cycling bibs vs shorts

Cycling Bibs Vs Shorts: Which One Is Best?

by

Billy Hughes
August 26, 2021
154 Views

If you want to feel more comfortable when you’re in the bike saddle, you will have to consider whether you should wear cycling bibs or shorts.

They vary quite a bit in their designs. What are cycling bibs?

Bibs are cycling shorts that are held up with a bib (or braces) instead of an elastic waistband.

Cycling bibs and shorts both have their pros and cons. Let’s explore them so you can see which one is best for you. 

Cycling Shorts: What Are Their Pros And Cons?

pros of cycling shorts

Cycling shorts don’t make use of a bib design. They have elastic waistbands to keep them up and in place.

You can find cycling shorts that have different waistband designs, such as ones that sit on the hip bone.

Pros

  • Their waistband is made from higher-gauge material that prevents the shorts from moving down during pedaling.
  • By not having material that moves over the torso, back, and shoulders, cycling shorts will keep you cooler than bib shorts.
  • It’s no doubt much easier to go to the bathroom if you’re wearing cycling shorts instead of bibs. 

Cons

  • Cycling shorts can still creep down during a bike ride, even with their strong waistband. This means you’ll have to keep pulling the shorts up, which can be frustrating. 

Cycling Bibs: What Are The Pros And Cons?

bibs for woman

Cycling bibs have straps that go all the way from the top of the shorts over the shoulders so that they remain in place.

Here are some important features to know about them and how they work.

Pros

  • You don’t have to worry about an elastic waistband cutting into your stomach while you ride. This also won’t restrict your diaphragmatic breathing.
  • These bib shorts work well to stay in place, whether you’re sitting or standing. This prevents you from feeling uncomfortable because you won’t have to deal with annoying chafing that can distract you from your bike ride.
  • They have an extra layer of material that properly covers your lower back. This prevents your back from getting sunburned during long day rides.

Cons

  • It’s worth noting that the straps on bib shorts aren’t adjustable. This can cause them to become uncomfortable, especially because they can end up digging into your shoulders.
  • Bib shorts go all the way over your shoulders, which means that they are made with more material to cover your torso. This could make you feel hot. 
  • If you have to use the bathroom, getting out of bib shorts can make it a bit more complicated for both men and women than if you’re wearing cycling shorts. 

Cycling Bibs Vs Shorts: How Do They Compare? 

In the pros and cons section, we’ve already looked at how bibs and cycling shorts have very different designs.

But how do they compare when it comes to some specific features?

Friction

shorts and bibs compared

Cycling bibs are said to be comfortable and improve aerodynamics. This is because they prevent your legs from experiencing friction due to the repetitive movements involved in cycling. This also means you don’t have to deal with saddle sores as much.

By comparison, cycling shorts can lead to friction. If they’re too short, they can also cause the bike saddle to rub against your skin and cause discomfort.

Padding

Sitting on a bicycle seat for long periods of time can be very uncomfortable and lead to pain, so what’s great about bibs on the market is that they have what’s known as a chamois or shammy. This is basically crotch padding to make your seat feel much more cushioned.

If you want your cycling shorts to have greater padding for more comfortable bike rides, then you’ll need to check their lining.

But beware – if the lining is too padded, this will cause it to bunch up or cause chafing, two things that will get in the way of your cycling. Therefore, you can’t get much padding with cycling shorts.

Breathability

When cycling, you want to wear breathable fabrics to increase your comfort. Some people worry that cycling bibs aren’t comfortable because they are meant to be tight fitting. But, they’re made of a blend of breathable materials, such as polyester.

As for cycling shorts, you can also find them in breathable materials. Cotton is a good fabric because of how it’s light while also prevents sweat from making you feel uncomfortable.

Generally, though, most cycling shorts will be made out of nylon spandex. This is durable and stretchy, but it doesn’t manage to wick away moisture or allow the skin to breathe until it’s treated with a special finish or has been knitted in a certain way. This is why spandex is often blended with yarns, such as polyester, to increase breathability. 

Comfort

comfort of cycling bibs

Your waist can easily become uncomfortable during cycling because you’re leaning over your handlebars. The advantage of wearing a bib is that it doesn’t have an elasticated waistband that will dig into your skin and make it harder to breathe, or just make you feel uncomfortable, during tough turns on your bike.

In addition to this, bibs are comfortable because of how you can wear them without underwear. This means you don’t have to worry about them getting in the way.

As for cycling shorts, their elastic waistbands can chafe and irritate your skin, or restrict your breathing. They can also result in sweat accumulating around your waist because of the thick waistband. These factors are what make cycling shorts less comfortable.

But, it’s not just your waist that you have to consider! Both cycling shorts and bibs can have features that make them lack a bit of comfort. With shorts, they tend to ride down instead of staying in place, which can lead to discomfort. They can also chafe your skin. With bibs, on the other hand, their straps can dig into your shoulders. 

