Bibs v. Shorts

Cycle Lane signI remember back in the early 90’s when I bought my first pair of cycling shorts. I was riding more and more and realized that for any distance over a few miles I needed to cushion the bottom side. At that time about the only store local to me that carried anything like that was Sport Authority. I went in, looked at a few pairs and ended up with a pair that were made by Nike. They were far different then the shorts we have today as they were more of a cottony blend, not smooth and slick by todays standards. From that moment on I realized what I had been missing – comfort! But other than that single pair of shorts I really had nothing to compare them to, but they worked for me and I wore them a lot!

Up until last year I had always worn cycling shorts when I went out on rides. I started mountain biking in the early 2000’s so I had accumulated a few baggy pairs of cycling shorts but would sometimes break out those old Nikes and wear them under cargo shorts.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? Or so I thought.

When I started my quest to get back into road biking I realized my old Nikes just weren’t going to cut the mustard. I’m not really into looking “old school” and they really were showing their age. So started researching good pairs of cycling shorts and went to my local REI to try on a few. I ended up purchasing a nice pair of Pearl Izumi Attack shorts and the first time I rode with them it was like Nirvana, much like the first time I rode with those old Nikes. I soon realized a lot of advancements had been made in the cycling short department. It made me wonder what else had I been missing. Not wanting to just be content with my one pair of shorts I just had to learn more about the advancements and different types of cycling shorts.

I had always seen and heard of bib shorts but I always thought they were for racers and A riders, not really necessary for an “avid” cyclist like myself plus I scoffed and said that just looks uncomfortable. But whenever I spoke to someone or read an article about them the common theme would always be they are more comfortable than shorts mostly due to the lack of a tight waistband.

Since I needed more than one pair of shorts now that I was riding several days a week and doing laundry that many times was getting old quick, I decided to give a pair of bib shorts a try. I looked around at my local offerings but ultimately I decided on Specialized RBX Comp bib shorts. I figured I had nothing to lose, if I didn’t like how they felt or fit I would just return them and then purchase a few more pairs of the PI Attack shorts. The order was placed and they arrived a few days later. I was genuinely excited to try them, I don’t always deal with change well but I could tell good things were on the horizon – or at least on my tush.

I tried them on w/o even taking off the tags just in case… but as I was assured they were amazingly comfortable. There was no tight waistband (not that shorts were ever an issue on me but it was still noticeable), they came up higher than shorts so no more worries about a drafty backside and the “suspenders” were like they weren’t even there. They held the shorts but but were amazingly flexible and offered no range of motion hinderance. So wanting to give them a proper test, without further ado, I cut off the tags, threw on a jersey, shoes, grabbed a bottle of water and headed out the door with the bike. It was late in the afternoon as I recall so I didn’t ride long, under 10 miles, but that was enough to put them through the paces and see if this was the next best thing to sliced bread.

I liked them so much I bought a second pair. Between those 2 pairs I probably have close to 1000 miles with them and they are still as comfortable as the day I first got them, and still feel great even after 30 mile jaunts. Sad to say my nice PI shorts spend most of their time at the bottom of the drawer and only come out mostly for trainer duty.

Of course you know the story doesn’t end here right? I can’t leave well enough alone and read all sorts of reviews on other bib shorts. I have a few other brands I eventually want to try/add to my collection but the ones that really jumped out at me as a must.buy.now. item were the Performance Ultra SL bib shorts that I mentioned in a previous post.

Now I don’t have a lot of bib short experience but I think the Ultra SL bibs are of an exceptional quality & value. They are every bit as comfortable as my RBX Comps and come in a little bit cheaper (~$5) at their regular price, BUT you can sometimes find them on sale for as low as $72 – that’s almost a no brainer. My first time out with the Ultra SL bibs I did 28 miles without even thinking about my derrière. The RBX Comps are great and they aren’t going anywhere, but with the ROI of the Ultra SLs you can bet a second pair will find their way into my cycling kit.

There you have it, my journey from shorts to bibs, never to go back.

So what do you like to slip into when you go riding?

2 Comments

  1. Bibs. A little awkward for number 2 duty, but the comfort outweighs that inconvenience. I used to wear PI elites, but the rubbery stuff on the bands around the thighs felt weird on my skin. They eventually wore out and I replaced them.

    I get the performance ultras. They are Uber comfortable. Super affordable. I have 2 pair and have worn them almost every day for the last 3 years.

    • I’m very impressed with the quality of the Performance Ultra bibs. For the price they really cannot be beat. Their shirts are equally as nice as well.

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