Bib shorts are evolving. If pure shorts are “antique,” and the Lycra in a racerback bib pattern is classic, then our current moment of drop-tail bibs is the modern era.
Here we take a comparative look at 28 drop-tail bib shorts. Each of the designs is slightly different, but they all work to offer the convenience of shorts with the support and coverage of a bib.
In addition to rating each pair in seven categories — chamois, seams, material, compression, gripper, straps, ease of use — we also give you our picks for the best in a few different styles.
Also read: Black-owned cycling apparel companies
These drop-tail designs intended for women hopefully make more converts from the cave-drawn religions of shorts to the efficient transcendence of bib shorts. 1,500 years ago, everybody “knew” that the earth was the center of the universe. 500 years ago, everybody “knew” that the earth was flat. 15 years ago, everyone “knew” you couldn’t drop trou in bibs without taking off your jersey.
Imagine what you might “know” tomorrow.
Drop-tail bibs come in six general bib short patterns: Racerback, archback, crossback, halter, suspender, and zipper, with the vast majority being one of the first four formats or styles. Each style has its pros and cons, and a top-rated pick of the best bib short of that type.
Racerback: two straps in the front become one at the shoulder blades; the clasp, hook, or magnet is at the small of the back.
Pros: Use of the drop-tail doesn’t stretch the straps.
Cons: Not friendly to riders with shoulder mobility issues; rely upon the strength of the magnet or hook.
Rapha Detachable – This magnet is strong enough to snap the clasp together and is the reason the Rapha detachable beat out the I.RIS. The Detachable has all the features of a true classic — wide leg grippers, simple but bold reflective branding — and it does more than just add a magnet and elastic paneling at the lower back so the shorts can come down. Sturdily made, these bibs feature a slightly thicker separate back panel that protects the rider’s skin from the clasp. That feature allowed Rapha to beat out Givelo, the runner-up in this category. Like the other racerbacks, the Rapha Detachable bib avoids showing lower back skin when worn with short-torsoed jerseys.
Arch-back: for the purposes of this article, two straps from the front to the rear of the waist, connected by a horizontal strap at the shoulders. The horizontal strap takes the place of a J-hook, and can form an arch.
Pros: Straps lay flat more easily.
Cons: Longevity of waist compression is highly dependent upon the pattern used for construction and quality of the fabric used in hip panels and straps.
Velocio Concept – The top-of-the-line bib from the company that has quietly challenged the market with the most varieties of drop-tail designs released over time, the Concept would be best overall for riders who prefer a wide and soft leg gripper. Lay-flat back straps, an excellent chamois, and an easy-to-use drop-tail make it the best in category.
Halter: two front straps form a loop that goes over the back of the neck.
Pros: No strap to twist behind the rider.
Cons: Strap may cut into the back of the rider’s neck.
Cafe du Cycliste Sophie – Halters can be loose and unsupportive in the body, while the only strap can cut into the back of the rider’s neck. The Cafe Du Cycliste Sophie shorts avoid those issues by having a high waist and using dual compressive mesh for the body. The form-hugging construction takes some of the pressure off the neck strap. The only reason it isn’t the overall winner is the need to open the jersey to use the halter feature.
Crossback: two straps cross over the one’s back.
Pros: Ease of use.
Cons: Longevity is highly dependent upon item construction pattern, frequency of use, and quality of fabric used in hip panels and straps.
Endura PRO SL – The front fabric is like a bathing suit, covering everything from the neck downward, and I hate that, but it does feel compressive, and smooths out any bra lines. The unique white bib upper was visible through a thin jersey, however, which is one reason I usually hate when bib uppers are white, let alone when they form a full-frontal suit that negates the need for a thin base-layer. I love the fit of these bibs, which should work for many people, while my dislike of the color is subjective. The PRO SL and the Pearl Izumi P.RO. are the only two bibs with overlapping rear straps or panels that form a “V” at the lower back, resulting in an easily usable drop-tail that is also high enough to wear with an open short-torsoed jersey. A medical-grade elastomer bonded to foam adds a new level of shock absorption to the chamois. Additionally, you may have a choice of chamois width.
Suspenders: two straps attached at the front go straight over the shoulders, straight down the back and attach on the same side of the waist or hip.
Pros: Ease of use.
Cons: Straps may be so loose that they’re ineffective at keeping the bibs up and fall off the shoulder if not adjusted.
Bontrager Meraj – Not a common structure, there are only two suspender bibs on this list, but this is the only bib with an adjustable strap length like a bra. Combined with a very good chamois and compressive knit fabric, the Meraj provides unique flexibility in the torso.
