For those who ride trails fast and rowdy, Alpinestars new Paragon bibshorts offer a removable spine protector and hip padding. While these shorts were created with enduro racing in mind, I immediately figured they’d be great for bike park use too (and they were).
During my review I found the Paragon shorts quite comfortable, and it was surprisingly easy to almost forget about the padding. They may be slightly warmer than other shorts, but I think the low-profile protection is a worthy trade off.
Alpinestars’ Paragon bibshorts feature a body-mapped shell constructed with a nylon/lycra blend, perforated lycra and 3-D mesh. There are three floating pockets on the lower back to stash small items, and of course the built-in protection: The shorts include a removable level 1 CE certified back protector and hip pads, both made from impact-reactive foam.
The bibshorts can also carry a hydration pack bladder (up to 1.5L) in a pocket behind the spine protector’s pouch, and there’s a hose port and guide on the right shoulder strap. The on-board hydration is a great idea, but if you wear a jersey over top of the bibs the mouthpiece winds up hidden inside. It’s a bit finicky to access, even with a loose-collared jersey.
When I first got the bibs I was impressed with how lightweight the spine pad is, and when I gave the hip and spine pads a squeeze they both felt like high-quality foam.
I am roughly 5’9”, 145lbs, and I was testing a size Medium. Everything from the legs to the shoulder straps fit my body well, but I do find the shorts pretty snug. The hip seams and chamois left impressions on my skin after rides, but the tight fit also meant the shorts never slipped or bunched up anywhere.
During my test period I rode the bibshorts on trails, with and without the padding, and in the Whistler Bike Park. My first few break-ins were trail rides without any pads in, and aside from being a bit tight the shorts were comfortable all around. The 3-D gel chamois worked out well for me; its generous padding felt quite comfortable.
While riding DH or pedalling with all the padding in, I was impressed how little you notice it. I was pleased the pads never got bunchy or shifted around in their pockets, let alone rubbed on my skin or jabbed at me in any way. I never had a bad crash in these shorts, but I hope I’m wearing them the next time I do!
As you’d expect the padded shorts do get a bit warm. If you’re used to non-bibs the belly and back panels add a bit of coverage, and under the hip pads and spine protector the lack of ventilation is noticeable. On hotter rides, I noticed my hips getting warm and the spine pad made my back pretty sweaty. On cooler days this was no problem, and I’d still say the extra heat is a small price to pay for the added protection.
After the better part of a riding season, my shorts are still proving pretty odor-resistant. I also noticed the removable pads aren’t taking on any smell themselves.
I was quite impressed with the Paragon bibshorts. Alpinestars has created a high-quality base layer that offers extra protection for when you’re pushing your limits. These shorts inspire confidence in scary situations, and aside from being a bit warm they remain quite comfortable on the trails or while lapping the bike park. If you’re gonna giv’er, giv’er in these!
I also got a sample of the Paragon bibs, but I was warned ahead of time that they were preproduction. I’m not sure what version Steve was testing, but keep that in mind for my experience. Like most clothing items, fit can be a very personal thing. At 5’8″ and 148lbs, I’m a bit shorter than Steve with a few extra lbs. and a different build. I found the small bibs to be quite comfortable – except the shoulder straps. As you can see in the photo above, the material of the strap changes by your collar bone and the resulting seam and difference in stretch made it quite uncomfortable on my shoulders. To me, these bibs would benefit from a stronger, broader shoulder strap made from one piece of fabric at the top that is softer to the touch. Obviously, depending on your torso length and build, the amount of stretch and pressure on the straps will change and perhaps moving to a medium would make it more comfortable for myself.
Also, while I love the idea of the integrated hydration reservoir, in practice it still needs some fine tuning. In the first place, it’s incredibly difficult to get the bladder in there – loading it first and then trying to get it on your back without the bladder falling out is like trying to wear a flopping fish as a backpack. If you do manage to get it mounted up, it is a lot of weight to be held up by those aforementioned shoulder straps – especially if you have the pockets full and the back protector installed. And as Steve mentioned, the hose loop could be better positioned to allow easy access.
But as a protective bib with integrated pockets, the Paragon fares quite well. The pockets are well placed and the flap design allows for copious amounts of storage without interfering with the waist band of your shorts. The back protecter conforms quite well to your spine and the hip pads feel like they would at least offer a bit of protection in a crash. Pro Tip – take the hip pads out of the bibs before you wash them. I was told that the pads were safe to be washed, but after the first trip through the machine one of the pads tore most of the way through.
For me, the Paragon seems like a great way to add a bit of extra protection to your ride, though they could still use a few improvements.
The Paragon bibshorts are available online for $250 USD in sizes S-XXL.