If you’re going to be spending long periods of time on the bike this summer, whether at a Sportive or on a Sunday morning ride, it’s worth investing in a pair of bib shorts. They have a pad that provides comfort when your on the saddle for hours at a time and have straps that go over your shoulders that avoid a waist band digging into your stomach. There are many other types of shorts around on the market, but you won’t find any that beat bib shorts on comfort.
If you’re going to invest in a pair of shorts, it’s worth getting a good pair and if you’re going to be doing a lot of riding, you may need to invest in two or three. It is possible to get some good shorts for around £40, however you can go up to around £300.
Here we’ll look at some of the things to look out for when buying a pair.
The main difference with women’s over men’s is the fit and the padded insert. The overall shapes are different and tend to be narrower and shorter. Where the bib straps go straight up the torso for a man, a woman’s bib straps are either pushed out to the sides or have a single central strap. Some bib straps can be unclipped, to help when nature calls. There are loads of women's specific clothing brands around now, offering some fantastic kit.
Take one, Queen of the Mountains, who have just launched a great new range. The clothing range has been put together in London and manufactured in Italy, designed by women cyclists for women cyclists.
Definately worth checking out: http://www.queenofthemountains.co.uk
Inside bib shorts there is an insert often referred to as the chamois, the name came from early shorts that used a real leather pad made from chamois goat skin. These days they are mostly made from synthetic materials. Most of the money you pay on your new shorts goes into the pad, therefore the more you pay the more comfortable they should be. The pad is shaped to fit your body shape when sitting on the bike – cheaper shorts have a single thickness pad, while the more expensive ones use variable levels of foam thickness and density to keep the pad thinner where you don’t need so much cushioning.
Look for pads with an antibacterial finish for hygiene, particularly when you don’t wear underwear with bib shorts! Some pads also have perforations to wick away sweat.
Manufacturers are now aiming at shorts to suit different riding types, so you might be able to find something for endurance events or something lighter for short rides or racing.
Pads come in men’s and women’s versions with shapes to fit different anatomies and they vary in shape and thickness and it is worth trying them on before you buy. However you may not know until you’ve been out on the saddle for a while.
Fabrics have come on a long way over the last few years but the fit is always influenced by the number of panels used to make up the shorts. The more panels the better the fit but this can add to the price tag as they involve more processes to make them. Manufacturers are now combining different fabrics to achieve a good level of compression and/or breathability.
Size changes from brand to brand, so it’s worthwhile trying a few on at your local bike shop. As a rule of thumb all Italian cycle clothing will come up small and American and Uk brands tend to be a little larger.
The straps stretch over your shoulders and have quite a bit of stretch to them, useful when nature calls.
Men’s straps tend to be widely space where women’s have some variations, joining in the middle of the chest with a buckle to allow easy removal.
The grippers will hold the shorts down and in place to stop them from riding up when out on the bike. Usually silicone tape will be added to the underside to help hold them down otherwise broad highly elasticity hems are used to keep the shorts in place.
MAAP clothing is a favourite of ours. Designed in Melbourne, Australia and made in Italy. A great line of clothing that has tremendous compression with moisture wicking properties, looks really nice too.