Keeping up your riding in the off-season months of autumn and winter can be a challenge, but it is a lot easier if you're warm and comfortable. Keep your legs protected in any weather by choosing the right cycling tights. We look at some of the options.
Why do I need bib tights?
If you want to keep the pedals turning through winter, a decent pair of bib tights will keep you warm, dry and comfortable.
For anybody who suffers from knee pain, keeping the cold at bay also reduces the wear and tear on joints so you can enjoy cycling for longer throughout the year.
With the right pair of bib tights, you can take on whatever winter throws at you.
What should I look for when I buy bib tights?
Depending on the time of year and conditions you'll be riding in, your requirements might be slightly different. Advances in fabric technology and sportswear design mean that it's easy to find a pair of bib tights that are perfect for your ride.
Here are the key features that you should think about.
Weather-proofing on bib tights varies widely so it's important to consider how far into winter you intend to ride. More hard-core weather-proofing often means bulkier fabrics so cycle kit manufactures will often include pre-shaped knees and lighter fabrics at the back of the leg to strike a balance between protection, freedom of movement and breathability.
Fabric technologies created for a higher level of windproofing and water resistance such as Polartec® Windbloc® and GORE® WINSTOPPER® are often applied only to areas where there's a greater need for protection or higher risk from road spray soaking through. In other areas, breathability and wicking qualities are prioritised to prevent overheating and let moisture escape, which would otherwise leave you feeling chilly and uncomfortable.
As well as wind protection, many winter bibs also use insulating fabric, often referred to as 'Roubaix.' The term, borrowed from a classic bike race with historically foul weather, is used for fabric that is smooth on the outside but has a brushed, fleecy surface inside which traps warm air against the skin.
Construction and fit
Lighter-weight bib shorts for warmer days in spring and autumn are normally very similar to bib shorts in their construction, with the main difference being the amount of coverage on the leg.
Winter tights designed for colder days are normally higher cut on the body and some styles even look like all-in-one tights with sleeveless base-layer attached. The higher the cut, the better protected you'll be from the elements as you'll be blocking those chilly drafts and keeping the warmth trapped in.
To facilitate 'nature breaks' when you might not necessarily want to strip off all your warm layers, most high-fronted bib tights will feature some sort of 'easy access' provision. Male riders should look for a zippered front while women can choose from different arrangements of zips, clasps and 'drop seat' designs that vary by the manufacturer.
As well as a higher-cut body, another insulating feature is narrow, snug ankles. If you're wearing winter boots or shoe covers, you can tuck your tights in to keep the cold air and rain out. To make it easy to take your tights on and off, especially with cold hands, there's normally a zip at the back of the leg. Alternatively, some manufactures add a stirrup like the ones you find on ski pants to keep those ankles cosy.
Pad or no pad?
Although it's uncommon, it's worth mentioning that some winter tights are made with no pad. There are two main reasons why this might suit you. One is the cost. High-end pads can push the price up so if you have invested in a great pair of shorts with the perfect pad, you might prefer to wear those through winter with tights over the top for warmth.
The second reason is if you're commuting or training every day. Layering padless tights over shorts will allow you to get more wears out of your tights between washes.
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