Like settling on a saddle, finding the best bib shorts for your anatomy can involve some trial and error. Every rider is different, and what works for a pro won’t necessarily suit your down below.
That said, there is a general rule of thumb – whatever you’ve set aside for a pair of bib shorts, spend more. Yes, cycling is already an expensive pursuit (and if you’re reading Rouleur Desire, you’re a fan of the finer things in life) but the humble bib short is where you’ll see the biggest difference in your on-bike attire when it comes to money.
Scrimp and you’ll be left with braces that go baggy after the first wash and a sub-par chamois that will have you wincing every time you saddle up.
Each of the pairs in our best bib shorts round-up are truly a cut above the rest, providing comfort and support where you need it and little else where you don’t.
£194, Buy from Ashmei
Not content with what was on the market, UK-based brand Ashmei went back to the drawing board and created a unique fabric that is woven rather than knitted. The result is a bib short that flexes with you, giving the full range of movement required when you suddenly jump out of the saddle to break away from the chasing pack on a climb (or beat a traffic light before it goes red).
Water and wind-resistant, they’re a three-season set that can be worn long into winter. Finished with laser-cut leg cuffs and packing a high-density foam chamois, they have all the ingredients to become a wardrobe staple.
Pas Normal Studios Mechanism Bib Shorts
It’s hard to distinguish one set of bib shorts from another once on – nine times out of ten they’re black, and ten times out of ten they’ve got two legs. But there’s something about Pas Normal Studios’ output that sets it apart in the style department.
The brainchild of Karl-Oskar Olsen – the man behind Danish fashion label Wood Wood – PNS’ latest release, the Mechanism, oozes cool from their low-profile shoulder straps down to thick elastic gripper band. Available in six colours, including a lovely light olive, they’re ones for those who like to break from the mould.
Le Col Pro Bib Shorts
£170, Buy from Le Col
Le Col’s kit is developed in conjunction with the WorldTour teams that the British brand sponsors, meaning you can be sure that you’re buying garments made to the very highest standards. The Pro Bib Shorts are the perfect all-rounder, designed for long days in the saddle but without compromising on aerodynamics or performance. Best suited to the summer months, the shorts are made from lightweight fabrics which encourage air circulation and breathability on hot days.
The bib shorts have a compressive fit which Le Col claims helps with recovery as well as aerodynamics, aiding oxygen flow to core muscle groups. You only have to look at the recent performances of BORA-Hansgrohe, Le Col’s sponsored men’s WorldTour team, and you’d be convinced that there’s merit to this claim, with Jai Hindley most recently wearing these bib shorts to victory in the Giro d’Italia. If they’re good enough for the maglia rosa, they’re good enough for us.
Café Du Cycliste Mathilde
If you’ve been around cycling long enough, there’s a good chance you’ll have flirted with the idea of an audax (but that’s likely as far as you’ve gone). Although most sit around the 200km mark, the long-distance events can easily stretch into four figures. So when a brand says its bib short are designed for such an endeavour, it’s only right that its bold claims are put under the microscope.
While we didn’t get too forensic with our testing (see the point above about flirting but never actually committing), the Mathilde from Café Du Cycliste stood up to the rigours of a metric century, no questions asked. Its chamois has density where you need it and a firmness that acts as a barrier between posterior and perch on those draining endurance rides. Yes, they’re pricey, but they can make all the difference when going the distance.
£170, Buy from Rapha
Rapha revolutionised the bib short chamois more than 15 years ago, and while there are now a lot more competitors vying for the prized place between your backside and bike, it’s hard to argue with a classic.
Although too thick for some, at its densest, Rapha’s chamois resembles a doorstop compared to other brands’ paper-thin offerings. It doesn’t just dine out on being the biggest though, and each size has its own specially crafted layered design.
Packaged up in a super soft Lycra short and comfortable lightweight upper, there’s a reason why it’s a cult classic.
MAAP Pro Bib 2.0
£235, Buy from MAAP
MAAP was popularised in the UK thanks to the cross-country exploits of Tom Pidcock back before he joined the Ineos behemoth. Since then, the Aussie export has solidified its position as the brand to own thanks to a combination of streetwear collabs and some subtle-yet-sublime basics.
Its second stab at its pro bib short manages to walk the tightrope between aero-efficiency and comfort well. Quick-drying, breathable and with UPF 50+ protection to boot, those hip young things might just be on to something.
TwentyOne Factory Lightweight
€145, Buy from TwentyOne
Bib shorts are designed to fit your form, but it’s easy to feel like the reverse is true when donning the most aero sets around. Rather than worrying about drag and watts saved, Barcelona-based outfit TwentyOne has focused on the one thing that matters most to the majority – comfort.
The shorts still hold your thighs close, but it's more of a warm embrace than a stranglehold. The Gallio chamois pad is perfect for hard training rides and easy spins alike, and the shoulder straps are so soft you could be forgiven for thinking you’re wearing a set of waist shorts.