Which is better, bike shorts or bib shorts? Every cyclist must make the choice when old shorts and chamois start to wear or sag. Some swear by bib shorts and others by bike shorts, but both are great for miles of comfort in the saddle. Straps versus no straps might be the most obvious difference between the two, but it’s not the only question. Bib shorts and bike shorts have their share of pros and cons. Ultimately, the choice depends on personal preference and comfort, so we design bibs and bike shorts for all types of cyclists. We’ll share what cycling bib shorts and bike shorts are, why you should wear them, and how to decide which type of shorts is best for you.
What are bike shorts?
Bike shorts are skintight, aerodynamic shorts with a padded chamois to improve your comfort and performance in the saddle. They conform to your body to prevent chafing and saddle sores. They have a secure waistband and may even have gripping leg bands to keep your shorts in place.
Like our Men’s Momentum Short and Women’s Momentum Short, bike shorts should have panels for an optimal fit and be made of moisture-wicking materials to keep sweat from causing you discomfort. These shorts are designed with flat–lock cover stitching on the seams to prevent chafing and with SPF 50+ protection to prevent sunburn.
What are bib shorts?
Bib shorts have the same great technical qualities as bike shorts but with suspender-like straps in the place of a waistband. They are skintight and aerodynamic and have the added benefit of keeping your shorts in place with every movement in the saddle. Bib straps provide the most comfort when worn with a cycling base layer to prevent chafing. Because bib shorts inhibit slipping and bunching, they are often preferred for racing or long rides.
Our Men’s and Women’s Essential Bib Shorts are designed for tough riding with SPF 50+ cooling lycra and chamois made for endurance. The bib straps are soft mesh with a lot of flex, so they can be removed off and on with ease.
Bike shorts vs. cycling bib shorts
Can the two be really all that different? As experienced cyclists know, the small details can make a big difference when it comes to performance in your cycling kit. So comparing bib shorts to bike shorts is not a pointless exercise. The two each have their share of advantages and disadvantages.
Bike short pros and cons
- Simple and suitable: As long as they fit properly, bike shorts are easy to wear and are sure to give you lasting comfort with a good chamois and improved performance.
- Cooler: With bike shorts, you don’t have to worry about an extra layer of material over your chest and midriff that bib shorts bring. In the summer months, their simplicity gives cycling shorts an advantage.
- Easy on and off: Changing into or out of your bike shorts is a simple process, which we appreciate at rest stops on long rides.
- Unrestrained shoulders: The absence of shoulder straps on bike shorts leave the arms unencumbered and helps improve mobility on a ride.
- Restrictive waistband: You may not have to worry about shoulder straps with bike shorts, but you do have to consider the waistband. After hours crouched in a cycling position, the waistband may dig into your waist and cause abrasion. It may also restrict deep breaths on intense workouts.
- Slipping and bunching: During a ride, your shorts may start to slip down, exposing your lower back or bunching at the upper thighs and causing chafing.
- Chamois shifting: Without shoulder straps keeping bike shorts secure, they may shift as they please as you move in your saddle. Your chamois is made to fit securely and precisely; if it shifts out of place, you might experience chafing and saddle sores.
Sometimes shifting, slipping, or bunching bike shorts may be a sign that yours don’t fit properly rather than an indicator to switch to a different style of shorts. If your bike shorts aren’t comfortable, make sure you have the right size using our cycling fit guide.
Bib short pros and cons
- No waistband: Because the shoulder straps keep the shorts in place, bib shorts have no need for an elastic waistband. This gives you more deep breathing room, and you won’t have to deal with your waistband digging into your abdomen.
- Secure chamois: You won’t have to worry about a shifting chamois unless your straps slip from your shoulders. As long as your straps stay secure, so will your chamois.
- High-waisted: Bib shorts cover the belly, which means neither you nor the cyclists behind you will have to endure a plumber’s crack.
- Good for winter: Bib shorts provide another thin layer over your mid-section. This provides extra insulation in the chilly seasons.
- No saggy butt off the bike: Since bib shorts keep your chamois so secure, you won’t look like you’ve gone too long without a diaper change after you’ve finished a ride.
- Potentially uncomfortable straps: Some cyclists find the shoulder straps uncomfortable and restrictive when leaning forward. Bib straps and bra straps can also create discomfort for female cyclists.
- Tricky toilet trips: For many cyclists, especially women, bib shorts make bathroom breaks a hassle since it requires shimmying out of the shoulder straps first.
- Warmer: Extra warmth is a pro for winter, but in the summer some find bib shorts too warm for comfort.
- Non-adjustable straps: Slipping or pinching bib straps would make them not worth wearing. It’s important to try on bib shorts (like any other cycling gear) in the saddle first to ensure the straps fit well.
When designing cycling bib shorts, we use a lightweight material with a barely-there feel so they can even be worn in summer for hours on end.
Which is right for you?
Cycling shorts are essential to prolong endurance, enhance performance, and prevent chafing and saddle sores. So, you have two options: bib shorts or bike shorts. What matters most is which of the two is most comfortable to you. If you get too warm easily, you should consider bike shorts. If finding bike shorts that don’t slip down is difficult, then you may prefer bib shorts. But really you aren’t forced to choose–wear both!
Bib shorts and bike shorts deserve equal recognition for what they do well. You may enjoy wearing bib shorts for races and save bike shorts for recreation or rides on the Peloton. Taking a neutral position in the bib vs. bike shorts debate and stocking your wardrobe with both means you can customize your kit for different seasons and occasions.
A pair of cycling shorts is only part of what brings comfort in the saddle. Choosing a suitable saddle is just as important. Learn how to measure your sit bone width for a bike saddle and then use our top 10 best road bike saddle reviews to help you find the right saddle for your needs.
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