You Mean Cycling Tights Don’t Really Last Forever?

tandemtimeThe weather gods were kind and granted us a weekend with cool temps, but sunny blue skies that beckoned us to hit the roads on our tandem.  Debbie has been less than enthusiastic about heading out to ride before the thermometer tickles 60°F but with the warming rays of the sun and cycling tights, long-sleeve jerseys and gloves she was good to go at 52°F on both Saturday & Sunday.

During Saturday’s ride I finally decided that my Pearl Izumi bib knickers had to go.  They’d always been a bit too big from day 1, but over the years had not gotten any smaller (not necessarily a bad thing, by the way).   Saturday afternoon I went out in search of some new ones and much to my surprise, I found only one of the four local bike shops had any bib knickers and tights in stock.  Oh, sure… they all offered to order some for me.  But, if there’s one constant in cycling apparel it’s the lack of consistency in sizing from manufacturer to manufacturer.  So, being able to try on cycling shorts, tights, jerseys, jackets and even things like arm warmers is a must.

castelli_knckThe one store that had a selection of bib knickers in stock was the Performance Bike shop and after trying on small, medium and large house-branded Performance and Castelli bib knickers I narrowed the field to the Large-size Castelli Ergo’s and the Small-size Performance Thermals: like I said, you gotta try ’em on.  I bought both the Castelli and Performance knickers as I figured it would be a good idea to have a couple of pair since we tend to ride twice a weekend when we can.

castelli_tightAfter getting them home I tried both on again and decided that the Castelli’s were definitely keepers, the Performance ones… not so much.  So, I decided I’d return those and order up a second pair of the Castelli’s off the Performance website since they only had the one pair of Large Castelli knickers at the store.  While I was at it, I decided I’d also replace my bib tights, as they also seemed to be getting a bit long in the tooth.

Out of curiosity I decided to go and see when I bought my bib knickers and bib tights as I knew it was a while back, but wasn’t sure just how old they were.  Yes, as alluded to yesterday, I’m pretty anal about some things and another one of those things is keeping track of purchases & expenditures using Quicken and ledgers before then that all got transcribed into Quicken.  Doing a quick search yielded a pretty amazing discovery:

  • My Nashbar bib tights were bought back in 1996 when I was commuting to work and/or riding during my lunch hour year round, pre-tandem.
  • My Pearl Izumi bib knickers were a bit more “fresh” in that I didn’t buy those until 2000, making them 14-years old.
  • Turns out Debbie’s REI tights which are also due for replacement have truly delivered a lot of life for the money, as they were bought right after we started tandeming during fall 1997.

I must say, I’m really impressed with how well all three of these garments have held-up. I suspect their thicker material have given them longer life than the typical tights and shorts that become pretty darn thin as they age.  Pretty sure all of these tights and knickers will be “retired” once the new ones arrive.  Well, and once I get Debbie out to shop for some new tights.  I almost bought her a pair and had to remind myself about my own sizing experiences; never assume!


About TG

I've been around a bit and done a few things, have a couple kids and a few grandkids. I tend to be curmudgeonly, matter-of-fact and not predisposed to self-serving chit-chat. Thankfully, my wife's as nice as can be otherwise we'd have no friends. My interests are somewhat eclectic, but whose aren't?
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7 Responses to You Mean Cycling Tights Don’t Really Last Forever?

  1. Rob Templin says:

    Very true on sizing clothing … normally wear medium in everything but cycling stuff varies dramatically. Assos is large and Performance Ultra brand is small … go figure. And some of my earlier Giordana stuff from years ago is still going strong while more recent high-tech shorts seem to have built-in life spans of a season or two before the thin/fragile fabric becomes too worn (as see-through).

    • TG says:

      Seam management and alignment can definitely factor into the wear of “ultra” grade shorts and can even be paramount for newer shorts if they’re bought a little too small. I’ve had to politely suggest to a few folks over the years that it might be time for some new gear, as I was certain they were unaware their shorts had become semi-translucent.

