Beyond the pockets, how different or similar are gravel bike or gravel bib shorts to road bib shorts?

Let’s just say that gravel shorts are different and similar in the ways that gravel and road riding are.

On gravel rides, you’ll go through a lot of dust and dirt and may ride or hike through water. Gravel and clumps of dirt or mud will kick up on your kit. You may brush up against vegetation on single or double-track sections or scrape across a tree or rock in tighter technical sections.

And, you’re more likely to slide out or take a spill on dirt or gravel surfaces than on pavement.

For all those reasons, the materials used in a good pair of purpose-designed gravel bike shorts will be more durable and abrasion or rip-resistant than road bib shorts. The yarns are often slightly stiffer, thicker, and more water-resistant than those in road bib shots. While some aren’t as supple as road shorts, in my experience, they breathe just as well and dry as fast.

Gravel shorts with bib straps and pockets take care of another set of differences between the average gravel and road bike outing. Gravel rides are typically longer, less accessible to coffee shops, convenience stores, and bike shops, and often take routes that cars don’t travel.

Pockets allow you to carry added nutrition and tools that you wouldn’t normally need or have access to on a typical 2-3 hour road ride or could stop or call for if needed on a longer one. Some gravel bib shorts have considerably more storagethan others, either with more or larger pockets.

The best road bib shorts designed for shorter rides or races have thinner, more sculpted chamois with minimal straps and no back panels. Gravel bib shorts, as with shorts geared to endurance road rides, have more robust pads, supportive back paneling, and longer inseams to help your butt and muscles keep it together on those 4-hour or all-day rides on rougher surfaces.