How We Test
We selected eight of the most popular, functional, and advanced road bike shorts and bibs and tested them on all kinds of rides. We went out for weekend tempo rides, suffered through speed work, hit endurance rides, and did everything in between. Each pair saw two 1 hour spin classes, and at least one each of a 1 hour, 2 hour, and 3 hour road ride, usually working out to about 20, 40, and 60 miles, respectively, depending on winds and whether or not we had any strong riders in the group that day.
Each pair has seen at least eight hours of wear and comparable time spent researching reviews, markets, materials, and other information to bring out the information we found to be most pertinent for each product. These shorts and bibs saw time on the road and in the gym at spin class. We tested how they worked in the sun, the shade, the heat, and the cold. We rated each product on style, breathability, padding and protection of the chamois, overall fit and comfort, efficiency and pedal friendliness, and durability of the short or bib.
Below is an overview of how we test and examine each quality we use to rate the shorts.
Style is a little subjective, but it matters. Great feeling shorts are important, but some of us want to look somewhat presentable when we're out on the road or surrounded by fit, athletic people in the spin room. Style scores will be determined by a combination of the general visual appeal of the shorts and by comparing to some of the most popular styles across the market.
Breathability is examined by riding experience, drying times, and material and design. Working up a solid sweat and making a note of the tendencies to wick or retain serves road and spin experience reasonably well. As any good cyclist should know, hand-washing shorts and praying for them to dry over the A/C vent of a hotel or hanging up in a bathroom somewhere is the rider's modus operandi, especially if they only have a single pair of shorts and ride often. We decided that a good aspect of breathability is not just for the shorts to wick away moisture while riding, but also to dry quickly, so we made sure time the drying of each pair on a drying rack. We also look at the materials and designs to see how they impact breathability.
Padding and protection are examined by riding and looking at material and design. Because shorts can perform differently depending on the duration of the ride, we look at both hard, fast, short rides around 20 miles or an hour in spin and longer rides in the 60 and 70-mile range (we did not sit in any spin classes for longer than 90 minutes). We also make sure to look at the design of the padding because, as we know, everyone's posture and sitting anatomy is different and the configuration of the padding might not quite work for our testers, but might be better suited to some of you out there.
Fit comfort, much like padding, is examined by short and long rides and then material and design. Some items might feel great for the first half of a ride only to have chafing or bunching set in after an hour or two of pedaling.
Efficiency and pedal friendliness is examined through both short and long rides, comparing waist and leg band elasticity, and looking at design and materials. Durability is examined by comparing fray, wear, design failures (like chamois pads coming unsewn, which has happened to the reviewer, but not for this cohort of shorts), and the integrity of the materials and design.