A good pair of cycling bib shorts is the most important part of every cyclist's wardrobe. Find the best pair for you with this definitive road.cc guide.
With shoulder straps to hold them in place and a pad to prevent chafing, cycling bib shorts made from a Lycra-blend fabric are very comfortable for long rides.
In general, more expensive shorts are better, in that they're more comfortable for longer, but there are some bargain exceptions.
Winter cycling bib shorts are made from thicker, warmer fabrics, often with water-repellency built in.
Cycling bib shorts for women are cut for a woman's shape and often have straps designed to make toilet breaks easier.
Good cycling bib shorts start at about £25.
The Lusso Carbon Bib Shorts are a UK-made classic: highly comfortable, cool and stylish. The v2 update is even better – they're hard to go past for the money. A classic just got better.
Back in 2016 we gave the previous model of the Carbon shorts 4.5 stars, saying they were 'an excellent choice of bib shorts for all-day rides, and very good value'. Since then tester Mike Stead has worn the Carbons many, many times. They've become his go-to shorts for rides long or short. Two years on and probably 100 wash cycles later, they still look like new as well – testament to Lusso's selection of material and build quality.
If you've managed to make a borderline-classic, you don't want to be faffing with it too much. The fabric on the straps is the same quality material as in the previous Carbon, and also used in Lusso's excellent Dryline baselayer, meaning you look co-ordinated. The black shorts material is still the same too. The major update is the triple-density pad, from Italian brand Elastic Interface, owned by cycling short giant Cytec. The pad is designed for long-distance rides, the perineal cutout removing pressure where you don't want it, the triple-density foam providing it where you do.
There are lots of great bib shorts out there. What gets the Lusso Carbon V2s our nod for the best overall bib shorts is the price: these are far and away the cheapest shorts we've ever scored 5/5 for performance, so not only will they keep you super-comfortable, but they won't hurt your bank balance too badly.
The Assos Dyora RS Bib Shorts combine a race fit and performance with exceptional comfort and a pad that is up to serious mileage. They're expensive, but the investment will serve you well throughout spring, summer and autumn.
If you don't race, don't be put off by the fact that Dyora shorts come from Assos's 'Race Series'. If you value a good fit on the bike, regardless of your pace, these are worth digging into your pocket for.
A pair of shorts that you are unaware of because they are so comfortable is surely what everyone wants, and the Assos Dyora are exactly this. We simply can't fault the performance, fit or comfort. Yes, they come at a high price, but in this case it's fully justified.
These are the only women's shorts we've ever awarded five stars for performance; they really are that good.
Seriously impressive performance for the price — shorts that'll serve you well on all but the longest rides.
The Caratti Sport Bib Shorts are the budget offering from the UK company, but perform far better than their price tag might suggest. They manage to combine an effective pad, really good fit throughout and an excellent cut.
When you first step into the bib shorts, the first thing you notice is that the cut and quality of the Cooldry fabric material used is unexpected on such a relatively inexpensive pair of shorts. The fit is good, with no excess material or tightness anywhere around the legs or straps. Caratti have used a material that allows for four way stretch, which genuinely provides a really forgiving fit. They have minimal branding with the name written in white up the leg. Combined with the cut, this makes them look like they are far more expensive than they are.
If you want more options when it comes to cheaper cycling bib shorts take a look at our guide to the best cheap cycling shorts.
Also consider: dhb Aeron Bib Shorts are extremely good quality for £60
Sportful's Fiandre NoRain Pro Bib Shorts are excellent when you're cycling in cold and damp weather, with superb comfort backed up by impressive fit and durability. They are a good three-season, possibly four-season, choice for UK cyclists. Wear them on their own or pair with knee or leg warmers and you have a versatile and solid bottom half of your winter wardrobe.
The fit of the shorts is perfect. The leg length is longer than usual, providing more coverage and warmth, and the soft lining of the NoRain Thermal material adds a luxurious feeling that definitely makes you feel a bit better prepared when stepping out with the bike in the morning when you might rather be tucked up under the duvet.
Also consider: Lusso 2-Zero Thermal Bib Shorts don't have the water repellency of the Sportful shorts, but will still help keep you warm when paired with legwarmers.
Rapha's Pro Team Powerweave bib shorts are the most comfortable, high-performance Pro Team-spec bib shorts we've ever worn. If you want the best of the best that Rapha can offer when it comes to fair weather performance bib shorts, with that outstanding comfort, then the Powerweaves are the new standard bearer.
