A decent pair of bibs will be your battle-hardened friend for interval sets and endurance sessions on the bike and turbo. But which pair of bib shorts is best and offers the best comfort and ventilation for cycling? We review some of the best bib cycling shorts on the market today.
Yes, when worn alone they look like a 1980s wrestling outfit, but a pair of bib-shorts are one of the key training investments a triathlete can make. Due to their durability and versatility for turbo training and outdoor bike sets of every type, their cost-per-wear ratio is one of the lowest in the tri wardrobe.
What should you look for in a pair of bib shorts?
While they all look fairly similar, with an array of fabric types, pad options and strap combinations, there are subtle differences to look out for when buying your bibs.
Fit, as ever, is key and the overall sizing should be snug yet comfortable in the pedalling position and without any movement of chamois pad, so study the sizing chart. The pad size and thickness of the bibs on test here all vary.
Chamois type can be a personal thing that depends on your size, your saddle type and, yes, how hardened your bottom is to extended sojourns on the bike, so studying the pad is essential. Happily for those who suffer from a sore bottom, pad technology has developed hugely in recent times, something evident in the multidensity and largely spongy options on test here.
Also worth thinking about is your intended use for the bibshorts. Some brands will offer thicker winter bibs, while others have mesh designs for summer riding and intense sets in the conservatory on Zwift. Here we’ll assess the range of fabrics, strap designs and the finishing of the six men’s and women’s bibs on test in a bid to find the next pair for you.
Best men’s bib shorts
Craft Essence bib shorts
Swedish brand Craft has been bubbling under in tri for many years without gaining a major presence, with the understated allblack Essence standing in contrast to the overly-colourful designs of their outer layer items.
They’re the lightest bibs on test (158g) due to a far sleeker pad that wouldn’t look out of place in a tri-suit; good for a short brick run after cycling, less so for reducing perineum pain at the end of those big weekend rides.
The recycled polyamide wins eco points, as do the quality grippers and reflective elements, while the sizeable mesh back panel aids breathability. The straps do have a tendency to twist a little and worth noting is that the Essence are the only bibs here to show signs of wear at the end of the test period, with evident bobbling on the outer of the bottom.
Verdict: Lightweight and breathable for summer sets, but durability and strap concerns
Altura Endurance bib shorts
The Endurance have been designed in collaboration with Mark Beaumont, the round-the-world-record-holder cyclist who knows a thing or two about sustained bib-short use.
So it’s of no surprise that comfort is the MO over vast swathes of open mesh or any aerodynamic flourishes, with the sizeable straps and thicker materials taking the overall weight to 211g (we’d use these more for spring/autumn riding). Those straps did feel a little loose, but a bridge between the two straps on the back largely keeps them in place.
For a £90 pair of bibs, the Elastic Interface pad seems a touch basic compared to the techier options here, but its dual-density foam and wide coverage were ample for extended summer rides. The leg grippers are subtle yet effective, with silicone dots and a sticky hem to help stay in place.
Verdict: Comfy and quality construction, but a higher price and weight
Huub Core 3 bib shorts
The Core 3 (189g) are proof that not all threequels are a case of diminishing returns (hello The Hangover Part III), and stand as continued evidence that Huub knows what they’re doing in cycling.
They instantly feel the classiest on test here, with the smooth and broad leg bands remaining irritation-free yet gently clasping our legs, while the largely flatlock seams within proved trouble-free.
We battled the hills of Burrington Combe in the Mendips on the hottest day of the year in these, yet the mesh back and quick-drying chamois ensured we were far from a sweaty mess.
That pad is plump enough for big rides and the straps stay free from twisting. We can have sizing issues with Huub and often size up, but the Core 3 felt about right. The result is a winning pair of bibs.
Verdict: Slick, smooth and supportive; a fine set of bibs from one of tri’s top brands.
Sundried Cadence Pro bib shorts
Sundried tops the weight table on test, with a 214g mass largely due to a sizeable and tech-laden chamois that comes complete with gel inserts and plenty of plumpness. It’s probably our pick for softening the blow of pothole-strewn roads, but we did have a spot of chafing at the very top of the inner thighs from a seam ridge that circumnavigates the pad.
Elsewhere, the ribbed fabric offers an attempt at aerodynamics (albeit without any drag-saving claims or wind-tunnel evidence), while the mesh strap and sizeable back panel were welcome in July’s heatwave.
We liked that Sundried has added colour to the usual black on black of bib aesthetics. Chapeau also to the smooth materials, Sundried’s ethical policies and some of the best silicon leg grippers on test.
Verdict: Classy materials and design, but a touch of inner thigh chafing
Van Rysel Racer bib shorts
Van Rysel are Decathlon’s higher-end in-house cycling brand. Personally, we’ve yet to find a cycling product of Van Rysel’s that’s left us underwhelmed and the Racer continues the impressive tech/affordable price combo.
