06 August 2010

BicyclingHub.com Buyer's Guide to Bib Shorts

Why Bib Shorts?

Whether you're relatively new to riding, or have recently decided to get more serious about your fitness and training, you're ready to bridge the gap from traditional cycling shorts to bib shorts. If you're already a convert then you'll probably know exactly what we're talking about! Many who start using bibs say that they will never look back - sounds like what we all used to say about pedals when clipless were first introduced. Bib shorts are found by most, if not all, to be the most comfortable option for a riding short - but of course this relies heavily on getting the fit right (see Ensuring Proper Fit guidelines, below). Lack of a waistband and the fact that bib straps serve to hold the shorts up in proper position significantly contribute to the comfort factor. Preferred by professional cyclists and general enthusiasts alike, with a cycling jersey worn over the top bystanders can't tell the difference between bib shorts and traditional ones.

Ensuring Proper Fit

You will notice that our sizing charts (provided on each product page) give height as the measure that you should use. Of course, some individuals will have a shorter torso and some longer, but we still find height to be the best measure. It is paramount to get the bib strap length right in order to get the optimum fit: too long and the straps will be loose, failing to hold the shorts up and in position effectively; too short could cause discomfort, pulling the short up too tightly with straps potentially cutting in on the shoulders.

NOTE: bib straps may feel just a bit tight in the standing position. In fact, this is actually probably best, as when you are in true riding position the straps should slacken a little. You might find that after a few uses, the shorts will loosen up a bit as well. We suggest when you first try on the shorts, re-create the riding position if at all possible - perhaps pretend you are on the bike and adopt the crouch position - or get on the bike on the indoor trainer - or just pop down the driveway on your bike. (Don't be tempted to keep going though, unless you are sure of the fit, as we cannot accept exchanges that have been ridden in!)
Sample Sizing Chart: Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Bib Shorts
Height(bibs)5'3"-5'5"5'6"-5'10"5'11"-6'2"6'3"-6'4"6'5"and above

Today's Chamois is not an Actual Chamois

The chamois, Rupicapra rupicapra, is a goat-antelope species native to mountains in Europe, including the Carpathian Mountains of Romania, the European Alps, the Gran Sasso region of the central Italian Apennines, the Tatra Mountains, the Balkans, parts of Turkey, and the Caucasus. Source: Wikipedia

Main Entry: cham·ois
Pronunciation: \ˈsha-mē, sense 1 also sham-ˈwä\

Back in the “Dark Ages” of cycling (when down-tube shifters and 5-speed cassettes were considered “new-fangled technology”), cycling shorts contained a leather chamois pad which had to be hand-oiled and vigorously maintained. Thanks to continual innovation, rigorous testing procedures and demands for improvement in the marketplace, today's chamois has advanced by leaps and bounds.

Today's chamois is not an actual Chamois (see animal picture above), but rather a synthetic pad. Engineered to wick moisture away from the skin, breathe, prevent growth of bacteria as well as chafing, today's synthetic chamois pads provide a high degree of comfort as well as functionality. Various fabric technologies and pad construction offer a wide range of styles and consistency levels, varying from thin (simulating the feel of the original natural leather chamois) to very thick. Remember that more padding does not necessarily and immediately relate to more comfort; different body types may respond more positively to certain brands or materials, depending on the comfort, style and preferences of each rider. BicyclingHub.com sells over 40 different styles of high-quality bib shorts from reputable manufacturers including Pearl Izumi, Castelli, Louis Garneau and Giordana to fit every budget. Need professional advice or personal recommendations? Call our cycling clothing experts at 888-817-8060 or email customerservice@bicyclinghub.com. Regardless, the universal truth holds: PROPER FIT IS KEY TO OPTIMAL COMFORT AND PERFORMANCE.

JennJenn says:

Why the Chamois Pad is Your Best Friend

“Okay, I'll go for a ride...but I'm not going to wear any of those funny-looking diaper shorts! I might as well be wearing Depends, and I'll be in those soon enough... when I turn 70. No sirrreee.”

As a novice cyclist, this is how I used to feel. 53 miles and 8 hours later, after riding my mountain bike through the streets of New York City amongst 35,000 cyclists on the 5 Boro Bike Tour, I had most decidedly re-considered my position on the matter. The next day, I purchased my first pair of Pearl Izumi Quest padded shorts and have never looked back. Whether it's a 20 mile commute or a 200 mile Brevet, I reach for the Chamois Butt'R and my trustworthy cycling shorts to keep me comfortable in the saddle, day after day.”

What About Underwear?

The technical fabric of the chamois in a cycling short is designed for direct skin contact. Wearing a cotton or fabric undergarment between your body and the chamois pad creates a warm, moist environment that propagates the growth of bacteria and prevents the moisture-wicking properties of the pad from working properly. In addition, seams from cotton underwear can dig into the skin and contribute to chafing, inflammation, ingrown hairs and saddle sores. Thus, cyclists should never wear underwear when riding.

