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Saturday, July 24, 2021

The Best Cycling Bibs for Men in 2021

The right bib shorts can mean the difference between a ride to remember and an uncomfortable sufferfest. Here, we break down the best cycling bibs for every guy’s budget and distance.

Nothing shouts a public affirmation of your passion for cycling more than Lycra. And while bibs used to be reserved for only the most serious sponsored riders, these sleek wears have become saddle staples for even casual riders. And for good reason: They are damn comfortable.

Spend enough time in the saddle (er … pain cave) and comfort quickly triumphs over looks. Bib shorts run king — and arguably can look good too. The crew at GearJunkie loves to cycle, and this year we’ve shouldered over 2 dozen straps to find the best available for men in 2021. Here are our favorites.

Scroll through to see all of our recommended buys or jump to the category you’re looking for:

Best Overall
Best Budget
Best Chamois
Best Straps
Best Multiday Cargo Bibs
Best Cargo Bibs for Long Days
Best Compression
Best of the Rest

The Best Cycling Bib Shorts of 2021

Best Overall Cycling Bib Shorts: GORE Cycling Long Distance Bib Shorts

There are cushier chamois and better straps, but no bib short pulls it all together better than GORE. Core to the Long Distance short is GORE’s own WindStopper fabric. The material is durable and is prized for keeping wind from sapping heat away from the body too quickly, while still remaining breathable.

A wind block patch runs up the front of the chamois to the top. The wind block is on par with many other bibs on the list, and they aren’t as hot as you might think. We’ve paired them with leggings for icy-cold spring rides and also found them comfortable on blistering 90-degree days under the midday sun.

The elastic weave under the raw straps on the Long Distance Bib Shorts ($200) exposes the elastic weave and yields a tacky grip that secure them over the shoulders before they connect with a mesh yoke in back. The short waist is paired with longer legs that grip the quads with two narrow strips of silicone tape.

In the saddle, the padding is firm but not overly generous. The chamois tapers quickly so you don’t feel like you’re strapped to a mattress.

If you are looking for something more breathable with that fantastic GORE cut, we’d recommend GORE’s Ardent bib short ($170). The material and mesh shoulder straps freely let air and moisture pass through.

We love the idea of the mesh straps, but in our experience, they didn’t lay as flat over the shoulders as the Long Distance Bib’s straps. The Ardent bibs also climb a little higher over the gut, adding more coverage when paired with a jersey.

One gripe we do have is more of a global point toward GORE’s new sizing. In a move to improve the consistency in their sizing, all of their bib shorts shifted down a size this year. As a buyer, it means if you wear a medium in just about every other bib, expect to wear a small in GORE.

Check Price at BackcountryCheck Price at Amazon

Best Budget Bib Shorts: The Black Bibs

Seems our jerseys come and go, and eventually trend out of style. But our cycling kit staple is always the black bib ($40). Every cyclist needs a few pairs of black bibs in the closet.

Aptly named The Black Bibs, the company specializes in affordable bibs to pair with your favorite jersey. Their flagship bib, The Black Bib is priced right so you can cycle through a fresh pair on every ride.

The Lycra is very elastic and moves well with the body. And it wears easy under mountain biking shorts, spin workouts, or shorter lunch rides. The folded leg opening isn’t pro — but we aren’t either — so it’s hard to complain about these champions of value.

In our experience, the chamois felt too light for longer rides. It’s too thin. If you want a budget bib for 2+ hours, we’d recommend forking over the extra $45 for the Ultimate Adventure Bib ($85). In addition to the cargo pockets on each leg (which are awesome) the firmer chamois and carbon fiber outer provides better support and the leg grippers stay put.

Check Price at The Black Bibs

Best Chamois: Assos Mille GT Summer Bib Shorts GTS

One of our reviewers shared, “Once I bought a pair of Assos, I wore them as fast as I could wash and dry them.” And for $230, you’re gonna want to want to eke out as much time in the saddle as possible.

This spring, we’ve been banging out a series of 6- to 8-hour rides and anointed the Assos chamois as the most comfortable chamois for big rides. The 9mm, dual-density “floating” chamois moves independently from the shorts and appears to be the magic.

The stretchiness and breathability of the material of the fabric helps, too. It all works together to create a product that is undeniably, categorically better.

These “summer” shorts cut straight across the waist and breathe exceptionally well in the heat. The suspender-style Xbib straps cross in back and are stitched in the middle, making them easier to climb in and out of than Velocio’s similar strap design.

