for being a little looser. I would have worn the same size in both situations, but if you are more sensitive to a tight fit you might want to consider going up a size.

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Pearl Izumi PRO bib shorts detail of the back of the straps

Using the same material as the rest of the bibs means that this “bridge” at the back is necessary to provide enough structure (Image credit: Josh Ross)
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Pearl Izumi PRO shorts seam detail on the front of the straps

The straps are more than one piece, but where they’re joined it’s done in a way you’ll never feel (Image credit: Josh Ross)
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Pearl Izumi PRO bib shorts reflective logo detail

The logo on the back is reflective for a little extra visibility (Image credit: Josh Ross)


These are bibs that I wear very often. They have become my workhorse bibs that I take day in and day out when I have to dedicate hours to weekly training rides. They have handled many wash cycles and they continue to be incredibly comfortable. The straps which use the same comfortable material as the rest of the design are a definite highlight.

The only thing holding the Pearl Izumi Pro Bib Shorts a little bit back is the pattern on the front panel. Getting this part correct in any garment – ​​especially tight-fitting performance clothing – is a tough challenge. In this case, the design leans towards minimizing panels, and by extension seams, to control chafing. In this regard, it works very well. The chamois is also part of it and all the pieces come together for a very comfortable garment. It’s just not the most flattering look when off the bike. More sophisticated patterns could accomplish both design goals and make it a better piece overall.

Despite this negative point, the Pearl Izumi Pro bib shorts are worth a look. If you’re looking for bib shorts that are comfortable against the skin, or find the bibs used by other companies uncomfortable, these are two good reasons to give the Pro Bib Shorts a shot. You can also rest assured that the chamois design is one of the best on the market.

Technical specifications: Pearl Izumi PRO bib shorts

  • Price: $225.00 / £189.99
  • Materials: 46% nylon, 38% polyester, 16% LYCRA® spandex
  • Mass: 173g grams in small size
  • Size availability: S-XXL
  • Color options: Dark Ink Blossom Palm, Cocoa Scrib, Dark Ink, Black