Temperature

While cycling bibs can be breathable, they can become quite hot. This is as a result of how they have more material that moves over your shoulders. If it’s summer, bibs can be especially uncomfortable.

Cycling shorts win when it comes to temperature control. This is because they are designed with a lower waist and a lack of straps, both of which contribute to making you feel cooler during your ride. 

Ease Of Use

ease of use

When you step off your bike, such as because you need to use the bathroom, a cycling bib can be frustrating to have to change out of. You have to take the whole thing off before you can use the bathroom, which might feel like a workout in itself!

By comparison, cycling shorts are much easier to change into and out of, and pull down when you need to use the bathroom.

Versatility

If you’re very tall, you might battle to find cycling bibs that fit you comfortably. Usually, bibs have awkward sizing on taller cyclists, which will make them feel too tight.

With cycling shorts, sizing issues are much easier to get around because you don’t have to consider their straps. 

Cost

Finally, you will need to factor in how much you’ll have to pay for cycling shorts or bibs. Generally, shorts will be cheaper than bibs.

So, Which Cycling Gear Should You Use? 

We’ve compared cycling shorts with bibs according to a variety of important features.

It’s clear to see that they both have their merits, so the one you choose will depend on what matters most to you. If you want to prevent your shorts from riding up, you should invest in bibs.

On the other hand, if what’s more important to you is temperature control, then you might want to trade in bibs for a good pair of shorts.

Consider how you like to ride and what gets in the way of your cycling – whether that’s chafing, temperature issues, or other things – so you can choose the best cycling gear that won’t let you down.

What To Look For In Cycling Bibs 

what to look for in cycling bibs

If you’ve decided to buy cycling bibs instead of shorts, here are some important features to look for.

  • Make sure the bibs fit tightly. You want the bibs to fit you as snugly as possible as this will ensure a more comfortable experience. Make sure the bibs cling to your legs so that they don’t move around and cause chafing.
  • The bibs should be made of breathable and moisture-wicking fabrics. This will increase your comfort level substantially when riding.
  • The straps need to be snug. They will go over your shoulders, but make sure they aren’t too tight. You want to reduce the risk of them digging into your skin.
  • Check for a bottom lining. Look for a sticky material or lining on the bottom of the legs so that you’ll be guaranteed that they won’t ride up.

Pro tip: When trying on bibs at the store, you should bend over in your usual cycling position so you can see how they fit. This is important because bibs are made for when you’re cycling instead of standing up. 

What To Look For In Cycling Shorts 

If you’ve decided to choose cycling shorts instead of bibs, there are also some important things to look for before you take them home.

  • Check the panels. The more panels that are built into the design of the cycling shorts, the better the shorts will be able to conform to your body.
  • Check the liner. Modern crotch liners are made of synthetic materials, which is good because it reduces irritation. A large, absorbent, and smooth liner should be moderately padded for increased comfort. Thick padding isn’t recommended as this will cause chafing.
  • Look at the leg length. The leg length is obviously one of the most important features to check. A shorter length is usually recommended for exercises such as spinning classes, but your shorts should never be so short that the saddle nose of the bike rubs against your bare skin. 
  • Consider the overall fit. When trying on cycling shorts, they should feel snug all over without being restrictive of your movements. Don’t be alarmed if your cycling shorts look a bit baggy around the bottom. This is because when you crouch forward on your bike they’ll be able to fit well around your body without being too tight.
  • Suss out the elastic waistband. The elastic around the waist of the shorts will keep them securely in place, but wider elastic is better because it doesn’t roll as much as thinner elastic. If the bike shorts have a drawstring, this can become uncomfortable when you’re leaning over the handlebars.

Related Questions 

What sizes do cycling shorts come in?

Cycling shorts don’t come in numbered sizes. You’ll likely find them in sizes such as small, medium, large, extra-large, and xx-large.

What’s the downside of a thicker chamois pad on bibs?

A thicker pad will retain more moisture, which is good but does come with a drawback: it will feel uncomfortable if you’re sweaty or very hot. 

Why are cycling shorts tight?

This is as a result of a better fit and less drag, which can reduce one’s aerodynamic ability. Tight shorts also don’t get in the way during cycling. 

Conclusion 

If you want to buy new cycling gear, you might wonder if you should purchase cycling bibs or shorts.

In this article, we’ve looked at how these compare, featuring their pros and cons. We’ve also seen how well they perform when it comes to different features you’ll want to look for in workout gear. 

Sources: 

Billy Hughes

Billy Hughes is a fitness trainer based out of New York. She has registered success in training clients at multiple fitness centers and thus aims to establish her module relevant to the post-pandemic era. Her space, Cerevellum.com, is an attempt towards encouraging and educating more people on the scope of indoor fitness. She believes the power of fitness can transform attitude, personality, and way of living. She also finds it rewarding to help people achieve their goals and make their lives better.