The Powerweave bib shorts are an evolution of everything that's come before, incorporating all the latest technical innovations and developed alongside and used by the EF Education First pro team in the so-far truncated 2020 season. With an eye-watering £275 price tag.
But the Pro Team Powerweaves are an outstanding set of performance bib shorts, especially for those with road racing (or at least fast club riding) aspirations. They even wash well, returning as new through the dozens of cycles they've gone through.
The dhb Aeron bib shorts are an evolution of Wiggle's house brand's Aeron Pro shorts and boy are they good. It kind of makes you wonder why you need to pay more really.
It's the MITI Granfondo fabric that makes the Aeron's a winner which according to Wiggle is a mixture of Mititech Power and Interpower fabrics. The Power gives you a compressive style material with the Interpower providing the breathability and wicking capabilities.
Whatever the fabrics are up to, the moment you put these shorts on they feel like a second skin. They're supportive for the muscles and smooth against your legs moving without crease or bunching. They're ideal for those long rides when the tiniest little irritation can become a real issue.
Sportful's Fiandre NoRain 2 bib shorts are a great option for rides in the rain. The soft, thermal fabric is cut long for extra protection of the lower quads, while the water resistance will see off a good amount of rain and keep you warm when soaked through.
Tester Liam loved wearing these cycling bib shorts. Besides everything else, they're incredibly comfortable and the soft fabric makes you feel all snug just pulling them on. Sportful has designed these to be used in the colder months so you have to carefully pick the days you use them. Thankfully, their breathability means that when the sun does pop out, you aren't left feeling ridiculously warm.
Santini's Mago bib shorts just might be the most comfortable bibs I've ever worn, writes tester Mike Stead, and the minimalist styling should pair with any top. With 10 – yes, 10 – sizes to choose from, you can dial the fit too.
With an RRP of £105 the Mago is towards the higher end of the market, but not overly so, and they're frequently for sale online for £80-90. They're very good value should your fit work out. This was a large on test – measurements say I'm on the borderline of XL for height and medium for girth, the Mago coming up snug but with no bunching or tightness around the shoulders. The fit for me was definitely close, bordering on compressive, although Santini doesn't claim them to be compressive, with the various sport science voodoo that entails.
Rapha's Core bib shorts are an impressive mix of know-how from premium ranges, giving good quality, comfort and a great fit.
The Core range from Rapha is aimed at simplicity: no frills, just good performance and elegant design. The men's bibs achieve those aims convincingly.
The most vital part of any bib shorts is the chamois. Rapha has used the same pad you find in its Classic range of bib shorts, and it's a well-regarded design. It's not as comfortable as the Cytech pad seen in Rapha's Pro Team and Pro Team Lightweight bib shorts, but it's certainly adequate for most rides.
The Lusso 2-Zero Thermal Bibs are warm, comfortable shorts that pair perfectly with Lusso's Max Repel Leg Warmers. Just be aware the shorts come up a little smaller than usual Lusso fare.
Being made in Britain, they've not been clobbered as hard as some by the pound's post-EU-referendum plummet; they were £70 back in 2015 when we reviewed an earlier version and they're now £90. Made from quality Italian Roubaix fabric, they represent excellent value.
The finishing is excellent, with flatlocked stitching where it counts and breathable back/shoulder material. This is important as Lusso positions the 2-Zero as suited for 'Racing or Training with Leg Warmers' – these are shorts for going hard and fast in.
If you like to keep your legs exposed for as much of the year as possible then these dhb Aeron Equinox Bib Shorts are worth a look. Using three different fabrics to keep your thighs warm when the autumn temperatures start to drop, they are brilliant either on their own or when paired up with knee or leg warmers. The chamois is spot on for long winter training rides too.
dhb's Equinox range is all about kit to get you through the change of the seasons, and what the company has done here is to introduce new fabrics to its excellent Aeron Bib Shorts (which I tested back in March) to keep you a little bit warmer.
Wearing both pairs in identical conditions (about 8°C), the Equinox shorts were noticeably warmer pretty much everywhere, most noticeably when descending at speed or riding into a chilly northerly wind.
The Rapha Women's Core Cargo shorts are a new addition to the Core range. Equipped with mesh side pockets and a new Classic chamois, these are great for any type of ride, very comfortable on long outings and eminently suitable for touring or a bit of adventure cycling.
Tester Sarah wore a medium for the test and they were a really good fit. The black 'dense-knit' fabric gives a nice amount of compressive support around the legs, and with minimal flatlock stitched seams there were no rubbing issues.
