The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of gear

Best Bike Shorts and Bibs for Men of 2021

Photo: Ryan Baham
By Ryan Baham ⋅ Review Editor
Monday December 28, 2020
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Our biking experts have tested over 20 pairs of the best bike shorts and bibs in the last 6 years. This update features 10 of 2020's top contenders, pitted side-by-side in a competition for the best. We purchased each pair, getting out on the road, out of the saddle on hills, and sweating up a storm in spin class. Our experts literally cycled for hundreds of miles, spending at least 20 hours in each pair. After assessing key performance features, we provide our unbiased recommendations. Whether you're new to the cycling game or seeking a pair that'll perform for your next race, we've got you covered.

Top 10 Product Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 10
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Awards Editors' Choice Award  Editors' Choice Award  Top Pick Award 
Price $329.00 at Competitive Cyclist$229.00 at Competitive Cyclist$129.95 at Competitive Cyclist
Compare at 2 sellers
$279.00 at Competitive Cyclist$99.95 at Competitive Cyclist
Compare at 2 sellers
Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Supple and comfortable padding, supportive design, flexible, great moisture managementUnbeatable comfort, great balance of flexibility and support, awesome chamoisComfortable, dries quickly and wicks away moisture on rides, reduces saddle chafe, affordableExcellent padding and comfort, solid moisture management, supportive, race-like fitAffordable, supportive, durable, breathable
Cons Premium price, waist can feel looseComfort drops off after three hours, run a bit small, leg grippers can slidePouch seams can chafe, threading might come undoneNot cheap, chamois might be a bit large, grippers slideLimited padding, fabric can be restrictive
Bottom Line It doesn’t get a lot more premium than this bibSuper fast, super comfortable, great durability; what more could you want in shorts?Pro performance for a fraction of the priceBring pro-level performance to the market for the rest of usAn excellent choice for crits, amateur TTs, and 90-minute hammer fests
Rating Categories Assos Cento EVO Bib Assos T Equipe Evo SUGOi Evolution Bibs Equipe RS Spring Fall S9 Bib Gore Wear C5 Bib
Padding And Protection (25%)
10
10
9
9
7
Comfort And Fit (20%)
9
9
9
8
7
Breathability (15%)
9
9
9
8
8
Efficiency And Pedal Friendliness (15%)
9
9
9
9
8
Durability (15%)
8
8
7
8
8
Style (10%)
7
6
8
6
8
Specs Assos Cento EVO Bib Assos T Equipe Evo SUGOi Evolution Bibs Equipe RS Spring... Gore Wear C5 Bib
Main Fabric 73% nylon, 17% Elastane, 10% polyester 70% polyamide, 18% elastane, 12% polyester Evo Plus (polyester/spandex blend) nylon, polyester, elastane blend 80% polyamide 20% elastane
Inseam Measurement 9.5" 9.5" 9" 11" 10"
Number of panels 4 4 8 2 5
Fit Type Bib Bib Bib Bib Bib
Chamois Yes - Cento S7 EVO EquipeEVO_S7 RC Pro Equipe RS S9 Yes
Weight 6.49 6.35 oz 7.08 oz 7.94 6.42 oz
Other Features Silicone leg grippers, reflective bands Y7 Frame Carrier bibs, super flat leg grippers, free-floating chamois, fabric treated with Ice Color, chamois given anti-bacterial treatment Compressive EvoPlus fabric, Powerband leg cuffs RollBar rear stitching add stability, windproof front panels Advanced Road insert with Windstopper Cup, reflective logo, flat hem

Best Overall Men's Bike Shorts


Assos Cento EVO Bib


Assos Cento EVO Bib
Editors' Choice Award

$329.00
at Competitive Cyclist
See It

89
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Padding and Protection - 25% 10
  • Comfort and Fit - 20% 9
  • Breathability - 15% 9
  • Efficiency and Pedal Friendliness - 15% 9
  • Durability - 15% 8
  • Style - 10% 7
Excellent padding
Compressive design
Great moisture management
Premium price
Waist might feel loose

The Assos Cento EVO bib shorts made it to the top of our list with their broad array of superbly designed features and premium materials. The Cento EVO S7 insert is a multi-layered memory foam that's perfectly suited to the derriere. Couple that with the brushed microfiber kukuPenthouse codpiece-like structure, and you're riding in comfort, to say nothing of your new, loftier appearance and the attention it may or may not draw. But it's not all about the padding. The Type .439 fabric is also superior to most competitors, delivering both support and flexibility while wicking away moisture with the best of'em.

