For any cyclist, bib shorts are an essential piece of kit and arguably the most important to get right. We explain what you need to look for

Cycling shorts are the number one piece of kit in any rider’s wardrobe – a good pair of padded cycling shorts can ensure you’re able to put the hours in on the bike, whilst any issues there can lead to enforced rest due to saddle sores.

Whilst most riders will opt for cycling bib tights during the deep winter months, cycling shorts can be teamed with leg warmers and worn through the seasons – and many riders still want shorts through winter for turbo sessions. The key ingredients to a good pair of cycling shots include a quality chamois (the pad), quick drying and high wicking material, a stretchy fabric so that there’s no flapping about and a comfortable fit. Shorts for cycling can cost anywhere between £20 and £200. Paying more usually results in a greater number of panels, which creates a more flattering and comfortable fit, usually a high tech pad with a number of features and sometimes handy ad ons like radio pockets and compressive or aero fabric.

Cycling shorts come in two distinct forms: bib shorts and waist shorts. There’s more detail on this below – but bib shorts are the more premium option, offering greater comfort. If you opt for waist shorts, you’ll want a pair with a high and wide band to prevent digging in.

Why wear padded cycling shorts?

The number one job for a pair cycling cycling shorts is protecting the rider from saddle sores and chafing by providing a layer of padding which is shaped to suit the riding position.

Read more:

Cycling shorts are also constructed from high-wicking, quick drying fabrics which encourage sweat to leave the surface of the skin thus keeping the rider dry and whiff-free on hot days and helping to reduce the discomfort associated with riding in the rain. 

How much should I spend on cycling shorts?

You can pick up a pair of cheap cycling shorts from as little as £30.

These will come with a chamois pad and are constructed from lycra which won’t flap about on the bike – thus answering your basic needs.

BTwin Aero Fit cycling bib shorts

BTwin Aero Fit cycling bib shorts

Spending more – cycling bib shorts can carry price tags over the £150 mark – will provide you with more durable fabrics and extras such as compressive materials, more flattering fits thanks to the use of multiple panels and carefully constructed leg grippers. The chamois will often offer more breathability and multi density padding that provides more targeted comfort.

The middle ground is around £70 to £100 and for that you can expect to buy a high quality pair of bib shorts that will provide several seasons of cycling in comfort.

Waist shorts vs 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.

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.


Buyer’s guide to bib shorts


Cycling short materials 

The choice of materials for designers is huge, from thicker leg material used on thermal bib shorts for chilly spring conditions to well-ventilated back panels for summer heat.

It’s a good idea to have a selection of bib shorts in your collection, with varying options depending upon weather conditions.

Breathable fabrics or cut outs at the back are good additions on a pair of summer cycling bib shorts

Breathable fabrics or cut outs at the back are good additions on a pair of summer cycling bib shorts

More expensive bib shorts will use fabrics which aid blood circulation through compression. Those aiming for the aero edge may also feature technologies aimed in this direction.

Cycling short fit

Cycling shorts should be constructed from multiple panels of fabric. The more panels used, the better the fit – a single panel per leg would give the appearance of two moving chipolatas wrapped in lycra. Using multiple panels also increases comfort as the fabric isn’t forced to stretch too far in any given area.

You need to ensure the shoulder straps are comfortable. Some come up short, feeling a little restrictive, even for a rider of average height. Wherever possible, try on bib shorts (over underwear) and – as silly as you may feel in the dressing room – adopt a riding position to get a clear idea of how they’d really feel on the bike.

Styles vary as well – some riders like cycling shorts that reach almost to their knees, whilst others prefer them to finish mid thigh.

Cycling short chamois

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.

Cycling short chamois

Cycling short chamois is at the heart of the construction

Cycling short chamois pads are shaped to suit different sorts if riding – often the product description will give you an insight into the pad sewn into a pair you’re looking at.

Endurance focused chamois pads will be thicker to cater for greater hours in the saddle and will usually have denser foam at the rear to cater for an upright position.

A chamois that’s designed for short, hard, race efforts will often have more padding at the front as riders on the rivet will usually rotate more to sit on the end of the saddle.

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.

Cycling shorts for women

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 – the pad will be shaped to offer a wider sit bone are for women, and the pad won’t extend as far forwards.

Many women’s bib shorts also have an inbuilt ‘comfort’ or ‘nature’ break solution. Popular options include halterneck bibs, which can be pulled over the head and threaded under a jersey (Ale), or simply pulled down at the back (dhb and Giro), as well as zips around the waist (Gore) and clasps that clip at the waist or back with a similar function to the halter neck (Gore again and Assos).