As there is no bib section, there is soft silicone gripper at the rear, where the fit is high waisted. This worked well and held the shorts up nicely with a close fit. The front is lower cut for comfort while on the bike.
A detail you can't really miss in the Cargo Core Shorts is the mesh pocket on the side of each leg. Dave wrote about these in his review of the Core Cargo Bib Shorts – the idea is that you can eliminate the need to wear a traditional cycling jersey with rear pockets and just use these side ones instead.
Stolen Goat's Bodyline One Bib Shorts are the company's least expensive offering, yet still extremely impressive. The pad works brilliantly, the one-seam construction fits well, and compression and muscle support is good. Tester Iwein says: "I've worn these on long days out as well as for Zwift Racing League sweat fests, and I can't fault them."
The Bodyline's fabric is an 80% polyamide, 20% elastane mix, and sewn with a single seam down the centre line and under the pad to minimise potential pressure points. It has a sort of honeycomb pattern on the inside, which makes it plenty stretchy and gives just the right amount of compression.
Stolen Goat is upfront about their clothing being made elsewhere: SG designs it, then the fit, form and function is taken care of by Bioracer, which has serious pedigree in competitive clothing for the pros. That experience and know-how is immediately obvious when you put these on.
The La Passione Club Bib Shorts are very comfortable even on long rides thanks to a well-judged pad, great shaping and an ideal fit. The longish legs sit securely on wide silicone grippers, the mesh straps are airy with a finely judged tension, and construction is super-neat. This 'Iron' grey can show sweat if you're working really hard, but there are dark blue and black versions that shouldn't suffer the same issue.
La Passione says the Club shorts are a redesign of its previous Palmares shorts, and they certainly have the feel of a well-refined product. At the risk of sounding glib, you choose your size, put them on and ride away – that's all there is to it. They fit well everywhere, stay put whatever the tempo and keep you very comfortable. It's a shame it's not always so easy!
British designed and made, Lusso's DRS bib shorts are easily on a par with the well known European brands. They're comfortable, look great, and aren't as damaging to your wallet as some. They might even make you faster, with their 'Drag Reducing Fabric'.
The top billing with these shorts is the DRS – Drag Reduction System – or as I like to refer to it, 'golf ball' dimpling in the main material. The Italian Celona fabric also provides an element of compression. It's used for the whole body of the shorts, with just the very lower leg and gripper being different material, along with a much softer and thinner fabric for the back and bibs – very similar to baselayer fabric.
The Summer Bib Shorts from Italian brand La Passione appear relatively simple at first glance – with a relatively low panel count and a chamois that initially looks like nothing particularly fancy. However, they really surprised me – offering hours of comfort and a great fit. With La P's direct sales policy, they are pretty keenly priced too.
The La Passione Minimal bib shorts offer a very high level of comfort, performance, build quality and style for a lower price than many comparable shorts.
I've been really impressed with everything about the La Passione Minimal shorts. I can't say I tested them over the seven-hour rides for which La Passione claims you can stay comfortably in the saddle, but I did do a pacy, hilly, 70-mile group ride in them and my undercarriage could easily have withstood the same again – though my legs would have flatly refused.
The fabric of the body is very lightweight with an unusual matt surface that looks very stylish. With a high percentage of elastane it grips firmly, holding the pad perfectly in place and supplying a compressive fit, according to La Passione. It's hard to measure the effect of compression in cycling – there's more data relating to running and recovery – but there's certainly a comfort benefit if it's done well, and in this case it is.
According to Lusso, the Adventure Bibshorts are 'ideal for gravel riding, audax, long distance, touring/cycling or just commuting'. Lusso says these went through an 18-month developmental phase, so I was expecting something pretty sussed. I'm pleased to report that they meet their design brief extremely well and are equally at home on or off road.
I've ridden in these for around 600 miles over four weeks, in temperatures between 12 and 34 degrees, and I've been able to cruise along largely unaware of them.
Pockets have been quietly creeping into more traditional road-biased shorts. Here, Lusso has gone for two cargo types on the legs, designed for a phone or wallet, plus two mesh ones at the rear for lighter valuables.
The Adventure bib shorts are very comfortable, well made and practical, and well worth considering if you're seeking some additional storage and/or sturdier shorts for general riding or rough stuff touring.
With the comfortable Progetto X2 insert, very few seams and widely spaced bib straps, Castelli's Free Race Aero bib shorts are exceptionally good.
Castelli combine three fabrics in the construction of these shorts. The side panels are made from Energia Micro which has a high stretch factor, the front panel is Breathe Micro to prevent overheating, and the area in contact with the saddle is made from tougher Action Micro fabric.