Alas, you're not getting all of that for nothing. If you want to ride in the best shorts on the market, you'll be paying for that performance. They're not the cheapest things out there, but then again, cycling's not the cheapest sport (we do have a few suggestions on more affordable shorts below). You'll also have to keep in mind that everyone has their own Goldilocks zone for comfort and fit. We just couldn't argue with the fit, but we found a handful of folks displeased with the fit of the waistline. If you prefer a more girded feel around the belly, these might not cut it for you.

Read review: Assos Cento EVO Bib Short

Best Touring Shorts


Rapha Cargo Bib


Rapha Cargo Bib
Top Pick Award

$270 List
List Price
See It

71
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Padding and Protection - 25% 7
  • Comfort and Fit - 20% 8
  • Breathability - 15% 7
  • Efficiency and Pedal Friendliness - 15% 7
  • Durability - 15% 6
  • Style - 10% 7
Big pockets
Affordable
Excellent comfort
Hold moisture once wet
Pricey

Multi-day trips and touring require a little different gear, depending on your rig and planning. The two most important things in shorts are comfort and storage, both of which are amply provided by the Rapha Cargo Bib. The chamois is both thick and broad to protect more area for the long, slow days in the saddle; they avoid the bunched-up material problem that happens with lower-end shorts, making it an ideal choice. The pockets at the lower back and leg are also bomb for spreading out nutrition and toys, so you're not stuffing your jersey pockets to exhaustion or stopping to dig in your bags too often — or swerving into the road trying to find stuff.

They will set you back a little more than most shorts, but if you do a good deal of touring or you're setting it up so you're running lean on the bags, they're probably a good investment. The other thing to be aware of is that they tend to hold water. They're pretty good at keeping it out, but once you're inundated, they take forever to dry. Good luck drying on the bike; if you hit a storm while you're out, congratulations, you're just a swimmer now. That's an annoyance, but it's not the end of the world. They're good shorts worth serious consideration, especially for leaner multi-day trips with 5-7 hour days.

Read review: Rapha Cargo Bib

Best Bang for the Buck


Pearl Izumi Quest Splice Bib


Pearl Izumi Quest Splice Bib
Best Buy Award

$70.00
at Competitive Cyclist
See It

75
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Padding and Protection - 25% 6
  • Comfort and Fit - 20% 8
  • Breathability - 15% 8
  • Efficiency and Pedal Friendliness - 15% 9
  • Durability - 15% 8
  • Style - 10% 6
Tough design
Affordable
Efficient and pedal-friendly
Less comfortable on long rides
Not as supportive

The Pearl Izumi Quest Splice Bibs are your boilerplate bike shorts, which is exactly why we like them so much. They don't have a ton of frills, which makes them affordable, but they also have enough support, moisture-wicking, strength, and padding to get the job done for most rides. They're 88% nylon, which means they're tough and durable. Good seams and lots of panels balance out the reduced stretch of the material for improved comfort and performance.

The downside of the more affordable gear is usually that it's not as luxurious. That's the case with these. They're workhorses, not paso finos. You're getting hard utility out of them, not great comfort, which means they lose comfort after a few hours in the saddle. They're also not as supportive as we'd like in high-performance road shorts, but they're still passable. Despite these drawbacks, we still think they're a good deal and worth grabbing if you're new to the road or just for keeping in the closet as a good backup when your mains are dirty.

Read review: Pearl Izumi Quest Splice Bib

Best for Short Course


Louis Garneau CB Carbon 2


Louis Garneau CB Carbon 2
Top Pick Award

$149.95
at Competitive Cyclist
See It

75
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Padding and Protection - 25% 8
  • Comfort and Fit - 20% 8
  • Breathability - 15% 7
  • Efficiency and Pedal Friendliness - 15% 8
  • Durability - 15% 5
  • Style - 10% 9
UV potection
Supportive
Great fit
Breathable
Drawstring design
Might not last forever

Undeniably, the Louis Garneau CB Carbon are sexy. At least inasmuch as men wearing cycling clothes can be such a thing. Which…questionable. But so far as we're concerned, they're damn sexy. The fit is really good too. Its blended fabric spares the lycra so it has enough flexibility, but does a lot of support and compression. What we really like is that the compression makes you feel fast and feisty when you're hammering on sprints, TTs, or even spin class, but you don't get that sluggish resistance you sometimes get with the super compressive shorts. It's ideal for shorter, faster rides.

