My Favorite Bibs and Shorts for Every Distance (and Budget)

In the last couple of months, I’ve been so excited that a group of my readers has actually gone out and invested in bikes themselves during the pandemic as a way to get outdoors, experience their city, or town, in a new way, and work out. Soon enough we’re going to have a virtual cycling posse – yassss!! It’s no secret that I’ve fallen in love with cycling this year after over 2,100+ miles of riding so far, and I’ve learned that investing in a few key items has made getting on my bike infinitely more enjoyable; one of them being shorts, or bibs. The large majority of your ride is spent on your bum, especially as a new rider, and without proper shorts, or bibs, you’re prone to a really uncomfortable ride, and even saddle sores.

Before I dive in to which shorts and bibs I recommend after trying many pairs over thousands of miles of riding, there are a couple of things you need to know about wearing bike shorts:

  • Don’t wear underwear! File this under things that no one will tell you when you start riding, but you wish you knew from day one. Thankfully my mom is a cyclist and let me in on this tip from the jump. For those who aren’t used to going commando in workout gear, this is going to feel like a real Brooke Shields a la Calvin Klein ad moment, but wait… there is something that comes between you and your bike shorts (see next point).
  • Invest in some Ride Glide. For my first few months, I ignored my mother’s advice (what was I thinking?!). She bought be a bottle of chamois cream for me that you’re meant to put on your lady bits before putting your bike shorts/bibs on. Like a total newb, I thought this was a step worth skipping. After I started consistently doing rides longer than 20 miles, I suffered the consequences, including ingrown hairs, saddle sores, and chafing. Cue the Ride Glide!!! This anti-bacterial cream protects the skin by decreasing friction and has properties that accelerate healing.
  • Air dry your shorts. Technical fabrics need a little extra love and care, and that includes not subjecting them to the heat of your dryer. Tossing your garments in the dryer can reduce their life and break down the padding in your chamois — not something you want to happen when you’re investing big bucks.
  • Sometimes a saddle and “shammy” just don’t fit. Every bike comes with a different saddle. For example, my Fuji Gran Fondo comes with an Oval Concepts 300 Road saddle, which is unisex. I have adjusted my saddle twice as I’ve progressed through my riding, which has also required me to adjust what type of chamois, or “shammy” I wear. Certain shorts and bibs pair better with certain saddles. If you’re just starting out, I wouldn’t worry about this as much, but just know it might be a contributing factor to whether you’re comfortable on your bike or not.
  • Women’s shorts are different. In the 1940s to the 1980s, women actually wore the same bike shorts as the men. Oh, how the patriarchy failed women’s va-jay-jay’s during those years! Only in the mid-90’s did women-specific shorts become available. Thankfully, they are now widely available with loads of options to choose from. When investing in a good quality pair of shorts, they aren’t just shrinking down the men’s sizes to fit women. Paneling and the chamois are cut differently. BUT, this doesn’t mean that you might not find men’s shorts comfortable, and there are some women who prefer them.

So, in an effort to bring you guys the best content, I decided to evaluate shorts and bibs looking at the intersection of two data points: length of ride and price point. Disclaimer: Cycling shorts come in all different shapes, sizes, and thicknesses, and the best way to determine what type of bike shorts work for you is to try them yourself. I’m sharing the ones that have worked well for my anatomy and saddle that I’ve tested on at least three ride distances: 20-25mi, 40-50mi, and 60mi+, meaning at least 120 miles of riding in each pair. You could say I’ve done the “leg work” for this blog post (pun intended). When it comes to spending money, 27% of cyclists, according to a recent GCN poll, said they would spend over $125 on bibs/shorts, and 41% said they would spending between $65-$125. With at least three pairs of bottoms in your weekly rotation, this can become a significant spend. But, with the majority of riders in these categories, I decided to evaluate similar price points: under $100, between $100 – $150, and $150+.