One reviewer did find that the strap’s sharp edge chafed his nipples and had to apply bandages after a half-day ride. This issue kept the Assos from ascending to our best overall bib choice. But, the chamois is likely the best we’ve ever used, and the fabrics have withstood aggressive use this year.

Once you swallow the sticker shock of a pair of Assos, you do indeed get what you pay for: a high-quality pair of bibs that will last. If you’re not ready to commit to a $200+ bib, the Mille GT ($170) uses a slightly thinner chamois and has received accolades from our staff.

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MAAP Team Bib EVO Shorts

MAAP’s premium seven-panel bib has you covered from navel to just above the knees and is a good choice for serious riders who prize compression.

The dull Lycra material is slicker on the inside, allowing you to slide into the bibs. The panels taper to a broad, 3-inch leg gripper lined with silicone honeycomb print. It’s one of the best leg grippers we saw this year; they pin leg warmers to the quads without budging.

Wide bib straps are appropriately spaced out of chafing range. They are double reinforced up front and stitch into an hourglass mesh back panel. The microfiber straps tend to get hot on warm days and feel tight when you are walking around. But the mesh back panel is a nice relief in the heat and the entire fit relaxes as you reach over the bars.

A mid-waist bib, the front panel stops at the belly button. High, low, mid — where the bib stops is a personal preference. The EVO ($325) provides good overlap with the jersey and compresses that winter bulge. On the flip side, a mid-cut bib can be uncomfortably belly binder for some. This is something we tend to notice as the rides progressively get longer and the stomach gets weaker.

But the true winner of this bib is the chamois padding. It’s firm but thin, and precisely cut with angles that taper to the sides. It’s great protection without leaving you feeling over padded.

Overall, we’d rank these very close with Assos’s Millet GT. The chamois is nearly as good, more refined, and perhaps a little firmer. But it doesn’t have the seamless “floating” panels that sets Assos in next level territory. The straps are better placed on the EVO bibs, pegged together high between the shoulders, reducing any lateral slough and chafing. If you don’t mind a high-waisted short, we’d recommend them over the Millet.

A performance bib, the EVO does run snug. If you prefer a more relaxed fit, we’d recommend sizing up.

Check Price at MAAP

Best Straps: Pearl Izumi PRO Bibs

The shoulder straps on the Pearl bibs ($210) aren’t complicated, but their simplicity have made them a staff favorite. They are wide, very lightweight, and have raw edges so you barely feel them.

The fabric is incredible: lightweight and super stretchy, with a seven-panel design. And the “floating top sheet” chamois has no stitching, bumps, or creases, which is unique and yields favorably after hours in the saddle.

The chamois is thick and firm, which can either be a personal preference or annoyance. But our reviewers loved them for long days in the saddle. You may have to adjust the seat height a few millimeters when wearing the PRO bibs.

The result is a pair of bibs that appears extremely simple, with no gimmicks, much of any visible stitching, or anything else remarkable. They just disappear, which is why they are a standout pick. And at just over $200, they’re very reasonably priced.

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Best Multiday Cargo Bibs: Rapha Cargo Bib Shorts

When chasing far-flung miles in the backcountry, every square inch of space is scrutinized with a lens for fuel. The “cargo” bib short ($270) allows you to stash food, trash, and devices — things you might reach for while in the saddle — within easy reach.

Rapha built its Cargo bib shorts for riders who need quick access to an extra bar, shot, or block when pedaling all day long.

The Cargo Bib stitches together panels of a nylon-elastane blend, navigating a line between weather resistance and breathability. One pocket straps each thigh and can hold a few bars, or holster a phone or even a small camera. Three back pockets ride up high over the kidneys, which works great for those who want to ride more casual up top without losing space to haul supplies.

On the downside, the weather-resistant material doesn’t breathe well in hot climates. That said, we wore these bib shorts over a light tech T-shirt in Nicaragua where the temps spiked above 115 degrees Fahrenheit. If you ride regularly in extreme heat, these aren’t our first choice. But for anyone who logs long days in the saddle and needs pockets full of snacks, Rapha’s Cargo Bib Shorts are a great option.

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Best Cargo Bibs for Long Days: Sportful Supergiara Bib Short

Many brands seem to cut corners on their cargo bibs. To keep costs down, some of the first things to go are a good chamois and supportive compression. Sportful brings it all to the table with their Supergiara ($180).

