I tried my first pair of Merino wool bib shorts about five years ago. They were made by Icebreaker, which at the time had a number of cycling specific wool pieces — a jersey, bib, arm warmers.
I still love all the Icebreaker Merino base layer stuff but they stopped making bibs and jerseys. I never wore the wool bib much because it seemed a little too heavy in weight and it just wasn’t as form fitting as my lycra bibs. My experience was that the Icebreaker bib also didn’t hold its shape that well.
Which brings us five years further down the road and the new Ibex Merino wool Arrivee bib short ($140). Short summary: Ibex has mastered the Merino bib.
Out of the package, the Arrivee has the look of a well-constructed garment. There were no loose threads or poorly finished seams — something you occasionally find even with expensive Italian brands. Having owned an Ibex GIRO long sleeve jersey that I’ve had in steady rotation for two years, I can speak to the longer term reliability of Ibex apparel.
In particular, the New Zealand Merino wool felt super soft to the touch. (You can read about Ibex’s take on Merino wool right here.) Sizing was right on — very much a U.S. fit, not the tighter, smaller Euro fit. Keep that in mind when selecting the appropriate size for you.
I had an early concern about the relatively narrow shoulder straps. That turned out to not be an issue at all. Perhaps the smartest thing is that the Ibex Merino has a small percentage of nylon for extra strength, and Lycra® to improve the fit. While it doesn’t give you the race-tight feel of a fully synthetic garment, the Ibex does a wonderful job of feeling snug yet flexible in motion. I’d give the Ibex high marks for comfort.
The comfort factor also brings us to the multi-dimensional 8mm chamois. In general, I’d rate this pad as on the slimmer side versus a more robust, in-the-saddle-all-day chamois. My experience was that the pad functioned well and held up in terms of not compressing too much when the ride was three hours or less. Very happy with the comfort but after three hours I’d probably opt for something a little thicker.
One additional note is that the pad goes a little higher up the front of the bib — which is good because it gives you better wind protection and extra warmth. However, if I were designing the next generation of the Arrivee, I’d spec a slightly thicker pad.
It’s Winter here in the Northern California bay area. That doesn’t mean freezing cold and snow but temperatures get down to 30° and the wind can be a factor. This is when I appreciate all the classic benefits of wool.
In fact, I’d say the Ibex was as warm if not warmer than my Winter Castelli gear and any of the synthetics that use the cold weather Roubaix fabric. Get caught in the rain — and I did get hit with some showers — and the Merino wool will still insulate and keep you warm when wet. Synthetics simply can’t pull off that performance nearly as well. I wore the Arrivee on a number of cold rides and was happy with the warmth.
Basically, the wool and spandex mix works really well. While 9 panel construction sounds like a lot, it’s all put together in a thoughtful package. There’s Merino where you need it on the legs and waist and spandex where it needs to anchor the pad and along the inner legs. The wide elastic band at the end of the short gives you a good grip on the thighs.
In terms of style, the Arrivee is understated but the black on black mix of the Merino and spandex is a subtle and cool contrast. (There’s also the horned Ibex logo.) The thin dark gray ribbon of fabric on the right inside thigh is a design element that mimics the band on the Ibex long and short sleeve jerseys. So you’ve got yourself a “kit” look.
There is also a pretty solid value story for the Arrivee bib. Retail price is $140 and I also see that it’s listed on the Ibex site for a sale price of $84. That’s a killer deal — in fact, such a deal that it appears they are temporary sold out.
All in all, the Ibex Arrivee Merino wool bib is great choice — especially given price — for a cozy, well-fitting and nicely designed Winter bib.