Why Cyclists Choose Bib Shorts

May 21, 2014

If you’re reading this you could be new to cycling or a veteran cyclist—either way, you’re curious why so many roadies and mountain bikers choose bibs over regular bike shorts.

Making the switch to bibs comes with a certain hesitancy. Not just for new cyclists. Even riders with years of experience and tens of thousands of miles behind them are reluctant to give bibs a try.

Why the resistance? Generally, it’s the leotard look of bibs. For some, it’s intimidating to imagine themselves wearing something as silly or dopey looking as bibs.

This article will hopefully shed some light on why so many people love them and why you may never go back to traditional shorts once you’ve make the switch.

Bib shorts are not just regular shorts with suspenders added. That is, however, how they got their start. Racers would yank out the drawstrings and use old-fashioned clip-on suspenders to hold their shorts in place instead. Today, the suspenders are integrated into the short, are not removable, and are designed using Lycra or mesh to be lightweight, breathable and easy on your shoulders.

Here’s a few reasons why bibs have become so popular:

1. There’s no waistband. Since there’s no waistband, there’s also no drawstring or itchy, uncomfortable elastic cutting into your abdomen. You’re less likely to feel as if your blood flow and oxygen intake through deep diaphragmatic breathing is being restricted. Therefore, you’ll feel more productive in the saddle, especially over long distances. Another drawback to the traditional waistband is that they collect and retain moisture, which increases the potential for chafing and overall likelihood of discomfort. Bib shorts will leave you feeling completely free and comfortable in the torso.

2. The chamois stays in place. Traditional cycling shorts will end up slipping down over time, and that means the chamois, or pad, will shift as well. Keeping the chamois in place will ensure there is less potential for chafing, saddle sores, and generally unhappy times. Bib shorts by nature are designed in a way that guarantees the chamois stays perfectly in place.

cycling bib shorts3. Bib straps increase comfort. As mentioned above, bib shorts utilize lightweight, breathable mesh or Lycra straps over the shoulders. While there are a number of advantages to shoulder straps, the biggest benefit is how they comfortably hold the bib as a whole in place without creating pressure or binding points anywhere on the body. Properly fitting bib shorts should disappear when you are in your natural cycling position. You won’t feel anything tugging, binding or chaffing. Our Summit and Ascent bibs are designed with Silhouette™ Engineering, a natural bend or articulation that mimics the contour of your body when you’re on your bike. This articulation means you experience total and complete comfort when on your bike because of a reduction in fabric bunching.

4. Showing off doesn’t mean showing skin. The best designed cycling jerseys are shorter in the front to reduce fabric bunching and provide a more aerodynamic fit. For taller riders with traditional shorts that might mean they’ll be sporting the bare midriff when they’re not actually on their bike. With bib shorts being obviously cut higher than a traditional short, a seamless transition between shorts and jersey is maintained at all times. To the onlooker, your bib short and cycling jersey will look just like a jersey and traditional short would; to the wearer though, the difference is as stark as night and day. This is the same from the rear. You won’t ever be tormenting those behind you with an unsightly “plumber’s crack.”

If you’re already a convert to bib shorts you’ll likely agree with the points outlined above. Most cyclists who have converted to bibs have also said they’d never go back to traditional shorts.

Pactimo offers  a variety of bibs for men and women.

See our Core Bibs for Men »

See our Core Bibs for Women »

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About the Author

Tony KelseyTony Kelsey has nearly 20 years marketing experience, previously serving as global vice president of creative for an international, $1B IT solutions consultancy. Although a self-proclaimed “mediocre” racer in high school, his intense passion for cycling and bicycles in general has never waned. Today he is marketing director at Pactimo and frequently writes about cycling as a sport and hobby. @tonykelsey


31 thoughts on “Why Cyclists Choose Bib Shorts

  1. What about the ease of getting in and out during rest stops. The thought of having to climb out bibs to “P” has stopped me from trying these!

  2. You left out one other reason for folks not wanting to try bibs. This is the reason I have never tried them.
    Going to the bathroom. It just looks as though it could be a real hassle. I don’t want to have to take my jersey off so that I can slip the shoulder straps down while in a port-a-potty. I also don’t want to over stretch the elastic at the thigh to accomplish the mission. Is there a technique that is used that I’m missing?
    However, I have decided to be open minded about it and ordered some bibs during the Tour sale. I’m looking forward to seeing how they work out.

  3. Sorry… I don’t buy it. I wear top quality shorts and I have NONE of the issues they describe. Chamois stays put, waist doesn’t chafe or restrict my breathing in any way. I have to agree with Bill… the convenience of shorts well outweighs any benefit of bibs. And, I don’t have anything pulling on my shoulders. Face it, it’s simply not possible for bibs to do what they claim without putting pressure on your shoulders. My shoulders give me enough trouble after 100 miles as it is. Don’t need “backpack” pressure added to it. Cheap shorts are cheap… no doubt. Go to high quality shorts and you’ll dump the bibs for all the right reasons.

  4. I had a drawer full of top quality shorts when a local retailer convinced me to try bibs. Want some shorts? I’ll never go back.