The length is appropriate, the compression is tops, the mesh pockets are plenty, and they incorporate reflective tape in the leg grippers for added visibility. Overall, the combination makes this cargo bib one of the best bibs on the market for long rides that push into dusk.

As cargo shorts go, the Supergiara’s pockets run small and are most appropriate for storing energy gels and trash. They won’t hold large supplies like a phone as securely as other cargos, so we prefer to use them for long day rides instead of far-flung bangers that push deep over days. But if you’re only stashing quick energy, the Supergiara is our best pick.

One of our reviewers is an ex-pro rider and has put thousands of miles in his Sportfuls. With stacks of bib shorts to readily dispatch, if he’s not testing, he’s in one of his Supergiaras.

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Best Compression: Velocio LUXE Bib Shorts

For riders who want great compression, we found Velocio’s LUXE bib short ($280) incredibly comfortable for long and short rides alike.

Normally, we’d veer away from low panel count designs. Fewer panels often don’t wrap the body’s form well and leave you feeling like a stuffed sausage. But Velocio seemed to pull off a fit that hugs the body with minimal panels.

Two panels ride up front and meet in the middle, with a third, continuous panel arching over the butt. Together, they form a compression short that reduces fatigue and avoids painful chaffing.

Raw edges upgrade the LUXE this year while the lumberjack suspender straps Velocio remain the same. They aren’t as breathable, and the unpinned crossover strap design makes it a little more awkward to wrestle into than Assos’ Xbib, which uses a similar design. But we’ll say it again: Form follows function. Once you’re in the saddle, the straps find their groove.

The LUXE will feel tight when you first put them on, especially if you are just walking around in them. Like all high-end bibs, the shape springs to life over the bars. And after a few washes, they loosen up a bit and start to form to your body. If you find they still don’t fit, Velocio offers a 30-Day Signature Guarantee.

If you are between sizes or want a more relaxed fit, the Velocio recommends sizing up.

Check Price at Velocio

Best of the Rest

Voler Black Label Bibs

Flat-stitched and finished with elastic piping, Voler’s Black Label bib ($165) is a classic five-panel bib constructed from a durable Italian milled nylon/elastane weave. The flat-sewn construction keeps the cost down, reduces potential chafing, and gives the bibs a finished look. The legs taper off with raw, 3-inch leg grippers that hug the quads and stay where you want them.

The Black Labels ride high, giving you ample torso support and coverage, and they smooth out that awkward MAMIL bulge. But there’s enough stretch to allow you to pull them down for a pit stop.

Rated to 6 hours, we found the padding trends softer and sits more forward than most padding. On one hand, this helps vent the bibs out back, but we found it suits those who prefer to ride over the nose of the saddle.

The Black Label has been a Voler staple since 2013. They’ve since broadened the monotone palette into navy, cobalt, gunmetal, and olive. With minimal branding, the Black Label is a great way to introduce a little color into your kit.

Check Price at Voler

Borah Spring High Noon OTW Cargo Bib Short

Borah has been supplying teams with custom, made-to-order kits since 1997. All kits are handmade under one roof in their solar-powered Wisconsin facility, with its flagship bibs being the OTW.

This year, Borah branched out into direct-to-consumer sales through its Basecamp site, and we got an early peek at its recently released OTW cargo bib short ($179).

Based on the brand’s classic OTW bib, the cargos are supple and breathable and have ample torso support. Piped mesh straps and torso panel spill body heat and keep the chamois from drifting. The material doesn’t have the durable heft as Pearl’s PRO or GORE’s Long Distance Bib, but the Borahs feel more breathable.

A firm chamois serves as the foundation of the bib and is specced for 7 hours. The firm padding is precise, and we liked the extra coverage it provides as it tapers down between the legs. The legs run long and tack to the quads with a 2-inch leg gripper backed with silicon.

Two spacious mesh pockets wrap around over the quads and allow easy access to your device, tools, or nutrition. They tucked a third pocket in back above the hips that can hide a wallet, phone, or pair of air cartridges.

The breathability, extra support and resilient chamois make these seven-panel cargos a great choice for long, self-contained rides where you don’t want to load down the bike. In a sea of black bibs, we found the touch of accent color refreshing.

Check Price at Borah Base Camp

Endura FS260-Pro

The FS260 is Endura’s stalwart bib that punches above its price point with coverage, support, and well-engineered padding.

Pre-curved Italian Lycra panels are flat-sewn and hemmed together to the mesh upper to give Endura’s FS260-Pro ($140) a svelte compressive silhouette.

