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Best women's bibshorts buyer's guide: Supreme comfort and performance from £33

Emily Chappell
31 Mar 2020

Having clocked more miles than most in the saddle, Emily Chappell gives us a rundown of the best women's bibshorts on the market

Women’s bibshorts tend to solve one problem, whilst creating another. Shoulder straps keep the shorts securely in place without putting any pressure on your stomach – but they often mean that pitstops become a time-consuming striptease, as you remove jersey, gilet and waterproof to get the straps down and drop your shorts to pee.

Several of the big brands have now addressed this issue, as you’ll see below. But there’s a lot more to bibshorts than just getting them on and off.

A good pair of bibs will fit well – which means the cuffs will sit in a comfortable (and flattering) position on your thigh, and be snug enough to grip without friction, yet not so tight that they affect circulation or produce the dreaded ‘sausage legs’ effect.

Some riders find that silicone grippers irritate their skin (especially in warmer weather), and will prefer elastic or the inherent gripping properties of lycra itself.

The chamois should fit your anatomy closely, as creases or badly placed seams will cause chafing and lead to saddle sores, and stay securely in position throughout your ride. Designers recommend wearing the smallest size you can get into, as a tight fit will stop the pad moving, especially as the fabric deteriorates over time.

Unlike most male cyclists, women selecting bibshorts will have to take into consideration the way the straps sit on their chest. In some cases you’ll find a particular configuration of straps doesn’t work comfortably with the size or shape of your bust.

To help you make your decision, Cyclist has sorted through what’s on offer and put together this list of old favourites and exciting newcomers, for every budget, every anatomy, and all lengths of ride.

The best women's bibshorts

Assos Women’s T.laalaLai

Wiggle | £165

Apparently 'best suited to heady summer days on the bike', these are Assos’s fastest women’s cycling shorts yet, wind tunnel-tested and manufactured from a fabric chosen for both its compression and wicking properties.

The snappily titled aeroPatterningFenomeno1 design means the shorts are held together with a single seam at the rear, and the ultra-lightweight grippers reduce potential discomfort by securing the shorts around only half of the leg circumference – something those with sprinters’ quads will appreciate.

The pitstop problem is addressed with a nifty magnetic fastening at the front, which makes the straps sit closer together than most other bibshorts – a welcome alternative for those whose chests don’t agree with the usual strap configuration.

The luxurious 8mm pad is designed with Assos's patented goldenGate technology, which has the pad stitched only into certain parts of the garment, meaning that it moves with your body to reduce friction.

The only significant drawback with these shorts is the price tag, which will put them beyond the reach of many – although, if you can afford the initial investment, Assos shorts are known for having a longer lifespan than many on the market.

Buy now from Wiggle for £165

Endura Women’s Pro SL DS Bib Shorts DropSeat

Wiggle | £118

If you’re looking for a reliable and high-performing pair of shorts that will keep you comfortable through long races and multi-day rides, Endura’s Pro SL bibshorts may well be the ones for you.

The shorts are perhaps best known for their DropSeat feature – a bolder take on the perennial pitstop problem, where the entire backside of the shorts unzips, meaning that you don’t even have to touch the straps.

The zip is stretchy and positioned for minimal interference while riding, though this ingenious solution won’t suit everyone – I’ve had trouble gripping zips on deep winter rides when my hands get cold, so would be saving these shorts for spring and summer.

Another feature that sets these shorts apart is the variable chamois – available in three widths, to suit your anatomy and saddle. The 700 series pad (designed for 4-hour+ rides) is cut using Endura’s Continuous Variable Profile (CVP) process, ensuring that you’ll have cushioning where it’s required, but no bunching and friction where it’s not.

Other pleasing details include ColdBlack-treated fabric, to reduce heat build-up and provide sun protection, and a discreet pocket at the back of the bibs, for stowing gels, keys or devices.

Buy now from Wiggle for £118

Isadore Climbers Bib Shorts

Isadore | £145

These sleek and stylish bibshorts claim to have the world’s first totally ecological chamois, in keeping with the Slovakian brand’s ethical focus. Instead of foam, the pad is constructed from Airmesh, a 100% recyclable material that is seamless and constructed with four multi-structured levels to optimise impact absorption and maintain comfort over longer rides.

The body of the shorts is made from two different fabrics – Swiss Schoeller Lycra on the side panels, to provide compression and sun protection, and Italian Premium Lycra on the inner panels, to offer a softer interface for areas more prone to friction.

The mesh straps don’t offer a pitstop hack, but you’re more likely to be using these bibs in summer than in winter, which makes stripping off less of a hardship.

The silicone-lined grippers are fairly narrow, so there’s a chance that riders with bulkier thighs might find Isadore’s shorts create the ‘sausage’ effect, but otherwise they are thoughtfully designed, right down to the printed care instructions, to avoid chafing labels.

Buy now from Isadore for £145

Rapha Women’s Cargo Bib Shorts

Rapha | £195

Rapha has revolutionised its legwear in recent years, and now offers a number of different chamois/short combinations, to suit different anatomies and riding styles, and even, thanks to its Core range, a greater variety of budgets.

The Cargo bibshorts have been designed with multi-day adventures in mind, and are claimed to excel in extreme conditions. The chamois is lightweight and perforated, for comfort over long distances in hot weather, and the main body features quick-drying fabrics, including water-resistant Shadow panels, ensuring the shorts stand up to bad weather and can be washed and dried overnight.