      I’ll also second that certain clothing manufacturers definitely spec materials that loose their elasticity and/or degrade much faster than others. Amazingly, the elastic components on the Nashbar and REI-branded tights we’re just now replacing have not dried out and fallen apart the way leg and ankle grippers on more chi-chi brands of shorts and tights have and as you note.

  2. So true about the variations in sizing. Thanks for the heads up regarding the short life spans of cycling shorts – all the more reason to watch for sales!

  3. tandemracer says:

    I was just noticing a few days ago that my Assos bib tights that are my most frequently used piece of winter clothing are starting to show enough signs of use that I may replace them soon. I got plenty of life out of them – I bought them in 1987! I am sure I have used them on at least a thousand rides by now.

  4. Rick says:

    Hi Mark-
    I can’t find a “Contact Us” link in any of your internet offerings, and I don’t have a current email address for you, so I’m leaving this completely off-topic question/ comment here in the hopes that you’ll see it: to keep it short, I’ve noticed a new generation of disc brakes that natively use STI brifters (without the intercession of goofy stuff like “Travel Agents”) showing up on road bikes and road tandems, and see it as a good thing. I always wanted discs on our road tandem but didn’t want to deal with the compromises necessary when trying to adapt mountain bike gear to road bikes. I don’t think you’ve weighed in on these new road discs in your blog yet, and am breathlessly awaiting your opinions and observations. 🙂


    PS- please feel free to delete this after you read it if you feel like you want to keep the comments “on-topic”.

    • TG says:

      Road discs… they work great! If you’ve mastered brake caliper and rotor alignment on off-road bikes, it’s a seamless transition to road discs.

      Cannondale and Co-Motion have both adopted mechanical discs as their standard brake offering for many years now. Avid introduced a “road” version of their BB7 nearly 10 years ago if memory serves me correctly. Shimano also updated their brifters several years back (2010?) to increase the lever purchase/pull geometry so they would work with the linear-pull and disc brakes without the need for any cable pull modification device. I covered the “SuperSLR” brakes in a walk-around review of a Santana Scandium tandem that Jack Goertz brought to the 2010 Alabama Tandem Weekend in Eufaula, AL:

      There are a couple other road disc brake reviews on my blog, such as this one on the Bengal disc back in 2012:

      • Rick Lindstrom says:

        What piqued my interest in the subject was seeing a road bike fitted with disks on a recent, and very rare for me, road ride. I engaged the rider in a discussion about them that finally led to speculation about disc brakes being used in pro racing, and the fact that they could be banned because the are so much better than caliper brakes, and might represent a hazard to riders that didn’t have them. The reasoning goes that if you have discs, you can dive deeper into a turn and brake harder. Someone following you on a bike with traditional brakes might follow into the turn on your wheel and crash because they can’t slow down as aggressively. My thought was that if they are better, more efficient and give an advantage, discs will become the standard in competition in very short order. And, indeed, when I checked the Cannondale and Performance bicycle offerings for this year today, I see that both companies are offering discs as standard equipment on numerous road singles ranging from very high end bikes, to, in the case of Performance, entry level machines. If the racers begin using them, I can only imagine that it won’t be long before traditional calipers disappear entirely from the market, recalling the fate of pedals with toestraps with the advent of clipless pedals.

        If I seem clueless about disc brake developments on road tandems in the past several years, it’s because I’ve been tandeming pretty much exclusively off-road where disc brakes have been a fact of life for a good while now.

        By the way, if you ever go back to experimenting with your Bengal disc brake, try sanding the paint (or whatever it is) off of the side of the pad that contacts the piston- you want it to be bare metal. I do this on the pads in the Maguras that are on my Ventana (Lucy, Susie, Julie, or some girl name ) and it pretty much eliminated the squealing. YMMV, but it’s easy enough to be worth a try.


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