The search for a that perfect solution of being comfortable on your bike while still packing all the necessary gear and water that you may need can feel like an elusive endeavor. Alpinestars is throwing their contender into the mix of “utility bibs” that integrate pockets, hydration and more within the bib to reduce riders’ need for additional gear to carry what they need on a ride. But, Alpinestars has an Ace up their sleeve… they’ve incorporated spine and hip protection into their Paragon bib. Sam slips into this multi-functional lycra kit to see if it has what it takes to take top pick in his drawer full of other bibs.
Test Rider Profile
If there was a picture in the dictionary of “enduro,” we are pretty sure it would be a photo of Sam racing his long travel mountain bike somewhere. Long days in the saddle putting down trail miles is what he lives for. He is a firm believer in having to work for your descents, but enjoys a few park laps from time to time. Anything from blown out dusty powder tracks to loamy tracks with roots, you’ll find out he loves it all. Sam’s only downfall is his uncanny ability to snipe any rock with his pedals ending in catastrophic OTB’s, but he seems to always get up with a smile on his face ready for more.
Paragon Bib Design and Build Quality
At first glance, I was nervous that these Alpinestars Paragon bibs wouldn’t breathe well due to the hip and spine pads, and that the removable spine protection would be uncomfortable and stiff. I’ve tried my hardest to stay clear of wearing a hydration pack while I ride because they feel cumbersome, hot, and constricting. My gut feeling was that the spine protection would feel like I had a backpack on my back even though the it was much lighter weight and held in place by a sewn in sleeve. While I had my hesitations before donning this bib for an actual test, I was stoked to see a built-in 3 pocket flap on this bib. Pockets on bibs are awesome, I love bibs with pockets!!!!!! I’ve ridden with a few other brands of pocketed bibs so it was going to be interesting to see how these Alpinestars bibs stacked up against their competition.
Serious storage capability.
Pockets on bibs are awesome, I love bibs with pockets!!!!!!
The Fit, Function, and Features
My momma taught me that I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover… well, apparently, that can apply to mountain biking gear too. When I finally stepped into this bib and took it for a spin in the wild, I realized that my negative preconceptions were pretty much all wrong. The bib breathes extremely well, although adding a bladder or spine protection in the bib will take away some breathing capacity. But, at least you won’t get dehydrated and your spine will be protected should things take a turn for the worse.
The Paragon bib fit excellently. I couldn’t find anything to knock about the panel layout, the suggested sizing, or overall design. It was just right. It wasn’t too loose or too tight in any spots, and seemed to be pretty true-to-size. Occasionally, ill-fitting bibs can feel like they are giving you an eternal wedgie, but the Paragon bib never acted like the school bully during any of our close embraces. Kudos to the designer(s) at Alpinestars for such a well executed product!
One feature that stood out to me was the pockets’ location on my back. They seemed to sit lower on my back than some of the competing bibs that I’ve tried. I really liked how much lower the pockets were because it made it much easier to access the items I stored in my pockets without having to contort my body and arms. All 3 pockets are lined up together along your low back, and hang just a bit over the top of your butt. The pocket flap flips over the waist of your favorite riding shorts, leaving them easily hidden by a jersey, but still just a quick reach away for your on-the-go needs. Luckily, these pockets are not so low as to feel in the way, either. This position made stored items less noticeable when riding, and seemed alleviate some of the heat retention that can occur when carrying a rides-worth of gear in your pockets. Plus, the subtle secret ninja capability of pulling a energy bar from behind your back when your friends didn’t know I was rocking this bib made me as cool as David Blaine doing street magic (is he/was he cool? Either way… I was cool).
Stored items sat securely and subtly under my jersey.
Access was quick and simple.
Having the pockets lower made things easier when reaching around to grab items on-the-go, and the elastic at the top of the pockets held everything in securely regardless of how rowdy the terrain became or how big I sent it off a jump. I purposely was trying to shake items loose, but failed in my quest. Occasionally, I did find that the elastic at the top would catch on my glove while trying to access items, making the process a bit challenging. I’m sure I would learn a trick to avoid this, and it was never an issue without gloves, but it is worth noting.
Hydration & Protection
I’ve never had a bib that could hold a bladder in it, so that was huge bonus feature as well, and would help to keep a backpack off my back even on longer rides. My default would still be to ride with water bottles for most short rides, but for those epic days I can easily toss in a hydration bladder, route the hose through the shoulder strap, and mash the pedals for hours.
The hip pads were very easy to slide into place, but don’t expect massive levels of protection. They seem suitable for the majority of tumbles, but are not going to save you from really big hits. For the spine protection, I was extremely surprised that I completely forgot that it was there after a just a few minutes of having the bib on, and it was flexible enough to contour to the shape of my back. This is a CE Level 1 certified pad, which is the entry level in spine protection, but since the scale is built around motorcycle standards, this is actually fairly substantial protection for trail/enduro style riding. Certainly, more than without the pad.
Hip pads can be added easily for a bit more protection.
