Bib Shorts

Bib shorts are a great alternative to the traditional fitted bicycle short because they do not have an elastic waistband to restrict breathing. Many pro cyclists prefer to wear bib shorts. With a jersey worn over the top, you can't tell the difference between a bib short and the traditional fitted cycling short. Bib shorts are also a great choice for entry level cyclists with a larger belly because the elastic waistband is replaced by lightweight straps that provide unrestricted comfort.

What Is The Difference Between A Men's And Women's Bib Short?

Most men and women can fit in the same bike short from the hips down. The big difference comes from the hips to the waist. The small of a women's back tapers up to a narrower waist. As such, a "women's cut short" has a tighter waistband and more tapered fit just above the hips. In general, women are also longer waisted than men. Most companies cut the front in-seam longer in a women's short. The final difference is leg length. In general, women prefer a shorter leg length than the traditionally cut men's short which is long enough to cover the cyclists quadricep. A women's bib short also has to address how the straps fit over the breast area. This can be done by widening the chest area into a full tank, or by making the straps end at the neck in a t-back so they do not slip as they sit over the breast.

4-Panels... 6-Panels... 8-Panels...

Bike shorts have "panels" to allow the garment to be contoured to fit the human body in the cycling position. Additional panels allows the short more curvature. This was very important back in the days of wool shorts when fabric had very little stretch. Stretch fabrics have made this distinction less important. However, as a general rule, higher end bib shorts are usually made in an 8-panel design with less expensive -"introductory" bib shorts made in a 6-panel design. For those individuals who are bothered by the sewing seams in the crotch area of the traditional 6 and 8-panelshort, there is an alternative. A new style of short has been developed referred to as a 4/6 -panel, or 6/8- panel. This new style of short is cut anatomically, like a 6 or 8-panel short, but the leg in-seam has been eliminated to prevent chafing from sewing seams in the crotch area underneath the bike pad.

When trying on any bib short, always remember to bend over in the cycling position and make sure that the bib will fit you well, both on and off the bike.

Pads

The purpose of a bike pad is to wick moisture and to prevent chafing.
It is not designed to be a "cushion"

The original bike shorts had pads that were nothing more than a single layer of real leather that had to be meticulously maintained. Advances in fabric technology and pad construction have allowed manufacturers to develop cycling pads that are not only more functional, but more comfortable as well. There are many different pad styles on the market. The fabric and construction of these styles vary greatly. Most chamois are made of several layers of material. The "padding" is usually made from a foam, gel, or fleece, and varies in thickness... from very thin (like the original natural leather chamois) to very thick. The top layer is usually made of a technical fabric that wicks moisture, breaths, and prevents the propagation of bacteria.

Since Every "body" is different, and since the type of riding that you do affects your seating position on the bike, it is very important for each individual to consider pad construction... thickness, wicking properties, and breathability when selecting the bib short that is best for them. If you think that you need some additional "padding", you may want to consider putting the padding on your seat, rather than in your short. There are seat covers that are designed specifically to add "extra padding" to the seat. Remember... more "padding" does not always mean more comfort.

Fabric

Bib shorts can range in price from $60.00 to $250.00. Price points for bib are usually based on the fabric that the short is made of and the type of pad that is in the short. Better materials usually cost more and result in a more expensive bib short. Nylon spandex, the base for most cycling short fabrics has great stretch and durability. However, nylon spandex does not have the ability to wick moisture and breath without a finish being applied, or a special construction in the knitting of the fabric. Spandex is now mixed with other yarns such as polyester to promote moisture transference and breathability. These special applications increase fabric pricing, and are the main reason that you see such a wide range of prices in bike shorts.

Leg Length and Gripper

Leg length can vary anywhere from 3" to 10 1/2". Traditional wool racing shorts were usually cut long so that the fabric covered the quadricep muscle, keeping the short from riding up into the crotch and chafing the rider. The advent of stretch fabrics and elastic leg gripper have allowed manufacturers to make shorter shorts without compromising function.

The length of a bib short's leg inseam can be divided into three categories:

Short 3"-5" "hot pants" length (usually designed for cross training, spinning and triathlons)
Medium 6"-8" average cycling short length
Long 9"-11" past the quadricep (usually a "European-cut pro-racing length")

Sizing

A size medium can vary from one company to the next. Try on several different bibs before buying. Fabrics and construction will cause each short to fit differently. REMEMBER! When trying on cycling apparel, put yourself in a cycling position. You will not be riding the bike standing straight up and down. To fit properly, a cycling bib should fit like a "second skin"... snug, but comfortable with no bagging or wrinkles.

Finally!
NEVER... NEVER... NEVER...
Wear Underwear Under Your Bib Short!

The materials used in pads today are designed to wick moisture, breath and prevent the propagation of bacteria. As such, they are more sanitary than your underwear. The whole purpose of the bike pad is to prevent chafing. In order to work, the bib must fit your body like a second skin. Having a layer of clothing between your body and your bib short will prevent the bib from working the way that it should, and will increase your chances of experiencing chafing and sores where the underwear sits against your body.