Thanks to innovative bathroom break features and new strap and chamois designs, the best women’s cycling shorts are more appealing than ever before.
However, with so many options, finding the right pair of women’s bib shorts can seem like a daunting task. To help with this important decision, we have tested women’s bib shorts from some of cycling’s biggest brands as well as some smaller ones, which are worthy of equal attention.
Many cyclists consider bib shorts to be the most essential item of clothing in their cycling wardrobe because they offer exceptional comfort and performance compared to waist shorts or baggy shorts.
The women’s bib shorts in this list have been rated on overall comfort, chamois construction, hem and strap design, and consider comfort breaks too. While price is always a consideration in our reviews, this women’s bib short best list should have something for most price points.
If you’ve still got questions about bib shorts and whether they are right for you, keep reading until the end for our buyer’s guide to women’s bib shorts.
Best women’s bib shorts
- IRIS Signature Bib Shorts II: £120 / €135
- dhb Moda Women’s Classic Bib Shorts: £60 / $75 / AU$100 / €65
- Velocio Women’s LUXE Bib Shorts: £203 / $279 / AU$339 / €233
- Alé Green Road PRR Women’s Bib Shorts: £145 / $175 / AU$215 / €140
- Castelli Velocissima 2 Bib Shorts: £100 / $130 / AU$160 / €100
- Machines For Freedom Endurance Bib Shorts: £170 / $235 / AU$310 / €198
IRIS Signature Bib Shorts II
- £120 (approx.) / €135 as tested
- Excellent quality and fit
- Lycra holds its shape but is thick
The IRIS Signature Bib Shorts II are an exceptionally comfortable set of shorts designed by former pro cyclist Iris Slappendel.
The shorts are made from six panels that sit beautifully. The absence of a waistband and smooth transition to the bib straps mean nothing digs in when you’re riding.
The Lycra is thicker than some with a firm feel and is figure-hugging without feeling flimsy. The thickness does mean that these shorts might not be your first choice in hot conditions.
The straps are generously wide and sit comfortably. They are long enough for tall riders.
The women’s-specific seat pad is comfortable and provides the support you need without feeling bulky.
When it comes to loo breaks there are magnetic poppers that detach the bib straps from the shorts. The only thing with these is they aren’t the easiest to reach.
dhb Moda Women’s Classic Bib Shorts
- £60 / $75 / AU$100 / €65 as tested
- Great value and clean looks
- Thin bib straps
If you’re looking for some affordable, comfy shorts with minimal styling, you can’t go far wrong with the dhb Moda Women’s Classic Bib Shorts.
The bib shorts have a quality seat pad that outperformed expectations in testing and provided enough comfort for long rides.
The fit of the shorts is spot on, and while the material doesn’t offer any compression, it is supportive. Instead of silicone grippers, zig-zag stitching is used to keep the bottom of the shorts in place.
The bib straps on the dhb Moda bib shorts are thin and can be prone to twisting, but their high stretch makes it easy to pull the shorts down to pee without de-layering.
The straps and mesh support fit around the bust, which is good if you find straps that run straight over the top uncomfortable.
Velocio Women’s LUXE Bib Shorts
- £203 / $279 / AU$339 / €233 as tested
- Luxurious shorts with easy loo break solution
- High price tag
The Velocio Women’s LUXE Bib Shorts are top-end when it comes to performance – and price.
Made from ultra-soft compressive fabric, the shorts have a close fit that’s typical of high-end kit. Sizing is spot on and Velocio have extensive guides as well as a wide selection of sizes, which makes finding the right shorts a breeze.
Raw-cut leg ends are neat, and the silicone dashes keep the shorts nicely in place throughout your ride.
The criss-cross bib straps and gathered fabric at the back let you pull the shorts down for easy comfort breaks without having to undress.
The women’s-specific seat pad is extremely comfortable and helps keep you comfortable even over rough terrain.
The price is high, but the luxurious feel and neat features might make them worth it in your eyes.
Alé Green Road PRR Women’s Bib Shorts
- £145 / $175 / AU$215 / €140
- Thick, supportive chamois and close fit
- Lots of branding
The Alé Green Road PRR Women’s Bib Shorts have an impressive cut and a supportive 12mm thick women’s-specific seat pad that makes them a truly comfortable set of shorts.
Refreshingly, the shorts are made from a recycled material that feels no different to virgin material when wearing them.
The fit of the shorts is true to size and close to the body. The classic 4.5cm bib straps might not make loo stops the easiest affair, but this can be forgiven considering the figure-fitting, supportive fit and breathable nature of these shorts.
The teal and fluoro detailing may be just the ticket if you like a bit of loud styling, but there is a black and grey option if you prefer a more subtle design.
