You don't have to spend a fortune to get a quality pair of bib shorts that will see you riding in comfort, we round up some of the best we've found on the market
Good quality cycling shorts are an essential piece of equipment for any bike rider, but they don’t need to cost the earth. There’s a wide variety of cheap bib shorts on offer – some of them better than others.
We’ve outlined what you need to look for in a pair of cycling shorts, and then highlighted some of the pairs which we rate.
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Anatomy of a cycling short
There are two clear varieties of cycling short: waist shorts, and bib shorts.
At Cycling Weekly, we test predominantly bib shorts. These have bib straps attached to the main body of the shorts.
The bib straps mean there’s no need for a tougher piece of fabric at the waist to hold them up, eliminating any digging in at the stomach. It’s also impossible for them to fall down – so there’s no chance of having a small slice of cold or sunburnt skin at your lower back. Finally, the straps mean that the material stays put, and the chamois can’t move around.
Waist shorts are, however, still popular. There is a simplicity in just pulling on a pair of waist shorts – and pulling them down for comfort breaks. This is particularly true for women, though most women’s bib shorts have a mechanism built in to make stopping just as easy.
Waist shorts are also generally cheaper, and often a good ‘first cycling short’ option for those new to the sport, who perhaps already feel odd about wearing a padded garment.
Regardless what you choose, it’s important to know that you are not meant to wear underwear with padded cycling shorts. The chamois is designed to sit against your skin.
The chamois is almost always treated with an antibacterial agent, and meant to be washed after every wear. Any extra fabric between the chamois and skin is likely to cause discomfort. If you do experience chafing, using chamois cream can reduce this but ultimately comfort is found through a good pair of shorts and a saddle that suits your anatomy.
Here’s a look at the key components of a cycling short:
At the heart of a good pair of cycling bib shorts is the padded insert, called the chamois. Different shorts will have pads of differing levels of thickness and foam distribution – with denser material at the front for race focused riders and more at the rear for endurance or casual riders.
This is because those pushing for speed will rotate their hips forwards, resting more on the front, and those ambling on longer rides are likely to adopt a more upright position, putting more weight on their sit bones.
The fabric used over the legs will be a stretchy lycra, ideally with a snap-to-skin quality that fits closely enough to be comfortably. The material should feel supportive, but in more expensive pairs of cycling shorts you’ll probably find greater compression and a material that has a luxurious softness against the skin.
The higher the quality of the shorts, the more panels will be used in their construction – this enables them to follow the contours of your body more accurately. You can still expect a multi-panel construction in cheap bib shorts under £80.
At the bottom of the short legs, you’ll find the cuffs. You want cuffs that stay put, without riding up, but that also don’t over-compress causing a ripple of skin where they squeeze too tightly. Wide cuffs with a silicone treatment to ensure they stay put are often the best and again can be found on shorts over £50.
Bib straps or waist
If you’re going for bib shorts, you want straps that offer enough breathability, whilst still being sturdy enough to keep the rest of the short in place. Men’s bib shorts nearly always have a Y shape, with a strap on each shoulder.
Women’s bib shorts vary in style – some follow the same format as the men’s, whilst others have a full body, a halterneck or clasp in the centre. Features like a halterneck or zip at the waist are added to make comfort breaks easier, whilst clasps at the centre allow the bib straps to sit more comfortably over a woman’s chest.
When it comes to waist shorts, the waist itself needs to be strong enough to hold them in place so that the chamois doesn’t move, but comfortable enough not to dig in. This often means having a wide waist band that spreads the area of pressure.
Without further ado, here’s a look at the best cheap cycling shorts we’ve tested – all of them under £80…
B’Twin Aerofit bib shorts – 9/10 – £54.99
Read more: B’Twin Aerofit bib-shorts review
These shorts offer performance that punches well above their price point.
The fit was good and their was never any chafing on the legs or undercarriage area. You’d have little to lose investing in a pair of these.
B’Twin 900 Padded cycling waist shorts – £29.99
B’Twin offer padded cycling waist shorts from as little as £5.99 – but if you up the spend to a penny under £30 you get a pad designed for longer rides of up to three hours.
The B’Twin 900 shorts also come with wide grippers, which fit much like those on the bib shorts above, and are made from a mixture of quick drying Polyester and stretchy Elastine to a mix of around 80/20 per cent, with the ratio varying at different panels.
dhb Aeron men’s and halterneck women’s bib shorts – 8/10 and 9/10 – £70
Aeron is dhb’s performance minded range, yet these still come in at a friendly price tag. The chamois was comfortable and the bib straps are made from a mesh fabric which was supportive without being to warm. The cuffs are doubled over and flat locked and have a raw edged silicone dot material to keep them in place.
The women’s version comes with a halterneck body, which is very stretchy so the back can be pulled down.
There are no reflective details, which is a shame if you’re riding in low visibility conditions.
dhb men’s and women’s classic waist shorts – £44.99
Of the two, we’d be inclined to recommend the bib shorts above. However, if you’re sticking to your waist short guns, then dhb’s classic shorts would be a good bet.
They come in women’s and men’s fit, and are constructed from a high quality Italian fabric with 20 per cent elastane which promises to offer enough stretch. The chamois is from Cytech – who make some of the best pads in the industry – and the leg openings use a silicone gripper.
Kalf Club men’s and women’s bib shorts – 8/10 – £64.99
Read more: Kalf Club women’s bib shorts review
The Kalf Club bib shorts, produced in-house at Evans Cycles, come in at a fairly entry level price tag but the brand was keen to offer a more premium feel.
The chamois is designed for endurance rides but was thin enough to perform well on shorter rides.
Both men’s and women’s versions use a standard Y-shaped body, with a more breathable fabric on the upper. Chevron shaped silicon dots line the cuffs and there are reflective features in the shape of pearlescent ‘K’ logos.
Kalf Club men’s and women’s waist short – £49.99
A waist short version of the above, these use the same Elastic Interface Club pad, which is created using a perforated foam which varies to provide the right protection where it’s needed. A wide waist band keeps them up, without placing too much pressure at the midriff.
Silione grippers keep the legs in place, and the main body features 22 per cent elastane whilst the body panels are 18 per cent elastane – so there’s more stretch where it’s needed.
dhb Blok Halter women’s bib shorts – 9/10 – £50
Another great option from dhb, the Blok range is their practical day-to-day wear, featuring bright colours and eye catching designs.
The Blok halterneck bibs offer plenty of stretch, with a slightly more forgiving fit than the Aeron versions. The leg grippers are wide, chamois offers plenty of comfort, and the neck strap is stretchy meaning the back pulls down for toilet breaks with ease.
Altura Peloton ProGel men’s and women’s bib shorts – 8/10 – £59.99
Read more: Altura Peloton Progel women’s bib shorts
Available in men’s and women’s fit, the Altura Peloton Progel bib shorts also come in a waist short version – but we weren’t quite so impressed by these.
The chamois offers plenty of comfort due to the gel inserts used, and the bib straps attach to a body that fits high on the stomach. The leg grippers are a little bit old fashioned, being quite narrow, but stay in place so a good option if you struggle with them riding up on other shorts.