Some women prefer to go for the bog standard bib strap design featured on most men’s bib shorts, unzipping a jersey and removing the straps when it’s time to ‘go’


Best cycling shorts reviewed

We’ve had the opportunity to test many pairs of cycling shots – here’s a look at the best cheap cycling shorts, best men’s and best women’s shorts we’ve tried…

Best cheap cycling shorts under £70

B’Twin Aerofit cycling bib shorts – £54.99

B'twin Aerofit bib shorts cheap cycling shorts

B’twins cycling bib shorts offer comfort and performance above their price point

Score: 9

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 900 padded women's cycling shorts

B’Twin 900 padded women’s cycling shorts

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 cycling bib shorts – £70

cheap cycling shorts

dhb Aeron men’s women’s bib shorts

Score: 8/10 (men’s) and 9/10 (women’s)

Read more: dhb Aeron bib shorts review  // dhb Aeron women’s halterneck bib short review 

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 cycling waist shorts – £44.99

dhb Classic cycling shorts

dhb Classic cycling shorts

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 cycling bib shorts – £64.99

Best cheap cycling shorts

Kalf Club women’s bib shorts

Score: 8/10

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.

Also available at Amazon

Kalf Club men’s and women’s cycling waist short – £49.99

Kalf Club women's waist short

Kalf Club women’s waist short

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.

Also available at Amazon

dhb Blok Halter women’s cycling bib shorts – £50

dhb Blok women's halterneck bib shorts best cheap cycling shorts

dhb Blok women’s halterneck bib shorts

Score: 9/10

Read more: dhb Blok women’s halterneck bib shorts review 

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.


Best men’s bib shorts over £70

Lusso Active Aero men’s cycling bib shorts – £99

Score: 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.

Also available at Amazon

Endura Pro SL II men’s cycling bib shorts – £119.99

Endura Pro SL II bibshorts

Endura Pro SL II bibshorts

Score: 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 men’s cycling bib short II – £165

Score: 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.

Buy now: Rapha Classic bib tight II from Rapha for £165

Fizik Link R1 Snake men’s cycling bib shorts – £250

Fizik Link R1 Snake

Review score: 9/10

Read more: Fizik Link R1 Snake shorts review

Fizik has three different categories of short depending on how flexible you are

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 men’s cycling bib shorts – £100

castelli-endurance-x2-bib-shorts

Review score: 9/10

Read more: Castelli Endurance X2 bib short review

The Castelli Endurance X2 is possibly one of the most comfortable bib shorts we’ve tested

Comfortable and supportive is how we found Castelli’s £100 bib shorts. They use the same Progretto X2 Air seatpad as found on their Mondiale bib shorts and Inferno bib-shorts.

Also available at Amazon

Specialized SL Pro men’s cycling bib shorts – £140

specialized sl pro bib shorts

Review score: 9/10

Read more: Specialized SL Pro bib shorts review

Spesh’s SL Pro bib shorts sit snug and comfortable.

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 men’s cycling bib shorts – £140

sportful super total comfort bib shorts

Review score: 9/10

Read more: Sportful Super Total Comfort bib shorts review

Does exactly what it says on the tin. 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.

Also available at Amazon

Le Col Cycling Aqua Zero Thermal men’s cycling bib shorts – £150

Le Col Cycling Aqua Zero Thermal bibshorts

Le Col Cycling Aqua Zero Thermal bibshorts

Review score: 9/10

Read more: Le Col Cycling Aqua Zero Thermal Bibshorts reviewed

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.


Best women’s bib shorts over £70

Giro Women’s Chrono Sport Halter cycling bib shorts – £79.99

Giro Women’s Chrono Sport Halter Bib Shorts

Giro Women’s Chrono Sport Halter Bib Shorts

Review score: 8/10

Read more: Giro Women’s Chrono Sport halter bib short review here 

Giro’s Chrono halter bib shorts allow for easy comfort breaks with a rear panel that simply pulls down at the back. The halter design provides a full base layer, so there’s no need to add extra layers in summer, and the fabric used is light and breathable.

The Chrono Sport Cytech Chamois is sufficient for long rides, but light enough that it’s not bulky to the point where it’s overly noticeable when off the bike. The leg grippers are narrow, which is where these shorts show their entry-level hand, but you can upgrade to the ‘Giro Chrono Expert Women’s Halterneck bibs’ for a wider leg gripper. This said, at ‘Sport’ level the fit is fairly relaxed and we didn’t find the grippers dug in.

