VPDS chamois with silicone inserts; high mesh panel on the back and sides; lay-flat straps
Super soft, comfortable bib straps
Seam on inside of thighs can rub; mesh side panels extend upward too far
Poc’s helmets have helped cement the company’s identity, both in the pro peloton and among everyday riders, largely based on the unique aesthetics. Of course, there’s plenty of protection and technology built into the helmets, but it’s the strange looks that draw riders in initially. So it is with the Essential Road VPDS bib shorts, which look very cool with the flash of orange around one leg. Aesthetically, Poc stays consistent with these shorts, and they’re built for performance and comfort. While these bibs are quite good, there are a few details that hold them back.
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Essential Road bib construction
First off, I have to say I absolutely love the bib straps on the Essential Road bibs. They lay flat and are super soft, and not once did I get any bunching. That latter point comes down to two factors: the strap width, and its attachment points. The Essential Road bib features mesh all the way up the back, which keeps the straps in place over your shoulders. The mesh allows breathability, too. That same mesh extends up the sides of the bibs and stops at about the bottom of the rib cage.
So there’s a trade-off here: I felt like the bib straps were supremely comfortable, but I found the mesh to be far less comfortable, especially on very hot rides. It breathes well enough until temperatures get very hot — think high 90s. But that wasn’t what really bugged me; it was actually the side panels, which extend upward and stop just below my ribs. I could feel these particular panels shifting slightly during rides, which I found uncomfortable, and hotter than was necessary.
Still, for cooler temperatures, this probably wouldn’t bug me so much, and the construction does tend to keep the straps in place comfortably. So it depends on which side of this trade-off you fall on.
The shorts themselves have plenty of compression without binding you up too tightly. The leg grippers are 10cm long and lie comfortably without pinching too much. There is, however, an ill-placed seam on the inside of the thigh that can cause some discomfort. I could feel it rubbing slightly on longer rides.
Essential Road chamois
There seems to be two camps when it comes to chamois: the “Gimme all the cushion” camp and the “Stay outta my way” camp. I usually fall on the cushion side of things since I’m likely to hit gravel too, though no one likes the fat diaper feel. So it’s a tough line to walk for any bib manufacturer.
Enter the Multi D chamois. It’s Poc’s answer to the comfy-but-not-thick conundrum, and it uses VPDS silicone inserts to attempt to accomplish that goal. Those inserts, according to Poc, reduce vibration and increase anatomic support. They live underneath the seamless top layer, and there’s a ventilated bottom layer that Poc says should keep you cool.
I sat on this chamois for a long time. It does not appear to ventilate better or worse than any other chamois I’ve ever tried. Do the VPDS inserts do anything? It’s hard to say. I can say this, though: I found the chamois to be plenty comfortable for two-plus hour rides, so I don’t have much in the way of complaints here. All boiled down, I found the chamois thinner than my “Gimme all the cushion” butt wanted, but not nearly as minimalist as the “Stay outta my way” camp would like. It’s a good middle ground that will please the vast majority of riders.
The Essential Road shorts are good bibs that are held back from being great by a poorly placed seam on the inside of the thigh, and mesh that reaches perhaps a bit too high on the sides. Otherwise, the chamois is quite comfortable, the bib straps are excellent, and the overall look of these bibs is pretty darn pleasing. If you won’t be riding in super-hot conditions, the Essential Road VPDS bibs are a good choice for long rides.