Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Baggy (MTB) Bike Shorts Review - Pearl Izumi Canyon vs. Zoic Black Market

Opening note: I bought these shorts with my own money; they were not provided to me by their makers nor do I have any financial arrangements with them, so rest assured this is an unbiased review.
Over the past year or so I've developed a desire to look a little more normal (less spandexy) both on the bike and when I stop somewhere like a bar patio or a grocery store. The click-clack of bike shoes is bad enough without showing off my awesome butt, y'know? I don't have lots of spare cash sloshing around, despite what my highborn-grey pallor may have led you to believe, so I went on Amazon and started looking for reasonably priced baggy bike shorts that still offered me the comfort of a chamois liner.
The two shorts I decided to try were the "Pearl Izumi Canyon" and the "Zoic Black Market with RPL liner", largely because they weren't expensive compared to many others. When I bought them, the Zoic was $54 and the Pearl Izumis were $47. I see that right now the prices (at least on Amazon) aren't as good. I got lucky, I guess...


Pearl Izumi Canyon      Zoic Black Market

The Amazon links above have better pictures of the features of these shorts.  I also happened to buy them in the same colours.

A note on sizing: I am 5'10" (11 on a tall day), over 200 lbs and have a 36" waist. Based on what other purchasers had written, I bought in size L for the Izumis and XL in the Zoics. Both pairs fit me well. I had better not gain any weight if I want keep wearing the Izumis, but that is cool with me; it's not really my plan to gain any more.
Both of these shorts included an outer pair of "normal" looking shorts and a liner with chamois that attached to them with loops and "snap straps"; short bits of fabric with snaps on the end that attached to elastic loops sewn onto the liners. With both pairs, these attaching bits were way more trouble than they were worth. I stopped trying to use them right away, opting to just wear the liners unattached to the shorts.
In both cases the shorts were cut for cycling, with a little stretchiness and a shortish inseam than kept them from getting snagged on the nose of the bike saddle and stuff like that. On the bike, the Pearl Izumis and the Zoic both sat nicely on my legs and didn't balloon out catching wind or anything like that. The Zoics were shorter and rode a little higher, threatening to but never revealing the edge of the liner, while the Izumis were a little longer and hugged my legs a little more, without ever threatening to reveal my chamois little secret.

The Baggy Parts:
Both pairs of shorts featured a smallish pocket behind the right knee. When I first used that pocket for a set of keys or a cell phone, it felt totally annoying while standing and I wondered what the hell the makers were thinking. On the bike however, I figured out that the little pocket was perfect, tucking a little something under your leg in the least annoying spot for pedaling.
The Zoic shorts closed at the waist with a velcro tab and included a snazzy black belt that closed with a plastic snap buckle. Although I thought the belt kind of lame at first, it did end up helping control things at my waistline, since the shorts had an elasticized back. Around the waist, the Zoic shorts felt a little sloppier than the Izumis, which had a snap at the waist and adjusters inside the waistband like you might find in children's clothes, which seemed pretty smart to me.
The Zoic shorts felt heavier and warmer, mostly because they had both zippered and regular pockets all over the place, which was great when off the bike but added layers of fabric. The Izumis, however, had just one small pocket, behind the knee as mentioned previously, and felt more natural/purpose built while riding. Trouble was, once off the bike there weren't any useful pockets for carrying your stuff!

The Chamois/Liner Parts:

I am a little reluctant to review any chamois, since I can't imagine a more personal kind of choice; what one person likes another may hate. That said, I should really say something, so here goes:

The liners for both pairs of shorts were not like "real" compression style bike shorts, but like slightly snug stretchy boxers with a chamois sewn in. The "RPL liner" provided by the Zoic shorts let me down in the chamois department. The chamois was almost too substantial and didn't conform to my body very well, seeming to want to keep its own shape rather than be flexible. This made it feel kind of diaper-ish and like the back edge of the chamois was visible under the outer shorts (and it was, a little) when standing around off the bike.

