When it comes to comfort on the bike, it’s important to wear cycling shorts. You’ll be seated on the saddle most of the time and having a good pair will definitely help.
You’d probably noticed that there are also various types of cycling shorts such as bib shorts, bib tights, and those that are specifically designed for cold and wet season rides.
Which type should you get?
Are they worth the money?
No doubt there are many things that go into a pair of good cycling shorts.
On this page, I’ll discuss the important things you should consider such as the materials, fit, sizing, chamois, leg grippers, and more.
I’ll also share with you some of the favorites among cyclists.
A Quick Glance : Our Favorite Cycling Bib Shorts
On This Page
Types of Cycling Bibs and Shorts
You’ll probably have noticed that there are various lengths when it comes to cycling shorts.
So, what’s the difference between them, and what type of riding are they suited for?
Let’s take a closer look at the differences between cycling shorts, bib shorts, and bib tights.
Cycling shorts or some would call it waist shorts, depend on an elasticated waistband to keep them in position. They were very popular up until the 1980s among road cyclists until Castelli invented the cycling bibs (more on this below).
- Pros : Cheaper than cycling bibs and easier to remove for a toilet break.
- Cons : Not as comfortable without the shoulder strap support.
First introduced by Castelli in the 1980s, bib shorts come with shoulder straps that provide better fit, comfort, and support when you’re in the hunched position on the bike.
At first glance, most bib shorts would probably look the same, but if you look closer, each and every brand differs in many ways.
The shoulder strap placement, high or low cut, grippers, fit, materials are among the places where each brand tries to differentiate itself to cater to a different type of cyclist.
Having said that, bib shorts are the number one choice for of road cyclists today.
- Pros : Fits and stays in place. Very little movement.
- Cons : More expensive and inconvenient for a mid-ride toilet break.
Bib tights are essentially the longer version of bib shorts.
They’re meant to be worn during the colder months. Depending on how cold it gets in your local area, there is a choice of a full length vs 3/4 length bib tights.
Full-length bib tights extend all the way to your ankle, while a 3/4 one will extend to just below your knees. The majority of them would also include an inner fleeced layer to keep you warm.
To ensure it’s easier to put on, some bib tights will include a zipper at the bottom. One such example is the Castelli Velocissimo bib tights.
- Pros : Full leg protection for the colder months.
- Cons : Can be expensive and hard to put on.
Cycling Bibs and Shorts Buyers Guide
A good quality pair of cycling bibs that fit well can make or break your riding experience than your bike frame, wheels, fuel, and just about anything else.
Comfort when pedaling upwards of several thousand times while balancing your body weight on a bike saddle is vital. Any discomfort in this region and you’re not going to enjoy yourself.
Here are 5 things to consider when buying your next pair of cycling bibs.
1. Fabric Material
It wasn’t until the 1970s that spandex was used in cycling bibs. The term spandex (or also referred to as elastane) and lycra is used inter-changeable today. They’re actually the same thing.
Lycra is the brand name registered to DuPont Manufacturing for its spandex.
Spandex is the main material used in cycling bibs today.
You’ll probably noticed that many cycling bibs today, especially those mid to high-end ones, use a combination of spandex with other complexes, technical sports materials such as Polyamide (nylon) and Polyester.
That’s because spandex, while being stretchy, isn’t very breathable, and that’s not ideal if you’re sweating buckets during the summer. The combination of spandex and other materials improves fit and comfort, breathability, reduces heat absorption, and blocks the sun’s UV rays.
For spring, autumn, and winter bibs, you’ll find the inner layers are fleeced, and the overall materials are thicker. This is meant to block the chilly effects of the wind and keep your lower body warm.
For wet weather bibs such as the Sportful Fiandre NoRain, the outer layer is treated with a Durable Water Repellent (DWR) coating to make it water-repellent. They’re sufficient for light to medium showers but not for heavy downpours as they’re not fully waterproof.
A good example is the Castelli Nanoflex 2 or Sportful Fiandre NoRain bibs.
2. Fit and Sizing
Fit and comfort everything when selecting bib shorts. It’s also a very personal thing and differs for everyone.
You’ll often come across that someone who owns a few pairs of the same cycling bibs. Once you’ve found the ideal bibs, you stick to them.
If you’re buying online, the first place to look is obviously the sizing chart. But don’t rely on that alone as it can be misleading at times.
Look at the customer reviews and you’ll often find people giving feedback and include their height, weight, and size in it.
This is very useful information that you can use to compare against yourself.
Also keep in mind that while the sizing chart applies for all models within the same brand, the fit could differ due to its cut. You might come across terms like race (tight fit) or endurance (more forgiving and comfortable fit).
Like fit and sizing, chamois (also known as pads, or seat pads) is also a very personal thing.
