A pair of good-quality bib shorts should be top of every rider’s essential kit list. Despite operating in very challenging conditions, well-fitting shorts can keep you comfortable, dry and save you from soreness, however long you ride.
Modern designs have progressed a long way from the classic six-panel black Lycra shorts with elastic grippers. Many new offerings have specific fabrics in different areas for compression, cooling or comfort, bib constructions have evolved tremendously and pads now have a science all of their own.
Here, we’ve brought together a broad cross-section of the market, from budget bibs to some costing twice as much as our first bike! With average prices on the up, quality looks to be following, and some worthy features are already filtering down the ranges. The bottom line is, you generally get what you pay for, and if you ride regularly, bib shorts aren’t the place to economise.
Best bib shorts
Sportful Total Comfort
£135 / $210
The Sportful Total Comfort bibs offered everything we could ask of a pair of bibs. They’re race-worthy, lightweight shorts with an innovative bib, a wonderfully upholstered pad and feather-edged leg grippers. And they couldn’t have been given a more appropriate name.
Louis Garneau Mondo Evo
£124.99 / $189.99
Perfect for warmer weather, these multi-panel bibs are incredibly cooling, with perforated sections in the pad adding to airflow. They feel light, soft and comfortable, stay in place well and have a compressive effect on leg muscles.
From: Louis Garneau
Assos F1.Mille S5
£169.99 / $259.99
The Assos Mille S5s are expensive for a good reason, and for all-round riding are very hard to ignore. The ergonomic four-panel design requires fewer seams than others and, with a very fine-woven Lycra that supports rather than compresses, the Mille S5s are an astonishingly comfortable pair of bib shorts.
Pearl Izumi Pro Inrcool
£109.99 / $175
These shorts are made from a luxurious but durable woven fabric, with flat seams adding to overall comfort. They’re also comfortable and quick to dry, making for excellent all-round shorts that are well worth the price.
From: Pearl Izumi
Endura Equipe Endurance
£99.99 / $156
Supportive but flexible, the Equipe’s lightweight, Y-shaped mesh back shifts moisture quickly. The shorts are up there with the best in the field, offering premium performance at a less than premium price.
Castelli Free Aero Race
£112.50 / $229.99
Castelli’s soft Progetto X2 pad has a four-way stretch, seamless outer layer and conforms to your shape brilliantly. The multi-density cushioning layer with breathable centre, minimal bib design and low front makes them ideal for warm weather but they’re still great all-rounders.
DHB Aeron Pro
£74.99 / $117
Perfect for summer, these bibs are quick to wick moisture away from sweaty skin, and are durable. Inside is a super-stretchy elastic Cytech pad that’s super-comfortable, and the Field Sensor Lycra feels comfortable and stays in place well.
Good value: OneTen Primo
£49.99 / $78
For under £50, the stylish OneTen Primo bibs are excellent, with features commonly reserved for shorts higher up the scale. They fit well and feel very supportive, too, with super-soft grippers keeping everything in place.
What to look for when buying bib shorts
Pad: A pad that can stretch in every direction will conform to your contours best. A thicker pad can help on a long ride, but multi-density ones are better because they build up less heat, and built-in channels help them dry faster.
Leg grippers: Elasticated cuffs help the lower leg hems to stay in place. Gummy silicone strips or dots have long done the job, but thin elastic fabric grippers are becoming increasingly common.
Bibs: Without a bib an elastic waistband can dig into your sides and make riding uncomfortable. A bib will even out the pressure, provide support and prevent unwanted draughts.
Stitching: Where there are seams in your shorts, they should be flat. You should look for a design that avoids any seams in high-wear areas such as the inner thigh. Bonded or externally fixed pads are also great features.