Women Ride: bibs versus shorts

As women, there are a lot of topics relating to cycling comfort which are either not frequently talked about or just too embarrassing to ask a male salesperson at the local bike shop. Topics like: “I’m hurting down there” or “Do you have any tips about riding while menstruating?” or “Why can’t I find cycling clothes that fit?” You get the idea: personal, women-specific and potentially awkward to explain. We’ll do our best in addressing these topics here.

Today’s topic: bibs or shorts

If you’re spending more than an hour on the saddle, a good pair of cycling shorts or bibs can make a world of difference. Even if spandex is not your thing, your lady parts will thank you for hiding a pair of chamois liners or shorts underneath your skirt.

A good pair of padded shorts help prevent chafing, reduce pressure and hot spots, and are simply more comfortable. Once you’re comfortable wearing padded lycra, you face the next option: regular shorts or bib shorts?

Budding cyclists will quickly note that experienced riders and racers -- men and women alike -- prefer bib shorts, and there are good reasons why.

Yes, the leotard look takes some warming up to and the bathroom visits take more time, but the overall comfort and functionality of a good pair of bib shorts will certainly improve your ride.

Bib shorts are designed to follow the natural contours of your body with a tight yet comfortable fit for a seamless transition between your bottoms and jersey. And thanks to the bibs you’ll experience:

No waistband, no muffin top

Seriously though, no waistband means no elastic uncomfortably cutting into your waist, no drawstrings, less chafing and more comfort.

No saggy butt

Most cycling shorts will end up slipping down, riding up or get saggy over time, and that means the chamois (padding) moves as well. Keeping the chamois in place is important to prevent chafing and saddle sores.

No exposed skin

Whether you’re stretching mid-ride or throwing your hands up as you cross the finish line, your jersey will ride up and your belly is exposed. This is especially a common problem for tall women. Bib shorts are cut higher than traditional shorts, and make for a seamless transition between shorts and jersey.

No more catching your shorts on the saddle

For those who ride/race cyclo-cross and/or mountain bikes, bib shorts provide an added bonus: you won’t snag your shorts on your saddle while (re)mounting your bike or transitioning between riding in and out of the saddle.

There is one big downside of bib shorts however, and that is the limited availability of women’s specific bib shorts. Most brands will manufacture a dozen different bib shorts for men and few -- if any -- bib shorts for women. But as the number of women riding and wearing bib shorts increases, women’s apparel grows as well. Some brands, like Louis Garneau for example, are even coming up with designs to deal with the bathroom problem women face by adding a front clip to quickly detach the shoulder straps.

So, next time you go shopping for a new set of shorts, consider bib shorts. And let us know what you think!

Thanks for the positive feedback to this column. We’re happy to help! Please continue to email me your questions at amrook@cascadebicycleclub.org and I’ll answer them anonymously.

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