How to find the best bib tights to keep your legs warm this winter
Nothing will spoil a winter ride like getting cold. For early winter riding you’ll be able to get away with your normal bib shorts combined with leg warmers or even knee warmers, but when it gets cold then bib tights become the go to option.
Quality bib tights will keep your legs warm through the cold weather, meaning that you’ll not only find it less traumatic to force yourself out of the door, but will also be able to ride faster as your body won’t be wasting energy trying to keep you warm rather than pushing down on the pedals.
Clearly the most important thing in determining how warm a pair of bib tights are is the material that they’re made of.
At the most basic level you’ll have tights which are just longer versions of your run-of-the-mill bib shorts, made of a looser knit lycra material.
These will offer a similar level of protection to bib shorts and leg warmers, so you’ll need some bib tights made of sterner stuff to get you through the winter.
Check out the best winter cycling clothing
Unless you’re planning to spend the whole of December and January on the turbo trainer, then you’ll probably need some tights that are designed for properly cold weather; at least down to freezing.
These sort of bib tights will be designed to protect you from cold air, usually using windproof materials such as Gore’s Windstopper technology, and will also have some form of light insulation.
The most common way of doing this is by using a Roubaix fabric, which has a light fleece on the inside of the bib tights.
However if you’re the sort of rider who will be heading out of the front door whatever the weather, then you might be after even more protection.
Producing waterproof (or at least water-resistant) bib tights can be difficult, as you in order to maintain comfort, manufacturers need to make sure the material can still stretch.
There are plenty on the market, and if you search online and filter by “highest price first” then they’ll be easy enough to find…
But aside from the material of the main part of the tights, what else should you be looking for in a good pair of winter bib tights?
Well of course the most important thing is that they fit properly. One of the biggest problems with bib tights is that the material can tend to bunch behind the knee: a real annoyance particularly during the longer rides that should be making up most of your winter riding.
If possible, the best way to avoid this is to try the tights on in a shop before you buy, or failing that stick to a brand that you’re familiar to make sure there are no surprises with the sizing.
For extra warmth it’s also worth looking for a pair of bib tights with a front panel that extends a decent way up your torso, which will really help to keep your core warm when riding in seriously cold conditions.
The only snag with this is that it can make the mid-ride loo stop a little tricky. To solve this men should look for tights with a nice low zip up the front of the bib tights, while a few women’s bib tights come with a drop-tail design so you can avoid having to fully de-robe at the side of the road.
One thing that is really a matter of personal preference is whether you go for bib tights with or without a pad, and there are advantages and disadvantages to both options.
The majority of bib tights will come with a pad. For comfort and convenience these are hard to beat, as it means you don’t have the extra layer of a pair of bib shorts underneath your tights, and you can get out of the door a minute or two quicker in the mornings.
However unpadded bib tights are probably a more cost-effective option. Not only are they usually cheaper, but if you wear bib shorts underneath, you can usually get good few rides in them before they’re in need of a wash.
The final couple of things to look for in a good pair of bib tights are well-designed bibs and a loop going underneath your foot.
The bibs should be nice and wide to offer good support to keep the tights up and to stop them digging in at the shoulder.
At the other end, a loop underneath your foot might sound uncomfortable, but will prevent the bib tights from riding up your leg while you pedal, often causing them to bunch behind your knee.
Our pick of the best cycling bib tights
Castelli Nanoflex Pro bib tights
Review score: 9/10
Designed for comfortable riding in the worst conditions, these bib tights are a heavy weight option with waterproof Nano Flex light overlays over the thighs, knees and rear.
A waterproof reflective band on the inner thigh adds additional protection, though we did note that this might prove baggy on skinny ankles.
We loved the comfy Progetto X2 Air seat pad – though obviously preferences here vary.
Pearl Izumi Elite Amfib bib tights
Review score: 9/10
A few notable features set these bib tights apart – namely the ankle gussets which fold over the top of shoes to keep splashes out, the flap which opens for easy nature breaks and we liked the Elite 3D Chamois pad.
The fit was a bit baggy around the knees, which was a bit of a let down, but we concluded that if it were snowing tomorrow we’d reach for these straight away.
Santini Vega Acquazero bib tights
Review score: 9/10
Wet weather ready bib tights, these come with an Acquazero treatment designed to repel water. They don’t come with a roubaix lining, and have mesh inserts at the back – making them a great option for days when it’s more wet then cold.
The sewn in chamois comes from GIT, and we found it to be one of the more cushioned pads on the market.
Sportful Bodyfit Pro Thermal bib tights
Review score: 10/10
A long standing favourite, the Sportful BodyFit Pro bib tights have seen a few tweaks here and there over the years, but they’ve always impressed us.
They come with embossed, Thermo Drytex Plus fabric and a Thermo Drytex Double brushed fleece treatment on the inside.
A comfy seat pad is sewn in, and the upper body uses a breathable mesh fabric. There’s a silicone gripper elastic at the ankle, with zippers to make getting them on and off easy.
dhb women’s classic bib tights
Review score (previous model): 10/10
The new and improved version of the dhb Vaeon padded roubaix bib tights (with the same RRP), the Classic women’s bib tights use a breathable but warm Roubaix lycra with a CyTech Elastic Interface Giro Air chamois.
The elastic leg grippers feature silicone treatment to ensure they stay put, and the upper body uses a lock-down YKK front chest zipper, providing an in-built base layer.
Morvelo Stealth Stormshield bibknickers
Review score: 9/10
You don’t always want to go for full tights – which is where 3/4 lengths come in – and some people like to call these bibknickers.
The Stealth Stormshield bibknickers come with a water resistant finish, to keep you comfortable during showers. However, you’ll also find lots of great breathability promotion features such as a mesh panel at the upper back. These could have you covered through most of spring and autumn.
Not what you’re looking for? Read more bib short reviews here
How much should I pay?
The sky really is the limit when it comes to the cost of a good pair of winter bib tights. Top-end kit from the likes of Assos, Castelli, and Gore can often be approaching, if not over, the £200 mark, so it can be quite easy to blow a great deal of money on your new bib tights.
However, depending on the riding you’re doing, you probably don’t need to break the bank. If you’re not going to be heading out when it’s both cold and raining (or even snowing!) then you don’t need bib tights that claim to offer waterproof protection.
But that doesn’t mean you should skimp on your new purchase. If you’re buying bib tights with an in-built pad, then paying more will almost always guarantee a better quality pad, translating into improved comfort over the long winter miles.