Castelli Velocissima 2 Bib Shorts
- £100 / $130 / AU$160 / €100
- Super comfortable and true to size
- Not so good for loo breaks
The Castelli Velocissima 2 Bib Shorts have a traditional design that might not make loo breaks the easiest, but they deliver a perfect, premium fit, even though they’re at the lower end of Castelli’s range.
The shorts have a women’s-specific seat pad that feels thick without being bulky. It copes with casual riding and pushing the pace on the drops, and is breathable too.
The shorts have lots of panels, which is a bit old-school, but reduced seaming minimises any discomfort around the tummy, and the overall fit is ace.
Breathable bib straps and leg grippers that don’t irritate the skin are plus too. The only other thing to note is the fabric is a bit thin and, as a result, a tiny bit see-through on the rear.
Machines For Freedom Endurance Bib Shorts
- £170 / $235 / AU$310 / €198 (approx) as tested
- Compressive body fit and wide size range
- Sizes up small compared to the size guide
The Machines For Freedom Bib Shorts are a top-end set of shorts that have a compressive fit and come in a wide range of sizes.
The traditional design has multiple panels across the front and back of the shorts giving a closely tailored fit. With lots of panels, you might think the stitching could be irritating, but the flat-lock stitching gets around this.
The chamois has a variable density design that performs as well as you’d expect for the price tag, and the different thicknesses mean the pad doesn’t feel bulky.
The mesh upper fits high and close which means there’s no pee-friendly design here, but this does lead to ace comfort when out on the bike.
We found these shorts sized up small but as long as you get the right fit and you’re happy paying the high price, you won’t be disappointed.
A product must get at least four stars to be included in our best lists, but that doesn’t mean those with fewer than four stars aren’t worth considering, they might just tick the right boxes for you.
Rapha Women’s Pro Team Training Bib Shorts
- £140 / $190 / AU$245 / €165
- Superb chamois
- Lots of seams
Rapha’s Women’s Pro Team Training Bib Shorts sit just below the brand’s top of the line Pro Team Bib Shorts, but share the same top-end, women’s-specific chamois that delivers supreme comfort.
The cut of the shorts is close, which can be expected from performance-orientated shorts, and they are true to size.
Compared to the Pro Team bib shorts, there are more seams here thanks to extra panelling. This didn’t cause any discomfort while riding but did cause some ‘sausage leg’ bulging.
The shorts are also heavily branded, which might not be to everyone’s taste.
Buyer’s guide to women’s bib shorts | Everything you need to know
What are bib shorts?
Bib shorts are Lycra cycling shorts held in place with straps that loop over your shoulders. To some, though, they can seem like an intimidating mess of straps, zippers, and buckles that look uncomfortable.
However, with new designs and high-tech features, women’s bib shorts are more accessible and versatile than ever before and, alongside the best women’s road bike saddles, bib shorts can make cycling a far more comfortable experience.
Why bib shorts over waist shorts?
The age-old decision between cycling shorts and bib shorts continually plagues many female cyclists who just want a comfortable ride. Cycling shorts are easy to figure out, unlike bibs that sometimes seem difficult to use.
However, despite more complicated designs, most women decide they are simply more comfortable once they’ve given them a try. Here are some advantages bibs have over shorts:
- Bibs don’t have an elasticated waistband that can restrict breathing
- Bibs prevent discomfort by reducing pressure around the waist
- Bib straps hold the shorts in place and prevent the chamois from moving around
- Bib straps stop the rear end from sagging
On the other hand, bibs can be troublesome when a bathroom break is needed.
Typically, you need to remove your jersey (and potentially your helmet and other outer layers) to use the loo with a traditional bib short design. This is tricky and chilly in the winter months.
However, with the introduction of some innovative designs to help women ‘go on the go’, natural breaks aren’t an issue anymore.
Bib short features
Bib straps (and other ways bib shorts stay up)
Bib straps should securely hold the shorts in place without causing uncomfortable pressure on your shoulders. With many new strap designs recently hitting the market, there are plenty of options to choose from to suit your body shape and personal preferences.
The more common strap designs include:
- Classic straps – two parallel straps that run independently over the shoulders
- Halter tops – straps that connect at the back behind your neck
- Built-in baselayer – usually with a chest zipper. These remove the straps almost entirely, making the bibs more like a lightweight bodysuit
- Buckle systems – some shorts have buckle hooks on the straps that easily release for quick bathroom breaks
A comfortable chamois, or seat pad, is without a doubt the most important feature of any cycling shorts or bib shorts.