Zipper: horizontal or vertical zipper at the rear waist, or hips.
Pros: Fit is secure and won’t stretch.
Cons: If the zipper fails the rider could be fully exposed.
No two bibs on this list are similar enough to fairly compare, and I don’t recommend a zipper for this function. But if we had to pick a category winner, a vertical bib zip like the Bioracer would be preferable, since it can be held closed more easily with safety pins should it break while on a ride.
Pearl Izumi P.R.O. – This Archback is shorter in the leg than I personally like, with an 8.5-inch inseam, but hits all the notes of a fantastic set of modern bibs: gripperless leg panels, minimum seaming, and uppers the same color as the bib. The straps widen and cross at the waist, meaning short-torsoed jerseys won’t reveal skin in the back when in the riding position, which is the single biggest visual problem non-racerback drop-tail bibs face. Ultimately it’s the ease of use (no magnets or hooks), the high waist in the back, and the silkiness of the fabric that secured the best-overall spot.
Soomom Reflective and I.RIS Signature shorts. Both bibs are less than $200 but rated top-10 in testing. The Soomom stood out by being fully reflective, while the Signature is the best pair of drop-tail bibs with an MSRP under $180.
Best drop-tail bib shorts rated and ranked
|Brand/Model||Total||Chamois||Seams||Material||Compression||Gripper||Straps||Ease of Use|
|Pearl Izumi P.R.O.||34||5||5||5||4||5||5||5|
|Endura Pro SL||32||5||5||5||4||5||5||5|
|Velocio Bib Tights||33||5||5||5||5||5||3||5|
|Soomom Pro Reflective||32||4||5||5||4||5||5||5|
|Cafe du Cycliste Sophie||32||5||5||5||4||5||4||4|
|Iris Signature III||32||5||5||5||4||5||4||4|
|Pactimo Summit Classic||32||5||4||5||4||5||5||4|
|Rapha Pro Team Winter||32||5||4||5||5||5||4||4|
|Assos UMA GTV C2||32||5||5||5||5||4||5||3|
|DNA QOM Bib Short||30||5||5||4||3||4||4||5|
|Alé PRR Future||30||4||5||5||3||4||4||5|
|Shebeest Petunia Bib||29||3||4||5||4||4||4||5|
|7Mesh WK3 Cargo||29||3||3||4||4||5||5||5|
|Pearl Izumi Expedition||28||4||5||4||2||5||4||4|
|Specialized Race Series Bib||27||4||4||4||4||4||4||3|
|Specialized SL Bib||27||4||4||4||3||4||4||4|
|Rodeo Adventure Explorts||27||3||4||4||4||4||3||5|
|Reggie Long Range Dropper Bibs||25||4||3||3||3||3||5||4|
|Van Rysel Decathlon Quick Zip||22||3||2||3||3||4||3||4|
|Pactimo Ascent Vector||?||?||?||?||?||?||?||?|
|Universal Colours Chroma||?|
|Universal Colours Mono||?|
|Rating Key||Chamois||Seams||Material||Compression||Gripper||Straps||Ease of Use|
|Unrideable, this is a cheesegrater||The threads are made of fishing line and are unevenly sewn to boot||Rough like sandpaper||Floppy, nonexistent||Cuts into your leg||Slice into your shoulders like they’re cutting bread||You need 4 arms|
Not that bad
|Short rides only||Uncomfortably sewn and/or impractically placed||The cheapest no-stretch polyester that doesn’t breathe||Like a stocking||Sausage leg||They’re annoying instead of painful, require some fiddling to lay flat||You really need to have good shoulder mobility|
|Century-acceptable||Normal, faux latlock, a loose thread or two||Basic spandex/poly||Like leggings||Only slight sausage leg||Moderate fiddling, no pain, not annoying||Moderate fiddling|
|Century Ready||Faux flatlock, fine thread or stitching||Softt, supportive spandex/poly/nylon||Like good gym leggings||Comfortable, no sausage leg, but you know it’s there||Light and comfortable on the shoulders||Some fiddling but secure once set|
|Like sitting on a silken cloud||Flatlock, fine thread, and smartly patterned||Buttery soft and not transparent upon stretching||Like a Kardashian’s favorite Spanx||One smooth leg panel, no separate gripper panel. Feels like it’s not there, but it is.||Lay flat without fuss, are breathable, hold everything in place, fun print as bonus||I could almost do this one-handed|