Being that these are shorts and not bibs, you have the unavoidable issue of how to keep the shorts from falling down as you repeatedly bend over. Louis Garneau went the drawstring route. It's at least an adjustable option, but at the end of the day, drawstrings just feel like they're squeezing you in two. That view is open to dispute, of course. The only other concern is that there were reports of the seams coming apart in some shorts, so be sure to keep an eye on the warranty. If you do mostly short rides in spin classes or fast crit-style loops around the park or superblock, you'll get a lot of good use out of these.

Read review: Louis Garneau CB Carbon

Great Performance for the Price


SUGOi Evolution Bibs


SUGOi Evolution Bibs
Editors' Choice Award

$129.95
at Competitive Cyclist
See It

86
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Padding and Protection - 25% 9
  • Comfort and Fit - 20% 9
  • Breathability - 15% 9
  • Efficiency and Pedal Friendliness - 15% 9
  • Durability - 15% 7
  • Style - 10% 8
Stylish
Breathable
Thick and firm chamois
Comfortable fit
Leg grippers slide up
Seams in high abrasion areas
Might need replacement after 2-3 seasons

The SUGOi Evolution finished at the front of the pack in our review and offers the best value of any bib tested. It offers one of the best chamois we tested, along with the best fit that moves freely with the body while in the saddle. Careful consideration was given to the fabric choice and placement to make it more breathable. The construction of the bib is also very well done, holding up to the wear and tear of our riding. This bib retails for an affordable price, and it absolutely earns every penny. It is at home on the short and fast track as well as grinding it out on the long rides.

While our complaints are few, we noticed this bib isn't as durable in high wear areas and might need replacement with some hard use. In addition, the leg grippers slid up on us during our rides, which can be annoying for some. That said, the stand up performance and excellent justifies it as a top recommendation from our experts.

Read review: SUGOi Evolution Bibs

Great on a Tight Budget


Pearl Izumi Quest


61
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Padding and Protection - 25% 6
  • Comfort and Fit - 20% 6
  • Breathability - 15% 6
  • Efficiency and Pedal Friendliness - 15% 6
  • Durability - 15% 7
  • Style - 10% 5
Eminently affordable
Supportive
Tough material
Less friction
Fit can be inexact
Comfort fades quickish

If you're questing to find the most affordable bike shorts out there that'll do a decent job, the Pearl iZUMi Escape Quest is exactly that. We basically looked at the bare minimum of what you need to be on the bike for a few hours without hating life, rubbed that against cost, and narrowed it down to these shorts. They're tough, using a high mix of nylon for a tight fit with higher wear-resistance and longevity than most shorts.

You have a reasonable level of in-saddle comfort with their SELECT Escape 1:1 Chamois. It fades noticeably after about an hour or hour and a half, so we suggest it's ideal for commuters or newer riders doing lower mileage. And no matter what your mileage, if you're in a pinch, they'll get the job done.

Read review: PEARL iZUMi Escape Quest Bike Shorts

Excellent for Spin Class


Gore Wear C5 Bib


Gore Wear C5 Bib
Top Pick Award

$99.95
(33% off)
at Competitive Cyclist
See It

76
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Padding and Protection - 25% 7
  • Comfort and Fit - 20% 7
  • Breathability - 15% 8
  • Efficiency and Pedal Friendliness - 15% 8
  • Durability - 15% 8
  • Style - 10% 8
Affordable
Supportive
Durable
Great Breathability
Can Feel Restrictive
Limited Padding

After training in the Gore C5 Bib Shorts+, it's hard to imagine doing the Tuesday crit rides in any other shorts again. They have a handful of features that make them the ideal shorts for short pursuits ranging from spin class to criterium racing. They have a nice, athletic cut, making them almost skin-suit tight. Take that with their high nylon content and they're also tight and supportive, feeling a bit like compression shorts. That can help (if not physiologically, then psychologically) you feel like a firecracker on the bike and improve your form so you can dominate the field or the clock. Their composition and panel design also help them last longer so you don't have to invest in new shorts every season.

