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The Noob’s Guide to Cycling:  Shorts or Bibs? And one flaw to avoid in ANY pair of shorts you buy.


So, bibs or shorts when it comes to cycling?  Most noobs will gravitate to shorts because they’re “easier”.  Most will invariably assume they’re less of a fuss.

I’ll make this simple.  And short:  Bibs.  Only bibs.  Always bibs.  Men and women, it doesn’t matter.  Bibs are better.  Period, end of story, it is what it is.

I know what you’re thinking…  I thought it too, so let’s dispell a couple of myths first.

1.  For men, it’s easy enough to pee wearing bibs.  Size doesn’t matter though it helps.  Pull the top down, bend over a little… Bob’s your uncle.  Or roll one of the legs up and go at it from the side.  Both methods work, and just as easy as wearing shorts.

2.  Ladies, you’re right.  It is a pain.  For normal bibs.  I have it on authority that even regular bibs are worth it but a few manufacturers do make “convertible” drop-back bibs (see Pearl Izumi for one) or bibs with clasps on the straps so they can be undone.  Women’s bibs are revolutionary and fantastic – you get the best of shorts and bibs.

With that out of the way, here’s why bibs are the best:  First, they’re more confortable by a long shot.  Second, like many, I don’t have the best body in the springtime.  Typically, I have a little bit of a gut and if you look closely. You’ll see it:

wp-1472953579866.jpg

Most of that is simply the jersey material folded over from a long day in the saddle, but not all of it… This is the result of wearing shorts, especially for guys (women’s shorts are generally made so they can be hiked up to pull in a small-ish gut just a little better.  However, let’s look at bibs:

Bibs are your very own “gut-b-gone”.  Better still, look at the so-called “love handles”:

Gone.  Bibs fix imperfections.

Now, bib shorts aren’t perfect.  I actually have real pectoral muscles (thank you push-ups) and often the straps go right over the nips.  If I don’t put band-aids over them before I ride, I’ll rub them raw enough to bleed.  It really hurts. [ED. See Damien’s comment below for a simple fix]

That’s the skinny on bibs.  To put the difference in perspective;  I own two pair of pro shorts and six pair of pro bibs.  All of my “shorts” purchases in the last two years have been of the bib variety because the vastly improved comfort and better look makes them worth any minor inconvenience.  

Now, one thing I don’t want  is to come off like what I write is the Rule of what you should do.  There are plenty of people out there who opt for shorts.  The goal of this post is to present bibs as the better option while dispelling a couple of common misunderstandings about them.

Now, for the one little thing you should watch out for in any pair of shorts or bibs you buy:  A seam that runs up the inside of the thigh.  I tried to snap this photo in the least graphic way possible:

See where that seam is failing?  I’ve already sewn it once (yes, me. I can sew…).  Those bibs are two years old, so they have some miles on them, but that seam rubs on the saddle when I pedal, both sides.  This causes the seam to rip/fray over time.  I prefer the inner-thigh area to be one panel construction so I don’t have to worry about the seam splitting on a ride.  Oh yes it did.  Fortunately, the rip was tiny, maybe an inch or two in length.  Anyway, I avoid shorts or bibs with an exposed seam now that I know better.

Also, I wrote another post about what to look for (and what to avoid) when shopping for cycling shorts here.

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10 Comments

  1. […] The Noob’s Guide to Cycling:  Shorts or Bibs? And one flaw to avoid in ANY pair of shorts you… […]

  2. Quan says:

    Completely agree! Bibs are the way to go… let’s just not prance around in them without a jersey… that looks awkward! :-/

  3. Once you go bibs, you’ll never go back. And once you find the perfect pair, nothing else will do. I get mine from Voler. They have awesome sales and even though the ‘sample’ bibs are ugly as sin, they’re pro level materials. Just don’t put them in the dryer.

  4. wanderwolf says:

    Re: chafed nipples… I thought at was only a problem for long distance runners! I guess no sport is immune…
    also, no guts no glory.

  5. damien says:

    On this, we definitely agree. I wear a sleeveless UA baselayer under the bib straps to protect the nips, even in the hot humid Mid-Atlantic swampy summer.

    • bgddyjim says:

      That definitely works, I’ve just yet to find a decent hot-weather base layer that works (I use Nike, same fit, a little less pricey). I may have to give UA another look. Thanks for the tip, brother.

  6. Sheree says:

    Bib shorts are soooooooo the way to go for both sexes.

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