The three fabrics are combined in a very well shaped and cut short, with very few seams, and in particular none in the inner thigh area. This contributes to a great on-the-bike comfort that is up there with the best bib shorts in this price range.
The latest Endura Pro SL bib shorts are one of the most comfortable pairs I have ever used. The pad is sublime, and the overall cut and the fabric used mean they remain comfortable no matter how long you are out riding for.
The heart of any pair of bib shorts is the pad, and the 700 series used here is very impressive indeed. Rather than having multiple grooves and differing thicknesses of padding spread out across its layout, it is reasonably flat and smooth with just the slightest transition into a thicker depth of padding where it sits over the saddle.
This means it doesn't bunch up when changing position on the bike, and whether out for a short hard blast or a longer trek the whole thing is basically undetectable.
Overall, the Pro SLs really deliver as well as many of the competition in terms of performance and quality, but achieve it at a very competitive price.
The Shutt Velo Rapide Signature Sanremo bib shorts are some of the best out there when it comes to comfort. The recycled fabric feels great against the skin while offering plenty of unrestricted movement, and the pad is top notch.
Pretty much the key component to how they feel is the 3D multi-density gel and foam chamois pad. It's quite a firm pad, offering great support when in the saddle, and there is a central channel at the rear for a bit of pressure relief.
The Primal Stirling Men's Helix 2.0 Bibshorts are impressively comfortable thanks to great race cut, a well-balanced pad and excellent materials. A hint of compression makes them an ideal choice for fast or hard rides.
Primal has used its race-specific pattern for the cut and layout of the various contoured panels. It works well, as I always felt that the shorts fitted absolutely perfectly no matter what position I was in on the bike. No unnecessary bunching of material anywhere, nor did they feel tight when standing.
The Vero fabric is soft to the touch and has just a small amount of compression that is noticeable enough to take the edge off muscle vibration on longer rides. The jury has been out for a long time on how much compression garments help, but I have always got on well with them during and after exercise so it's a welcome addition here.
The Ashmei Men's Cycle Bib Shorts are very well thought-out and superbly executed, but there's no getting away from the high price.
The Ashmei clothes that we've seen and reviewed on road.cc are about as far from 'me too' products as it's possible to be. The brand seems to examine every detail. Hence, these shorts are made from a densely woven polyamide/elastane fabric that feels quite different from that of any other shorts we've used.
Tester Pat says the 7Mesh Mk3 bib shorts are the best shorts he's ever worn. They are incredibly comfortable regardless of the length of time in the saddle because of their hammock chamois lining, material choice and cut, and the luxurious, wide shoulder straps. True, they cost £150, but they're worth every penny.
7Mesh was already onto a good thing with its Mk2 bib shorts, but the Mk3s are a huge improvement. Buying shorts is a worrying experience as it's not like you can take them back to the shop after four hours of testing and say, erm, no thanks. If you take the plunge and purchase these Mk3s, we think you will be very pleased.
The dhb Aeron Lab XC Bib Shorts are perfect for riders who want a lightweight and performance-orientated pair of bibs that are also resilient for riding off the beaten track. The Dyneema panels on each leg are not only better at fending off brambles than standard Lycra, but are also breathable enough for summer riding and don't detract from the comfort of the shorts.
At 168g the XC shorts are certainly light, but don't let this fool you into thinking that they're fragile. On both legs a Dyneema fabric has been used which, at first touch, feels a bit like a waterproof liner; it is in fact quite a bit more complex than that and is both far more breathable and far more stretchy than you'd think a material of this durability could ever be.
Having ridden around in these for a little over month on a mix of mountain bike, cyclocross and gravel rides, it would seem the overgrown August trails are no match for the shorts which are still in pristine condition.
The Le Col Pro bib shorts are a high-quality garment designed for racing with a long, sleek cut and a super-comfortable chamois.
Mat tested the previous version of Le Col's Pro bib shorts in 2018 and called the Dolomiti Pro Gel pad 'supremely comfortable.' While Le Col has updated the design of the shorts and the bib section, the British brand has sensibly not fixed what ain't broke and has kept the same pad – and 'supremely comfortable' is how I would describe it too.
Of course the pad is bound to place itself slightly differently depending on the individual anatomy of the wearer, and I found that it was at its best in an aggressive position and not quite so plush-feeling for sitting up on the back of the saddle. It's tucked underneath directly on the sit bones rather than behind them. This is as it should be for shorts designed for racing.