We should also mention the double-edged sword that is their chamois. It's a standard padded chamois, but it's super thin with a fleece-like cloth cover, so it offers just enough protection to get you through about 90 minutes of hammering. That's great for time trialing, crits, and spin where you're down in the drops in tight position - no one likes that wadded up chamois grinding against the moving parts. The Gore C5s solved that problem perfectly, but they might not be ideal for centuries, especially for bulls.

Read review: Gore C5 Bib Shorts+


The Assos Cento EVO is an excellent bike short with fantastic...
The Assos Cento EVO is an excellent bike short with fantastic comfort. Here, we see our lead tester taking to the streets to test each actually test each short we discuss.
Photo: Ryan Baham

Why You Should Trust Us


Ryan Baham is a committed roadie through and through. He was first smitten with long-distance cycling after discovering the freedom it could give to a rural pre-teen. He has done his share of riding, training, listening, reading, learning, and even a bit of racing over the years. He puts in thousands of miles a year with the two-wheeled love affair only growing. So much so that after spending five years fighting the snow and ice in Virginia, the Florida native settled down in Southern California for its beautiful year-round cycling weather. He also knows a thing or two about research, material quality, and integrity. He obtained a Master's in Public Administration, a Graduate Certificate in Procurement, and two BAs in the social sciences and has a day job as a data analyst for a medical devices manufacturer.

As for the cycling shorts and our methods, we put them through the wringer, doing our best to make them tear, wear down, and show us what they could handle. Each pair of shorts gets no less than 20 hours of saddle time between spin class, training rides, commuting, and specific testing rides. We also do a good deal of research on design, materials, complaints, and any other pertinent aspects of the shorts so we can be as thorough as possible and compare products across measures. For specific measures, we look at: padding and protecting, comfort and fit, breathability, efficiency and pedal friendliness, durability, and style. We boil it all down with our recommendations, but we're sure to give you sufficient details for you to make your own choices.

Related: How We Tested Cycling Shorts & Bibs

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Analysis and Test Results


This review focuses on tight biking shorts and bibs typically used for road biking. We chose a wide variety that range from top performers to those that scrap by that'll be easy on your wallet. We rated each based on six important metrics including; padding, comfort, breathability, pedal friendliness, durability, and style. Enjoy reading about our in-depth comparisons to help you find the best shorts for your needs!

Related: Buying Advice for Cycling Shorts & Bibs

Related: Best Mountain Bike Shorts for Men of 2020

Putting our fleet to the test.
Putting our fleet to the test.
Photo: Crystal Huffman

Value


Value is always a chart-topper here at OutdoorGearLab. We purchase and put the top-performing bike shorts to the test, analyzing their performance compared to their price point. Which products offered the best value for the cost? The PEARL iZUMi Quest shorts hit a lovely, low price point and tend to skew toward short-duration comfort; they will be better for commuting or just getting into the sport and seeing how things go.


Padding and Protection


Padding and protection is one of the most important factors in choosing the right cycling shorts. This feature differentiates bike shorts from any other athletic short out there and can mean the difference between cruising along happily for the majority of the day or walking your bike home due to saddle fatigue.


Chamois and padding come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, ideally...
Chamois and padding come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, ideally fitting a wide array of riders, but we find that the most reasonable padding is malleable, form-fitting, and concentrates firm padding along the heavy contact points.
Photo: Crystal Huffman

The chamois is the padding that provides added protection between the saddle and you. Chamois technology has come a long way in both ergonomics as well as materials. The chamois is specifically designed to protect the ischial region (sit bones) and the perineal region. These are fairly gender-specific, so you want to wear the version that suits your anatomical configuration.

When testing for this category, we were looking for padding ideally suited to different riding styles. Unlike many mountain bike shorts, the chamois is typically fixed in place for road shorts, positioned for a more aggressive riding position.