Experiencing Chafing? Try Chamois Crème

Popular brands such as Chamois Butt 'R--or the new Chamois Butt R Eurostyle– are non-greasy lubricants which eliminate painful chafing and rubbing, as well as extending your enjoyable ride time in the saddle. These products also sooth and soften previously irritated skin. If you're experiencing chafing or significant discomfort, BicyclingHub.com recommends you provide a comfortable barrier you need by pairing cycling shorts or bib shorts with chamois crème—especially on extended and/or challenging rides.

Men's Bib Shorts Vs. Women's Bib Shorts: What's the Difference?

Just like the bicycle manufacturing industry is finally catching on to the fact that female cyclists can benefit greatly from women's specific designs in bicycles and saddle choices, so too is the cycling apparel industry recognizing the importance of engineering high-performance cycling clothing which allows for and adapts to women's unique anatomical shapes.
In a recent interview with Giordana founder and owner Giorgio Andretta, BicyclingHub.com asked, “What makes Giordana's women's attire stand out from their competitors?

Andretta responded: “Over the last several years Giordana has focused more specifically on the women's market. It's readily apparent that female riders' needs are not taken as seriously as the mens' in this industry. Too often, women's garments are an after-thought. Giordana recognized a need in the market for serious elite women's apparel on par in every way with the best men's stuff out there. We stand out from our competitors because of the equality we strive for between our men's and women's collections. Moreover, we recognize that while men's and women's apparel should be equal in quality, performance and features, those male and female riders' needs are very different. To achieve the ideal balance we developed what we call Giordana's WCF™ (Women's Contour Fit). Every women's specific garment in the line is developed using this system. The WCF system uses real female riders on the bike to develop forms and pattern that will enhance the riding experience for women.”

One of the most immediately noticeable differences between men's and women's bib shorts are the dimensions between hips and waist. Recognizing women traditionally have longer and narrower waists, most designs for women offer longer front in-seams, tighter waistbands and a more tapered fit directly above with hips to follow the contours of a woman's form (and prevent shorts from riding down). Women's bibs also factor in a modified strap design to prevent undue stress or chafing in the breast area by either widening the chest to a full tank or intentionally ending the straps in a T shape at the neck so as not to slip as they sit over the breasts. While women's cuts can display shorter leg lengths than traditionally cut men's short (covering the full quadricep), BicyclingHub.com sells cycling shorts and bib shorts in a variety of leg lengths to suit each rider's personal preferences.

Men often have an easier time jumping in and out of their bib shorts when it comes to relieving themselves mid-ride; however, with the advent of new technologies such as Pearl Izumi's Drop Tail bib shorts, women can quickly drop trow without ever having to remove their jersey or worry about entangling themselves in the process.

JennJenn says:

Pearl Izumi Women's Drop Tail Cycling Bibshorts ROCK!

A doubting Thomasina when it came to bib shorts, I long resisted fellow cyclists suggestions/directives to strap on a pair rather than traditional riding shorts. "But you can't go to the bathroom in bibs without a 10 minute production," I'd complain; and the last thing you want to do on an 80 mile ride is root around in the bushes with a dozen other riding companions waiting up the road any longer than absolutely necessary.

Pearl Izumi has come to the rescue with their Drop Tail Cycling Bibshorts. Designed specifically to hug the curves of a women's body, the plush Elite 3D Chamois padding kept me in the saddle for 4.5 hrs without any discomfort. I had absolutely no problems using the drop tail feature (even beating some of my male cycling colleagues out of the restroom) and the elastic leg grippers kept the shorts firmly in place. I am definitely a convert!

Sizing: European vs. American

As with most clothing items, there can be a considerable variance in the sizing across different brands and this is apparent in cycling apparel as well. The most common variance is that between continental European sizing and true to American sized product - for example a pair of large Pearl Izumi shorts will come up a whole size bigger than a pair of Castelli's in large. We have a wide knowledge, and experience, of how different brands fit and can advise on these variances. Of course if you have any questions regarding sizing, we here at BicyclingHub.com will be more than happy to help you find what will work best for you. Our cycling clothing experts can be reached at 1-888-817-8060 or customerservice@bicyclinghub.com.


Brian said...

I've got two pairs of the Performance Ultra Bib shorts. I love them.

bikelovejones said...

For The Ladies -- there's also Hoo-Ha Ride Glide cream, which is the best stuff I've ever used in my chamois:


Good stuff!

Unknown said...

I totally agree go by the height table to size your bib shorts because the straps can pull to tightly and be rather uncomfortable in the groin area.

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