  5. I resisted bibs for a long time because I thought answering the call of nature would be a major problem. I am now a bib convert after a 200 mile ride where my top quality shorts didn’t keep the chamois in place and chaffed my waist. To answer nature’s call, for a man at least, you bend a little at the waist and pull down the front of the bib and voila nature’s call is answered.

  6. I stayed away from bibs for years because of cost and a wrong-headed belief they were less comfortable. I will never ride with a waste band again. Companies make their best quality shorts as bibs and they just don’t bind/grab your waist like shorts.

    Ever see a pro rider in shorts? Nope. There’s a reason.

    As for the bathroom, you figure it out. The bend forward trick works just fine.

  7. For men, going to the bathroom (#1) is no problem at all. The good bib shorts are low enough to accommodate that task. I really love bib shorts. I usually wear a light weight base layer under the straps, except on really hot days. All the reasons listed are good. I have some Pactimo bibs and another brand and like them both equally.

  8. I avoided bibs for about 15 years. Finally, my team kit didn’t have a shorts option, so I had to get a pair.

    I still wear shorts, but only on the trainer or rides less than an hour long. For everything else, bibs are just more comfortable. The pressure on your shoulders is negligible. In return, the fit is feathery over your waist and torso, so you can breathe more easily from the stomach. Also, even the best shorts have a bad tendency to flip when you’re working hard in the drops. That will never happen with bibs. Finally, I don’t carry a race radio, but I do use my phone to broadcast my location. The radio pocket in bibs is perfect for this.

  9. Bibs is da Bomb! Truly.
    No tightening of waist drawstring to keep shorts in place, no pulling ’em up as you ride, smooth and suede silhouette.
    Don’t take Pactimo’s word for it (even though theirs are among the best — Summit bibs — ou la la, they are comfy!) look at what the pros are riding. Too hard to pee? Again,look at the pros — how many times did you see the camera bike catch pee-on-the-run racers in the Tour? Bibs are the click-in pedals and brake lever shifters of bike wear. Give ’em a try, you won’t regret it!

  10. How often do you need to poop on a ride? Not that often if you are doing it right. But if you do need to poop a lot, I guess it’s worth having your butt crack show to do it easily.

  11. My gripe with bibs was they always seemed hotter on a hot day compared to shorts admittedly, that was nearly 30 years ago when they were first introduced. Have they improved at all in that sense?

    • The materials and technology in bibs is light years ahead of bibs you (and I) were wearing 30 years ago. The uppers, or suspender portion, is typically made of very lightweight, breathable mesh. Not anything like the thick, heavy straps that were used in bibs back then.

  12. I don’t use them as I’m built like a linebacker. The bibs I try pull down on my shoulders. In fact it feels as if they impinge on my breathing negating the supposed benefit as written above. Plus it is extra fabric that almost always shows through the fabric of the top and I don’t care for that look.
    Prior to a race I find myself going to the pit stop more than usual and that would entail yet another step in the process. I do agree they look better in the seat after a while and no doubt feel better there too.

  13. Yeah … written by a guy who has never had to undress several layers of clothing on a cold ride just to go pee. While everyone is waiting. Or just trying to go pee at a reststop while a long line is waiting. Geez…. Women cannot just whip it out. We have to freaking undress.

  14. I love my bibs; I have given my shorts to all of my friends. I have no issues when going to the bathroom. On a traing ride: hop into a bathroom and just lift the jersey, pull down the bib a bit and let it flow. On race day: stand on the pedals, let the flow start, sit back down, hose off with a water bottle when your done and keep on racing.

    Yes the straps can be annoying, if you will, while NOT on THE BIKE. My trick for this is to put on the bibs like shorts until I get to the parking lot for the ride, when you get to the lot pull the suspenders on, when your done with the ride pull the suspenders off, problem solved. Yes, you will have the straps dangling near your thighs. Yes, it will look silly. But then again you’re walking around the town in a full lycra kit, therefore YOU WILL LOOK SILLY to a non triathlete or cyclist.

    The biggest thing to do is give them a try. If they don’t work for you and you are a size medium, feel free to mail them to me and I will use them. You really don’t have much to lose, and everything to gain.

  15. I am not a svelte individual and have always like bibs because they don’t roll down in front when you’re riding. I refer to bibs as “Fat Man’s Friends”.

  16. I wear both bibs and shorts. I have found that I have had none of the issues mentions in the article. With shorts, I never use the drawstring and the chamois is always in place.
    I find bibs to be hotter, more prone to move around. The number one issue I have, though, with bibs is nipple chafing.

  17. I’m a female and have been wearing bibs for over 5 years and would not go back to shorts. They are slightly more inconvenient when nature calls but their comfort more than makes up for the occasional inconvenience.

  18. I really like bib shorts and have two pairs. Yes, a full zip jersey (which has become the standard anyway) is best. No problem going to the bathroom for a man doing #1. I really like the comfort, fit, and feel. I also usually wear a light base layer tank (Craft) under my jersey. The bib straps go over the base layer. Not necessary, but adds to comfort. Pactimo makes great product!

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