A favourite feature of the Cargo bibshorts is their multiple pockets. Two on the legs work well for stashing snacks, lip balms and even your phone when you’re on the go. And two more on the back are designed to remain accessible if you choose to wear shorts and t-shirt over your bibs, making these bibshorts a versatile choice that will cover you for many different rides.

The only potential downside is that the front-zip design doesn’t allow for quick pitstops, so you’ll want to go elsewhere if that’s your priority.

Buy now from Rapha for £195

Le Col Women’s Pro Bib Shorts

Buy now from Le Col for £160

Founder Yanto Barker claims that these are 'the fastest, most comfortable and best performing shorts out there', and the silky Italian Lycra with which they’re constructed certainly gives the impression of luxury.

Some riders may be less taken with the silicone insert that runs the length of the outer thigh, and could cause irritation in hot weather, but for others this will ensure the shorts stay in place over longer distances, and reduce the risk of friction and chafing.

Le Col’s chamois offers something a bit different – a silicone-treated pad with a soft textile covering that minimises friction – and is less bulky than many on the market.

Price-wise these are towards the upper end, but not the most expensive on the market, and the stylish simplicity of their design and detailing is likely to flatter most figures.

Buy now from Le Col for £160

Iris Signature Bib Short II

Iris | €135

These bibshorts, designed by former pro cyclist Iris Slappendel, have been widely praised for their superior fit and comfort across a variety of body types, including taller and curvier women.

The bibs benefit from an ergonomic six-panel construction, using an innovative technical fabric called Sensitive Sculpt Light, which follows the natural lines of the body, enhancing and supporting, rather than constraining your shape. The absence of a waistband means there’s nothing to dig into your stomach when you’re bent over on the bike.

In keeping with Iris’s pursuit of comfort, the shorts come with a cushy 12mm chamois, featuring hypoallergenic and antibacterial micropolyester and specially designed channels to help ventilate and wick moisture away from your body. This is one of the thickest pads on the market – worth bearing in mind if you prefer closer contact with your saddle.

And as for pitstops, these come with a magnetic popper system on the rear strap, enabling you to drop the back of the shorts quickly, without taking any of your top layers off.

Buy now for €135

Castelli Women’s Premio 2

Wiggle | £140

Top of the pile in terms of both price and quality, Castelli’s Premio bibshorts are designed for the longest rides, and claim simultaneously to offer extra support and protection over many hours in the saddle, whilst also being so minimalist and unobtrusive that you may forget you’re wearing them.

They do this by including a dual-layer lumbar support band to support the back muscles and keep the shorts firmly in place around the waist, alongside innovative laser-cut cuffs with vertical bands of silicone that grip the legs without restricting horizontal stretch, reducing the likelihood of irritation.

Seams are carefully placed for clean, flattering lines, and in many cases are entirely absent. The straps are seamless, as is the Progetto X² Air Donna women-specific seat pad, which has an antibacterial finish and ergonomic padding in the ischial and perineum areas.

If you take your riding seriously, or are looking to move up a level, these may be the shorts for you.

Buy now from Wiggle for £140

dhb Classic Women’s Halterneck Bib Shorts

Wiggle | £33

These good-value bibshorts from Wiggle’s in-house brand are far easier on the wallet than most, but still manage to pack in a host of features.

The halterneck design is a devastatingly effective comfort break solution, and provides minimal torso coverage, meaning that the shorts are well suited to scorching summer rides – or that you might want to pair them with a base layer in cooler temperatures.

The pad is a Cytech Tour HP Super Air chamois, designed for longer rides, and thermo-moulded to offer breathability and temperature control.

Although the price bracket positions these shorts in the entry-level market, the high-density foam of the pad is intended to perform best when in the rotated position over the bars, which suggests these might not suit the more upright rider.

Buy now from Wiggle for £33

Sportful Women’s Core BodyFit Pro Bib Short

Chain Reaction Cycles | £50

The meeting point of pro-level performance and normal-person budget, Sportful’s Core BodyFit bibshorts have been refined over many seasons in response to feedback from pro racers.

The formerly fiddly bibs have been simplified to broad mesh straps that sit comfortably on most chests, and provide optimal airflow and temperature control.

Sportful’s Total Comfort (TC) Pro Women’s chamois design is more minimal than many, so would suit a rider who prefers less padding, and could work better in hot conditions.

The fabric has an aesthetically pleasing textured finish, and while it’s difficult to assess Sportful’s claims that this improves aerodynamics, testers have acknowledged its compression properties.

Buy now from Chain Reaction Cycles for £50

Altura Women’s Progel 3 Bib Shorts

Altura | £52.49

The price is right – these are some of the cheapest bibshorts on the market – but Altura’s ProGel 3 chamois has divided opinion. Some riders find it much more comfortable than the traditional foam pad, whereas others complain that it adds weight and unnecessary bulk, and can reduce stability in the saddle when putting the power down.

These entry-level bibs are more likely to suit leisure riders and commuters, on shorter journeys and in a more upright position. Reflective detailing helps improve visibility, and although these shorts don’t come with a quick pitstop get-out option, you’re less likely to need that on shorter rides.

Buy now from Altura for £52.49

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