There are many bib shorts costing a lot less than these but also many from other premium brands costing more. With the Le Col Pros you're paying for top quality, heavy duty, bona fide pro-level racing shorts from a British brand with a lot of well-deserved cachet that knows what it's doing.
Finding a comfortable pair of shorts is vital for any woman (or man) looking to ride regularly and spend long days in the saddle. The Assos T.laalalaishorts_s7 fit the bill perfectly, offering top quality and exceptional all-day comfort. If you suffer from a sore derrière or excessive chafing after hours in the saddle, these are well worth considering – they're the most comfortable shorts I've ever worn.
One of the first things you notice about these bib shorts is the unusual magnetic fastening on the bib. This makes the bib straps sit much closer together than on the majority of shorts, and I found that when riding I barely noticed them.
Rapha has redesigned its popular Classic bib shorts and improved every aspect – no mean feat given that the original shorts were next to perfect and have gone many years unchanged. Updating such a classic was a risky decision, but critically Rapha hasn't messed around with the magic formula too much but instead has made small changes in key areas. It's less a radical redesign and more a refinement. The biggest change is found in the chamois/padded insert, which is the most important component of the bib shorts for obvious reason.
The Le Col Blackout Therma bib shorts instantly became tester Liam's go-to shorts, and that says pretty much everything. He says: "They are fabulously comfortable with a soft fabric, dense pad, thick feel and a great fit. For colder days, they have been excellent."
"Autumn and winter rides generally require some insulation, and thermal bib shorts are a cracking investment in my experience. Their versatility means I'm often reaching for these over full longs as they can either be worn alone, or mated with knee and leg warmers. Consequently, I've been reaching for the Therma bibs nearly every ride over the past two months."
"The material Le Col has used is quite thick. It feels very plush and has a brushed, fleecy inner that's very comfortable against the skin. I really like the weighty feel to these bibs as it's incredibly cosy, and wrapping up in the morning before a cold ride is one of the few things I actually like about winter cycling."
Gore Wear's C7 Women's bib shorts – or C7 Women Long Distance Bib Shorts+, to give them their full name – are exceptionally comfortable with a chamois that's up to long days in the saddle. Their lack of excessive compression and soft, supple fabric will appeal to many, although the price tag might not.
According to Gore, the C7s are designed for warm weather, so they were really put to the test during the warm summer of 2020, and they didn't't disappoint. That's not to say that they don't perform when the temperatures drop to something more autumnal either.
The fit is excellent – a perfect shape around the legs and hips, plus a decent leg length. The 70% polyamide, 30% elastane main body composition creates a really supple, soft fabric that sits plush to the skin without excessive pressure.
Another contender for Best Shorts Ever. Pearl Izumi has used a fabric that is so comfortable that you literally do not notice that you are wearing these, and the chamois is absolutely spot on. The cost may be steep but seriously, what price can you put on perfection?
The PRO Transfer fabric is unbelievably soft against the skin, but the only time you feel it is when you pull the shorts on. You know it's comfortable then but once on the bike it just disappears.
It has the perfect balance of compression and support without being noticeable. Even around the leg grippers, small dashes of silicone stop them moving but with just the right amount of pressure, so that even with a whole day in the saddle you aren't feeling any discomfort.
Fabric isn't everything, though, the chamois is still the defining factor. Pearl Izumi has gone with a PRO Escape 1:1 pad and it follows a trend that we've been seeing a lot in the latest top-end shorts. For years many pads were using multiple channels between differing density pads to create comfort and reduce numbness but the latest pads have done away with this and are literally smooth with a single thickness.
I've ridden everything from flat-out, hour-long blasts on the road to six-hour jaunts on the gravel in these shorts and I've never once felt any discomfort. The pad is spot on.
Velocio's Women's Ultralight Bib Shorts are very breathable and – thanks to a comfortable pad, effective comfort-break design and totally opaque finish – they transfer well from indoor turbo sessions to long days on hot roads.
tester Anna-Marie writes: “The Ultralights stay cool without resorting to mesh sections, as found on many turbo offerings (such as Lusso's Turbo Bibshorts V2, for instance). The Velocios are impressively breathable, and moisture evaporates very quickly – these kept me happily cool during indoor sweatfests.
'Impressively, despite being so thin and breathable there are no transparency issues. Velocio promises a 'deep black high opacity finish,' and delivers just that. They also offer Velocio's latest generation 'FlyFree' bib upper. The straps are 4.5cm wide and distribute pressure evenly, and easily pull down to let you pee without having to take all of your top layers off.”
