The right bib shorts can mean the difference between a ride to remember and an uncomfortable sufferfest. Here, we break down the best cycling bibs for every guy’s budget and distance.
Nothing shouts a public affirmation of your passion for cycling more than bib shorts. And while bibs used to be reserved for only the most serious Tour de France riders, these sleek wears have become saddle staples for even casual riders. And for good reason: They are damn comfortable.
Spend enough time in the saddle (er … pain cave) and comfort quickly trumps looks. Bib shorts run king — and arguably can look good too. The crew at GearJunkie loves to cycle, and this year we’ve shouldered over a dozen straps to find the best available for men in 2019. Here are our favorites.
Best Cycling Bib Shorts of 2019
Best Overall Cycling Bibs: Pearl Izumi PRO Bibs, $200
The shoulder straps on the Pearl bibs aren’t complicated, but they could be our favorite. They are wide, very lightweight, and have raw edges so you barely feel them. The fabric is incredible: lightweight and super stretchy, with a seven-panel design. And the “floating top sheet” chamois has no stitching, bumps, or creases, which is unique and yields favorably after hours in the saddle.
The chamois is thick, which can either be a personal preference or annoyance. But our reviewers loved them for long days in the saddle. You may have to adjust the seat height a few millimeters when wearing the Izumi PRO bibs.
The result is a pair of bibs that appears extremely simple, with no gimmicks, much of any visible stitching, or anything else remarkable. They just disappear, which is why they are our standout pick. And at $200, they’re very reasonably priced.
Best Bibs for Long Distances: Rapha Cargo Bib Shorts, $270
When chasing far-flung miles in the backcountry, every square inch of space is scrutinized with a lens for fuel. Rapha built its Cargo bib shorts for riders who need quick access to an extra bar, shot, or block when pedaling all day long.
The Cargo Bib stitches together panels of a nylon-elastene blend, navigating a line between weather resistance and breathability. One pocket straps each thigh and can hold a few bars, or holster a phone or even a small camera. Three back pockets ride up high over the kidneys, which works great for those who want to ride more casual up top without losing space to haul supplies.
On the downside, the weather-resistant material doesn’t breathe well in hot climates. That said, we wore these bib shorts over a light tech T-shirt in Nicaragua where the temps spiked above 115 degrees Fahrenheit. If you ride regularly in extreme heat, these aren’t our first choice. But for anyone who logs long days in the saddle and needs pockets full of snacks, the Cargo Bib Shorts are a great option.
Best Bibs for Short Rides: Velocio Foundation Bib Shorts, $129
The five-panel design is constructed from lightweight, recycled fabric, giving the Foundation a form-fitting, “opaque” finish. While the lumberjack suspender straps aren’t as sexy as other bib shorts we tested and make it a little more awkward to wrestle into, we’ll say it again: form follows function. Once you’re in the saddle, the straps find their groove.
Velocio brings good value at a good price. If you are between sizes or want a more relaxed fit, the brand recommends you size up.
Best for Hot Weather: Assos T.cento_s7, $299
Assos is credited with ushering Lycra into cycling. Our first introduction to the T.cento_s7 was from someone who shared, “Once I bought a pair of these, I wore them as much as I could wash and dry them.” And for $299, you’re gonna to want to eke out as much time in the saddle as possible.
If you have to walk around in public, however, these bibs pose a bit of an issue. The kuKuPenthouse, a comfort and breathability feature that cools and “cocoons” your man-grapes, is not as appropriate as it is effective. But as long as we’re not stopping at the local café, we do really like these for long rides on hot summer days.
The chamois is likely the best we’ve ever used, and the fabrics have withstood seasons of use. Once you swallow the sticker shock of a pair of Assos, you do indeed get what you pay for: a high-quality pair of bibs that will last.
Best Budget Cycling Shorts: SUGOi Evolution Bibs, $65-130
SUGOi’s Evolution is an eight-panel bib that contours the body in a proprietary synthetic blend. It manages to strike a balance between flexibility and fit. The Lycra is lightweight, and the bibs proper are constructed with a synthetic mesh. When combined, these fabrics provide superior breathability and moisture management.
The leg grippers are lined with silicon tabs that sufficiently keep the legs from riding up. And the chamois is made from 3D-constructed, high-density foam that seamlessly rides between the saddle and bum.
All in all, SUGOi punches above its weight with performance and comfort you’d expect from a pricier bib. Pro tip: Keep an eye out online because the Evolution bibs are frequently on sale.
Best of the Rest
At the core of the Mathilde is a Cytech Chamois, a top-shelf bum pad that sports a low-volume, perforated, high-density foam. It rebuffs all the bony contact points, bounces back after repeated compression, and provides breathability without feeling like you’re wearing a diaper in the saddle. Yes, the price is steep, but you can take comfort in knowing the bibs will endure season after season.
Looking at the material, each leg is sewn from a single panel and tapers into thin but broad grippers that disappear over the quads. The top is paired with a woven mesh that dumps the heat on long, hot days.
