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.
The best winter bib tights at Wiggle
For early winter
When the mercury starts to drop and it's too cool for shorts but not cold enough for anything too thick or heavy, here are our favourite bib tights.
For when the weather's starting to change but you still need to get those training miles in, these lightweight bib tights have a pro-level fit that will keep you riding like it's still summer.
Different fabrics have been specifically selected to provide warmth, support and moisture-wicking exactly where it is needed. On the outer panels, a tightly woven water-resistant fabric protects key muscle groups whilst a lighter fabric on the lower leg feels non-restrictive but still protective.
Different pads on the two versions have been designed specifically for men and women for comfort even on rides of over seven hours.
Castelli has taken the anatomic high-performance cut from the fan favourite Free Aero Race bib short, as worn by Ineos, and updated it for those days when the weather is just a bit too chilly for bare legs.
Nano Flex Light fabric below the knees repels light rain and road spray whilst Thermoflex, which is soft and fleecy against the skin, keeps the knees and thighs insulated against the cold
Your new go-to everyday tights in the changing seasons. The Aeron Equinox range was designed specifically to help you to enjoy all that spring and autumn have to offer.
Three different performance fabrics are deployed exactly where they're needed so you get a perfect balance between warmth, comfort and freedom of movement.
As you would expect from dhb, the women's tights feature all the great technologies as the men's but with a women's specific fit and chamois - no 'shrink and pink' here.
For all winter
Our pick of the most versatile tights that will get you through most of the season. If we were only allowed one pair of tights this winter, we would be more than happy with any of these.
Keep those legs spinning all through winter with the best-selling Aeron FLT Roubaix tights. Italian Roubaix brushed fabric will keep your legs oh-so cosy whilst a mesh back panel allows moisture to escape.
The real hard-core winter riders will appreciate the high-end pad that has been designed to keep you sitting pretty for over seven hours. As the daylight fades, you'll also be reassured by the prominently placed reflective inserts which will make you hard to miss.
These versatile tights from premium Italian brand Castelli will keep those legs spinning in all but the most arctic of conditions.
When the clouds roll in, you'll be able to keep rolling along in confidence thanks to the nanotechnology microfilament mechanical water repellent finish combined with a short-chain chemical DWR finish which gives you impressive water resistance for such a non-restrictive fabric.
These super-soft bibs use ethically-sourced wool from Merino Sheep which is particularly suited to sportswear, thanks to its super-fine texture and wicking and insulating properties.
Combined with polyester and elastane and treated with DWR for water repellency, dhb has taken all the best bits about Merino and made it even better. With the addition of a high-end Elastic Interface® Paris HP men’s chamois, you'll feel a real touch of luxury whenever you ride, whatever the weather.
For deep winter
These are the tights for the real hard-core cyclists. The ones who look out the window at the freezing rain and howling wind, smile, then face it all head-on.
Smart panelling gives you all the protection of your favourite softshell jacket without any bulk or restriction. Assos' RX Heavy fabric, used wherever you need extra warmth, has an insulating brushed back. ECO water–repellent treatment keeps freezing rain and sleet from seeping in.
The backs of the legs are generally out of the brunt of the weather so a lighter-weight fabric is used to prevent overheating and allow easy pedalling.
As many outdoor lovers know, Gore has built a solid reputation on engineering all-weather fabrics that really work. It's why so many other brands use their fabrics for their own collections.
Not only are these insulating tights ergonomically designed for complete freedom of movement, but they also feature the best weather protection Gore has to offer where you need it most. We think the GORE® WINDSTOPPER® Cup Technology is a nice touch, keeping your 'nether-regions' ultra-cosy.
It's a cliché, but we know winter miles make summer smiles and when you need to stay ahead of the game even as temperatures head towards zero, these race-fit tights will help you keep the momentum through the worst of the weather.
Polartec® Windbloc® technology provides windproofing and water resistance, protecting key muscle groups from the chill and keeping you warm and dry.