These Café du Cycliste Marinette Bib Shorts join a few others in my collection that are just really hard to fault. The material is fantastic against the skin and the pad is basically unnoticeable. It's a fair outlay for a piece of kit, but it's backed up by some excellent craftsmanship and if you want to get away from black they come in a whole range of colours including this Anthracite grey.
Okay, £191 of your hard-earned cash on a pair of bib shorts is a big investment, but if you spend a lot of time in the saddle it'll be money well spent.
The Marinettes are up there with the most comfortable shorts I've worn – the likes of the 7mesh RK1 and Endura Pro SL bib shorts. They all follow the same theme: excellent fabric which feels great against the skin and an awesome chamois.
Rapha is well known for its very expensive but very good cycling kit, and these Detachable Bib Shorts do nothing to dent that reputation. They're extremely comfortable, very well made, and super-pricey.
Having to whip off your top layers to have a pee is a pain in the arse, particularly so if you're in the middle of nowhere but still a faff even if there are facilities. You can combat this by wearing waisted shorts (no bib), wearing your bib straps over your jersey (oh dear me no), or wearing shorts that 'detach' from the top somehow. I've worn various designs that allow this – with zips, clips or simple fold over sections – and none have worked as well and been as comfortable as these from Rapha.
The Assos RS Spring Fall Bib Shorts S9 work perfectly on cool to cold rides, the fit is sublime and the pad is excellent. The soft fabrics make these very comfortable to wear, and with very good breathability they'll be great for racing too.
Assos' latest thermal bib shorts are an excellent option for cool weather rides. They very well across a good range of temperatures, protecting the larger cycling muscles from the cold. The superb fit and comfort, combined with the versatility of the shorts, make these thermal cycling bib shorts well worth the money.
The 7mesh RK1 Bib Shorts are 'elite performance, second skin road cycling shorts' according to their creators. A couple of hundred quid is a big investment for a piece of clothing, but wow! – these are extremely comfortable, excellently tailored bib shorts.
7mesh has really gone to town here with the number of sections that make these shorts fit and work so well when on the bike, especially when it comes to performance riding. This does create extra seams but 7mesh has placed them well, keeping them all out of the way so that they never cause irritation.
You can get excellent shorts at pretty much any price point, but there are always some that just seem to deliver that little bit extra for the money. That's what 7mesh has achieved with its RX1 bib shorts: it's really focused on the details, which makes them pretty close to perfection.
The Velocio Concept bib shorts offer a sublimely comfortable ride, the fit is excellent, and then there's that price tag…
Yes, it's a lot to spend, there's no getting around that. However, if I was told I had unlimited money to spend on improving the comfort of riding, bib shorts would be the first place I'd look. Bib shorts can make a massive difference to not only how a ride feels but also how you perform, and these are the most comfortable I've ever worn.
The Concepts are some of the most expensive we've tested, but designs around this price are becoming more common. We've tested the 7mesh RK1 bib shorts that cost £200, and for £180 and £190 respectively, Katusha's Icon and Pearl Izumi's Pro bib shorts received excellent reviews.
Can they ever be worth it? I'd argue that yes, they can, but you probably have to be putting in a lot of miles and they have to be exceptionally good. The Concepts are, I'm happy to say, exceptionally good.
When it comes to performance cycling, whether it’s long rides on Sunday mornings or road racing, and sportives, bib shorts are where it’s at for outright comfort. The pad provides comfort so you can sit in the saddle for hours at a time, the straps avoid a waist band digging into your stomach, and there’s no excess fabric to flap about.
While there are other styles of shorts available — baggy, urban and waist shorts — for any rides of that combine distance and speed bib shorts are hard to beat for comfort. You can wear them year-round, under tights in the winter, on their own in the summer. And no, you don’t wear underwear under them, if you’re wondering. They’re designed to sit next to the skin.
Cycling bib shorts are the cornerstone of a rider's wardrobe, and it’s worth investing in a good pair. If you’re riding frequently, you’ll want to have a couple or three good pairs.
The pad is where a lot of the money goes, but don’t always assume that the more expensive the shorts the better the pad. Posher fabrics and more panels can contribute to higher costs as well.
Fortunately these days you can get really good cycling bib shorts from about £40 which are good if you’re just starting out in cycling. You can spend over £300 if you’re feeling particularly flush, but you do begin to get diminishing returns in extra comfort.
They sure look odd though, and to non-cyclists they will definitely raise an eyebrow. Ignore them. When it comes to comfort bib shorts win hands down against all other shorts if you want to ride far and fast.
