Apparel & Accessories

Poc Essential Road VPDS bib shorts review

The Essential Road shorts are very good, but they're held back from being excellent due to a couple small details.

Review Rating


Basics

VPDS chamois with silicone inserts; high mesh panel on the back and sides; lay-flat straps


Pros

Super soft, comfortable bib straps

Cons

Seam on inside of thighs can rub; mesh side panels extend upward too far


Size Reviewed

Medium

Price

$150

Brand

POC


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.

Essential Road mesh panels
The mesh panels go all the way up the back, keeping the bib straps well in place. The mesh also extends up the sides of the bibs, which bugged me. Photo: Hannah DeWitt

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.

ill-placed seam
I got some rubbing on the inside of my thigh from the seam that runs down the inside of the shorts. Photo: Hannah DeWitt

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.

bib straps
The bib straps feel excellent. They are the highlight of the Essential Road bibs. Photo: Hannah DeWitt

Verdict

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.