For summer sessions, spin classes and turbo efforts, these are hard to fault, with the ventilated design and mesh panels offering the best breathability. In fact, there might be too much mesh on display as we felt a centimetre or two of our side bottom was a little too visible.
The mid-table weight of 188g stems from the sizeable Elastic Interface pad, which isn’t as techy as the Huub or Sundried, but the foam inserts and broad coverage offer enough cushion for long sessions. The straps, while a little coarse, continue the breathable, open-mesh theme. The sticky leg grippers are also effective.
Verdict: Top pick for heatwaves and high-intensity turbo sets; impressed again by this brand
Raceskin Elite bib shorts
Raceskin are celebrated for their custom tri kit and the multisport influence lives on in the Elite bibs. Alongside the Craft, these have the slimmest pad and lowest weight (175g), making these the bibs to go for if you fancy a cheeky brick run after your bike session.
The fabric composition also seems familiar from a number of tri-suits that we’ve tested. That ‘Elite’ tag is probably a bit of a stretch as we’d rate these midpack; there are other pairs here with pads we’d prefer for long-distance ventures and the grippers are also less techy and graceful than its rivals (white grippers also raise concerns as we’ve stained plenty of these with oil).
Yet we do like the mesh design of the straps and the internal flatlock seams; despite an abundance of these around the nether regions, we managed to stay irritation-free.
Verdict: Comfy enough and lean, but there are better options here for longer sets
Altura Firestorm bib shorts
The Firestorm bibs cost at least half the price of two other test pairs, so we were expecting compromises. Yet we’re happy to report there aren’t many, finding them comfortable and functional for long sessions. The main weakness is the front panel, which is a touch loose and shapeless, and bunched up under our jersey.
Altura have stitched a flimsier mesh in this area, rather than using the same material as the leg section, which is arguably more breathable but doesn’t hold them in place quite as well. The chunky straps are excellent and sit very well underneath a jersey without chafing, and Altura’s ‘Stealth’ padding provides adequate comfort on both the road and turbo.
The legs and particularly the grippers are too tight for our liking, but we’ll put this down to personal preference and being on the larger side of a medium according to the size guide.
Verdict: A couple of compromises for the price but a functional and comfortable pair of bib shorts
Huub Aventus bib shorts
Huub say their premium cycling shorts took a year to develop alongside the rest of the Aventus range, consulting pro cyclists to source the best fabrics for fit, comfort and aerodynamics. The result is a highly breathable set of shorts with a mesh section at the rear for extra cooling, and wide elastic leg grippers that provide just the right amount of tension.
Out on the road they kept us cool and comfy in hot weather, with well-integrated padding that provides plenty of support without being bulky. They also stayed taut on the drops and reaching for the aerobars, without creasing under our jersey.
A low point for us was the straps, which are vented and largely unobtrusive, but rather flimsy and had a tendency to get twisted. There’s nothing fancy when it comes to design, with just some white mesh and reflective logos on the lower legs on an otherwise black canvas.
Verdict: Straps could do with tweaking, but high quality and comfort elsewhere
Buy from Wiggle
Santini Tono Studio bib shorts
Available in four colours to match your favourite jersey, Santini promise their high-end Tono Studio bibs ‘take comfort to new levels’. The ‘Studio’ part of the name refers to their suitability for indoor riding thanks to the superior breathability and moisture-wicking.
The cut on the front is quite low and forgoes any mesh in this area by sticking with the very comfy fabric found on the leg panels. The GITevo chamois pad is luxuriously soft and comfortable, with some inserts punched in for extra ventilation.
The huge leg grippers feature honeycomb-shaped silicon for a perfect thigh-hugging fit without being restrictive, while the straps are perfectly integrated and join up to a mesh section at the back. These are the priciest bibs here, and for good reason, as the superior quality will pay you back with miles of comfort – indoors and out – if you make the investment.
Verdict: A high price but luxurious and superior bibs that excel in both indoor and outdoor sessions
Sundried Stealth bib shorts
These unisex shorts from Sundried are all black apart from two small logos, with stealthy looks to match the stealthy pocket on the right leg. While it’s unlikely to be a deal breaker, the pocket is handy if you want somewhere more convenient than rear jersey pockets to house some nutrition (although most triathletes will have a top-tube pouch for accessible storage).
The leg grippers are big and comfy with a snug fit, while the material is breathable for indoor rides and warm weather. The straps are almost identical to those on Huub’s and, likewise, we’d prefer them to be a more robust to prevent twisting.
While the gel padding is light and comfy, towards the rear it’s not stitched down as well on the outer edges as the others on test, which led to slight irritation. Also questionable is the vinyl lettering on the back, which started to peel away after three washes. sundried.com
Verdict: Practical and mostly well made, but with some discomfort in the chamois
Buy from Sundried
Best women’s bib shorts
Trimtex Aero 2 bib shorts
Trimtex’s premium bib-shorts aim to be as aero as possible by using wind-tunnel fabrics. As such, they favour an extreme fit, so prepare to size up if you prefer something looser.