The mesh shoulder straps and upper are trimmed with flat piping that lies snug against the skin. There’s not a lot of structural support in the mesh alone, so the straps tend to bunch more than heavier straps.

But the coverage is complete, down to the aggressive silicone leg grippers. These high-waisted bib shorts have extensive overlap with the jersey and don’t budge during long stints in the saddle.

What elevates the FS260s from the field is the computer-engineered single piece of chamois gel foam that’s programmatically cut to provide an ergonomic fit. The variable foam is finished with a dimpled surface that keeps the undercarriage running cool in the saddle.

Sewn into the bibs with a flat-stitch, these are one of the few shorts we tested that doesn’t bind them to the bib with a stretchy zigzag stitch. We’ve seen this in a few high-end bibs, like PEdALED; it’s a durable stitch but it can cause irritation over time.

Adding visibility on the road, the shorts are finished with a pair of reflective striping that run down the back of the leg grippers. And that’s where we’d likely reach for the FS260s, long road rides that start in the dark and end in the dark.

Check Price at BackcountryCheck Price at Amazon

Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose Cycling Bibs

The big question is, do bib shorts have a place in the drawers of the everyday rider? The answer is yes — and for a few important reasons.

The author testing Café du Cycliste’s Mathilde bib shorts in Colombia. The coffee wasn’t bad either. (Photo/Marc Gasch)

Why You Need Cycling Bibs

The primary consideration is shoulder straps. Straps prevent the shorts from drifting south and keep the chamois in place, reducing overall chafing and bunching. Reducing compression around the gut also allows you to breathe better and can minimize that “gut-bomb” feeling you get after eating and hydrating while riding.

Bibs also cover up any gap between a jersey and short. Showing crack isn’t just unsightly, it’s also annoying to have to hike up shorts to readjust the chamois. All these are good reasons for considering bibs over traditional Lycra shorts.

Speaking of Lycra, yes, it’s “aero” and looks fast. More importantly, it compresses the body, reducing road fatigue by dampening vibrations that can beat muscles into submission. And it cuts down on drag and keeps annoying extra material from flapping in the wind.

What to Look For in Cycling Bibs

Padding

The staffers at GearJunkie have 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 tradeoff in chamois and saddle padding, with the current bias being for more padding and less saddle.

The best of the best (Assos, Rapha, MAAP, etc.) 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 typically firmer and contoured with subtle creases to wrap the saddle and anatomy without bunching. Chamois adhere to the shorts via zig-zag or flat-lock stitching to further reduce friction and chafing.

Higher-quality paddings are engineered from a durable, perforated foam, with higher-density gel foams 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 they’re likely where the lion’s share of your coin will go when purchasing a bib short. It’s best not to skimp.

Panels

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.

Broad, laser-cut leg grippers add compression without constricting the legs

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, raw-edged 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 silicone 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.

That’s a lot of information to sit on, but if you take time to evaluate your style of riding, try on a few pairs, and see what fits your body — there’s a bib short for everyone.

FAQ

What Makes a Good Cycling Bib?

First, you need a cycling bib that offers maximum comfort. While a good chamois costs more, it will pay dividends down the line. It will not only last longer, but it will feel better overall.

Next, you’ll want to consider your riding conditions. For hot weather, look for breathable materials and you may even want a few mesh panels.

Lastly, it’s time to look at the straps and leg grips. These elements help keep the bibs in place even on long rides. Our testers find the laser-cut, raw-edged straps offer up the best all-day comfort. For leg grips, look for options that extend a bit longer into compression panels.

Are Bike Shorts or Bibs Better?

Choosing between bike shorts and bibs ultimately comes down to personal preference.

The primary consideration is shoulder straps. Straps prevent the shorts from drifting south and keep the chamois in place, reducing overall chafing and bunching. Reducing compression around the gut also allows you to breathe better and can minimize that “gut-bomb” feeling you get after eating and hydrating while riding.

Bibs also cover up any gap between a jersey and short. Showing crack isn’t just unsightly, it’s also annoying to have to hike up shorts to readjust the chamois. All these are good reasons for considering bibs over traditional Lycra shorts.

Why Do Cyclists Wear Bib Shorts?

As mentioned earlier, bibs reduce bunching and unwanted gapping between a jersey and short. They also reduce stomach compression, allowing for a more comfortable ride while leaning forward on the bike.

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The post The Best Cycling Bibs for Men in 2021 appeared first on GearJunkie.

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