How To Buy a Cycling Bib

Bicy­cle rac­ers and many recre­ation­al rid­ers choose cycling bibs because they lack an elas­tic waist­band. Shoul­der straps hold up bibs to elim­i­nate pinch­ing, hair pulling and oth­er mal­adies of stand-alone cycling shorts. Ready to make the leap? Read on to learn how to choose the best cycling bibs to fit your style.


Types: There are two com­mon styles of bibs, the high cut waist and the low cut waist. The prop­er choice boils down to a per­son­al pref­er­ence and com­fort. For women, cuts and styles can vary sub­stan­tial­ly between companies.


Mate­ri­als: Nylon span­dex, often referred to as Lycra, is the base mate­r­i­al for cycling bibs. While stretchy and form-fit­ting, the mate­r­i­al does­n’t breathe well, so man­u­fac­tur­ers add oth­er mate­ri­als to make their own pro­pri­etary fab­ric blends to increase wick­ing, breatha­bil­i­ty and com­fort. High­er-end ver­sions may have fab­rics with fea­tures such as dim­ples for aero­dy­nam­ics or more com­pres­sion to improve cir­cu­la­tion. For a begin­ner the most impor­tant fab­ric choice is based around the weight or thick­ness of the mate­r­i­al. A lighter fab­ric will be cool­er and breathe bet­ter, while a thick­er ver­sion is like­ly to be more durable.


Fit: Once the deci­sion has been made on a high or low waist, the key to cor­rect fit is in the straps. Like built in sus­penders, the breath­able nylon straps keep the shorts from sag­ging down. While stand­ing the straps should feel a bit snug on the shoul­ders, so while crouched on a bike they will loosen and keep the shorts in the prop­er place. Leg grip­pers keep the shorts from rid­ing up and with the broad­er thigh bands that have become pop­u­lar, plumped up sausage leg is less of a prob­lem. Over­all the fit should be clos­e­fit­ting with­out caus­ing discomfort.


One impor­tant note, Euro­pean brands tend to run small­er than Amer­i­can ver­sions by as much as a size or two, so check­ing the man­u­fac­tur­er’s siz­ing guide is imperative.


Inseam: Inseam length varies and while you will see short-shorts, most cyclists find that an inseam just above the knee will keep the shorts in place to pre­vent chaffing.


Chamois: Once made from leather and need­ing much care and oil­ing, new chamois are made from syn­thet­ic mate­ri­als and do not need spe­cial care oth­er than read­ing the wash­ing and dry­ing instruc­tions cor­rect­ly. The chamois is a vital part of the bib as it reduces fric­tion, wicks away mois­ture, inhibits bac­te­r­i­al growth and pro­vides cushion.


While there are many shapes, thick­ness­es and den­si­ties to be found in both men’s and wom­en’s chamois, there are three main types avail­able. A mul­ti-den­si­ty, open cell foam offers the high­est per­for­mance and com­fort on extend­ed rides. Open cell gel chamois offer more com­fort and cush­ion­ing but reduced breatha­bil­i­ty. While a closed cell ver­sion pro­vides com­fort on a bud­get. Many chamois will use a com­bi­na­tion of mate­ri­als to pro­vide opti­mal com­fort and performance.


In gen­er­al recre­ation­al rid­ers may find a larg­er, thick­er chamois more com­fort­able, while long dis­tance rid­ers and rac­ers may steer towards a more stream­lined pad. In the end per­son­al pref­er­ence is king when choos­ing a com­fort­able chamois.


Pan­els: Tra­di­tion­al thought holds that the more pan­els the bet­ter and this holds true for the most part, so bibs with 8 or 10 or 12 pan­els will typ­i­cal­ly fit bet­ter than a 2 or 4 pan­el pair. The caveat here is that some high-end ver­sions are uti­liz­ing new, high-tech fab­rics and will often have few­er pan­els and in some cas­es the whole short is a sin­gle unit.


Flat sewn seams will also enhance the com­fort of your bibs and be found on both more and less expen­sive garments.


With so many vari­ables, find­ing the cor­rect pair can take a lit­tle research and time, and just buy­ing an expen­sive pair, while upping your odds is not nec­es­sar­i­ly going to guar­an­tee a good fit.