The Mathilde is another bib short with perhaps an eye-wincing price tag, but it delivers comfort and sharp looks for long days in the saddle.
It would be almost sacrilege to not give a nod to Castelli. After all, the brand was the first to introduce the world of cycling to the modern chamois as we know it. Year after year, Castelli repeatedly climbs to the top of podium. It offers a comfort bib for mere mortals that won’t require pinching pennies on a Costco ramen diet.
The Cento Bib short has a loose fit and longer legs, making it more comfortable (and less intimidating) for rec riders. But it doesn’t skimp on what makes Castelli a stalwart performer. Leg grippers and a firm, sewn-in chamois round out the bib, keeping it aligned with the scorpion pedigree.
An Italian brand, Castelli’s fit can run small. Consider sizing up.
Anyone who continues pedaling when the mercury drops knows how important staying warm is. Sure, you could simply add a pair of legwarmers to your regular kit. But we find this feels a bit wrong paired with normal bibs because the warmers always have more insulation than the material on your bibs. Enter the Rapha Pro Team Thermal Bib Shorts.
These are a must for shoulder season riding. Made with windproof and water-resistant front panels, they’ll keep you cozy even in the nastiest spring muck. The fleece lining wicks aways sweat, and a perforated pad holds less water on wet rides. Like any thermal short, these are slightly movement restrictive, but they’re the best bibs we’ve worn to stay warm. Plus, they have a bit of extra length to hide your shameful winter leg hide.
Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose Cycling Bibs
The big question is, do bib shorts have a place in the drawers of the everyday rider? The answer is yes — and for a few important reasons.
Why You Need Cycling Bibs
The primary consideration is shoulder straps. Straps prevent the shorts from drifting south and keep the chamois in place, reducing overall chafing and bunching. Reducing compression around the gut also allows you to breathe better and can minimize that “gut-bomb” feeling you get after eating and hydrating while riding.
Bibs also cover up any gap between a jersey and short. Showing crack isn’t just unsightly, it’s also annoying to have to hike up shorts to readjust the chamois. All these are good reasons for considering bibs over traditional Lycra shorts.
Speaking of Lycra, yes, it’s “aero” and looks fast. More importantly, it compresses the body, reducing road fatigue by dampening vibrations that can beat muscles into submission. And it cuts down on drag and keeps annoying extra material from flapping in the wind.
What to Look for in Cycling Bibs
I’ve learned the hard way that a good chamois can make or break a ride. Originally made from leather, today’s chamois come in a variety of padding made from foam and gels with variable quality and durability. There’s usually a trade-off in chamois and saddle padding, with the current bias being for more padding and less saddle.
The best of the best (Assos, Rapha, and Café du Cycliste) use a third-party chamois that has built an empire entirely around comfort and durability. Brands engineer these pads to reduce padding bulk and increase breathability. This reduces moisture and chafing.
Good chamois pads are contoured with subtle creases to wrap the saddle and anatomy without bunching. Chamois adhere to the shorts via flat-lock stitching (or no stitching at all) to further reduce friction and chafing. Higher-quality paddings are engineered from a durable, perforated foam, with higher-density foam directly under the sit bones. This tech ends up costing a little more, but you get a longer shelf life. If you plan to ride often, the upfront cost will pay dividends in miles.
Companies usually offer different kinds of padding optimized for different kinds of riding. So be sure to evaluate your time in the saddle and buy accordingly. Chamois are the bread and butter of any short and is likely where the lion’s share of your coin will go when purchasing a bib short. It’s best not to skimp.
The anatomy of the human body has an intricate form, with curves and joints that can make obtaining a tailored fit a small feat of engineering. In short, more panels can wrap around the body with less bunching (which can cause irritable chafing). Most panels are sewn together with flatlock stitching, which theoretically rides smoothly against the skin. But many companies still sew panels together with piped overlock stitches.
Bibs are available in thermal, waterproof, and weather-resistant fabrics — and even with breathability suitable for riding to hell and back. While most bib shorts will leverage Lycra as the base material, many companies weave proprietary fabrics into the material for added breathability and performance benefits. Take time to evaluate the style of riding you will do and buy bib shorts with materials that match the environment.
Straps and Grips
While a chamois is the most important component of shorts, straps are what distinguishes a bib from a short and shouldn’t be overlooked. Fashionable piping can finish the strap edges, but we like the feel of laser-cut straps that hold the bibs up without cutting into the shoulders. A good pair will have a yoke that eases around the belly and incorporates a breathable mesh upper that allows the wind to whisk away heat.
Similar to the straps, the leg grippers help keep the shorts locked to the legs. Good grips will have gummy tabs on the inside that grip to the leg and keep the shorts in place. High-end brands are shifting from tight bands to longer panels that expand the compression down the leg a few inches. We’ve found that the broader grip provides compression without constriction and feels more natural on tired legs.
That’s a lot of information to sit on, but if you take time to evaluate your style of riding, try on a few pairs, and see what fits your body, there’s a bib short for everyone.
Have a favorite bib short? Let us know in the comments and we’ll check it out for future updates to this article.