After a new set of bib shorts? Here's what to look for - and nine of our favourite shorts from £69.99 to £195
Bib shorts are an essential piece of summer kit for road cyclists. In fact, apart from cold winter days, when you might reach for tights, bib shorts are an essential piece of kit full stop and will get plenty of three-season use when paired with knee or leg warmers. Every cyclist’s wardrobe will have a set of comfy, go-to shorts.
And there’s no shortage of options on the market, with bib shorts to suit all budgets, riding styles and tastes. We’ve reviewed our fair share of shorts at RCUK over the years, including some of this summer’s stand-out kit from established brands like Rapha and Endura, and new players including Maratona and Kalf.
Now it’s time to deliver our verdict. What are the best cycling bib shorts of 2017? We’ve picked out nine of our favourites below but, first let’s take a look at what you need to consider when buying a new set of bib shorts.
What makes a good pair of bib shorts?
Regardless of your budget, if you’re going to splash out on a pair of bib shorts, you should have two main priorities – they have to fit well, and they have to be comfortable. That goes without saying.
We’re not going to tell you what fits you best, because every rider differs – and so do the shorts on offer, from those with a compressive, super-aero fit, to shorts with a more relaxed cut – but we can help you sort the wheat from the chaff. A good pair of bib shorts should have a close fit – not necessarily compressively so, but skintight enough to avoid unnecessary movement and rubbing. A multi-paneled design will help the shorts follow the contours of your body. If you can, try before you buy (or have the option to return), to get a feel for how a particular pair of shorts fit.
When it comes to the bib straps, they should distribute pressure evenly across the shoulders, and be wide enough to stop the material bunching up and digging in. You’ll often find bib straps are made from a mesh or a particularly lightweight fabric to help aid ventilation. You should also consider the fabric used on the rest of the shorts, too. Some shorts use lightweight, breathable fabrics designed to work better in warm conditions while, at the other end of the spectrum, you’ll find fleece-backed, Roubaix designs with a water resistant coating. Consider what you want from your shorts and when you’re most likely to use them.
As far as comfort is concerned, the chamois is the heart of any bib shorts. As you move up through any brand’s range, you will be investing more in the chamois – for that reason, we’d recommend spending as much as you can afford on a pair of shorts, to ensure you get the best pad possible. Pad choice is also particularly personal, but the chamois should confirm to the body and is designed to support the sit bones, so look for a multi-density design which offers more cushioning where it’s needed, and less padding where it’s not so vital and you don’t want the extra bulk.
Many pads will also offer some sort of ventilation, whether it’s through perforated foam or channels cut into the design. Either way, a high-wicking pad will help improve comfort by moving moisture away from the area, reducing the possibility of chafing or… a soggy chamois. There are plenty of techy pad options out there these days – we’ve tested pads with silicone inserts and size-specific designs recently, for example.
The leg grippers, meanwhile, provide the finishing touch. Again, manufacturers use a range of techniques to hold the shorts in place, from elasticated bands to silicone-lined fabrics, but the idea is to provide support without digging into the leg. We generally prefer a compressive silicone band as it provides a smooth transition from the shorts to the leg, while ensuring a secure-irritation free grip.
You can read our full buyer’s guide here if you want to find out more about what makes a great set of bib shorts – but, for now, let’s dive into some of our favourites for 2017.
The Flux Chevron bib shorts perform well above the £84.99 asking price, with the exclusive-to-Evans brand combining a simple but well-cushioned pad from respected supplier Elastic Interface, with a well-considered cut, supportive bib straps and lightweight lycra.
Devon-based Chapeau combine the brand’s boutique image with plenty of performance to help set these Club bib shorts apart from the pack. A multi-paneled design makes use of a gently compressive fabric for an excellent fit, without being restrictive.
The generous straps distribute pressure evenly too, and we found it hard to pick faults with the bib shorts when we had them in for testing. The navy blue colour pictured is bang on trend, but there are black and ‘carbon grey’ options, too. Yours for £119.99.
Another new British brand to launch this year, Maratona come to the table with these Pro Peloton bib shorts, which combine Italian fabrics with Belgian manufacturing, and the promise of high-performing garments over flamboyant designs.
They’re not quite as feature-packed as shorts from, say, Rapha, but they offer all the essentials you will ask for in a set of summer bibs – they’re lightweight, robust and comfortable.
On top of that, simple styling and a classic look stays true to Maratona’s ethos. Looks aside, however, and we were impressed with how these £110 shorts performed.
Stolen Goat believe the £115 Orkaan Weatherproof bib shorts are good enough to combat all conditions. And while we wouldn’t recommend them for warm weather (above about 15 degrees), we were hugely impressed at how they performed on cool, changeable rides – shedding water with ease and keeping the breeze under control.
Temperature regulation is looked after by a Roubaix lining, and the chamois pad boasts a sponge cell structure that offers superb comfort. It’s more padded than most, and that extra bulk may not suit all riders, but you do get a plush ride in return. These are great shorts for unpredictable UK conditions, particularly in spring and autumn.
Pactimo bill the Summit Stratos shorts as ‘12-hour bibs’ – and that translates to supreme comfort, whether you’re taking on an epic endurance challenge or just heading out for a quick training spin. We were thoroughly impressed when we reviewed these shorts.
There’s plenty packed into the shorts, including the ‘Cerami-K’ fabric, which contains ceramic particles to aid temperature regulation and apparently offer a little extra protection in the event of a crash – though fortunately we’ve not had to test the latter yet.
The fabric is also super-soft and offers plenty of stretch, while the leg grippers are just as we like them – grippy but unobtrusive. You’re paying a premium price at £175, but these shorts justify it if you want all-out endurance comfort.
These £110 Sportful shorts were originally designed for the Italian firm’s pro teams – this year Trek-Segafredo and Bahrain-Merida, and before that the Tinkoff squad – and offer pro-level performance at a fair price.
They are great all-rounders, with the lightweight fabric doing a fine job in 35c temperatures on one test ride in the Rocky Mountains, while the shorts offer an excellent anatomical fit. It’s definitely a close, pro-inspired cut, but one which works well. Sportful also say the textured fabric offers an aero advantage, but we can’t vouch for that.
We are also big fans of Sportful’s TotalComfort Pro pad. It’s not quite as plush as the original TC pad, but that’s perfect for riders who want a comfortable chamois without the extra bulk. It’s well vented, too.
Le Col is the brainchild of former domestic pro Yanto Barker, and the Pro bib shorts are the latest piece of bit of impressive kit to emerge from the fledgling brand.
The Pro Dolomiti chamois pad features silicone inserts, offering plenty of comfort and good levels of heat dissipation. And the overall construction, including a good fit across the shoulders from the perforated, flat-stitched straps, matches that performance, making these top-notch, premium bib shorts.
Rapha helped set the standard for premium bib shorts with the original Pro Team shorts and the second iteration refines that design to offer another smart option from the London-based brand.
Sure, they come at a high price – these are the most expensive shorts here – but Rapha help justify the £195 price tag with a Cytech chamois pad, subtle but stylish looks and textured print on the legs.
The updated Cytech chamois continues to offer a luxurious ride, but now features a dual-density design linked to the size of the shorts.
Otherwise, the shorts are made from a lightweight but supportive fabric, while the wide bib straps continue the quality theme. They are also now available in a range of five colours, from a versatile all-black option to shorts with pink print and matching bib straps.
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