In this article, we take a look at what makes a good pair of cycling bib shorts and then review what we think are the best bib shorts on the market today.
Cycling bib shorts are essential for comfort for anybody who cycles regularly – especially those who go long distances. Streamlined for aerodynamics and performance; padded for comfort. Without padding, sitting on the saddle of a bike for long periods will soon result in a numb or painful bum. The bib straps mean that you have no waist band digging into your side to hold the shorts up. This provides a blood-flow benefit in addition to the comfort aspect.
What to look for in bib shorts
Generally, if you purchase an expensive pair of bib shorts, the money either goes towards the padding or it goes towards more expensive materials. If you really are looking for the best cycling bib shorts you can spend hundreds of pounds. If you want to pick up a decent pair on a reasonable budget, I would suggest focusing on the padding. You should be able to get a really good pair for less than £50. Below, we outline the things you should consider before purchasing.
- Men’s vs women’s – bib shorts are made differently for men and women. As they are designed to hug the skin, a different shape is needed to accommodate both sexes. The straps on women’s shorts are also normally tapered or single to avoid going straight over the chest. On men’s bib shorts they go straight up.
- Padding – this is normally the most important aspect. Normally, the more you pay, the better the padding. The best padded cycling shorts avoid single thickness foam and instead opt for different degrees of thickness and density to provide optimal comfort where you need it most (where your bones meet the saddle).
- Material – the fabric is the second most important element for comfort. Again, the better the fabric or the more panels there are, the more expensive the shorts will be. Ideally you want more panels and a fairly thick fabric. I wouldn’t worry too much about the material unless you are looking for something water resistant. Most shorts these days are made from a mix of Nylon and Lycra.
- Straps – as mentioned, these are normally twin straps but can be single for women. Wide and stretchy is the way to go. This will ensure they are comfortable and that you can get in and out of them easily.
- Grippers – the shorts can be fastened to your legs in a number of ways. You don’t want them riding up, after all. Most are elastic or silicon taped. However, newer shorts are using compression instead. You should go for this if possible as it is much more comfortable and does not dig in.
- Pockets – some models come with a race radio pocket. Ideal for a phone or mp3 player!
- Time of rides – if you ride at night a lot it is probably better to get a pair of bib shorts that are covered in a reflective material. This will help to prevent you being hit by a car, which is always a bonus.
The Top Bib Shorts
We have taken a look at the products available and produced our cycling bib shorts review list below. The options below range from around £15 to up to around £240.
Tenn Ladies Summit
You can pick these budget women’s bib cycling shorts for around £15. Despite the price, these are high performance shorts with 4 way stretch fabric and anti-bacterial padding. The bibs are Y shaped with a single strap going through the chest. They come with silicon leg grippers which still do a great job even though you’ll find compression grippers on more expensive shorts.
Being a man, I have never personally tried these shorts myself, but I have had great experiences with other Tenn products (including men’s shorts). At the time of writing this they have a 4.6/5 star rating on Amazon with the majority of reviews being very positive. The only niggle seems to be that the Y shaped design means it can be more difficult to take off quickly for bathroom breaks.
Designed in the UK, you can buy these lightweight performance bib shorts for under £20. They are constructed from a dense, breathable fabric and a mesh back. These shorts come with a comfortable anti-bacterial gel padding with a “Breathable Moisture” feature to deal with sweat. Silicon spots are used to stop the shorts riding up your leg. At the time of writing this these FDX bib shorts have 4.8/5 stars on Amazon.
They are a brilliant buy for the price.
FDX Men’s Pro
Priced at around £20 these FDX shorts are ideal for those on a budget. You can get these bib shorts in a stylish blue or black/yellow colour. Like the women’s version, these shorts are constructed from a dense, breathable fabric and with mesh back. They shorts come with a very large, comfortable, anti-bacterial gel padding with a “Breathable Moisture” feature to deal with sweat. Silicon spots are used to stop the shorts riding up. More expensive models offer a compression system do to this, but the silicon method works perfectly fine.
