Bib shopping presents a unique challenge for most consumers; you can’t necessarily walk into a shop and try them on to find out which are the best bib shorts for you.
Fortunately, I’ve tested an absurd amount of bibs during my tenure here at VeloNews, and a pretty significant chunk of them in 2020. I know what I like (lay-flat straps are a must!) and I know what to avoid (bulky seams and overly tight leg hems? No thank you!).
So while the best bib shorts remain the ones that fit you best, I can tell you which ones I loved in 2020 based on all the things I learned about bib shorts in 2020.
In no particular order, here are the best bib shorts I tested in 2020.
Assos continues to be the cream of the crop when it comes to bib shorts, though of course you’ll pay for the privilege.
The bib straps lay flat and hold solid. Assos makes a big deal about its A-Lock support system, which is a combination of design elements intended to keep the chamois in place where it should be during your ride. I can’t tell you if this actually works any better than Assos’ other designs — they’ve all been pretty wonderful in that regard — but I can say that these shorts are exceptionally comfortable and supportive. In fact, it’s tough to find a pair of Assos bibs that aren’t comfortable and supportive.
Okay, I know I said these criss-crossed bib straps drive me crazy, and they definitely do. But the straps themselves are ultimately quite comfortable, topping off an otherwise attractive pair of bib shorts. Velocio’s style game is on point, much more so than many of its competitors. That helps for sure, but more importantly, I found these bibs to be comfortable for daily riding. The leg hem does have a seam that can be bothersome for some riders, but I didn’t find it to be uncomfortable in most situations.
Cancellara aesthetic aside, the C5 shorts from Gore feature laser-cut lay-flat bib straps, an Elastic Interface chamois, and a snug, comfortable fit. They do have those leg hems that I’m not wild about, but the sausage-leg feel was fairly minimal and comfortable. I like the way the mesh back panel keeps the bib straps in place, too. And hey, blue shorts? I’m happy with something other than black for a change.
The C5 shorts are also half the price of most of its competitors. There’s a lot of value packed into these bib shorts.
The bib straps are the star of the show here. They’re so light and soft, and they’re laser-cut seamless, that they all but disappear on your ride. But they still have enough strength and structure to support the rest of the shorts. The unique shape of the back panel keeps the straps from wandering while still allowing an open-back, breathable design.
A supportive and comfortable chamois is placed within a compressive pair of shorts, and most importantly, the seams all lay flat and are welded. The hems are also laser-cut for a smooth transition to your legs. The plain black aesthetic may not be flashy enough for you — and holy cow are they expensive — but Pearl Izumi has made some of the best shorts on the market otherwise.