The purpose of bib shorts is simple - they prevent your shorts from riding down when you're in a low riding position without requiring a restrictive waistband.
Well, not exactly. Over the years, an explosion in innovation and development has made the bib short essential, providing new levels of comfort and performance for cyclists of all levels. They're versatility and simplicity has seen them adopted across almost all cycling disciplines, while fabrics and features continue to be developed.
Anatomy of the bib short
No matter your riding discipline, experience, or the current conditions, there is a bib short to suit your needs. Here's just some of the main features and elements you need to become acquainted with.
The seat pad, or chamois, is the secret to the success of the modern bib short. Shaped to fit the vulnerable parts of male and female riders, they prevent chaffing through excess rubbing or clamminess. Few experienced cyclists would even consider cycling long miles without a quality chamois, and those who have are likely to have regretted it.
One element to consider is the thickness of the pad, although it's worth noting that thicker material does not necessarily mean more comfort.
And - before you ask - no, you never wear underwear under bib shorts.
It’s worth noting that chamois care is essential to prolong their lifespan. Post-ride washing is obligatory while many cyclists carry out pre-ride chamois treatments, rubbing on cooling and moisturising chamois cream either directly onto the garment or themselves.
The bib shorts fit
Bibs come in a variety of lengths, but whether you want on the knee, high on the thigh, or somewhere in between is really up to you. In terms of overall fit, however, you should aim for your bibs to be like a second skin, worn tight to the body. Loose material or gaps can cause chaffing and put an end to any ambitious rides over long distances. Having said that, there are many different types of bodies out there and many bib shorts accommodate this with different levels of fit - pro fit, performance, and active fit.
- Pro fit: These are super tight, providing the highest level of aerodynamic advantage.
- Performance fit: A little more forgiving and comfortable than pro fit, but still offering performance benefits.
- Active fit: Much more relaxed in terms of fit, and a good choice for beginners or those style getting down to their performance weight.
Common features found in bib shorts
Depending on your level of experience, you can take advantage of a variety of features, offering everything from a more aerodynamic profile to fabrics that combat cold weather.
Seamless bib straps reduce chaffing and reduce wind-resistance. Breathable materials ensure you stay cool even when hammering up a steep climb. Flatlock seems provide an aerodynamic advantage, while four-way stretch materials ensure comfort and ease of movement.
An important addition for many is the inclusion of quality leg grippers to prevent the shorts creeping up on your thigh and causing discomfort - this can be very frustrating on long rides.
There are also a number of women-specific features, such as the halterneck style straps which make it a lot easier to get out of the shorts when you take a loo stop at the cafe.
If you're likely to be riding in cold conditions, then look for fleece backed shorts and water repellent fabrics - perfect for riding through spring showers and autumn downpours.
Do I need bib shorts?
If you’re riding for a reasonably long time, bib shorts provide a wealth of benefits. Their usefulness has ensured their popularity among road cyclists, mountain bikers, and adventure riders alike, while the comfort of a good chamois is unrivalled when compared to your everyday underwear and shorts.
What’s the difference between MTB and road bib shorts?
The main difference between the bib shorts of both disciplines is the cut and chamois placement. Mountain bike shorts will have a more central chamois, designed for a more upright seat position, while road shorts are designed for long periods spent in the lower forward hunch. MTB bib shorts will also favour durability over weight-saving and tend to be slightly thicker and more resistant to scraping or ripping.
While bib shorts are an accepted part of the uniform for road cyclists, MTB and casual riders still tend to wear baggies over the top of their Lycra layer.
What are the differences between male and female bib shorts?
Female bib shorts have a differently contoured chamois to provide more appropriate support for the female form. A different approach to the shoulder braces is also becoming increasingly common to limit chaffing using a centrally positioned brace. Halterneck options are equally gaining pace, allowing easier loo breaks for female riders.
Examples of bib shorts from Wiggle
Wiggle offers an extensive choice of bib shorts, including many women-specific options and a wide choice for riders of all levels - from beginners to everyday club riders, and performance level athletes to distance riders, you'll find the right bib shorts for you.
Bib shorts for performance riders
The Aeron Lab Raceline shorts have been engineered to using the best components available including an Elastic Interface® Road Performance Pad for all-day comfort even in an aggressive racing position. Aerodynamic fabrics mean a second-skin fit without feeling restrictive.
Using their vast experience of cycle apparel engineering and with input from multi-time world champion and Olympic gold medalist Fabian Cancellara, the Gore Wear C7 Race Bib Shorts+ are designed for comfort when riding and racing at speed.
The Free Aero Race 4 are the go-to race shorts for Castelli's pros and with many riders clocking up 30,000km a year on the saddle they're very exacting with regards to their kit. They're the perfect testers and Castelli continually gathers feedback to improve their cycling kit. They listen, learn, tweak and improve products and the result for this season are shorts that are minimalist, aerodynamically slippery and yet with no compromises when it comes to comfort.
Get pro-level performance without sacrificing comfort. The trademarked Le Col leg grippers are over-sized with intermittent silicone tabs to spread the pressure and the Pro Dolomiti Chamois delivers enough cushioning without adding bulk.