Let's take a look at the things you need to know if you’re in the market for a pair of bib shorts.
The main difference with women's cycling bib shorts is in fit and the insert, which is usually a different size and shape, typically narrower and shorter. While the bib straps on men's shorts go straight up the torso, some manufacturers take different approaches with bib straps on women's shorts, either pushing them out to the sides or having a single central strap.
Some have bib straps that can be easily unclipped which can make toilet stops easier. If you don't like the idea of bib shorts then there are lots of regular Lycra shorts available. The benefit of bib shorts is there is no elastic waistband digging into your tummy, but many manufacturers have solved that problem with wide, carefully shaped waistbands that spread the pressure. Most manufacturers offer women-specific shorts and there is plenty of choice available.
Inside a pair of cycling bib shorts lies the most important part - the pad. The main job of bib shorts is to support the foam pad between body and saddle. It’s often called an insert or chamois, on account of early bib shorts using a real leather pad made from chamois goat skin. Yes, really: you used to have to treat them with chamois cream to keep them soft). These days they are mostly made from synthetic materials.
When buying your first pair of bib shorts, remember that most of the money goes into the pad, though this isn’t an absolute rule. In theory the more you spend on a pair of shorts, the better the pad. This isn’t always the case, so it pays to do your homework carefully. The road.cc bib shorts review archive is a good place to start.
The pad is shaped to conform to the body, and provide padding where you make contact with the saddle. The most important areas are where the sit bones make contact with the saddle. Cheaper shorts might have a single thickness pad, while the more expensive pads use variable levels of foam thickness and density to keep the pad thinner where you don’t need much cushioning, and more padding where you do need it. Such pads are generally more comfortably as a result.
Look for a pad with antibacterial finish for hygiene, to things from getting messy down there. Some pads have channels or perforations to wick away sweat; there’s nothing more uncomfortable than a soggy pad. The pad should feel reasonably soft and have some flex to it, so it shapes to your body. It needs to sit flush with your curves so in a way it’s part of you. You don’t want to sit on top of the pad. The better pads we’ve tested tend to feel like they’re not there at all.
Manufacturers are now aiming shorts at different riding types, so it’s possible to choose a pad that has more padding for endurance riding, and other, slimmer pads that are better suited for shorter rides or racing.
Pads come in men's and women’s versions, with shapes to suit the different anatomies. No two pads are the same. They can vary in thickness, shape and other factors, so the best thing is to try them on before you buy. Just like saddles, what works for one person won’t necessarily work for another. We’re all different shapes, and your weight and riding style can influence the type of pad that will work for you.
Moving away from the pad, the fabric and fit are really important to your comfort. The fit is influenced by the number of panels used to make the shorts. There more panels there are, the more complex the shorts are to make, and so they cost more.
The most common fabric for bib shorts is some sort of stretchy synthetic mix, usually a blend of Nylon and Lycra, ad variously described as spandex or Elastane. There’s a huge variety of thickness and weights of fabric, though.
Manufacturers are now combining different fabrics at the top-end to achieve a good fit and a level of compression. Some shorts are designed to work better in hot weather with more breathable materials, and some are better suited to the winter with a thicker fleecy-backed Roubaix fabric. It’s even possible to get shorts made from water resistant fabrics, ideal for the British climate.
Sizing is crucial and varies from brand to brand, so we’d really recommend trying them on before you drop your cash if at all possible. As a rule of thumb, all cycling clothing from Italian companies will come up small for its nominal size. American and UK brands tend to be more generous.
The shorts are held in place with twin straps that stretch over your shoulders. They need to be stretchy and wide so they don’t dig in, and also so you can manage toilet stops without having to bend over backwards.
Men’s shorts typically have widely spaced straps, but for women's shorts there are a few different solutions. Some manufacturers join the straps in the middle of the chest, with a buckle to allow easy removal for toilet breaks.
Often the rear of the bib section will be a large panel of mesh material to aid cooling.
You really don’t want shorts riding up and exposing your tan line so they usually have some sort of gripper to keep them in place on your legs. Silicone tape or dots are the most frequent solutions, along with elasticated hems.
Some manufacturers are moving away from this approach to broad highly elasticated hems that rely on compression to keep the legs in place. They’re typically more comfortable with less skin irritation, and they don’t dig in either.
Another detail to look out for is the use of reflective material on the back or legs. It’s possible to get shorts designed for night time riding with large areas of reflective material. A race radio pocket at the back of the shorts is designed for use by professionals, but it can double up as phone/MP3 player pocket.
