What to Look for in Cycling Bibs

What to Look for in Cycling Bibs


I’ve learned the hard way that a good chamois can make or break a ride. Originally made from leather, today’s chamois come in a variety of padding made from foam and gels with variable quality and durability. There’s usually a trade-off in chamois and saddle padding, with the current bias being for more padding and less saddle.

The best of the best (Assos, Rapha, and Café du Cycliste) use a third-party chamois that has built an empire entirely around comfort and durability. Brands engineer these pads to reduce padding bulk and increase breathability. This reduces moisture and chafing.

Good chamois pads are contoured with subtle creases to wrap the saddle and anatomy without bunching. Chamois adhere to the shorts via flat-lock stitching (or no stitching at all) to further reduce friction and chafing. Higher-quality paddings are engineered from a durable, perforated foam, with higher-density foam directly under the sit bones. This tech ends up costing a little more, but you get a longer shelf life. If you plan to ride often, the upfront cost will pay dividends in miles.

Companies usually offer different kinds of padding optimized for different kinds of riding. So be sure to evaluate your time in the saddle and buy accordingly. Chamois are the bread and butter of any short and is likely where the lion’s share of your coin will go when purchasing a bib short. It’s best not to skimp.


The anatomy of the human body has an intricate form, with curves and joints that can make obtaining a tailored fit a small feat of engineering. In short, more panels can wrap around the body with less bunching (which can cause irritable chafing). Most panels are sewn together with flatlock stitching, which theoretically rides smoothly against the skin. But many companies still sew panels together with piped overlock stitches.

Bibs are available in thermal, waterproof, and weather-resistant fabrics — and even with breathability suitable for riding to hell and back. While most bib shorts will leverage Lycra as the base material, many companies weave proprietary fabrics into the material for added breathability and performance benefits. Take time to evaluate the style of riding you will do and buy bib shorts with materials that match the environment.

Straps and Grips

While a chamois is the most important component of shorts, straps are what distinguishes a bib from a short and shouldn’t be overlooked. Fashionable piping can finish the strap edges, but we like the feel of laser-cut straps that hold the bibs up without cutting into the shoulders. A good pair will have a yoke that eases around the belly and incorporates a breathable mesh upper that allows the wind to whisk away heat.

Similar to the straps, the leg grippers help keep the shorts locked to the legs. Good grips will have gummy tabs on the inside that grip to the leg and keep the shorts in place. High-end brands are shifting from tight bands to longer panels that expand the compression down the leg a few inches. We’ve found that the broader grip provides compression without constriction and feels more natural on tired legs.