The Izumi liner, on the other hand, was really good and felt comfortable both on and off the bike. I've never really liked sitting around in bike shorts for too long, but if it was required I would want to do it with this chamois. My only problem with the Pearl Izsumi chamois is that they market it as a "3D" chamois and have "3D" texture-printed (is that a thing?) on it. I have gone on rants about 3D and marketing before. This chamois is definitely less flat with clearly defined zones or pads or whatever with deepish channels between them, making it more "3D" than many others, so I can almost see the rationale. HOWEVER: The expression "3D" and anything crotchally related should just not happen. That is all. Let's move on.

Summary: The Zoic Black Market shorts are more useful off the bike with many more pockets. The liner, however, was disappointing compared to the Pearl Izumi's. I often wear the shorts now with the Izumi liner or a pair of good old spandex bike shorts underneath. The Pearl Izumi Canyon shorts really perform well on the bike, being a little longer and little cooler and also feature really good liner and chamois. However, the lack of any usable off-bike pockets makes them less flexible on those rides where you're stopping someplace for a while.

Verdict: I like both pairs and wear them both all the time. The proof is in the choosing, though. If both these pairs are clean I reach for the Pearl Izumi Canyon shorts  9 times out of 10, preferring on-bike performance over off-bike practicality.

These are the first and only pairs of baggy cycling shorts I have ever owned. Despite being slightly warmer in hot weather, I am pleased to have made the change from sporting the full-on tight spandex because I feel more comfortable with my day-to-day appearance. Have any of you got a recommend for a pair of baggies that have been really great? Let me know in the comments and I'll post links to 'em! 
Yer Less Spandexy Pal,

PS - Steve A commented that he likes the REI ones except that he finds the front pockets a little small compared to real cargo shorts. Here are some links: 

Velocodger commented too and seems to really like his Dakine shorts and liners (I think the shorts include a liner with chamois, but linked to both):


Steve A said...

I like the REI shorts except their front pockets are a bit small compared to real cargo shorts. Sounds like your winner is the Zoic with the PI liner?

RANTWICK said...

Sort of. I still pick the PIs outer shorts more often... they hang longer and "limper". I like the weight and look of them better. Still though, no pockets!

Velocodger said...

I have 3 pairs of baggy shorts and my favorites are the Dakine, both the liner and the short. Other than the pockets' entry being just a bit on the small side, these rock. They have a cool velcro waist adjustment-and belt loops just in case. (haven't needed a belt) I have Endura Humvee 3/4 length shorts, and I find the 3/4 length to be irritating unless I put knicker road shorts underneath to stop the swooshing when I pedal. The Enduras are packed with cool features, so the regular length should be OK. But-I had to send them back for a larger size because they run way small.I have Odlo shorts also which are just OK.

RANTWICK said...

Dakine, huh? Thanks Codger!

limom said...

Thanks for the review!
I've been looking at some shorts.

Dakine by the way, is based on a localism.

Eh, wha kine is dat?
Da kine.
What kind is that?
It's that kind.

RANTWICK said...

Limom - Da Kine! Huh!

John said...

I just don't understand the rationale for a specialty shorts. Cargo shorts over spandex bike shorts works best for me. In colder months wind/ski pants over bike shorts. Maybe I just don't ride enough to see the added value?

cafiend said...

Even regular cargo shorts have gotten weird in the last couple of years. The only issue with wearing regular street shorts over bike shorts would be the customary crotch seam in non-bike shorts, which usually puts a four-way intersection right under or slightly forward of the old perineum. That leads to chafing or outright abrasion.

Randy said...

I have a pair of Zoic baggy shorts (don't know which model) I like the shorts but can't stand the liner for same reasons you mention. I have Canari and Borah baggy shorts which I like the liners but wish the shorts were longer and had better pockets. I also have a couple pair of Canari padded underwear I like that I wear under cargo type shorts.

RANTWICK said...

John - I've had good success with that combo too if I'm not going too far, like on my regular commute, but even then I find the heavier materials of cargo shorts awful hot on the bike in summer.

Cafiend - Thanks for that answer. Big fat seams in the wrong spots ain't so great.

Randy - Thanks for reading and commenting!

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