For years pro and elite cyclists have worn one-piece Lycra skinsuits for time trials and some important races. They're aerodynamically efficient and very comfortable, but look even sillier than regular cycling bib shorts and lack conveniences such as pockets. A few years ago, Castelli introduced its Speedsuit concept, combining shorts and jersey into one garment that still looked like you were wearing separates. The idea was better aerodynamics, but Speedsuits have turned out to be very comfortable.
road.cc readers are always a valuable source of knowledge and experience on bike kit. Here's the pick of reader comments from the previous version of this article.
theslowcyclistxx: Everyone is different of course, but in my opinion Assos Equipe offers unparalleled comfort to the other brands. To add to this, I own several pair of bibs from the other brands. Also, as member of RRC I ride almost exclusively in Rapha in almost everything else (including my normal commuting clothes), but for bibs Assos Equipe is on another level and for any challenging ride, I wound never risk riding anything else. I know and fully understand and acknowledge the importance of affiliate marketing for road.cc, but a bit more position taking on which shorts are best for different conditions would make this kind of review more valuable.
For a product to get into a buyer's guide it has to have scored well when reviewed or, in a few exceptional cases, be a long-established classic of its type, and be actually available to buy. And, er, that's it.
Sold mine, awful fit and uncomfortable - clearly designed only for whippet-thin professionals with no upper body to speak of.
Endura Pro FS260 Pro are the best bibs you can buy - they also work in 'all conditions', (whatever that is supposed to mean - my Enduras work well in the conditions of riding a bike)
BehindTheBikesheds: I just bought some Nalini Integra which are one of their top end bibs, unfortunately despite looking the business they are clearly made for people of about 5ft 8in tall! This was the XXXL their biggest size which was fine around the legs/waist but the shoulder straps were ridiculously under sized, you'd think by now these companies would figure out that us bigger cyclists aren't weedy up top nor short arses!
festina: Endura pro sl shorts are the most comfortable I've had (bought assos previously) and at Â£80 are a steal.
Just make sure you get the right pad width.
However, I've not been convinced by the lycra on the legs of their bibshorts for about 8 or 9 years and certainly the stuff on the lower ranges is far too thin and stretchy and therefore doesn't have any compressive effect. Fine for shorter rides, but not great over 50+
Htc: Rapha Pro Team II bibs have the best pad I've tried, feel great all round too.
Jack Osbourne snr: I started LEJOG in Castelli Endurance X2 shorts and finished in Endura FS260 Pro SL following an incident with the Castellis in the Perineal area (its near Hereford) after a making stupid and unnecessary tweak to saddle angle that resulted in some nasty chafing. I'd done 1500 comfortable miles in the Castellis without issue, so I can't blame them.
The Endura bibs are fantastic though.
I paid full retail because I was desperate (and only had the time to stop in one shop) and can say hand on heart they were worth every penny as they made the last 500 miles a pleasure for my nether regions.
Size wise, the Enduras are more realistic than the Italian brands, even perhaps on the large size. I'm in between an XL/2XL in Castelli and found the large in Endura a good fit although the straps were maybe a fraction too longer than perfection. I'm 1.80m tall and was (last year) a reasonably slim 85kg with chunky thighs and bought the regular leg length, medium pad in Large.
huntswheelers: You need to test Fat Lad At The Back bibs... I know they have been tested in the real world by respected cyclists .... I ride with them and they are fantastic, you can get "steath" versions if the branding isn't to taste....I have no affiliation to the company... Get some on test you know you want to
DoctorFish: After years of buying fairly cheap ones from wiggle, which have on the whole been fine, I paid out for some from Stolen Goat. Probably approaching twice the price of what I've paid before, but amazingly comfortable.
poppa: I don't think I have seen any mention of Giordana on road.cc either, possibly ever. I picked up their FR Carbon bib shorts up for £65 and really like them for summer. Good quality.
daturaman: Everyone seems to rave about the Dhb Aeron - imagine my disappointment when I found that they are made from a harsh, scratchy material with a pad that, whilst ok, I would not want to be doing a long ride on.
Really? My husband bought some a few weeks ago and loves them. So much so they're one of the pairs he'll be using for riding the RAB.
ChetManley: Castelli Endurance X2 - same pad as the more expensive shorts, cost less and they fit if you're not built like a racer
Freddy56: Love my Specialized Comp shorts for looks, but if it is a big ride- I will stand by the washing machine and wait for my Galibier bibs. Magic and comfy.
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John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.
He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.
Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc founder Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.
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He joined road.cc in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.