While even the best bib shorts may look like something from Magic Mike, they do serve a purpose other than showing off your chiselled abs, defined pecs and pert glutes. MAMILs, pro cyclists and even some normal people swear by bib shorts for their comfort and streamlining, wind-defeating qualities.
Bib shorts hold your chamois in place, reducing the potential for chafing; and keep your shorts up too. Since there's no waist band or uncomfortable drawstring – bib shorts stay up with lightweight breathable shoulder straps – they're more comfortable than regular cycling shorts, helping you stay in the saddle for longer.
(However, if bib shorts are just too specialist for you, fear not. We also have a guide to the best cycling shorts, which anyone can wear.)
Bib short prices range from around £50 well up into the hundreds. Budget doesn't necessarily mean bad anymore, but you do get what you pay for. And given that your cycling shorts are the main thing between you and your bike, it makes sense to invest in a decent pair.
Of course, you might also want to don the best cycling jerseys when wearing bib shorts, otherwise you'll end up looking like a mug. To further improve your looks, you can also wear the best cycling sunglasses: these also have the added benefit of protecting your eyes from debris and glare. Don't want to get lost when out on the road? Get a GPS bike computer. Easy as that.
The best bib shorts for cycling, in order of preference
As soon as you don the Le Col Pro Blackout Bib Shorts, you'll feel like you want to jump on the saddle and ride straight away. Just like any other Le Col product, the Pro Blackout Bib Shorts radiate quality and even the box it comes in feels like meticulously crafted and handled with care.
The Le Col Pro Blackout Bib Shorts were designed primarily for racing and racers who put thousands of miles into their bikes (and their bib shorts) a year. The mesh bib straps are comfortable and breathable and thanks to the flat-locked seams, there is no sign of chafing or irritation, even after hours of cycling in aggressive racing position. Not like I tried it, I can only use the aero bars for five seconds at a time.
The silicone grippers are trademark oversized Le Col grippers with intermittent silicone tabs to ensure the shorts hold firmly in place. They have also been integrated into the inside of the legs smoothly, you won't feel the usual 'pull' from the silicone at all.
The Le Col Pro Blackout Bib Shorts use the Pro Dolomiti Chamois, which is a thinner padding treated with silicone for added comfort. When I say thin, it is still pretty thick compared to a tri-suit, for example, and it will provide enough cushioning on those racing saddles. Also, a special thread and stitch shape down the outside edges of the pad reduces rubbing to an absolute minimum.
it would be hard to say anything negative about the Le Col Pro Blackout Bib Shorts without splitting hairs. If you are planning on getting a pair of new bib shorts, get the Le Col Pro Blackout Bib Shorts. Easy as that.
The Assos T.Equipe_s7 Bib Shorts have a lot to recommend, not least the fact that they're the chosen short of the BMS Racing pro team. Nine panels ensure optimum range of movement no matter the twists and turns, and this complex construction conspires with the light compression fabric to make one of the most comfortable bib cycling shorts out there.
The padding is ingenious too, with what reviewers called “spot-on” memory foam placement and variable compression for maximum comfort. At the time of writing, Wiggle customers have awarded them a fantastic 4.7/5 stars over nearly 300 reviews, making them one of the best bib shorts you can buy right now.
Featuring something intriguingly called ‘coldblack’ technology, the Endura Pro SL II Bib Shorts are ideal for use as a single layer in warm weather. The clever material means that these black shorts absorb less infrared than regular ones, keeping you cooler, and also provide minimum UPF 30 protection from the sun. It’s the fit that sets them apart though.
With a great range of sizes from the oft-neglected XS to XXL, three different pad width options to suit all hip bone configurations, and two leg lengths, there a brilliant bib short option in the range for riders of all shapes and sizes.
Rapha’s latest women’s bib shorts boast a redesigned chamois and a sturdy, magnetic clasp system for quick removal. Designed for racing, the new Rapha Souplesse Detachable Bib Shorts have been extensively tested by CANYON//SRAM riders – and Rapha says the improved chamois design has been three years in the making.
Certainly, it’s excellent. More streamlined, less bulky and made from a lightweight, high-density foam, the chamois has extra padding at the sit bones and delicate areas for increased comfort. We also like the self-cantering magnetic fastening, which is easy to unclasp during toilet breaks.
The shorts themselves, meanwhile, give a comfortable, secure fit, with no chaffing from the gripper. At £195, they aren’t cheap. But for racing and longer, fast-paced rides, these bib shorts are comfortable, convenient and a pleasure to wear.
While the Pro version of Giro’s Chrono Sport bib shorts costs a good deal more, their little brother comes up trumps with some pretty premium features of their own.
As a first pair, or mid-level option for cycling wardrobes of all sizes, reviewers say the nylon-spandex blend is like a second skin, the perfect combination of form-fitting and comfortable in a thin fabric that’s pliable enough to move with you but holds its shape after washing. The chamois is agreed to be comfortable across long distances too: supportive, pressure-relieving and breathable.
An ideal companion to the Odyssey Jersey, the PEdAL ED Odyssey Bibshort are ideal for long hauls. Though you wouldn’t really know it without looking closely, this bibshort features a capacious mesh cargo pocket at the rear, just above the derriere, and two hidden pockets on the legs which are easy to access thanks to their upward opening; objects won’t fall out while you ride thanks to the clever lip which keeps them in place.
On the inside, the renowned Cytech pad offers loads of comfort for your backside on longer rides, while the fit is snug without being overly restrictive. Once again, as with the Odyssey jersey, you might want to go up one or two sizes. In fact it's even more necessary, as the straps can be a little tight on the shoulders if your torso is on the longer side.
Expert testers found the inexpensive dhb Aeron Speed Bib Shorts to be well in the realms, performance-wise, of much more expensive options. Their use of the aforementioned coldblack fabric and a mesh panel at the rear means that they’re a good summer option, preventing overheating and promoting breathability.
While said to be compressive, testers found that these bib shorts were close-fitting but not overly tight, and that the silicone grips around the leg cuffs stayed put without rubbing or discomfort. If you're on a tight budget, these bib shorts are worth a look.
How to pick the best bib shorts for cycling?
The right bib shorts for you will depend on what sort of riding you want to do (obviously). Given the subject matter, it's highly unlikely that you are looking for a bib short for a lazy Sunday afternoon ride, although given the ample amount of padding of these fine cycling garments, they would serve you well, regardless of the distance and type of cycling you do.
There three key factors you'll need to consider before you buy the best bib shorts for you: material, fit and padding.
Material-wise, pretty much all of below options are made of synthetic materials, but the mix is different, so make sure you read the labels, especially if you have any allergies.
Bib shorts are tight fitting pieces of clothing and they are very close to the skin, rubbing against it as you cycle. Some are more fitted than others and especially riding in racing bib shorts, you can feel the compression. If you are after a training pair, go for the non-performance fitted ones.
As for padding, you'll want plenty if you are planning on longer distances and bit a less if you are fo less than 50K per ride, on average. As expected, thick padding foam under your groin area can feel rather restrictive when you're not on the saddle, so if you go for a 15K group ride and stop at a cafe, you will be walking around like you stepped in something, making not just you but everyone around you slightly uncomfortable.