  • Budget: Pearl Izumi 5″ Sugar Short
    • Price: $65
    • What I like about them: A shorter inseam is fantastic for the summer when it is getting hot and you can’t afford the super high-quality technical fabrics to keep you cool. These shorts are perfect for shorter rides in a warm climate.
    • Things to consider: I have experienced fabric failures with other Pearl Izumi products in the past. While these have stood the test of a hot summer season, these probably wouldn’t last more than ~500 miles of riding.
  • Mid-Range: Attaquer A-Line Bib Shorts
    • Price: $154
    • What I like about them: Your girl is a fan of Attaquer. They break a lot of the style norms in cycling, and these are awesome bibs for a rider that wants to look stylish at their coffee (read: doughnut) stop and still be comfortable. If you’re on a fun, casual ride with your gal pals, I’d recommend reaching for these first. They’re also made with 30% recycled materials, and we stan an athletic apparel brand working to be more sustainable.
    • Things to consider: This chamois is not suitable for rides longer than 35mi without stops in my opinion; it just doesn’t have the shape that works well for my anatomy for tons of consistent time in the saddle.
  • Splurge: Sugoi Women’s RS Pro PRT Short (pictured above in different color)
    • Price: $170
    • What I like about them: By far the most comfortable shorts that I have come across. These were the last pair of shorts that I rode in before transitioning to bibs for longer rides, and can confirm that these are comfortable on my lady bits for Gran Fondos (60mi+ rides) and beyond. Also, the fact that I don’t have to peel off all of my layers to go to the bathroom like I do with bibs is a big win!
    • Things to consider: The reason why these are listed in the shorter ride category is because I’ve been partial to bibs for longer rides these days. The band around the waist does eventually cause some discomfort, but I do love these for short fast rides.
  • Budget: Castelli Prima Bibshort
    • Price: $99.99
    • What I like about them: Just finding quality bibs under $100 is a victory! The KISS Air2 chamois is dual-density, and really comfortable for mid-length rides. This is an awesome starter bib for a new rider.
    • Things to consider: The brand considers this their entry level bib short, which makes sense for the price point. Because of this, it doesn’t have the same level of breath-ability, and you don’t have reduced seaming for comfort like you do with their more premium offerings.
  • Mid-Range: Rapha Core Bib Shorts
    • Price: $115
    • What I like about them: Rapha gets a lot of hype on the interwebs, and for good reason. This is a reasonably priced bib that is great quality. I would say this product is a good entry point for investing in a more premium cycling brand, and I like to grab these for my longer weekday rides. These are very tall girl friendly with a long inseam as well.
    • Things to consider: Where the bib straps meet the short top seam is a little wonky, but not a deal breaker. And there isn’t as much compression that I would like for a ride longer than 50mi, meaning I usually save these for rides under 3/3.5 hours.
  • Splurge: Pedla Roaming Long-Haul Knicks (pictured above)
    • Price: $295
    • What I like about them: This dope indie cycling brand out of Australia is absolutely crushing it, and I can’t say enough good things about Pedla. I am absolutely obsessed with the mesh paneling on the side of their that is a perfect place to store your phone, and the compression is great for longer rides.
    • Things to consider: My only hesitation on these is they have more of an elastic band at the bottom of the short to prevent them from riding up. While this feature is super effective, I don’t find it to be quite as comfortable.
  • Mid-Range: Ornot House Bib Shorts
    • Price: $149
    • What I like about them: Happy to support a company that makes their products in the USA; these are hand-stitched in California. These are by far the best bibs I have found under $150 that don’t ride up on long rides.
    • Things to consider: The inseam on these are a bit shorter, so if that’s a preference, then these are the bibs for you.
  • Splurge: Machines for Freedom Endurance Bib
    • Price: $235
    • What I like about them: We love a brand that is size-inclusive! Being a female-only cycling brand with real women in mind is definitely reflected in the design of these bibs. Wearing one of their kits is a confidence boost!
    • Things to consider: I don’t love the mesh part in the abdomen region for super long rides, as it gets a bit itchy, but with a base layer, it’s a non-issue.
  • Splurge: Giordana FR-C Pro Bib Short (pictured at top of post)
    • Price: $225
    • What I like about them: No question, for a longer ride, this is the first bib I reach for. I have the shorter inseam version, and reflective version ($250). These bibs are so comfortable that I have done 70+ mile rides without replenishing chamois cream and haven’t experienced any discomfort. Speaking of chamois, this is the best one I’ve found for longer climbs as the padding under the sit bones are exactly what I need for climbing in the saddle.
    • Things to consider: These generally run a bit small from normal sizing that I’ve experienced. For reference, I wear an XL. Make sure to check the sizing chart.
    • BONUS: The brand has been kind enough to give me a promo code. For 15% off, use the promo code REGAN15.

I hope you found these recommendations helpful, and maybe were even introduced to a few new brands to explore during your next cycling shopping spree. If you have any questions, or shorts/bibs that you recommend, drop a comment!

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