Nothing shouts a public affirmation of your passion for cycling more than Lycra. And while bibs used to be reserved for only the most serious riders, these sleek wears have become saddle staples for even casual riders. And for good reason. They are darn comfortable.
Spend enough time in the saddle (er … pain cave), and comfort quickly triumphs over overlooks. Bib shorts are king — and they arguably can look good too. The crew at GearJunkie loves to cycle, and this year, we’ve shouldered over 2 dozen straps to find the best available for men in 2023.
Our cycling editor, Seiji Ishii, began competing in road races when Lycra first emerged in cycling shorts to push out wool, and the chamois was a piece of leather. During his nearly 40 years of cycling, he has worn hundreds of cycling shorts and bibs. To curate this list of favorites, he rode around his Central Texas home and on trips to Colorado, California, and other cycling-worthy venues. Ishii took to the tarmac and gravel roads to sample as many kits as he could get his hands on. This is the list of his favorites.
Editor’s Note: We’ve significantly revamped our selection for this September 8, 2023 update, identifying new Best Overall and Best Budget choices, and adding two additional high-performing bibs to the lineup.
The Best Cycling Bibs for Men in 2023
- Best Overall Cycling Bib: Mission Workshop Mission Pro Bib
- Best Budget Cycling Bib: Pearl Izumi Quest Bib Shorts
- Best Fit in a Cycling Bib: Attaquer Race Bib Short
- Best Chamois: Assos Mille GTS Bib Short C2
- Best Cycling Bib for Hot Weather: Velocio Ultralight Bib Short
- Best Cycling Bib for Touring: Pearl Izumi Expedition PRO Bib Shorts
- Best Compression Cycling Bib: Velocio LUXE Bib Short
- Materials Quattro main body, Dyneema side panels
- Chamois Elastic interface
- Inseam 12", measured on a men's medium
- Extremely durable side panels
- Great fit for "average" cyclist builds
- Significant cargo capacity in mesh side pockets
- Chamois is padded where it's needed, thin otherwise
- Many colors and patterns available
- Not the most breathable
- Thin shoulder straps difficult to lay flat
- Materials 77% recycled polyester, 14% elastane, 9% polyester
- Chamois Pearl Izumi Levitate
- Inseam 9"
- Great price, still has quality construction
- Very comfortable chamois regardless of price
- Fabric breathed well
- Low compression might not be for some
- Lighter feeling fabric might not be as durable as others against punctures and abrasion
- Attaquer offers four different levels of compression
- Attaquer uses various chamois to match the level of compression
- Fabric, seamless leg panels, and chamois felt luxurious against skin
- Many colors available and being pre-dyed, they are deep and rich
- Crash replacement policy
- Comfortable on long rides
- Breathes well in the heat
- Extremely durable
- Straps have semi-sharp edges
- Materials 71% polyamide,29% elastane
- Chamois Velocio Signature chamois with Cytech
- Inseam 10" on medium
- Thin and light fabric is breathable and feels cool, but remains opaque
- Soft and comfortable chamois
- Crossed straps work well in keeping bibs stable
- Lighter fabric may not be as durable or crash-resistant
- A bit pricey
- Materials 46% recycled nylon, 38% polyester, 16% elastane
- Chamois Pearl Izumi Levitate PRO
- Inseam 10.5" on medium
- Drop tail design for nature breaks
- Levitate PRO chamois is among the best
- Italian PRO Transfer fabric has a premium feel
- Bib straps are the best of the bunch
- Rear of bib is bulkier than most
- A bit pricey
- Materials 62% polyamide, 38% elastane
- Chamois Velocio Signature chamois with Cytech
- Inseam 10" on medium
- Top-notch compression fit
- Effective anti-chafing design
- Not the most breathable
Cycling Bib Comparison Chart
|Mission Workshop Mission Pro Bib||$305||Quattro main body, Dyneema side panels||Elastic Interface||12″ (medium)|
|Pearl Izumi Quest Bib Shorts||$75||77% recycled polyester, 14% elastane, 9% polyester||Pearl Izumi Levitate||9″ (medium)|
|Attaquer Race Bib Short||$245||71% polyamide and 29% elastane||Attaquer Race||11″ (medium)|
|Assos Mille GTS Bib Short C2||$220||80% nylon, 20% elastane||Mille S9 EVO||10″ (medium)|
|Velocio Ultralight Bib Short||$259||71% polyamide,29% elastane||Velocio Signature chamois with Cytech||10″ (medium)|
|Pearl Izumi Expedition PRO Bib Shorts||$265||46% recycled nylon, 38% polyester, 16% elastane||Pearl Izumi Levitate PRO||10.5″ (medium)|
|Velocio LUXE Bib Shorts||$279||62% polyamide, 38% elastane||Velocio Signature chamois with Cytech||10″ (medium)|
How We Tested Men’s Cycling Bibs
Our authors, Steve Graepel and GearJunkie cycling editor Seiji Ishii, as well as other testers have logged thousands of hours and millions of miles in the saddle. Ishii has been cycling for nearly 40 years and has competed at a high level in both road cycling and mountain biking.
To create this buyer’s guide, we systematically tested cycling bibs and compiled notes and impressions. In our search for the best cycling bibs on the market, we rode various bikes in all weather conditions. From sunny singletrack days to cold and drizzle century rides, these bibs have been through the wringer.