At the time of writing this these bib shorts have 4.6/5 stars on Amazon. The only complaint seems to be that some people find the large padding a little too big. Personally, I like this – it feels like you’re sitting on a cushion.
Thermal Tight Fit Men’s
These are another great budget option for around £20. They are constructed from a thermal fabric making them ideal for cold weather. Like the others so far, they have a “Moisture Wicking” feature to help deal with sweat. The padding is large and most people report this to be comfortable. Unusually, these bib shorts have an elasticated waistband to help hold them in place.
At the time of writing this, these shorts have a 4.3/5 star rating on Amazon with a lot of positive reviews. Despite this, I feel that although these are a good winter option, I would normally recommend bib shorts without an elastic waistband. This will stop it digging in and help with blood-flow.
Santini FS134PROMEAR Mearesy Women’s Pro Grace
Santini’s bib shorts are the most expensive women’s bib shorts we have on our list. They are priced at around £60, depending on colour and size. Unlike the options above that have a single thickness padding, these shorts are designed to be thicker in the middle and thinner towards the outside, making it far more comfortable.
You also get an upgrade in fabric. “Thunderbike Fabric” is used to provide a slight compression, keeping the bib shorts in place and reducing muscle strain. An effort has been made with the quality of this product. It is designed so that no stitching comes into contact with the skin. The only improvement I feel that could be made would be to ditch the elastic and use compression or even silicon at the bottom to stop the legs riding up.
These are a great option for this willing to spend a little more.
Tenn Men’s Lazer Thermal
Unlike the other men’s bib shorts we have seen so far, these thermal shorts from Tenn come with a multi-density padding for extra comfort. It’s anti-bacterial too. That’s great for a pair of shorts that costs around £25.
The legs are held in place by stirrups – no elastic here. The fabric offers a compression fit and a mesh back for ventilation. Additional features include reflective detailing for additional safety at night.
The shorts currently sit with 4.4/5 stars on Amazon with a great many positive reviews. The multi-density padding and the number of features packed in make them a bargain at the current price.
Pearl Izumi Quest Men’s
This pair costs between £25 and £50 depending on the size. It has “SELECT Transfer” fabric for greater moisture transfer. It features a 6 panel direct-vent design to provide excellent ventilation and offers sun protection (UPF 50). Special attention has been paid to the padding. It has been pre-shaped and is made from a breathable 13mm Tour 3D Chamois for additional comfort on long distance rides.
This high quality item currently has 4.9/5 stars on Amazon.
Pearl Izumi Tight Attack Men’s
The fabric features a high quality 8 panel design using the same “SELECT Transfer” fabric as its cheaper sibling above. The padding is a 13mm pre-shaped Race Chamois optimized for performance. Like many others, these shorts have a silicon leg gripper to hold the bottom in place.
The Pearl Izumi Tight Attack currently has a 5 out of 5 rating on Amazon at the time of writing this, but there have been relatively few reviews.
Altura Peloton II Progel Men’s
These shorts are constructed using “Dry technology” to help keep moisture away from your skin. The high quality padding is a molded ProGel 3D. The legs are held up using a standard silicon gripper.
Amazon customers rate these shorts at 4.6/5 stars at the time of writing this.
GORE BIKE WEAR Men’s
Last but by no means least are Gore’s bib cycling shorts. Gore’s shorts cost around £50 in black but are much more expensive in red. Unless you’re very keen on the red design, we’d recommend going for the black shorts.
Why have we included this on our “best bib shorts” list? This pair has been specifically designed for recreational cyclists who travel short to medium distances on road bikes. It has a 2 layer insert padding that should promote blood circulation and stop numbness. The padding is breathable and absorbs sweat well.
The fabric has flat-lock seems to reduce friction and contains reflective inserts for safety at night. It’s a tight stretch fit with high freedom of movement and warmth. The mesh inserts allow for maximum breath-ability.
At the time of writing this, this pair has 4.2/5 stars on Amazon.
If you’re serious about cycling or you want a more comfortable ride, a decent pair of bib shorts is the way to go. You don’t need to spend the Earth, you can get something good for a relatively small amount.