Fancy straps and high-tech elements won’t make a difference if your chamois is uncomfortable and your ride is miserable. It’s best to try on different brands and different chamois to find the best fit for your body.
It is a good idea too to choose a chamois that is women’s-specific, rather than a men’s or unisex design because it will be designed with women’s anatomy in mind and therefore be better fitting and more comfortable.
A seamless chamois or one with minimal stitching is an ideal choice when shopping for bib shorts. Scratchy seams can rub and pinch sensitive areas and lead to a really uncomfortable ride.
Also, make sure the chamois is made from soft material and the fit of the shorts is correct. Too much material will cause bunching and chafing; too little material won’t offer up enough padding.
Beyond different designs, many chamois now also come complete with features such as anti-bacterial and anti-chafing materials. These features also contribute to comfort in different ways and can be much-appreciated additions.
Leg hems are another key feature to consider when shopping for bib shorts.
If the hems are too tight, you could get the ‘sausage leg’ look, which is not only uncomfortable but extremely unflattering. However, leg bands that are too loose will cause the shorts to ride up and you’ll find yourself constantly tugging them down while riding.
Another characteristic to consider is whether bibs have elastic or laser-cut leg hems. Elastic hems are better at keeping bibs in place and preventing the shorts from riding up. They also keep knee and leg warmers snugly in place for cooler rides. Unfortunately, elastic cuffs can often feel tight and uncomfortable against the skin.
On the other hand, laser-cut hems are more flattering since they don’t have seams or elastic to constrict and contort your legs. These tend to be on pricier bib shorts and you might appreciate the less restrictive feel, especially on long rides.
In either case, look for rubberised material on the underside of the hem. This will keep the bibs in place and play nicely with leg warmers. Although watch out for overly aggressive silicone grippers that can lead to skin irritation.
Common questions about bib shorts
What about bathroom breaks in bib shorts?
The number one reason some women don’t wear bib shorts is because of the inconvenience when it comes to mid-ride bathroom breaks.
Not only is this process time-consuming. It also leaves you exposed to the elements on cold days – not to mention out in the open for passing drivers and other cyclists to see.
However, many of the newest women’s bib designs are making nature breaks easier and more modest with innovative strap designs and buckle systems.
These new designs allow riders to pull the shorts down without removing their jersey. Quicker comfort breaks mean more time riding and less time searching for ‘the facilities’ – something we can all appreciate.
How should bib shorts fit?
When you’re choosing a pair of bib shorts it’s worth remembering that they are meant to hug close to the body.
Often tighter is better because excess fabric can lead to chafing. A snug fit will also mean the seat pad will stay in the right place when you’re riding. However, it is a balancing act. You don’t want the shorts to feel overly restrictive.
Bib straps might feel tight over your shoulders when you try the shorts on, even if you’ve picked your normal size. This is because bib shorts are tailored to be worn on a bike.
So one of the best tips for trying bib shorts on is to assume the position you would while riding by leaning forward and bending your arms. This will give you the best idea of how they’ll fit when out riding.
Should I wear underwear under my bib shorts?
The short answer to this question is, no. But don’t worry it’s a mistake that many of us have made because, frankly, putting on a pair of shorts with no underwear on can feel pretty strange at first.
Chamois pads are designed to work best when they sit directly against the skin, and underwear can negate the benefits of a chamois. Your undies can create strange pressure points, unwanted friction and, in worst cases, lead to saddle sores.
What is chamois cream and should I use it?
Chamois cream is an antibacterial viscose cream that helps eliminate friction between your skin and chamois seat pad.
The idea is to stop any rubbing or friction as well as prevent bacterial build-up, helping to prevent saddle sores or abscesses.
Chamois cream is not essential but, as you may have gathered, it can help prevent some pretty unwanted complications.
The best way to apply chamois cream is either to yourself at any pressure points between your skin and saddle or directly to the pad at the needed points.
Make sure you wash your shorts after every wash to prevent build up but, considering you’ll be using your shorts for exercise and likely without underwear, this is imperative anyway.
How much money should I spend on bib shorts?
Like most things in life, when it comes to how much to spend on bib shorts you get what you pay for.
Many cyclists consider bib shorts to be the most essential bit of clothing for cycling because they do a lot of heavy lifting when it comes to staying comfy on the bike, so investing your cash in shorts is a wise idea.
This is particularly the case if you’re cycling long distances or bikepacking, but less important if you’re on a budget or using your shorts for commuting or shorter distances. Once you start to spend over £75 / $95 / €85, the returns on investment get more marginal.
But this is often because over this price you’re paying for the prestige of big-name brands, more technical fabrics and more specific functions, such as waterproofing, aerodynamics or extra warmth for riding in cooler weather.