Time tested: Three months
From: 7iDP Protection
Last year, I picked up a cargo base layer in a mini-quest to go packless more when out on local trail rides. Although my Camelbak Skyline, with its ‘low rider’ stance does a pretty good job at being unobtrusive on rides, I do have a real desire to go without it for most of my rides these days. The problem is, my Rallon (R4) doesn’t have a bottle cage so I still need to some way of carrying some fluid with me. I could buy the new Rallon which has room for a bottle cage…but I don’t think that’s enough of an excuse to spunk thousands of dolla bills on a new bike. Well, I could. I’m just not sure that excuse would fly at home with my wife!
Anyway, the ongoing mini-quest continued and I picked up the 7iDP Hydro bib short a few months back and have been using for most rides since. Advertised as having numerous pockets for stashing tools, water bottles and gels and also having impact protection on the thighs, it sounded like the perfect bib short for enduro racing as well as local rides. First impressions when they arrived were “Oooh….nice packaging” Rather than turning up in a plastic wrapper which immediately gets chucked in the bin, they come in a quality zipped pack which straight away has you thinking “that’ll come in handy for something, I’ll keep that”. What that something is…who knows, but it’ll find a use! On a more serious note, it does mean the packaging should be able to be re-used for other things plenty of times in the future, so helps cut down on plastic waste being chucked into landfill. Re-use and recycle kids 👍
Second impressions where that they felt heavy. That’s because of the impact protection pads in the legs so completely understandable. The pads are fully removable though and fit in a pocket on the inside of the bib legs, and are made from SASTEC material, constructed to be flexible but tough. Like a lot impact protection these days, the warmer they are, the more malleable they get so flexibility improves once you get the pistons firing.
My third impression was tinged with a hint of disappointment. The five storage pockets are ideally located around the lumbar region with a pair of deep, narrow pockets on each side located over the kidney area, and a central, less deep but wider pocket over the spine. All have stitched fold over covers to stop things falling out and are fairly easy to access when wearing. Now, unless you like to keep hydrated on rides with mini-bar sized Jack Daniels bottles (and I’ve known some riders who would do that), there really isn’t any meaningful room for water bottles in the pockets. I bought a couple of cheap 250ml running soft bottles off Ebay after realising a standard plastic bottle wasn’t going to fit and although they do sort of squeeze in, it’s not a great fit. For me, room to carry a 500ml minimum soft water bottle (I’m not keen on the idea of storing a rigid bottle on my spine, in case of a crash), would’ve been perfect and I’d like to see a large, deep pocket to shove one in. Seeing as this was a big need for me as I don’t have a bottle cage on my bike, this was a bit of a shame.
Anyway, so how does it fit? Being 5’8”, 30-32” waist (depending on whether it’s Christmas or Summer), on the sizing chart I’m borderline between the small and the medium. Seeing as these things tend to be stretchy and I don’t want no ‘saggies under ma baggies’, I went for the small and on the whole, it fits well. The legs are a little longer than my usual Endura undershorts and my Pearl Izumi bibs, coming down to just above the knee, but the bonus of that is it pretty much eliminates ‘Twat gap’ syndrome. The hip protection pads do just about cover my hip area but only just, resulting in more coverage of the upper thigh area. That’s fine though as when I do crash, it tends to be my thighs that take the hit rather than my hips it seems! The shoulder straps are reasonably wide with good stretch so despite being a small, don’t cut into the shoulders uncomfortably and the flat lock stitching also aids comfort. If you’re slim or between sizes, you’ll probably want to size down but it’s certainly best to try the fit before you commit.
The material is generally on the thicker side making them tougher in the event of a crash compared to roadie bibs, however there is a thinner mesh covering the upper back for ventilation. I rode in them for six hours and 20+ degrees Celsius temperatures at this year’s British Enduro Champs and I didn’t bake but if you run hot however, then you might feel it more in warm weather riding. One thing worth mentioning, and I’m not sure why more manufacturers don’t do this, particularly on men’s MTB bibs, is that there is a zipped fly to make pee stops a whole lot easier (how women manage with bibs, I have no idea and I don’t envy you). No more awkward squatting, lunging and jiggling to answer the call of nature…unless you’re female that is.
I’ve now done a few longer trail rides in them and bit of racing and these are becoming my go-to biking underwear choice now. In the narrow pockets, a multi tool and tyre lever in one pocket will fit nicely, a couple of CO2 canisters in another, some cereal bars and gels can also be stashed in. I’ve had mixed success with bananas, smaller ones will fit fine but larger ones can poke out a bit too much and work their way out a little. But, be careful if you’re packing the bananas – one crash could result in a mash-up messier than a Welsh Gravity Enduro race stage freshly cut in a thunderstorm. The rear lumber pocket is a perfect fit for my 5.5″ smartphone, so I’ve tended to stick that in there.
What’s noticeable is that these bibs are really comfy and the stuff I stash in the pockets really isn’t noticeable at all – everything sits and stays flat and snug against the body. Even on some fast, rocky descents, everything stays in the pockets nicely (helped by the fold over covers) and don’t bounce about. When it comes to getting stuff out, apart from the slight awkwardness of trying to do anything involving gloved fingers, items are generally easy to access and don’t give you cramp whilst trying the old reach-around, though the covers can make it a bit fiddly to get things in or out.
The dual layer chamois padding is also good, and although feeling a little high at the front, doesn’t irritate and neither do the hip/thigh pads which are practically invisible to feel when pedalling. So, although they haven’t quite met my need for packless hydration storage, they are a very good and comfortable pair of bibs for mountain bike riding and racing. If you have a bottle cage on your bike, then these are ideal, just load up the pockets with tools and food and enjoy the ride free of baggage.
I’ve since picked up a Dakine hip pack (review here) which I now ride in tandem with these and the combo gives me all the storage and hydration I need for hours on the trail – review coming very soon!
Very comfy to wear with well placed, secure multiple pockets and unobtrusive hip/thigh protection for a bit of security when getting your rad on. The fit is a little on the long side and the lack of meaningful water bottle storage is a shame but overall these are very good bibs for packless, aggro riding.