Assos tends to put out the best chamois. Here is their goldenGate...
Assos tends to put out the best chamois. Here is their goldenGate design, which allows the padding to move more naturally with your body.
Photo: Ryan Baham

All of the shorts we tested had chamois pads, but certain shorts or bibs, like the SUGOi Evolution Bibs have chamois pads that are smaller, requiring more precise positioning in the saddle. This isn't a fault, but should be considered against your riding style. If you tend to be in the sit-up-and-beg position, these front-forward chamois pads will wear you down quickly. You'll need something with more padding in the rear like the Rapha Brevet Cargo Bib bibs, designed for touring or more relaxed riding. To go a bit in the other direction, there are some models, like the Gore C5 Bib Shorts+, which are specifically designed to be more front-forward and aggressive, so the padding is almost only concentrated along the perineum.

Top chamois/padding. Zoot Active Tri shorts (top), SUGOi Evolution...
Top chamois/padding. Zoot Active Tri shorts (top), SUGOi Evolution Pro bib shorts (bottom, left), and Louis Garneau CB Carbon 2 shorts (right). Note the malleability of the Zoot fleece padding as well as the highly concentrated padding of the two chamois below, especially the narrow neck along perineal channel to prevent folded padding.
Photo: Crystal Huffman

We generally looked for shorts that balanced padding between the ischial and perineal regions. Staying fresh on a ride often means slightly adjusting your position in the saddle throughout the ride. You want a short or bib whose chamois protects the high-pressure areas and can handle these adjustments, but doesn't get in the way of your pedaling or give the wet diaper effect to your shorts.

The FR-C Pro shorts do a good job of limiting the wet diaper effect.
The FR-C Pro shorts do a good job of limiting the wet diaper effect.
Photo: Ryan Baham

Aside from the overall thickness of the chamois, we also took note of the density or firmness. The density is the compactness of the padding and is a major determining factor in how well it functions. The Assos Cento EVO got top marks in padding & protection. It uses a unique memory foam chamois that only has stitching at the front and rear, so it actually moves with the body, substantially improving the riding experience.

The SUGOi Evolution Bibs ranked next in the padding & protection category for their thick, targeted padding, The updated version brings even more comfortable padding to the rear of the chamois and uses a new front design that adds a cradle pouch for the front to help give a welcome degree of freedom to the appended front bits. The Giordana FR-C Pro shorts also scored very well with their thin multi-layer padding, which was extremely comfortable and did its job for its intended purpose (short, hard rides).

The updated Evolution (left) uses a 3D fit design with a new cradle...
The updated Evolution (left) uses a 3D fit design with a new cradle pouch in the front. It offers much more coverage than its predecessor on the right, the Evolution Pro.
Photo: Ryan Baham

Comfort and Fit


Fit and comfort are integral parts of any proper short for road biking, and the main functionality of the shorts or bibs is to make your time cycling more comfortable. The chamois also plays a large role in the comfort of your ride. It must be thick enough, dense enough, the right size, and in the right place in order to maintain a level of comfort, especially for the longer rides that stretch to the 7 or 8-hour mark. However, it can take as little as 15 minutes in the saddle to get that numb feeling creeping from the ischia to the perineum, which isn't a very good feeling at all.


In addition to the chamois, we looked for bike shorts or bibs that had a good cut and used a good combination of strong nylon and some other fiber-like spandex or polyester to help the material stretch and form fit. If anything is the slightest bit off with how the shorts fit your body, it can affect comfort in a big way. We tested the placement of the leg cuffs and how well they fit. There are varying methods for keeping the shorts in the right place, and most rely on material on the inside of the short closest to your knee that grips the skin. The shorts and bibs in our test lineup used some combination of double folded fabric or silicone bands or strips along the cuff in order to grip your skin as leg grippers.

The Cento EVOs are a slight PITA to get on, but once they&#039;re on...
The Cento EVOs are a slight PITA to get on, but once they're on, they're the ideal mix of compressive, tight, and flexible.
Photo: Ryan Baham

The Giordana FR-C Pro Shorts have a compression fit, which makes for a much different feel than traditional road bike shorts or bibs. Each of these is designed to support your leg muscles and increase blood flow, reducing fatigue while in the saddle. Compression is supposed to be tight, but it must be in the right areas. All three of these shorts did a good job supporting the quads, hamstrings, and hip abductors, staying tight but comfortable.

Even the most comfortable shorts can irritate over longer rides. We highly recommend DZ Nutz Pro Chamois Cream, Chamois Butt'r, or other creams for longer rides. It seems a little new at first but can mean the difference between pleasure and agony. Oh, and go for the thrill by going with a menthol selection.

