Cycling Shorts – Bibs or Not?

If you’re in the market for cycling shorts, you may have seen that there are two types to choose from – regular and bibs.  I know there are many riders out there who ride regular shorts and keep wondering if they should try bibs. As you may know, bib shorts simply add suspenders to a regular pair.  The suspenders are integrated into the short and are not removable.  Some bibs use a similar lycra fabric for the suspenders, and others use a different fabric like a mesh.  As a result, bib shorts typically rise up a little higher on the waist than a regular short and have no waistband or drawstring.  New riders tend to buy regular cycling shorts since the leotard look of bibs can be a little intimidating.

I own a collection of both types, and usually gravitate towards the bibs given the choice in my clean clothing drawer.  So why?  Well, bib shorts offer more comfort around the waist. With regular shorts, I need to tie up the drawstring well to prevent them from slipping down a bit.  With bibs, you never need to reach back and hike them up. This in turn prevents any skin from showing. In the wrong combination of regular shorts and jersey, a little skin can show at the back waistline.

Bib shorts, however, do take some adjustment to get used to the straps.  I’ve found that they disappear from thought after a few rides acclimating to them.  Some models can also collect sweat down at the stomach where the lycra rises higher than a regular short.  For this reason, there are some brands that have a lower scoop in the front to prevent this.  I’ve also found this really only occurs in my higher waisted bibs in hot humid situations where evaporation is low.

Most pro cyclists wear bib shorts, and many wear a base wicking shirt under the bibs even in hot weather.  This is a personal preference you should give a try.  Nevertheless, bib shorts without a top jersey is not a good look and best left for the dressing room.  Once your jersey is on it’s very difficult to determine if you’re wearing bibs or regular shorts.

For women, most shorts are the regular variety for obvious reasons of strap interference.  Nevertheless, there are some women who still like to use bibs shorts, and there are brands that have wide straps.  However many premium brands, like Castelli, Assos, Santini, and Hincapie to name a few,  have designed bib shorts for women with a clever center front strap – just be prepared for a premium price. So the choice of shorts is always a personal one, but I urge anyone who hasn’t tried bibs yet to give them a spin.

2 Responses
  1. Blake

    Thanks for the review. I ordered my first pair of bib shorts recently & am awaiting their arrival. The shorts I have are all very comfortable even after longer rides. Im hoping the bibs will be the same comfort. I didn’t purchase a high end pair, but the pad looks to be decent. If I like them, I’ll probably invest in a higher quality next time.

  2. Fred

    Thanks for the clarification for us roadie newbs. Until reading this, I thought the bib style were just for pros, pro-wannabes, and cyclists with fat guts that tend to push down regular shorts.