For any cyclist, bib shorts are an essential piece of kit and arguably the most important to get right. We pick out the best and tell you what you need to look for
As cycling grows in popularity, so does the range of brands and kit available to anyone from beginner to pro. Cycling bib shorts come in a huge range of options for cyclists of all shapes and sizes.
>>> Not what you’re looking for? Check out: Best women’s bib shorts buying guide
Choosing the right pair of bib shorts can be difficult, especially as you can’t really try before you buy – for obvious reasons. However, finding the best pair is essential for comfort and to keep you riding.
Bib shorts are the most important part of any cyclist’s wardrobe, and the discomfort of getting the wrong pair can end a ride and put you off getting back in the saddle for quite some time.
Below we have detailed what to look for when buying bib shorts, and also offered some options for where to start when buying. Remember though, everyone’s different so use this as a guide to help you find the best pair for you and get you riding in comfort in no time.
When it came to testing these bib shorts, we took the business very seriously. The good news is that none of those tested was considered a duff pair of shorts. Some are always better than others, but it’s good to report that, from the brands on test, without spending a fortune, it’s possible to buy an extremely comfortable and stylish pair of bib shorts that will last you many seasons of riding.
Our pick of the best cycling bib shorts
Lusso Active Aero bib shorts – 10/10
Read more: Lusso Active Aero Bib Short review
Coming in at £99, just under the magic round number, these bib shorts proved to be comfortable across all forms of riding and came with some additional aero advantages, such as striped fabric designed to funnel air flow.
Endura Pro SL II bibshorts – 10/10
Read more: Endura Pro SL II bibshort review
Endura offers these shorts with a choice of three different pad widths, meaning you can tailor them to your riding style and anatomy. The leg grippers have been improved, and Coldback treatment plus SPF50 treatment have you sorted in hot weather.
Rapha Classic bib short II – 9/10
Read more: Rapha Classic bib short II review
The Rapha Classic bib short II shorts are the text book example of how a chamois should be made. It’s slim but for this reason unobtrusive and wicks really well.
The lycra is soft and supportive, while the detailing and looks are really on point.
Fizik Link R1 Snake shorts – 9/10
Read more: Fizik Link R1 Snake shorts review
For a first attempt, Fizik has really hit the nail on the head with the Link R1 shorts.
These are seriously technical shorts, and they come in three options depending on how flexible you are.
Castelli Endurance X2 bib short – 9/10
Read more: Castelli Endurance X2 bib short review
Specialized SL Pro bib shorts – 9/10
Read more: Specialized SL Pro bib shorts review
The comfort and support of the SL Pro bib short material is excellent, as is the pad.
It managed to keep things comfortable despite riding a hard, racing saddle for long hours at a time.
Sportful Super Total Comfort bib shorts – 9/10
With a name like that you’d be right to expect a lot from these bib shorts.
Thankfully, they come through and are super comfortable. There’s no chafing or rubbing and they’re supportive enough for multiple days in the saddle.
Le Col Cycling Aqua Zero Thermal bibshorts – 9/10
Thermal bib shorts provide a little extra warmth in spring and autumn, and can be paired with leg warmers to make a perfectly good alternative to full on cycling tights. We wore them up to 15°C in comfort, and found them to be a great insulating layer at lower temperatures.
Looking for more bib short reviews?
Check back throughout the year as we test different shorts for different temperatures and conditions.
If you think we’ve missed any, let us know in the comments below and we’ll aim to expand the list of test products.
Cycling bib shorts: What to look for
Cycling shorts are designed around a chamois created to provide padding and relief to all the right areas. Therefore, men’s and women’s shorts are different – female riders should check out the best women’s shorts here.
Waist shorts vs bib shorts
Bib shorts have straps that sit over the shoulders, fitting a little bit like a large adult babygrow, or a wrestling suit – depending what way you look at it. This does take a little bit of getting used to. However, bib shorts are generally considered much more comfortable – they do away with any cutting in at the waist, it’s impossible for them to fall down (leaving a patch of exposed cold or sunburnt skin) and the chamois stays in place better.
Waist shorts are favoured by riders seeking the simplest, and often cheapest, approach – and are effective enough, if not quite as comfortable.
The choice of materials for designers is huge, from thicker leg material for chilly spring conditions to well-ventilated back panels for summer heat. Some make the best choices, while others leave you questioning what was going through their heads. The best idea is to get hands-on. If the shorts feel nice in your hand, they’re at least halfway to feeling good once you get them on.
A high back will help with a better fit
You need to ensure the shoulder straps are comfortable. Some come up short, feeling a little restrictive, even for a tester of average height. Always try on shorts, and adopt a riding position to get a clear idea of how they’d really feel.
The other details are important to consider, but the chamois is the absolute key bib short component. Get it right and your shorts will offer years of comfortable miles. Get it wrong and the pad can become uncomfortable. Many brands buy in their chamois from an external company, such as Cytech, and can often use the same pad as a competitor.
The chamois often comes with some additional features, such as perforation to provide breathability, and an antibacterial treatment to keep the shorts fresh.