Shoddy shorts are guaranteed to spoil your Sunday morning ride quicker than you can say “saddle sore”, but modern fabrics and clever designs mean you can now buy an amazing pair without breaking the bank.

If you’ve never tried bib shorts before, we reckon you’ll be amazed how comfortable a decent pair can be. And if it’s a few years since you last invested in a pair you might be pleasantly surprised at how they have improved.

To test out the best designs on the market right now we’ve ridden in rain and sun, up hills and down dales. We’ve also washed and dried them and pulled at seams to check the stitching. 

Cycling seat pads and the bib straps that hold your shorts up come in a variety of designs and thicknesses – what works for one rider might not suit another, so we suggest that if you’re in any doubt you try out a range of styles and brands until you find one you’re most comfortable with. 

Gore C5 optiline bib shorts: £89.99, Wiggle

In jet black with just a few reflective elements, these will fit the bill if you love the understated look. Gore’s own “windstopper” technology will take the edge off chillier days but they’re still light enough to be worn in the height of summer. Although the straps are fairly narrow, they didn’t dig in on our training rides – in fact we never really noticed they were there, which is exactly what you want from a pair of bib shorts. Add in a pad that stays comfortable all day and large leg grippers that won’t shift when your legs are pumping and you’ve got a seriously good pair of shorts for a very reasonable price. They’re available in three colour combinations as well as the black we tested.

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Rapha pro team bib shorts II: £195, Rapha

As the name suggests, these bib shorts are a pro fit so some of us might have to think about sizing up. Don’t let that worry you though as they’re still lightweight and easy to wear. The pad is layered and thicker in the places where you need the most cushioning. It did a great job even on arduous four-hour rides through the Pennines. Oversized grippers kept the shorts in place even when working hard, and the mesh straps are nicely ventilated and have slots for up to two race radios, underlining the fact that these are truly race-ready. 

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Sportful bodyfit pro 2.0 LTD bib shorts: £115, Wiggle

You might not be able to ride like superstars Peter Sagan and Vincenzo Nibali but you can at least dress like them. These are the shorts issued to Sportful’s sponsored teams at the top level of cycling. Along with nice broad shoulder straps and a quality seat pad that lets you soak up the miles in comfort, you get a couple of hidden pockets designed for race radios (or in our case a tiny phone and energy gels). As with most Italian kit, the fit is on the skinny side so you might want to edge up a size from your standard fit.

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Dhb aeron bib shorts: £75, Wiggle

If you find black a bit boring then take a gander at these in rich navy blue – they’ll look great in the summer sun. The white bib straps work really well beneath thinner jerseys – no dark patches spoiling the look of your favourite light-coloured top. For 2019, Dhb have rethought the leg grippers and included the new Elastic Interface Paris HP seat pad which worked well for us, although some might find its raised edges rub a little on really long rides.

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Café du Cycliste marinette: £184, Café du Cycliste

If you want to look chic in the saddle, check out this pair from the stylish French brand from Nice. They’re understated, stretchy yet supportive, and come in a range of colours including the very smart “anthracite” grey we tested or even red for the really brave. The canny designers have used CyTech’s top flight Elastic Interface seat pad and there are laser-cut legs with silicone bead grippers to hold them in place. They’re pretty thin, with a breathable mesh back and straps, so are ideal for really hot conditions. We’ve worn plenty of Café du Cycliste over the past few seasons and it’s always stood up well to life on the road.

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Stolen Goat orkaan weatherproof bib shorts: £115, Stolen Goat

No one wants to see wet and chilly days in the summer – but you can bet your bottom dollar we’re going to have a few. Here’s the perfect pair for when the weather takes a turn for the worst. They’re slightly fleecy inside as well as being wind and water resistant. Paired with a set of knee or leg warmers they should see you through well into the autumn and you’ll be able to dig them out again in early spring.

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Lusso RS19: £99.99, Lusso

We love shorts from this Manchester-based firm and have never had a bad pair – in fact, last year’s DRS design was a real favourite of ours. This new design is aimed at racers – and wannabes – and incorporates a super-stretchy fabric that offers a bit of extra compression for the muscles. It’s said to both improve blood flow and reduce lactic acid build up. We can’t promise you’ll be winning races in them, but you’ll certainly be comfortable thanks to a seat pad designed for rides up to eight hours in duration.

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Isadore bib shorts: £120, Wiggle

Twins Martin and Peter Velits set up Isadore while riding in the professional peloton and they have used their experience of life on the road when designing their excellent kit. Like much of the Isadore range, these bibs are understated and stylish, with no showy logos or unnecessary features. The fabric is super-soft and nicely stretchy, with a comfy seat pad and seams that have been stitched flat to prevent any rubbing.

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Morvelo classic white Nth series bib shorts: £125, Morvelo

Eagle-eyed readers will have noticed these shorts aren’t white, despite the name. They’re not just black, they’re “coldblack” – a finish that reflects more of the sun’s heat than ordinary materials. It helps you to stay cooler on hot days and also offers added protection from UVA and UVB rays. They’ve got a nice broad mesh back that stretches lower down than many other designs, offering a bit of extra airflow behind your jersey pockets.

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Kalf flux print men’s bib shorts: £60, Evans Cycles

The braces-style shoulder straps on this budget pair set them apart from the others in our selection and offer some extra ventilation for your lower torso. Kalf say they are designed to pull the shorts in close to your body without putting unwanted pressure on the rear of the neck. We were impressed by the quality of the stitching and the broad leg grippers which have silicon dots to hold them in place. The pad is the same trusty Elastic Interface offering you can find in much more expensive rivals. They’re certainly ones to consider if you want an everyday pair for racking up the training miles or using on the daily commute.

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Scicon X-over bib shorts: £219, Scicon

You get a lot more than just a quality pair of shorts in this bundle from Italian maker Scicon as it branches out from its usual offering of bike travel cases and luggage. In the box are a couple of espresso cups plus a sturdy bag to carry your riding shoes, both of which help to ease the blow of that hefty price tag. The Mititech power fabric used in the main sections offers a four-way stretch to shape perfectly to your legs, while the pad is a top-end Elastic Interface offering with a channel down the middle to ease any pressure from your saddle. We found them getting more comfortable with every ride. Buy if you want something exclusive that should last you for years to come.

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Le Col hors categorie heritage bib shorts: £180, Le Col

Le Col set out to make the most comfortable bib shorts available when they designed this impressive pair. Whether they have achieved their goal depends on the design of your derriere, but we thought they were fantastic. For your money you get nice broad shoulder straps, a superb Dolomiti seat pad and clever gripper panels up the sides of the thighs. They are designed in Britain but stitched together in Italy – and are pricey but should see you good for thousands of miles.

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The verdict: Cycling bib shorts

You won’t find a bad pair among our line up, but our best buy from Gore performs superbly at a very reasonable price. The Sportful bib shorts offer you race-ready performance without breaking the bank, and if you want a perfect, but pricey, gift for the cyclist in your life have a look at the Scicons which come packaged with coffee cups and a shoe bag.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.