Like most cyclists, when I made the move to cycling-specific shorts with a chamois, I opted for the regular shorts. They were familiar, cheaper, and bib shorts just looked weird!
But by the time I completed my cycling outfit, I had heard most serious riders saying something along the lines of “you gotta get bibs!” So I did, and I have been wearing bib shorts ever since!
If you are in the same predicament, this guide to the pros and cons of regular and bib shorts should help you decide.
Regular Cycling Shorts
Why you might like regular shorts:
- Relatively inexpensive. Regular shorts are typically $10-20 cheaper than comparable bibs.
- Easily removed for going to the bathroom. Whether it’s alongside the road or in a Port-a-John, slipping out of regular shorts is just like normal.
- Can be cooler on warm days. Since there is no fabric on your upper body, regular shorts are good for a lightweight outfit.
Why you might dislike regular shorts:
- The waistband is tight. Having a tight waistband on the shorts can cut into your stomach and become quite uncomfortable (especially in a hunched-over riding position.)
- They slide around. Regular shorts usually slide around, so the chamois could shift and cause chafing, or just become uncomfortable and require some shifting to get everything back in place.
- “Plumber’s Crack.” There’s nothing holding these shorts up, leading to this well-known situation…
Bib Cycling Shorts
Why you might like bib shorts:
- Very, very comfortable. Bib shorts are so much more comfortable than regular shorts I can’t even describe it! As long as you get the right size, the fit is amazing.
- Everything stays in place. Bib shorts stay in place, which makes life easy and comfortable. No chamois movement or chafing, and no mid-ride adjustments.
- No “plumber’s crack.” Since the bibs can’t sag down, there are no worries about this. (Your riding buddies will thank you.)
Why you might dislike bib shorts:
- Expensive. Most bib shorts range in price from $40-220, with good ones costing at least $70.
- Sizing issues. Since the right pair of bibs needs to match your height and waist measurements, it’s more difficult to find the perfect size. Plus, size charts vary greatly between manufacturers.
- Straps can cut into shoulders. Even if the bibs are the right size, some of them have thin, rough straps that can cut or scrape your skin.
- Restricting. Some people seem to feel restricted by wearing bib shorts. That can be an issue, especially if you’re already wearing a sports bra. (The bibs can also restrict you from going to the bathroom quickly and easily.)
My Final Verdict on Cycling Shorts Is…
While there are pros and cons to each style, I love bibs and have an answer to all the supposed cons of bib shorts:
First off, the immense comfort from bibs outweighs any potential sizing issues. Just go to a shop and try on the bibs before purchasing to make sure you get the right size.
Good bibs will have soft, wide straps that don’t cut into your shoulders or feel restricting. They will also have a low cut front so that trailside pee breaks don’t take any longer than usual (for guys at least.)
And the top part (back and straps) is usually a wicking material that can keep you cooler than if you didn’t have it against your skin.
Or just wear a base layer beneath the bibs!
So yes, I always wear bibs, and I highly recommend them. But some people swear by regular shorts, or even cut the straps off their bibs, so the choice is yours.