The legs are longer than some of the others on test, too, but this is deliberate to increase the aerodynamic properties, while the wide and soft leg grippers are comfortable and prevent any rolling-up or sausage-legs. A slight concern is the side panels, which become slightly see-through when stretched, but the front and rear panels provide sufficient cover to maintain modesty.
Ideal for hotter climes, these bibs are breathable and moisture wicks away easily. And though the pad is quite thick, it didn’t detract from on-the-fly comfort. The straps were also barely noticeable during the ride, which is exactly what you want.
Verdict: If marginal gains are important to you, then these premium bibs are ideal
Le Col Hors Categorie II bib shorts
These Le Col bibs are simply gorgeous! They’re true to size (UK12 in a size medium), beautifully crafted and weigh only 160g. The fabric manages to combine supreme softness with great compression, while the deep leg grippers ensure the shorts stay in place but also minimise sausage-leg.
Up top, the stylish wide suspender straps are comfortable and remain in place while cycling, with the fit across the tummy feeling perfect. Those riding in hotter climes will also appreciate the mesh panel along the back, which helped keep us cool.
Now to the all important pad: the Dolomiti Gel felt like a favourite pillow and was by far the most comfortable on test; we could’ve ridden for hours in these shorts, over all manner of terrain. A couple of hi-viz flashes on the rear of the legs complete what, for us, is a near-perfect pair of bibs.
Verdict: A fantastic and very stylish all-rounder making this bib set the top contender
Giro Chrono Expert Halter bib shorts
Giro claim that with their revolutionary halter-neck design, you don’t need to be Houdini if you need a quick stop; and they were right, making pit stops a quick-and-easy breeze. More importantly, though, the mesh halter was also exceedingly comfortable and breathable, and even has a clever pocket integrated into the back.
True to size, the bibs come in Renew series eco fabric and feel both soft and compressive. And although the gripper band is narrower than others on test, our leg hems remained firmly in place for the ride. The only downfall was the chamois pad, which was slightly too wide and bulky.
That being said, our derriere remained happy throughout testing. Coming in two colour options, these versatile bibs also offer a 60-day guarantee to see you well into autumn.
Verdict: An innovative design that also proved a versatile all-rounder at a decent price
Huub Kaleidoscope bib shorts
These colourful new bibs from Huub fit the style brief if you like standing out from the crowd, and there’s a matching jersey available too (reviewed in issue 394). First to mention is that these were tested by a different reviewer, as the size large were far too uncomfortably tight on the legs, despite a great fit elsewhere.
For our UK8 tester, a size medium had a comfortable fit (though according to the chart they should have been a small), with the wide and secure, aero ribbed leg grippers still being a touch tight but not to the detriment of comfort.
Wide stretchy straps sit comfortably over the chest and the perforated back is quick-drying and light. The stretchy Lycra material along the legs has a slight sheen to it and feels smooth and aero on the fly. Decidedly for long-distances, the chamois is a chunk, but protected our bottom well.
Verdict: Quality components, just not quite there with the delivery; sizing up recommended
Santini Redux Instinto bib shorts
While the fabric isn’t as soft as others here, the design of these Santini bibs is extremely flattering and stylish. Other plus points: the raw-cut legs and honeycomb gripper ensured no sausageleg sitch and stayed in place throughout our test rides; the addition of hi-viz strips on both legs for low-visibility conditions was a nice touch; and the raw-cut chest straps were the most comfortable on test, meaning our tummy bulge felt neatly secured.
The C3W chamois incorporates a soft protection shell with antibacterial and transpiring microfibre, but the pad felt rather thin and after half an hour on a XC bike trail, our seat bones started to protest.
Described as ‘minimalist aero bibs’, these are definitely made for racing short TTs and criteriums, rather than adventuring along longer bumpy trails. They also come with a hefty price tag.
Verdict: A flattering pair of bibs but the thinner pad stops it from scoring higher
Ale R-EV1 GT 2.0 bib shorts
The Ale bibs, which come in a range of vibrant colours, are snug but true to size, and weigh in at only 145g. Various fabrics are used in the construction (Ale claims this provides aerodynamic advantages) and while the side panels are a little seethrough, the front and rear ones are totally discreet.
The minimalist wide bib straps are well designed with added silicon grippers on the front, which meant they didn’t budge and kept us cool on the fly. The wide, soft leg grippers minimise leg bulges, and Ale have very cleverly incorporated a tiny polka dot reflective design into them, making these bibs the most visible on test in low-lit conditions – a great safety feature!
The chamois pad is more basic than others on test, but still provided a comfortable ride on a gravel trail. All in all, a really good pair of bib shorts at a great price.
Verdict: A good-value, solid set of bibs; extra points for subtle but effective safety feature design