Some clothes make us feel fast. Relatively speaking. No matter how slow we actually are, we own a few chamois that we shimmy into and after a quick Wahlbergian mirror glance, proclaim ourselves to be bright, shining stars.
Unfortunately, Q36.5's latest bib, the Dottore (doctor, for non-Italian speakers), does not carry us to such a climax. In fact, quite the opposite. They're tight. They're long (to-our-kneecaps long, before we tug them up a bit). The thin, woven fabric is less-than forgiving when it comes to lumps, bumps, and wrinkles in our physique. There are no seams to hide behind. The serene sensation of being stuffed into a sausage casing upon donning it for the first time is not only acceptable, it's normal. But fear not, there's method behind the madness. Unlike most consumer goods, which rely oh-so-heavily on first impressions, the Dottore initially shuns its wearer. Like all things Q36.5, the Dottore is not born out of a focus group, try-on looks, or the vain needs of those who know of Anquetil's heroics only through clever patches sewn inside jerseys. It is a product of riding, of engineering, one that sneers at marketing departments with lofty aspirations beyond pure riding, training, and suffering. The Dottore is first and foremost a rider's piece, one that eschews all else in favor of performance.
We stacked the Dottore up against its lauded predecessor bib - the L1 Essential (the long-term review of which, you can read here). For comparison's sake, a list:
- The same familiar Q36.5 four-to-ten ride break-in period for bibs applies here. Since Q36.5 uses large swaths of proprietary woven fabric instead of knit (like nearly every other bib on the market), they require use to really begin to come into their own. The initial try-on will feel overly tight - that's normal. After a few rides, the unique textile molds to the rider's body shape and feels custom-tailored.
- The proprietary Dottore fabric is thinner than the Essential. It uses the same "graduated compression" principle, but instead of four varying densities, the Dottore uses eight, allowing Q36.5 to really pinpoint the fit and feel of the Dottore.
- The gripper of the Dottore is woven into the fabric, and laser cut instead of hemmed as in the Essential. It's comfy, aero, weighs less, and feels distinctly like a crepe paper streamer. No sticky material inside to keep it from sliding around, instead, the proprietary weave keeps it firmly in place with the highest density of compression in the bib. An aesthetic bonus? No muffin-topping.
- The pad, as far as we can tell, is the same proprietary Cytech we've fallen in love with in the L1 Essential.
- Compression has increased from the Essential, likely thanks to the increase in "compression density zones" in the bib.
- The Dottore has no forward-facing seams, making it the most aerodynamic bibshort available from Q36.5.
- The fit against the Essential, once broken in, feels slightly roomier. Just as well, the Dottore is also a good 2cm longer than the Essential.
- Stealth is the word here. The Dottore has none of Q36.5's trademark green banding or highlights (even a black-on-black Q36.5 tag), making for a bib that plays well with various colors and brands of jerseys.
- The same tubular bib straps as found on the Essential make an appearance here, the ones that have a habit of almost vanishing when sitting in the saddle.
When it comes to riding, the Dottore, like the L1 Essential, is in a league of its own. After the break-in, it's nothing short of sublime. Like a good compression bib, everything stays put - but instead of that sausage-casing feel that oft accompanies other brands' compressive goods, the Dottore feels free and easy. Easy to move around in, light on the body, and light when it comes to thermal regulation. While it's as svelte as the L1 Essential Vented, we never had issues with heat buildup when temperatures peaked above 90°F, and found it to behave well in chillier climes as well. That said, its sheer construction makes for slightly awkward bulges when paired with leg or kneewarmers. While we haven't had the opportunity to test its durability when it comes to scraping along the pavement as with the Essential, the same high-density weave construction technique should afford the same abrasion resistance we've come to know and love.
Where do we stand with the Dottore? In short, it's brilliant. A pure function piece, one made for the rider, and the rider who relishes hard days in the saddle. Bibs that implement heavy compression really shine on long rides when muscles begin to fatigue, and the Dottore is no different here, but affords a level of comfort that no compression bib competitor can match. The mark of a truly great bib is one that the rider doesn't notice, even under the most intense of circumstances. Here, the Dottore hits the mark - whether at hour one, or at hour six. It's our go-to interval bib, the one we reach for when the training schedule reads "3x20m Threshold", or when there's 180 hard kilometers up the Pacific Coast in store. Aesthetics be damned, this is the secret weapon, like an SRM in 1991, or LeMond's aerobars in 1989. Once again, the kitchen of Luigi Bergamo has served up a piece of apparel engineering cake that defies everything on the market.