As nice as it is to see on a riding day, the sun’s warmth can make things very difficult in the height of summer. The Endura Women’s Pro SL DS Bib Shorts are designed to keep you going when it really heats up, thanks to the Coldblack technology contained within. It works hard to reduce the heat as it builds up.
On milder days, other features of these Endura bibs make it a great choice for training and competition days. Its pad is cut for a close fit, and adds an antibacterial finish for freshness, and the fabric’s stretchiness allows loo breaks to be much easier.
Bib shorts for every day and club riders
dhb's innovative Aeron Women's Halteneck Bib Shorts incorporate an ingenious halterneck-inspired design, saving you from having to remove the neck strap or outer layers (jerseys, jackets) during your 'comfort' break - no wonder they're best sellers on Wiggle. With high-quality Italian fabrics and a Elastic Interface chamois, these shorts will make long rides a lot easier. Shaped leg elastic with silicone particle grippers keep the shorts in place without squeezing the leg, adding comfort to these innovative and popular shorts.
The dhb Aeron Bib Shorts are the evolution of a best-selling classic. A new pad from Elastic Interface® is combined with proven performance fabrics to make your next ride more comfortable.
The female cut of the FS260 Pro DS Bib Shorts from Endura is carefully considered for a woman's needs from her racewear. As a result, the DropSeat (DS) zipped construction has an improved stretch so you can take comfort breaks quickly and with ease. The high quality Italian fabric hugs the body for a great aero fit, a raw edge grip rib hem and silicone grippers keep the shorts in place, and an antibacterial finish in the seat pad keeps you fresher for longer.
Made with one of the finest seat pads on the market, the Endurance 2 Bibshorts from Castelli are ready for the longest rides you can find.
Castelli Women's Velocissima Bibs are perfect for everyday riding, adopting many features from the brand's higher-end shorts at a more affordable price. The features include newly engineered bib strap construction, a flat-form waist, and Giro3 lie-flat leg grippers.
An effective and advanced update of the Power bib, the Gore C5 Bib Shorts+ are as good as performance enhancing bibs for the road get. Bringing together a mix of slight compression on the wide trouser cuffs, breathable material to prevent overheating, and shock absorption to keep you comfortable over long distances, the specially-selected materials work hard to help you make the most from your time on the bike.
The C7 Long Distance Bib Shorts+ make use of a knitted 4-way stretch material with an ultra-fine gauge giving you freedom of movement and an extremely soft and comfortable sensation against the skin. The fabric also wicks away sweat remarkably quickly to leave you feeling dry at all times while, thanks to its quick-drying performance, it will never feel damp and clammy even after an epic ride in warm conditions. Wide leg-grippers, with silicone grippers, give the shorts a snug fit but spread pressure evenly.
The Total Comfort Bib Shorts have always been a very popular short in the men's line and now Sportful have engineered a Women's Total Comfort Bib Shorts so dedicated female riders get to experience the ultimate in cycling comfort. The shorts benefit from the use of light supportive stretch woven fabrics over the thighs, keeping working muscles compressed to encourage blood flow, while breathable side panels regulate body temperature as you put the power down. Using four-needle flatlock stitching throughout their construction Sportful also ensures a chafe-free feel against the skin.
Making the most of ASSOS’ intelligent comfort fit, the T.Cento_s7 Shorts keep close to the body without becoming restrictive and with less compression. It really is all you need to get you through those longer distances. The real star of the show though is the unique insert that you’ll find within. Not only is it anatomically fitted to your body but it utilises high-density memory foam to adapt to your needs, absorbing shocks over rough ground.
These are the perfect shorts for the female rider who demands the most from her apparel. With an all-new insert, a cut that improves comfort, new clasp, and enhanced bibs and back, these T.laalaLai_s7 bib shorts are a game changer for women cyclists.
From cafe rides to Gran Fondos, the dhb Classic bib short is versatile enough for all your rides. With silicone leg grippers, flatlock stitching and a Cytech Elastic Interface ‘Giro Super Air' chamois, this is a perfect introduction to the world of bib shorts.
Great value bib shorts from Sportful, the Neo Bib Shorts pack a mighty performance punch at this price with a Comfort Pro seat pad and compression fabrics making them perfect for fast-paced training, racing, and sportives.
With their moisture-wicking fabric, eight-panel construction, and Castelli's proprietary KISS Air seat pad the Evoluzione is an entry-level bib short with features usually reserved for shorts twice the price. Great value comfort for all your riding.
Frequently asked questions about bib shorts
Can you machine wash cycling shorts?
Of course! Modern cycling shorts are machine washable.
Can you tumble dry cycling shorts?
Yes, but keep to a low setting, such as a sports or synthetics setting. The garment should still be slightly damp when you take it out before hanging until drying is complete.
How important is compression when buying cycling shorts?
The general rule is tighter is better - any loose material can start to rub and cause painful chafing, especially when out on a monster ride. Compression shorts are designed to aid blood flow and recovery, but not all cyclists agree that compression is key. It will largely depend on your own tastes on whether you want to go for a short with a lot of compression.
What do you wear under cycling and bib shorts?
Nothing! If you're wearing any sort of underwear under your cycling shorts, you're negating their benefit. You should have nothing against the skin except short, chamois, and some chamois cream if needed. Any extra layers or materials will cause chafing, which is exactly what the shorts are designed to counteract - and that means not even a g-string.