At road.cc every product is thoroughly tested for as long as it takes to get a proper insight into how well it works. Our reviewers are experienced cyclists that we trust to be objective. While we strive to ensure that opinions expressed are backed up by facts, reviews are by their nature an informed opinion, not a definitive verdict. We don't intentionally try to break anything (except locks) but we do try to look for weak points in any design. The overall score is not just an average of the other scores: it reflects both a product's function and value – with value determined by how a product compares with items of similar spec, quality, and price.What the road.cc scores mean
Good scores are more common than bad, because fortunately good products are more common than bad.
Pas Normal Studio's Women's Essential Bib Shorts are exceptionally comfortable and, thanks to the unique gridded fabric, look great too. The lack of a quick pee system might go against them in some people's books, though, and they're cut unusually tall to work well with PNS's unusually short tops. That can make them a bit warm around the midriff when paired with regular-length tops – which isn't ideal when you might reasonably expect near-perfection at this price.
The first thing you notice with the Essential Bibs is the unique gridded fabric that makes up the main body of the shorts. Panels of this matrix-material are laser-cut and assembled by hand (in Italy). Leg grippers are deep elasticated bands, lined with PNS signature silicone grippers.
Italian Taiana woven micro-perforated fabric – more simply put, a very fine mesh – has been used for the straps. There's a noticeable absence of hems, with most edges being bonded for durability. This doesn't seem to compromise stretch.
I've been testing a medium and the fit is spot on. The sizing with PNS is not standard, if such a thing exists – I'd always advise using their guide, particularly for jerseys and tops. You may find yourself in a size or two above what you are used to.
The main body of these covers much more of the lower torso than most bib shorts tend to. Having tested a base layer and jersey from PNS at the same time, I can confidently say they are designed to be worn together; what the jersey exposes with its exceptionally short length, the shorts cover with high reaching panels.
Leg length is about average; I'm personally not a fan of short shorts, and these had just enough length for my liking.
These shorts offer supreme comfort – the first major requirement if you've paid £200+. They glide on and feel great against the skin; the gridded interior feels more luxurious than standard smooth Lycra. Despite PNS saying the fabric is 'compressive,' though, I didn't really notice this.
The leg grippers feel aggressive in contrast to the main fabric, yet I personally didn't experience any thigh-squeezing, lingering marks or irritation, even after 4hrs+ in the saddle. They anchor the shorts brilliantly, both with and without warmers, while the straps are well judged and supportive.
All of this fabric comfort is complemented by a well-positioned pad that tapers at the edges. There's certainly no bulk where it's not needed, and while it's not as cushioned or supportive as some I've tested, it's certainly more than enough for well-conditioned road riders wanting medium yet durable support. Being less bulky than some means decent breathability, anyway, and it's so compliant and you hardly notice it's there.
These are shorts you simply forget you're wearing; they're really that comfy. I found this the case for any duration and intensity of ride I tried, and was impressed. I expected my legs to overheat in warmer weather as the fabric feels almost fleecy, but even that was wrong. I'd say they are just as breathable as any short I've tested.
They perform best with PNS's own tops, though; I own plenty of regular-length jerseys and base layers and, in combination with these tall shorts, they could trap too much heat around the abdomen. This isn't a bad thing in cooler temperatures, of course, and happily the actual shorts part seems good in cold air too; I didn't sense cold air hitting my thighs even with it in single figures, as I sometimes do with thinner Lycra.
I've raved about comfort but, particularly on longer rides, I genuinely missed an easy-pee system. With these becoming more common and efficient, it would be good to see PNS introduce something soon.
While I'm on gripes, I'd say that the fabric is more vulnerable than some; a broken finger nail has incurred a snag, and there are some signs of wear at the saddle contact point.
My last niggle relates to the packaging: 100% plastic, not labelled as recycled, and with a hard plastic zip closure. That could be better.
If you're spending £210 there are few rivals that won't also be in your budget, so really you're spoilt for choice. I'd be considering alternatives such as Santini's £200 Redux Istinto Shorts for performance and comfort, or Velocio's also-£200 Ultralight Bibs for performance and an easy-pee feature.
If you want something less pricey, Pearl Izumi's Women's Attack Bib Shorts tick both the bio-break function and sustainability boxes. Certainly Anna rated the equivalent 3/4s highly when she tested them last year.
Add these to the growing list of £200+ bibs – they're £210, to be exact. Admittedly, comfy bibs are worth paying for but, if you are going to fork out that much, absolutely everything has to be spot on. For me personally there are too many cons: the lack of a bio-break function, for one, and a cut that really only works properly with unusually short tops.
Construction and comfort are as premium as the price, but the high cut can clash with other brands' tops
If you're thinking of buying this product using a cashback deal why not use the road.cc Top Cashback page and get some top cashback while helping to support your favourite independent cycling website
road.cc test report
Make and model: Pas Normal Studios Women's Essential Bibs
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product is for
Pas Normal Studios says, 'The Essential Bibs are our most versatile bib shorts, suited to fast-paced and relaxed riding styles.
'The anatomical fit, breathable straps, and four-layer ultralight chamois make these some of our most versatile bib shorts for everyday use.'
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Four-layer ultralight foam chamois
Resilient to elastic degradation
UPF 40 low-profile shoulder straps
Fabric: 82% Polyester 18% Elastane
Made in Italy
Best combined with tops that are shorter than average for maximum cooling.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
No problems; go in with the rest of your gear and dry out quickly.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Comfy with measured protection from a decent chamois. In very warm weather, they need teaming with a short jersey to optimise breathability around the abdomen and lower back.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Feel great against the skin, and offer more protection than some in cooler weather.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
No bio-break (easy pee...) function, and high-reaching panels.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It's premium, and up there with other premium brands such as Castelli, Cafe du Cycliste and MAAP.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Unlikely
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, solely based on comfort
Use this box to explain your overall score
Comfort is second to none and the unique fabric really sets these apart, but as the panels reach much higher than most – to work with PNS's unusually short tops, it seems – you might find your middle gets rather warm with your usual tops. The lack of an easy bio-break function is arguably a disappointment at the price, too, but it's possible neither thing will really bother you. They're still very good.
About the tester
I usually ride: Road My best bike is: Carbon road.
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, club rides, general fitness riding, Getting to grips with off roading too!
Emma’s first encounters with a road bike were in between swimming and running. Soon after competing for GB in the World Age Group Triathlon Championships in Edmonton in 2001 she saw the light and decided to focus on cycling.
After a couple of half decent UK road seasons racing for Leisure Lakes, she went out to Belgium to sample the racing there and spent two years with Lotto-Belisol Ladies team, racing alongside the likes of Sara Carrigan, Grace Verbeke, Rochelle Gilmore and Lizzie Deignan. Emma moved from Lotto-Belisol to Dutch team Redsun, then a new Belgian team of primarily developing riders, where there was less pressure, an opportunity to share her experience and help build a whole new team; a nice way to spend her final years of professional racing.
Since retiring Emma has returned to teaching. When not coercing kids to do maths, she is invariably out on two wheels. In addition to the daily commute, Emma still enjoys getting out on her road bike and having her legs ripped off on the local club rides and chain gangs. She has also developed an addiction to touring, with destinations including Iceland, Georgia and Albania, to mention just a few. There have also been rare sightings of Emma off-road on a mountain bike…