When I first stated looking into bib shorts I found myself generally ridiculed, both by my wife and more significantly my friends – One of which referred to my set up as a “onesie”. As I spoke to more and more cyclists however, the bib short consistently rose up as as the “pro” choice. As such, I decided that bibs deserved at least a chance to earn a spot in my closet.
Generally speaking, I’ve never really been adverse to spandex, I’ve worn it for a quite a long time – albeit previously under “cooler” baggy riding shorts. As my training regime became more structured and I began adding road rides to my schedule I eventually lost the baggy shorts and just went with spandex, though for a shorter, more recreational ride I’ll still pull out the ‘baggies’. Many non-cyclists may think spandex is ridiculous, but when it comes to cycling, it’s standard gear, less cumbersome than other materials, keeps you cooler, and here to stay so learn to love it!
The cyclists that I spoke to indicated that the main benefit of bibbed shorts was comfort… Without a waistband there’s nothing digging into your stomach, nothing you need to worry about pulling up (or down), or moving as you shift position on the bike. All of which sounded like fairly solid arguments for the bib. However, one consistent drawback kept rearing it’s ugly head, something usually only experienced on longer rides, endurance rides, the types of rides that I’m frequently on… That drawback is that lack of “accessibility”…
Should you need to go to the bathroom you’re faced with a cumbersome task – either disrobe almost entirely, or become some sort of contortionist. Admittedly there were some hasty ‘strip downs’ in the beginning, but I eventually discovered a workaround… Though the solution is mainly aimed at the men there may be some adventuresome women out there willing to try it as well… I found that you’re able to grab/pull the leg of the bib short out to create a ‘hole’ through which you’re able to take care of number one… Not an elegant solution I admit, but a workable one. Should the need arise to tackle ‘number two’? Well… In that case I guess you’re getting naked.
Though I did find the bibs to be more comfortable, I managed to discover another potential drawback. Because the support straps traverse your chest and are prone to shifting around, there may be some… Well… Nipple chaffing.
There, I said it.
Despite many races in tight technical clothing this was the first time I’d ever had to deal with chaffing, though I have raced with other friends who’ve looked like they were lactating blood by the end of a race (you know who you are ;-)… Not pleasant for anybody involved.
I managed to counter the chaffing with some electrical tape (whatever you’re picturing in your mind is probably not far off of the actual execution), but I’m assuming you could also avert this fate by using BodyGlide or something similar. The material of the straps and the quality of the bib probably comes into play as well as I was admittedly wearing a cheaper bib short (I was just testing it out after all) and the straps were constructed of spandex – I’ve noted that many of the more expensive options have a mesh or softer construction up top.
So what was the verdict? Who was the winner of this battle? Which short should you run out and spend your hard earned money on? Well, personally I’ll continue to wear bibs, I find them more conformable initially, and find them quite a bit more comfortable over the long run, especially if it’s a ride on which you’ll be eating, bent over on long climbs or in the drops. To me, that comfort is worth the inconveniences… At least for now. We’ll see how the rest of the season goes.
Should you give them a shot? Probably.
Just like I did, I would pick up a cheaper pair and see if they deserve a spot in your closet. The sticker price on good bib shorts may shock you a bit, but you can find cheaper models for under $100 until you’re ready to pony up the bucks for a quality pair.
Really the best option might be some sort of hybrid high topped bib/short combo, but it would probably just roll down during the course of a race. Maybe the cycling apparel designers should sync up with the pregnancy apparel designers and see if anything magical happens ;-)