A bib can make or break your ride. Reliably compressible elastic and a comfortable, well-placed chamois are essential to achieve maximum comfort and performance.
While testing, we paid close attention to a number of different factors, including comfort, breathability, durability, and support. We’ve been testing bibs for decades, and it isn’t easy to impress us. The products on this list earned their titles through rigorous scrutiny by experienced and selective cyclists.
Finally, the testing doesn’t stop here, and as bibs hit the market, we’ll be strapping them on to ensure that our lineup is as fresh as can be.
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 without relying on waistband tension and keep the chamois in place, reducing overall chafing and bunching. Reducing compression around the gut also allows you to breathe without restriction 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 prevents any dragging on the saddle and keeps annoying extra material from flapping in the wind.
What to Look For in Cycling Bibs
How a cycling bib fits is highly personal, but there are a few general universal pointers.
First off, the vertical dimension must work for your torso length in the riding position. If the bibs are too short vertically, the straps will pull up on the shorts, and you can feel undue pressure in the worst places.
Remember, it doesn’t matter how it feels standing up; it matters most how it feels in the riding position you will use most, which is usually on the brake hoods. If the cycling bibs are too long vertically, irritating wrinkles and folds in the fabric can form while riding.
Another factor to consider is the amount of compression you desire. Some cyclists love a super tight fit, touting that it prevents fatigue and feels better overall, while others are the exact opposite. This also affects the leg grippers; the bottom of the bib legs have to have enough friction (usually from silicon inlays) and tension to stay down, or else they can ride up and cause wrinkles at the hip joint that can cause chafing.
Finally, the pattern must match your anatomy for a smooth, aerodynamic, and wrinkle-free fit. If a cycling bib fits perfectly, it will remain wrinkle-free for hours in the cycling position. Accumulated wrinkles do compromise aerodynamics, but more importantly, they can cause irritation in the wrong places.
Areas to look for are in front of the hip joints and around the edges of the chamois. A wrinkle may appear at the hip when that leg comes up in the pedaling motion, but it will disappear when it drops on a good-fitting kit. Some bibs will not wrinkle at all in any position.
The staffers at GearJunkie have learned the hard way that a good chamois can make or break a ride. Originally made from leather, today’s chamois have various padding made from foams and gels with variable quality, density, thickness, and durability. There’s usually a tradeoff between chamois padding and saddle foam, with the current bias being for more padding in the chamois and less in the saddle.
Some premium brands use a third-party chamois that has built an empire entirely around comfort and durability. Brands engineer these pads to reduce bulk, prominent edges, moisture retention, and friction while increasing breathability. All of these reduce irritation and chafing. Our best overall cycling bib goes this route with Elastic Interface third-party chamois, which was voted among the best Ishii has ever used in four decades of cycling.
Good chamois pads are typically firmer and contoured with subtle creases to wrap the saddle and anatomy without bunching. Chamois adhere to the shorts via zig-zag or flat-lock stitching to further reduce friction and chafing.
Higher-quality padding is engineered from a durable, perforated foam, with higher-density gel foams directly under the sit bones. This tech costs a little more, but you get a longer shelf life. If you plan to ride often, the upfront cost will pay dividends over the miles.
Companies usually offer different kinds of chamois 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 cycling short, from aero bibs to looser-fitting mountain bike shorts. They’re 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 no small feat of engineering. Usually, 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. However, many companies still sew panels together with piped overlock stitches.
Bibs are available in thermal, waterproof, and weather-resistant fabrics — and with enhanced breathability suitable for riding in the hottest environments. While most bib shorts will leverage Lycra as the base material, many companies weave proprietary fabrics into it for added breathability and performance benefits. Take time to evaluate when and where you will do, and buy bib shorts with materials that match the environment.
Straps and Leg Grippers
While a chamois is the most important component of shorts, straps distinguish 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, raw-edged 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 bibs will have gummy silicone at the leg bottoms to keep them from riding up or twisting.
High-end brands are shifting from tight bands at the bottom of the legs to larger panels that expand the compression down the leg a few inches. We’ve found this 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.
First, you need a cycling bib that offers maximum comfort. While a good chamois costs more, it will pay dividends down the line. It will feel better and last longer.
Next, you’ll want to consider your riding conditions. For hot weather, look for breathable materials, and you may even want a few mesh panels.
Lastly, it’s time to look at the straps and leg grippers. These elements help keep the bibs in place even on long rides. Our testers find the laser-cut, raw-edged straps offer the best all-day comfort. For leg grippers, look for silicone on the inside of extended panels at the bottom of the legs.
Choosing between bike shorts and bibs ultimately comes down to personal preference.
The primary consideration is shoulder straps. Straps prevent the shorts from drifting south and keep the chamois in place without relying on waistband tension, reducing overall chafing and bunching. Reducing compression around the gut also allows you to breathe easier 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. It’s also annoying to have to hike up shorts to readjust the chamois, and shoulder straps prevent this . All these are good reasons for considering bibs over traditional Lycra shorts.
As mentioned earlier, bibs reduce bunching and unwanted gapping between a jersey and short. They also reduce compression around the torso, allowing for a more comfortable ride while leaning forward on the bike. If you’re hesitant to dawn the Lycra, check out our bike shorts Q & A for even more compelling reasons to pick up a pair of stretchy shorts for riding