Luckily, I never fully tested the impact abilities of the spine or hip protection features, but they seemed ample enough to mitigate how most of our crashes go. These won’t protect you from Red Bull Rampage style spills (remember Nicolai Rotgatkin’s massive wreck?), but I’d imagine that they will reduce that first impact effect where it seems inevitable that your hip will find the only rock/root in a trail to become best friends with (only to find that they are incompatible). My guess is that abrasion damage will be minimized, as well, since the pads are held securely in place.
This chamois was super comfortable and managed sweat well.
I’m not a full-time road rider so someone may know better than me, but the chamois found protecting my undercarriage may be one the most comfortable chamois in any bib I’ve ever owned. My bits and pieces were very thankful for this, and it helps to justify the costs of a piece of kit like this since it will help you to keep hammering out the miles. Speaking of road riding, should you want a more streamlined setup, this bib will work on its own with a tighter road or XC jersey, and has reflective accents to help you stand out as they daylight wains.
Reflective accents help to keep you visible.
- Innovative, body-mapped main shell construction incorporating nylon/poly resistant lycra, perforated lycra, 3D mesh and elasticated straps.
- Minimal seam construction for comfort and material integrity.
- Multi-density Stealth® chamois seat padding absorbs saddle vibrations and improves overall comfort and breathability.
- Soft elastic on bottom hem with silicone grip keeps garment in position without causing irritation or chaffing.
- Reflective details and logo on thighs, sides and upper back for improved riders’ visibility.
- Intended Use: Trail/All-mountain/Enduro
- Back features innovative protection/hydration system incorporating:
- Mesh compartments incorporating removable CE certified back protector constructed from a soft visco-elastic, shock-absorbing foam
- Back protector CE certified Level 1 and is anatomically engineered for performance.
- Mesh compartment and conduits to accommodate hydration pack (as an accessory upgrade).
- Incorporates removable impact absorption foam padding on hips to provide additional protection in key impact area.
- Convenient storage options provided by triple back lumbar pocket construction.
- Back lumbar pocket features floating construction meaning garment can be worn under a baggy short.
Click image arrows to see front and back features.
The Final Spin
How does it stack up against the competition?
The biggest differentiation of this bib from the competition with the similar pocket/spine protection technology is that the most bibs seem to cover a big surface area of your back which can cause discomfort or lack of breathability. The lack of breathing could either be a pro or con depending what climate you live in, but in sunny So Cal where our winters are still in the mid-70’s, I want something that is going to breath well year-round.
To compensate for this, Alpinestars seems to have removed as much fabric from the back and chest of Paragon bib as possible without compromising comfort and control. Alpinestars was able to keep a standard (slim) bib profile found without pockets or the spine protection while still incorporating those features. Again, this all plays into the breathability of this setup.
As stated earlier, when you have the pockets loaded with gear they don’t move nearly as much as most other bibs do. This directly leads to more confident riding since you aren’t worried about your keys, phone, or emergency gear bouncing out all over the trail, and it allows you to carry enough gear and water for truly ample rides without having to lug a hydration backpack with you. Should you want even more storage, pairing these bibs with a hydration pack is totally feasible due to the pockets’ low positioning.
Couldn’t shake items loose even when I tried.
I wish that the Paragon bibs had thigh pockets for certain items. They likely chose not to do this so as not to interfere with the hip pads, but it seems that they could have easily added in some small pockets for gel packets or other small, slim, and soft items. Plus, this location can be a very quick and convenient storage area without having to stop riding.
While I have a few quibbles with this bib, I still contend that this may be the best bib for any enduro racer or trail rider to wear. The price of the bib may be a bit hefty, but I would genuinely say it would be money well spent and worth every penny. This is a solid bib even without all of its storage and protection features, and becomes even better when those are considered. Having the choice to remove the spine/hip protection to go enjoy a normal ride with your mates or quickly add it back in when you’re ready to go rip an enduro race is a huge win for versatility. Like I said, I do everything I can to stay clear of back packs and hip packs, so having the capability to load the pockets with snacks or spare tubes or throw a bladder in the bib is reassuring, keeps things stealth-like, and avoids the risk or things getting snagged by trailside obstacles.
More of this, and…
less of this, please.
What we loved:
- Chamois is extremely comfortable, and manages moisture well for long rides.
- Bib breathes well even with a pockets full and protective pads installed.
- Removable protection is an awesome feature that allows you to customize this bib to the type of riding you are planning.
- Pockets do not flap around even when loaded, and bib doesn’t sag when under the weight of items in the pockets.
- Optional hydration setup allows this bib to work for long haul rides without adding a backpack to carry gear.
What we didn’t like:
- Found out the hard way, the hip pads are not machine washable. (so, be sure to take them out before washing)
- Wish there were small pockets near the thigh to put gels or few bucks in for quick access and even more secure storage.
- Although the elastic at the top of the bib really keeps things in, it occasionally caught up on my gloves when reaching back for an item.