Bib shorts use a pair of shoulder straps to hold them in place while you’re hunched over the handlebars, with a thick pad to soak up bumps and vibrations from your saddle.
Some include extras such as pockets and reflective patches, but the basic design is pretty much the same whichever pair you buy. There’s a huge range of prices, depending on the materials used and the quality of the seat pad (also known as the chamois), and you will find some manufacturers offer a range of pad widths so you can find one that suits you best – they usually have a measuring guide on their website.
Finding the pad design that suits you best can be a case of trial and error. We’ve tried to offer some guidance, although it’s always worth comparing notes with fellow riders to find out their favourites in terms of thickness and firmness.
We’ve put a range of styles to the test on everything from short commutes to multi-hour hard rides. They come from a wide selection of brands too, with price tags from bargain to boutique.
A few of our suggestions are aimed at summer riding, but some of the more substantial pairs could be worn all year round when teamed with a pair of decent leg warmers.
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Kalas passion Z1
Aimed at the performance-orientated rider, this smart pair of bibs from Kalas has been developed in conjunction with professional racing teams. There’s a compressive feel to the fabric that will make even weekend warriors feel like a Tour de France champion. Comfortable bib sections and wide gripper bands on the legs mean they stay in place really well. The foam pad is relatively thick and proved comfortable even on long rides. We’re fans of the subtle hexagonal pattern on the material, and you can buy them in black and classy navy.
Kalas also include a laundry bag with the bibs, to reduce wear from washing and extend their life. Yes, these shorts are relatively expensive, but they’re very comfortable, look great and should last a long time.
This pair was a pleasant surprise. If you’re looking for shorts to use on shorter rides – or maybe for weekday commuting – we don’t think you’ll be disappointed. They look a lot more expensive than their £70 price tag suggests, with a contrasting white mesh bib section and classy, fluted fabric used on the main part of the legs. The fit is a little more relaxed than some more expensive brands, but they are certainly not baggy. The “force” gel seat pad is nice and comfortable and didn’t give us any problems on two-hour rides.
There’s something a bit fishy about this pair – but in a good way. Some of the fabric began life as old nets and other bits of plastic waste hauled out of the ocean, hence the “Recycled From The Sea” label. Even the Italian-made seat pad incorporates recycled materials. We like the creamy coloured shoulder straps which give the shorts a real quality look, and the nice long cuffs on the legs. Look out for Blackmore’s little duck logo – a nod to the pond at the firm’s founders’ favourite cycling destination.
Lots of people prefer to ride in T-shirts rather than clingy Lycra tops, especially when heading off road – but where do you stash bits and bobs such as your phone? This cracking pair solves that dilemma by having four pockets – two on the legs and two tucked away at the back. They are beautifully stitched together from Italian fabrics, with nice broad leg grippers and a comfy “eight-hour” pad made from recycled materials. Whether you are an adventurer or a commuter, you’ll be delighted with them.
Le Col pro bib
Le Col claim these are the fastest bibs in their range – they are certainly the brand’s most popular. We’ve always liked the classy looks and quality of Le Col kit. It’s made to last and is designed with input from founder (and former racer) Yanto Barker.
This pair is race oriented, with subtle black logos that won’t clash with your favourite jerseys. We thought the broad leg grippers were great, as was the seat pad which felt firm but never caused any problems during many miles on the road. They are available in black or navy and white colourways, with the black versions looking particularly stealthy.
Maap team bib evo
Designed in Australia and stitched together in Italy, this gorgeous pair in olive green makes a stylish change, although black and blue are available too. They don’t just look good, they fit well too, with a nicely compressive fit that will make you feel faster, even if your legs disagree. There are broad laser-cut leg cuffs with silicone grippers to stop them from riding up when pedalling hard, and those broad bibs don’t cut into your shoulders either. The 3D thermo-moulded seat pad is firm but very comfortable, with pressure-relieving channels that will see you sitting pretty even after six-hour rides.
Santini karma delta
On this Italian pair, the bibs section is super breathable thanks to the use of Polartec’s clever “delta” fabric. It does a great job of wicking away sweat, which you will appreciate when riding hard in the hills over the summer. The main leg sections use compressive fabric that can make almost any rider’s legs looked extra toned. There’s a very good seat pad and nicely grippy leg cuffs too – they even come in blue or grey along with the standard black. Buy them if you want a great-performing pair with understated looks.
Dhb aeron ultra
If you’re hoping for a spot of bikepacking this summer, the side pocket in this pair is a great place to store any extra tools or snacks you might need. We tried them out on a warm day and really appreciated the lightweight mesh bibs, which did a good job of wicking away sweat. The pad is quite firm but we still found it really comfortable on long rides, even in bad weather. They are not as tight as some of the others we tested, but that’s not always a bad thing on longer stints. The shorts also dry rapidly and have an anti-bacterial treatment, making them ideally suited to adventures.
Rapha pro team training
This understated pair is ideal for ticking off the fast training miles in spring and summer. You get the same great pad found in the more expensive pro team bib shorts, but Rapha has opted for a more relaxed bib system which we really liked. You also get chunky silicone grippers on the thighs to keep them locked in place. If you’re environmentally conscious, it’s good to know that they are made from 74 per cent recycled nylon – and if you happen to damage them in a crash, Rapha will repair them for free.
Assos mille GTS
Assos was a boutique cycling brand before anyone had even invented the phrase – it has been making kit since the 1970s. Those years of experience have been channelled into this smart pair designed for long days in the saddle. We loved the comfort of the pad and the shorts are just compressive enough that they stay in place really well, with nice thick grippers that also keep them from riding up. The straps cross over on the back, helping to remove any potential pressure points. They’re quite expensive, but Assos guarantees them for two years.
The verdict: Men’s cycling bib shorts
Bib shorts are one of those bits of biking kit where the more you pay, the better the product tends to be. But you shop around and don’t do hundreds of miles a week, it’s still possible to find a perfectly good pair for under £100 – as the pairs from Blackmore, Sundried and Dhb prove. Our best buy from Kalas, however, offers good looks and great performance at a price that won’t break the bank.
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For more cycling favourites read our guide to the 8 best cycling water bottles for staying hydrated on every ride
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