Traditionally, chamois were made from leather, usually from sheepskin and subsequently deerskin. It’s only in the 1980s that Castelli developed a non-leather chamois and in the past 30 years, we’ve seen major improvements in the chamois we have today.
The chamois has a lot of work to do. It provides a layer of padding and support between your pelvic bones, crotch, and your saddle.
These days, chamois come in various thicknesses, providing you with maximum padding and support at specific places that need them most.
Besides that, it also has to wick sweat effectively to prevent bacterial build-up which could potentially lead to chaffing.
4. Leg Grippers
Grippers hold the bibs in place and stop them from riding up or down with every pedal stroke. You’ll notice that the bottom end of the bib is significantly tighter.
While each clothing brand takes a different approach to grippers, they all achieve a similar goal. The gripper is usually made of soft silicone that grips the skin. In a good pair of bibs, you probably won’t feel it’s there.
It’s easy to differentiate between a high vs low-quality pair of bib shorts by looking at the seams.
A high-quality bib short will have minimal to no seams at all. The intent is to avoid chafing where two panels are sewn together and is a very important element of overall fit and comfort.
Some bibs, especially low-quality ones are manufactured with as many as 12 individual panels so the placement of the seams is very important to minimize the chances of chaffing.
Flat or protected seams means the bibs have been manufactured to keep the stitching or join away from the skin and are mostly more comfortable but you will never know until you try them on.
Budget Bib Shorts
Pearl Izumi Quest
A Great Bib Shorts for those on A Budget
Bib shorts are a necessity, but they aren’t exciting purchases. Bike apparel mainstay Pearl Izumi gets this, which is why they’ve designed these budget bib shorts.
As it has with its entire line of cycling shorts, Pearl Izumi has placed its new and improved Select Escape 1:1 chamois in the Quest bibs.
Features of this new softer pad include a higher grade of foam that eliminates uncomfortable seams. Coupled with its durable fabric, this makes for a simple yet effective pair of shorts.
And, best of all, the Pearl Izumi Quest won’t cost you a lot.
Castelli's Entry Level Bibs is Priced Affordably
Castelli is known for its high-end and high-performance cycling apparel.
You may have noticed the Team Ineos pro team sporting their shorts at last year’s Tour. But, just because the pros wear them doesn’t mean you have to pay pro-level prices to own a pair.
The Castelli Entrata offers plenty of performance features without the high price tag. This includes Castelli’s advanced Pro Dry Lycra material and Kiss Air2 chamois cushions as well as the 8-panel construction that makes Castelli’s shorts so form-fitting and comfortable.
You also get that extra attention to detail that sets these bib shorts above lower-end models. This includes mesh bib straps for breathability, leg grippers that keep the shorts in place, and stitched logos that ensure everyone on your Sunday morning ride knows your shorts are Castelli.
Made from Compression Materials to Prevent Muscle Fatigue
If you’re looking for an excellent value in cycling shorts, then check out the Neo from Sportful, a company that’s been specializing in apparel for cycling and skiing since the 1970s.
Sportful uses a material called Elast-X 210g, which is designed to prevent muscle fatigue by providing support through compression while at the same time offering enough flex for quick movements.
The Sportful Comfort Pro pad protects your sit bones through long rides on the uneven pavement while elastic and silicone grip dots keep the shorts from riding up. The back panel of the bib is made from mesh, keeping you cool on long hot rides.
Best of all, you get these high-end shorts at a price that won’t break your budget, making the Sportful Neo one of the best values in bib shorts.
Value for Money Bib Shorts
Castelli Endurance 2
The Best Chamois Castelli Has to Offer for Maximum Comfort
When you’re buying cycling apparel from Italian company Castelli, you can expect to be pampered.
Such is the case with the Castelli Endurance 2 bib short, which proves that you don’t have to suffer through uncomfortable shorts while suffering over long distances.
Castelli’s Progetto X2 Air Seamless chamois will keep your nether regions dry and comfortable all day long. Soft Endurance Evolution fabric is gentle on your skin while providing muscle-supporting compression.
In true Castelli fashion, the Endurance 2 includes plenty of panels to ensure a snug and contoured fit. Giro3 leg grippers at the openings keep the legs firmly in place without pinching or constricting. The upper straps and back are constructed of mesh to keep you cool in hot weather.
Sportful Bodyfit Pro Air
A Bib Designed for Hot Summer Days
There’s nothing worse when riding in the heat of the summer than feeling like your bib shorts are wrapping your body like a rubber suit. Sportful knows this, so they design a set of shorts designed to give you maximum ventilation for those long hot rides.
The Sportful Bodyfit Pro Air is designed with AeroFlow, the company’s ultra-light synthetic mesh, on the thighs to maximize airflow while at the same time not sacrificing compression.