Taking all of this into consideration, the sturdier fabric needed for compression and support can become more of a hindrance than a help. We looked for the right mix of chamois comfort, flex, form-fit, and compression. Our top-ranking shorts and bibs in this category were the Assos Cento EVOs, SUGOi Evolution Bib Shorts, and Assos T Equipe Evo.

The leg grippers of the Evolution Pro (left) just couldn&#039;t match the...
The leg grippers of the Evolution Pro (left) just couldn't match the update Evolution (right) with its new silicone MAB PowerBand.
Photo: Ryan Baham

Breathability


Breathability is an important factor in cycling shorts or bibs. The more breathable your shorts are, the more comfortable you will be on your ride. Perspiration must have an exit route to the exterior of the fabric in order to evaporate. Cycling is amazingly efficient at this due to the amount of airflow generated at speeds of 15 to 40 mph, however, you must be wearing breathable clothing in order for this process to work. With the right shorts or bibs, you will feel like you aren't sweating that much, especially for the effort you're exerting. On the flip side, if you are unfortunate enough to have the wrong gear, you will wonder why your shorts feel soggy and you're slipping on your saddle for the duration of the ride.


Breathability also regulates temperature, which can be a major factor in endurance. A few degrees difference in temperature changes the efficiency of your aerobic system — running too warm decreases the efficiency. For long durations in the saddle, you want a short that will allow airflow to keep you cool.

Broad shoulder straps with limited fabric coverage go a long way to...
Broad shoulder straps with limited fabric coverage go a long way to keeping you cool and dry. Pictured here is the Assos Cento EVO.
Photo: Ryan Baham

All of the shorts and bibs we tested were made from synthetic materials that are known for their breathability and wicking properties. The industry has benefited from leaps in material technology in the past, which gives consumers a good starting point. Since bibs provide more coverage of the upper body, it is more important for extra considerations to be taken to keep breathability to a maximum.

SUGOi and Assos both came out on top. They took special care to include vented mesh fabric to maximize breathability. Both bibs also incorporated a healthy mix of polyester, a hydrophobic fiber, in their fabric. The new addition, Assos Equipe RS Bib Shorts S9, came in just behind these two, using extremely thin material and a skin-tight design to improve breathability and drying.

These Castelli NanoFlex 2 bib shorts are water repellent, but have...
These Castelli NanoFlex 2 bib shorts are water repellent, but have somewhat limited breathability.
Photo: Ryan Baham

The Rapha Brevet Cargo Bibs featured really cool water repellent fabrics that helped eliminate moisture from the shorts. This is a really unique feature that really improves comfort and manages moisture, but did tend to feel like a wet suit once they were inundated.

Breathability is what matters when it&#039;s hot as all get-out and...
Breathability is what matters when it's hot as all get-out and you're stuck behind a train with no wind or shade.

Efficiency and Pedal Friendliness


Another category that we weighted heavily in our testing is efficiency and pedal friendliness. This is measured by how well the shorts or bibs actually work while you are pedaling. The chamois once again plays a pivotal role in this aspect of a bike short. There must be room for your legs to pedal without extra fabric from the chamois getting in the way. This is why there isn't much wiggle room between the size of the saddle, the chamois, and where your ischia rest.


The fabric also plays a major role here. As with most everything measured in RPMs, the less friction in the system, the better it runs. Having nylon, spandex, and polyester materials reduces air drag as well as rub friction between your body and the saddle, thus increasing your efficiency. A greater pedal efficiency means better posture, a faster speed, and less fatigue. Efficiency and pedal friendliness can be harder to gauge on shorter rides, which is why it was imperative to get into the mid- to long-range distance with each short we tested.

The efficiency of your fabric starts to matter about the time you...
The efficiency of your fabric starts to matter about the time you notice you're getting tired. It's inversely related to your effort and overall exertion. The Assos Centos were nearly unmatched here.
Photo: Ryan Baham

Another common and related issue was that the chamois got in the way while pedaling, as well as having the short snag when we got out of the saddle to crank up a hill, stand to jump a hole or cross tracks, or attack — the chamois area would catch the front of the saddle as we were slipping back into a seated position, making for an awkward readjustment while riding. We should note that this did happen when using a more aggressive road saddle, and we didn't have issues when used with a more comfortable saddle like those in the spin room at the gym.