Also available at Amazon

Santini Wave women’s cycling bib shorts – £89.99

Santini Wave Women's bib shorts

Santini Wave Women’s bib shorts

Review score: 9/10

Read more: Santini Wava Women’s bib short review here 

A second skin fabric is teamed with wide leg grippers that snap to fit perfectly and stay put thanks to a silicone treatment.

The chamois was perfectly adequate for long days out, and the close fit means these are race ready as well. There isn’t any prevision made for comfort breaks, but with an RRP of £89.99 these sit at a comfortable price point for such a premium feel and fit.

Also available at Amazon

Alé PRR 2.0 Women’s Future HD cycling bib short – £140

Alé PRR 2.0 Women’s Future HD bib shorts

Alé PRR 2.0 Women’s Future HD bib shorts

Review score: 8/10

Read more: Ale PRR 2.0 Women’s Future HD bib shorts review here 

The Future bib shorts from Alé represent the brand’s first foray into bib shorts with  a comfort break solution – the WH FREE system uses a halter neck that pulls over the head and under the jersey.

The multi-panel shorts feature a range of cover fabrics – including ‘mesh dragon’ at the stomach and Aero G.250 fabric on the quads which provides compression and a wind cheating advantage. Wide, 7.5cm leg grippers are flattering and the chamois received no objections from us.

These are high performance shorts, though we did feel the ‘WH FREE system’ – though unique and quite space age in appearance – might be a bit over complicated.

Also available at Amazon

Santini REA 2.0 cycling bib shorts – £89.99

Santini Rea 20 bib shorts

Review score: 8/10

Read more: Santini Rea 20 bib short review here

Constructed from a nine panel design, these bib short are close fitting and flattering. The high density fabric offers UPV protection and we found the GIL2 chamois comfortable.

The leg grippers impressed us too, with no ‘sausage leg’ even when paired with leg warmers. The only downside was the lack of finesse in the plain black design, but this does mean they pair well with any jersey.

Assos T.laalalai shorts_s7 cycling bib shorts – £160

Assos T laalalai shorts s7 bib shorts

Assos T laalalai shorts s7 bib shorts

Review score: 9/10

Read more: Assos T laalalai shorts s7 bib short review here

A top end pair of shorts, at £160, these bibs come with an expectation of excellence – and they provided in our tests.

Protective ‘type.439’ fabric offered compression and abrasion resistance, but they’ve been dipped in an ‘IceColor’ dye that helps to reflect sunlight – providing a cool ride even on super hot days. Wide, 4.5cm leg grippers have been used and a clasp at the waist can be disconnected and swing over the head for easy comfort breaks.


 

Got a favourite pair we’ve not mentioned? Tell us in the comments…

  • BarryFromEastEnders

    You should have seen Pat when we got her a bib vest. My word, she was spilling out at all angles. My Janine was in hysterics.

  • cyclinginfo

    Shorts
    & Bibs

    I’m new on this community,
    and this is my very first post.

    I really appreciate your hard work .
    Thank you for this
    Information.

  • Bertrude

    190 £ rapha shorts, you have to be joking

  • Sincy

    There are so many choices out there. And so many crap shorts, or maybe they will be good enough for some cyclists on a budget or who do not ride much. The old truth is you get what you pay for is true, but there are some great budget shorts too, like Tenn, dhb etc. but the most important thing for me is the Pad/Chamois.
    Some expensive ones are not thick enough for me, and some are just too much. best to shop around try them on and go with your gut feelings. Do not buy a brand and think it is right for you because it costs.

  • Sincy

    Go onto the Endura website. you can buy them off that. and they are amazing shorts. Also have got Tenn shorts and much the same for less money.

  • Glen Williams

    I want to know please where I can buy the caratti Sport or the Endura Thermolite bib shorts. I live in Oxford.

  • Glen Williams

    where can I order Caratti Sport or Endura Thermolite bib shorts? I live in Oxford.

  • Ady

    I like my Tenn ones but perhaps they are not on here because they reduce their price by not throwing money at marketing via cycling mags.

  • Jonathan Paul Page

    Yep. I don’t care how much the Progetto X2 pad costs. It is not a luxury on a 5 hour ride to have 125 dollar bibs.

  • Steve Hislop

    Agree. The sizing for bibs can differ dramatically from brand to brand. I have a set of Castelli that are medium but similar bibs from Santini are sized as large.

  • Mj Mj

    it’d be helpful for this article to give the model’s sizes/measurements. It would also place comments such as this, into context –

    the size 10 gives a comfortable rather than an athletic fit.