18 August 2011

Obsessed with Bib Shorts

Over a decade has passed since Doug Duguay started selling cycling clothing online in the spare bedroom of his home in Portland, Oregon. As one of the largest Internet retailers of cycling clothing in the United States today, he remains just as passionate about riding as the day he launched BicyclingHub.com in 2002.

It's a well-known secret that Duguay is "obsessed" with bib shorts, as well as a self-identified cycling addict. Owning over 25 different pairs of men's cycling bibs (that's riding almost every day for a month without having to do laundry once!), he's constantly on the lookout for the next great pair to hit the market. "As a company and as an individual, I have been committed to finding really comfortable bib shorts...It's professional as well as personal goal to find quality cycling products. Riding is what I DO."

When asked whether he remembers his first pair of bib shorts, his eyes light up. "In 1989, I bought a pair of Tomasso bib shorts from Gregg's Green Lake Cycles in Seattle, Washington. They were typical 80's style--black lycra with bright neon yellow stitching throughout, I would constantly reach for Tomassos, casting aside other shorts in favor of the bibs and washing them constantly. And back then, it was a REAL chamois, made of softened leather--manufacturers didn't switch over to synthetics until the late 1990's/early 2000's."

Main Entry: cham·ois Pronunciation: \ˈsha-mē, sense 1 also sham-ˈwä\

The chamois, Rupicapra rupicapra, is a goat-antelope species native to mountains in Europe, including the Carpathian Mountains of Romania, the European Alps, the Gran Sasso region of the central Italian Apennines, the Tatra Mountains, the Balkans, parts of Turkey, and the Caucasus. Source: Wikipedia
Duguay's private bib short collection includes such well-known manufacturers as Castelli, Pearl Izumi, DeMarchi, Santini, Nalini, Etxe Ondo, Canari, Giordana and Descente. In 2010, BicyclingHub.com was looking into creating their own brand of bib shorts, but couldn't locate a manufacturer to produce a bib a a certain price point with the chamois and quality Duguay was looking for. While the project is currently tabled, Duguay sanguinely remarks, "If you're going to put your name on [something], it better be something you can stand behind."

When it comes to product testing, the staff at BicyclingHub.com don't have be asked twice to throw a leg over their frame and put the cycling gear through the rigors of field testing. Awarded a Silver-Level Bicycle Friendly Business Award by the League of American Bicyclists earlier this year at the National Bike Summit, BicyclingHub.com boasts a nearly 100% biking or walking commuter rate to the office and staff are encouraged to post honest and thorough reviews on the gear it sells. "It's important to be able to offer a knowledgeable response when a cusomer calls regarding fit, sizing, etc." Duguay observes. "[As the owner/buyer], it helps me make decisions about what we carry. I like to evaluate bib shorts as if I were the consumer and put them under the tests of riding, laundering, durability and fit. If I purchase a pair of bib shorts and they fall apart, I'd certainly think twice about stocking them."

After meeting with a representative from Sugoi about bringing in some men's and women's pieces for the Spring 2012 line, a free pair of Sugoi bibs were offered for testing. Duguay pointed to a box in the office and said, "I have 26." "Oh, you don't want them then?" "You bet I still want them--I'm OBSESSED with bibs!" Duguay exclaimed with a smile.

Bikes, bibs, and smiles: BicycingHub.com owner Doug Duguay shows off some favorites in his personal collection.

For him, the bibs vs. cycling shorts debate was resolved in 1999, the same year Duguay hitchhiked around France while following the Tour and cheering Lance Armstrong on to his first TDF victory. "I was heading to a race in Portland, Oregon and I forgot my favorite pair of trusty bib shorts, so I stopped by a local bike shop and didn't want to spend a lot of money. I picked up a pair of regular shorts, and quickly found they didn't fit the need long-term. "A lot of the time, cycling shorts fall down; the don't stay in place; the waistband collects sweat and moisture. Around the office, we have a saying: 'Once you go bibs, you never go back.'"

Favorite brands on the market?

1. Castelli
"I wear Castelli most of the time. It's our #1 brand in terms of sales and most customer interest." Next time you have 20 minutes, just ask him about his Castelli Claudio bib shorts:

I rode my bike across Montana in my Castelli Claudio Bibs!

On September 3, 2010 I left for Montana to ride the Park 2 Park Montana. The temperatures in Montana were unseasonably cold and I didn't pack enough cold weather gear aside from my Castelli Claudio Bib Shorts. Not only were the temperatures down in the 30's in the mornings, we also were in more than one rain shower and we even rode through a hail storm! No problem, the Claudio Bib Shorts handled it all while repelling moisture off of the garment, keeping me warm and dry and very happy.

ClaudioOne other note, the Claudio bib shorts feature Castelli's Kiss 3 pad. I have tried the top of the line Progetto X2 pad from Castelli this year but I hadn't tried the Kiss. The pad in these bibs shorts were very comfortable and I rode up to 80 miles and didn't experience any discomfort. I was amazed at how much I liked these bibs. The Claudio bibs match up with Castelli's Nanoflex Arm, Knee and Leg Warmers.

2. Santini
"I like Santini bib shorts a lot, and up until 2010 we carried them. But through changing distributors, availability has been spotty and I haven't always been able to guarantee them for my customers. "

3. Pearl Izumi
"Pearl is one we like to offer our customers because the fit is more generous and with three tiers of production (Quest, Elite and PRO), you can usually find something that fits."

Why this "obsession"?
Duguay's passion for cycling apparel (and finding the perfect cycling jersey to match all those bibs) is rivaled only by his passion for the bike. "Well, it goes back to our commitment to our customers. We're not just a faceless online retailer; we take the time to have conversations with fellow riders who call with questions. We know our products inside and out--how long the inseam is, whether the lycra's too thick or too thin, what the quality of the chamois is. Employing a knowledgeable and committed staff who all rides means the people who work here are able to make recommendations based on our customer's needs and our personal experience, be it road, mountain, cyclocross, commuter, long-distance touring or track."

Top three recommendations from the man who makes his living studying, testing, and selling bib shorts?

I. For construction and durability: Giordana
II. For style: Castelli
III. For value: Pearl Izumi

For more information, consult BicyclingHub's Buyer's Guide to Bib Shorts. Need sizing help, guidance or personal recommendations? Call BicyclingHub.com toll-free at 1-888-817-8060 or email customerservice@bicyclinghub.com and a staff member will be glad to tell you what to wear and when to wear it.

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