To keep your lower half warm cycling in the winter, you have three basic options: leg warmers with bib shorts, tights over bib shorts, or winter bib tights. Here we show you five of the best winter bib tights for cycling, which are the simplest way to suit up and head out into the elements.
What to look for
Insulating warmth and wicking should be givens in this category, as all winter tights have some degree of Roubaix-like brushed fleece lining the inside. (Think Pearl Izumi leg-warmer material.)
While all these models have good chamois pads stitched in and varying degrees of reflectivity, most default to breathability over wind block or water repellency. While wind- and waterproof jackets are fairly easy to build without compromising fit, the highly flexible and form-fitting nature of tights makes for a challenge when incorporating these characteristics. Only a few brands can pull this off well.
Fit is crucial. Besides how the insulating material feels on your legs and how the straps feel over your shoulders, you don’t want to be wrestling with a slightly misplaced chamois. All the bib tights shown here are size large (except the medium Pearl Izumi) on riders who are 6ft-6ft 2in / 183-188cm.
Assos LL.Mille S7
Assos has always made great shorts and bib tights; with the Mille the price is also surprisingly good for the Swiss brand James Huang / Immediate Media
Price: £175 / US$270 / AU$365
If the measure of good clothing is never thinking about it once on, then the LL.Mille S7 succeeds completely. Whether riding hard for one hour or cruising easily along for four, the Mille bib tights have the details dialed.
The foam padding under the S7 chamois sits exactly where you need it, with the uniform thickness top pad providing a friction-free environment.
Cubed backing on the fleece material provides loft (read: warmth) without bulk and double-material on the knees, thighs and hips keeps you warm on descents and sub-freezing mornings without compromising flexibility or breathability. There is a windproof panel over the crotch, which works well and is quite welcome on the coldest of days, especially when descending.
A water-resistant treatment allows the tights to deflect spray or light rain.
Castelli Sorpasso is not new, but it’s still a great piece, and at this price it’s great value James Huang / Immediate Media
Price: £140 / US$179 / AU$232
A few seasons old now, the Sorpasso is great value for the money. All our testers like the Progetto X2 Air chamois and the overall fit and feel.
Castelli uses two types of fabric: Thermoflex for warmth and stretch and Thermoflex Core Due on the knees and upper thighs for a bit more wind protection. What’s great about this latter fabric is that it doesn’t feel plasticky and inflexible like many wind-blocking tights do; you’re just comfortable in the cold and wind.
Huge reflective side panels and strips down the back of the calves keep you visible.
Alé PRR Clima Protection
The Alé PRR Clima Protection is an excellent piece with warmth, wicking, compression and reflectivity James Huang / Immediate Media
Price: £102 / US$225 / AU$TBC
Alé is the house brand of Italian powerhouse factory APG, which has made clothing for many top-end brands and top-end teams for years. Think Giant Bicycle, but clothing.
Alé doesn’t try to make any wild claims about technical features with the PRR Clima Protection, and that’s fine. It’s just a very comfortable pair of bib tights with a great chamois that works well for hours in moderately cold conditions.
Sportful Total Comfort
Flattening (or removing) the stitching behind the knee and toning down the chamois would make these top shelf James Huang / Immediate Media
Price: £125 / US$157 / AU$207
Two small asterisks mar these tights from living up to their name. The seams behind the knees are noticeable when riding and the chamois is a hefty thickness.
That said, the body of the tights is extremely comfortable, hitting that sweet spot of warmth, compression, easy movement and some wind block over the knees.
Throw in some water-repellent finishing, reflective details and a lay-flat upper that disappears on the bike and you have a great pair of tights at a good price.
The Giordana FR-C legs and chamois are very comfortable, but the knees are relatively thin and the upper is — for us — a little constricting James Huang / Immediate Media
Price: £TBC / US$279 / AU$TBC
A mix of Super Roubaix and Super Roubaix-Carbon combine in a thoughtful cut for perhaps the most comfortable lower half of the test. The top-end Cirro O.F. chamois — which is strikingly similar to that of the Alé pad — is situated perfectly, and the overall feel is comfortable enough to lounge around in.
For our testers, though, the upper is a bit too tight, not only over the shoulders but around the waist. And while the silky-smooth knees feel great on the bike, they don’t offer robust protection against the wind; icy descents cut through the knees markedly more than other parts of the tight.
For most riding conditions, though, the FR-C rivals the Mille for forget-all-about-it comfort, with a water-deflecting treatment through the seat area.