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How Many Pairs of Cycling Shorts Do You Need? How I Plan a Year of Cycling Shorts Without Breaking the Bank.


December 2022

I have a surprisingly assortment of cycling shorts. Well, technically, bibs. I don’t wear shorts anymore because my 52-year-old abs have a little laundry atop the washboard and bibs tend to make that a little less ugly. They’re also vastly more comfortable because there’s no waistband.

I used to have around four or five pair that I kept in rotation but the quality was all over the spectrum. Cheap bibs, expensive bibs, an outrageously expensive pair… then I started riding DALMACs in 2015. Four days, 372 miles, give or take. Three centuries (plus) and a 72-miler. With a ride like that you need four great pair of shorts, or bibs in my case. We also kill it at home on the weekends. Two long days, usually between 60 & 100 miles each day. This meant trouble with the cheaper bibs. Most newer cyclists think of cycling bibs and shorts linearly, in terms of cost. That’s a massive mistake, though. They’re really dimensional.

The cost of a pair of bibs, or shorts as the case may be, should be looked at in three dimensions, though; initial cost, durational cost, distance comfortably traveled per ride.

For example, a top-end $180 pair of Specialized bibs are a massive front-end expenditure for one pair of shorts but they last forever. That’s second part is durational cost. Then there’s distance; I can comfortably ride a century in a pair of top-end Specialized bibs without ever thinking about my bibs – and I don’t use a chamois cream. A pair of $180 bibs will last up to five seasons if I’m not wearing them every week.

Then there’s the second tier of bibs. Sticking with Specialized, the next line runs $150. These are almost indistinguishable from the top of the line bibs and are just as good in terms of longevity and distance. That means their durational cost is a slightly better.

The next line, the RBX Mirage bibs, run around $100 and are good for anything up to a metric century and can be pushed to a full 100 miles if necessary. You may have a bit of a surprise when you hit the shower, though, in terms of a hot spot. Their durational cost is excellent but the chamois will wear out over the course of a few seasons.

The low-end bibs, the RBX line, is good for your weekday 15 to 50-miler. Push them over 50 and your butt will be talking to you in unfriendly terms. Same with the durational cost. They’re cheap on the front end but they’ll be relegated to a winter trainer pair sooner than the high-end bibs.

Finally, and this is a fantastic tip for the cyclist on a budget, don’t mess with the straight from China brands. Usually the chamois sucks and the outer material is sub-standard to the extent one will be able to discern your religion in the proper light. Instead, go for The Black Bibs. They’re great for anything up to a metric century but I wouldn’t wear them more than two miles beyond that unless you really want to know the meaning of pain when you step foot in the shower afterward. At $40 to $80, I’ve got three pair in my rotation and they’ve got three years on them without signs that I’d need a new pair yet.

So, this is my rotation of bibs:

Two pair of Team Issue Specialized SL bibs with matching Jerseys. Without question, when I have a long day in the saddle, this is where I start. I bought them on sale at the end of the season a few years ago. They’re not brand new anymore but they’re still fantastic.

Four pair of Specialized SL and SL race bibs. These are good enough for DALMAC days and for long days on the tandem with my wife.

Three pair of Black Bibs that I wear during the week so I can save wear and tear on the expensive bibs. None of these are used on the trainer over the winter. I have four pair of older, cheap bibs for the trainer. I’m only going to ride that for 45 minutes, so I don’t have to worry about hot spots.

While I haven’t tried them, personally, I would feel comfortable with virtually anything made by Castelli or Santini and the upper lines of Bontrager for bibs. I’m stuck on Specialized for two reasons: it’s what I know, and my Venge.



  1. Sheree says:

    It’s all about the pad!

  2. crustytuna says:

    “discern your religion in the proper light”.. 😂 Brilliant…

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