It’s also designed with an open back panel to promote airflow as you arch your back into the drops. Sportful’s TC Pro pad serves as the chamois, providing plenty of comfort and support for full-day rides.
Two hidden pockets in the upper offer hidden storage for a smartPhone and gel packs.
Designed to Keep You Warm when It's Cold and Wet Outside
Winter weather riding demands more out of your cycling shorts. No one wants to spend miles in the saddle cold and wet after getting doused by an unexpected squall.
Avoid the risk when riding in cooler weather and get the Giordana G-Shield bib shorts.
They’re designed to keep you warm in spite of the cold and wet. The Giordana G-Shield shorts are constructed from Super Roubaix AZ fabric, which includes a microfiber liner to keep you warm.
The fabric is also treated with Giordana’s Acqua Zero, a treatment that bonds with the fabric to make it water repellent. You’ll also love the Cirro O.F. chamois, which includes a top layer that is treated with aloe vera, a natural substance that kills bacteria and protects your skin.
Long Distance Riding Bibs
Gore Wear C7 Vent
Designed with Inputs from 2X Olympic Champion, Fabian Cancellara
Just a few weeks back Gore unveiled the latest line of products in its running partnership with pro cycling legend Fabian Cancellara. In collaboration with the well known Swiss, Gore has launched a line of cycling shorts that it claims are revolutionary in its design.
Typically, cycling shorts are constructed and then the chamois has attached afterward. With the C7, the name is a reference to Cancellara’s 7 career Spring Classics wins, the chamois is actually integrated into the bib shorts material. Gore says this ensures that the chamois will stay in place regardless of how hard your riding.
In addition to this design, Gore also incorporates other cooling technology into the C7 Vent bibs including its ventilated Expert Vent chamois, breathable lightweight lycra, and mesh paneling on the bib straps and back panel.
Castelli Premio 2
Castelli's Premium Bibs Just Gets Better, and Better
Sometimes only the best will do. And when you want the best, you can usually count on Italian bike apparel manufacturer Castelli to deliver.
And that’s exactly what the company does with its Castelli Premio 2 bib shorts. With these shorts, you get the benefit of the many hours Castelli has spent working with pros to perfect them.
The result is a high-stretch Forza fabric that feels great on your skin but also supplies plenty of stretch for compression. Protecting your sit bones is the Progetto X2 Air Seamless chamois, which now features a special soft skin care layer.
In addition to the critical areas, Castelli has also given attention to the details with such features as double-layer bib straps and lumbar support for your back.
You Can't go Wrong with An Award Winning Bib Shorts
The Assos T.equipe_s7 bib shorts are exactly what you would expect from the Swiss brand. It has taken 6 years of fine-tuning and reworking the design for them to release this pair of bib shorts.
These award-winning bib shorts deliver on comfort, fit, support, and style. A combination of intelligent Golden Gate stitching and multiple laser cut panels ensures comfort while feeling comfortable and supportive at the same time.
These shorts are light but don’t feel flimsy. The new stitching system removes chafing altogether while the chamois is just enough to offer comfort without being bulky.
Ask any cyclist who regularly rides more than 100 miles for their favorite bib shorts, chances are you’ll hear them saying the Assos T.equipe_s7.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Do I really need bib shorts?
If you’re riding anything more than an hour, bib shorts would be ideal. Having a good pair of bib shorts will provide you with plenty of support, ensuring you’re comfortable on the bike for long periods.
But if you’re riding casually, bib shorts are optional.
2. What are the differences between male and female bib shorts?
The main difference lies in the chamois contour to provide the necessary support for the female body. The straps are designed to provide upper body comfort while also accommodating the breasts.
Some newer models also allow for the straps to be easily removed during a toilet break without stripping off the entire bib shorts.
3. How to tell if a cycling bib short is men's or women's?
Look at the product name or description.
In most cases, the manufacturer will explicitly differentiate them with wordings like men, women, donna (women in Italian), or using initials such as W.
4. What do you wear under cycling bib shorts?
Wear nothing under the bib shorts, for both males and females. Some could call this, going commando. You don’t want to end up looking like a cycling Hubbard with your underwear!
Look, the chamois is specifically designed to be in contact with your skin and minimize chafing. If you introduce an additional layer between your skin and the chamois, in this case, your underwear, you will increase the chances of chaffing.
5. How should a cycling bib fits?
It should fit snug.
Tight, but not too tight that you feel uncomfortable that it’s hindering you during every pedal stroke.
6. How to minimise chafing?
Make sure you wear the right size of bib shorts and try to use chamois cream, especially if you’re going for a long ride.
Chamois creams help minimize the chances of chafing and help prevent inflammation, soothe the skin, and prevent saddle sores.