We had no problem with saddle clearance in the form-fitting Garneau...
We had no problem with saddle clearance in the form-fitting Garneau Fit Sensor 2s, but they felt a bit thick and restraining.
Photo: Crystal Huffman

The Assos Cento EVOs and Assos Equipe RS Bib Shorts S9s ranked highest in this category. All of them have low profile padding that concentrates material under the ischial region and along the perineal zone, but tapers off to a simple chafe-guard along the inner thighs, which makes getting in and out of the saddle and minor adjustments while riding, very smooth. The chamois also conform more to the body, allowing better range of motion while pedaling.

Their fabric perfectly combines polyamide, elastane, and polyester for a supple material that both hugs and supports. Their broad shoulder straps also do a great job of avoiding chafe without sacrificing their snugness. The combination ensures you don't get the bunched up fabric issue that can interfere with form.

The SUGOi bib shorts also remain standout performers here. Their updated leg grippers use the silicone MAB PowerBand to more securely hold the legs in place. The grippers were acceptable in the previous version, but they did tend to start awkwardly riding up after you sweated through them or when it rained and you were soaked, causing material to start bunching a bit near the crotch. Problem solved.

Durability


Durability is a newer measure to our review and proves to be a little difficult to measure because we were not able to really test these out of their entire lifespans. In the end, we used a combination of testing every pair as hard as we could, examining design to make sure seams and other structures were constructed and planned to last a long time, looking at fabric strength and resistance to abrasion, and scouring the internet for possible faults, weaknesses, and patterns of failure.


The highest scoring items in this category were the Gore C5 Bib Shorts+. Coming in behind were the Assos Cento EVOs and Pearl Izumi Quest Shorts. All used strong fabric with high nylon content and seam designs that minimized exposure to external rubbing or repetitive grinding.

The Louis Garneau CB Carbon 2 developed a large hole in the left...
The Louis Garneau CB Carbon 2 developed a large hole in the left flank.
Photo: Crystal Huffman

It can be difficult to determine the durability of some products without conducting serious longitudinal studies with large sample sizes and regular quality auditing. We'll leave that to the producers and market, but do our best to tear up the products we have in our possession and look at claims made by consumers. A great example is the updated SUGOi Evolution. Our research and testing of the previous version, the Pro, found few complaints and few breakdowns while the updated version has had a handful of quality complaints that appear to be legitimate, which lowered its quality score this time around.

Style


The style of road cyclists is a complicated, much-debated topic. What constitutes style? Are cyclists even capable of being stylish? While participants in the sport get excited over the latest 10-panel, four-way stretch, antimicrobial 4D chamois, nylon shorts on the market­ — the ones that give them that sleek, aero look and show off those quad muscles they've been working on all season; non-adherents might balk at even using the term style in describing road cycling bibs or shorts (think: skin-tight clothing with a giant Elizabethan-era codpiece prominently on display).


Protective codpiece prominently displayed.
Protective codpiece prominently displayed.
Photo: Ryan Baham

Style means something different to everyone, but the shorts and bibs we tested did vary in their aesthetic appeal, and you can tell some companies prioritize style more than others. Brands do this in a host of ways, including details in stitching, logo placement, color, cut, material, and shapes.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

In our assessment, we were looking for options that were more subtle or subdued. The SUGOi Evolution Bib Shorts used great color accents, great panel designs, and tasteful branding. We also thought the Gore C5s had a great design with the bold white panel along the thighs and lower back. Most of the items in our lineup were fairly functional pieces, leaving the style to the side in favor of utilitarian black and going for quality instead of wild color schemes and style. The iZUMi Quest shorts come up a bit lower on the scale - not ugly, but not especially exciting.

Finding the right shorts is essential to a good workout on the bike.
Finding the right shorts is essential to a good workout on the bike.
Photo: Tara Kharrazian

Conclusion


While everyone's preferences and anatomy are a bit different, what's not different is the importance of getting good cycling shorts that make you want to get on the bike. There's a pretty wide range of options to suit your needs. We hope our discussion above helped you sort through each of those areas and provided you with enough guidance for you to make the right decision for you.

Ryan Baham