Best Bike Shorts and Bibs for Men of 2021
|Price||$263.20 at Backcountry||$220 List||$144.95 at Amazon|
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|$249.00 at Backcountry||$179.95 at Amazon|
Compare at 2 sellers
|Pros||Supple and comfortable padding, supportive design, flexible, great moisture management||Unbeatable comfort, great balance of flexibility and support, awesome chamois||Comfortable, dries quickly and wicks away moisture on rides, reduces saddle chafe, affordable||Excellent padding and comfort, solid moisture management, supportive, race-like fit||Supportive, targeted chamois padding, breathable, side pockets|
|Cons||Premium price, waist can feel loose||Comfort drops off after three hours, run a bit small, leg grippers can slide||Pouch seams can chafe, threading might come undone||Not cheap, chamois might be a bit large, grippers slide||Grippers may slip, can be too tight, chamois may chafe some riders|
|Bottom Line||A premium product; you’re not going to find much better than the Cento||These are the shorts we’ve been looking for our entire riding lives||Awesome comfort and performance delivered at an easily accessible price||Another top-of-the-line offering from Assos with all accompanying comfort, flex, and durability||Good-looking endurance shorts that still perform on high-intensity rides|
|Rating Categories||Assos Cento EVO Bib||Assos T Equipe Evo||SUGOi Evolution Bibs||Assos Equipe RS S9 Bib||Sugoi RS Century Za...|
|Padding And Protection (25%)|
|Comfort And Fit (20%)|
|Efficiency And Pedal Friendliness (15%)|
|Specs||Assos Cento EVO Bib||Assos T Equipe Evo||SUGOi Evolution Bibs||Assos Equipe RS S9 Bib||Sugoi RS Century Za...|
|Main Fabric||73% nylon, 17% Elastane, 10% polyester||70% polyamide, 18% elastane, 12% polyester||Evo Plus (polyester/spandex blend)||nylon, polyester, elastane blend||Ultra Aero, Mobil mesh|
|Number of panels||4||4||8||2||12|
|Chamois||Yes - Cento S7 EVO||EquipeEVO_S7||RC Pro||Equipe RS S9||Formula FX|
|Weight||6.49 oz||6.35 oz||7.08 oz||7.94 oz||7.55 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||Stow pockets, Zap legband with silicone gripper, Mobil mesh|
Best Overall Men's Bike Shorts
Assos Cento EVO Bib
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. Foremost among them being the Cento EVO S7 insert; it's 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 quite cut it for you.
Read review: Assos Cento EVO Bib Short
Best Performer for a Great Price
SUGOi Evolution Bibs
The SUGOi Evolution finished at the front of the pack in our review. This bib 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. The SUGOi Evolution Bib was at home on the short and fast track, as well as grinding it out on the long rides. It was easy to forget about adjusting and standing to relieve pressure so that our attention wasn't drawn away from the road or the pull or the chase. It allowed us to get into the zone and stay there. This is what riders actually look for in a bib.
Read review: SUGOi Evolution Bibs
Best Bang for the Buck
Pearl Izumi Quest Splice Bib
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.
Usually, the downside of affordable gear is 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 Value-Oriented Shoppers
Pearl Izumi Quest
We reserve our best budget picks for products that are really affordable and still perform decently, and the Pearl iZUMi Quest fit the criteria to a T. 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
Best for Short Course
Louis Garneau CB Carbon 2 Bib
When it comes to hard crits, trainer sessions, spin, and other short, high-intensity efforts, you usually want a pair of bike shorts that are close-fitting, don't encumber your cranking, and don't have big pads bunching up on you when you're in the forward position. The Louis Garneau CB Carbon 2 bibs meet those requirements and more. Nine panels of CB Carbon+ lycra paired with a few clever EndureXX panels along the back of the thighs improve fit and comfort. These are the bike shorts we reached for on tough, fast training sessions under the 90 minute mark. They were also good on longer rides, but there are other shorts out there we'd prefer for long, slow slogs.
Riders looking for a compressive, supportive pair of bike bib shorts won't find them in the LG CB Carbon 2s, which can be a letdown. We preferred the freer feel, but a good squeeze might help some folks perform better. Oddly, there was a bit of constriction in the groin area, making mid-ride adjustments a little less comfortable, but then again, crits are never comfortable affairs.
Read review: Louis Garneau CB Carbon 2 Bib Short
Best Touring Shorts
Sugoi RS Century Zap Bib
We spent the spring doing a lot of long, slow base miles that forced us to either stop at more stores to buy road food or figure out a new storage solution other than using our touring bags and looking like Freds in front of the local riding crew. Finding the SUGOi RS Century Zap was perfectly timed when the weekend rides started getting over 65 miles. The pockets were just what we needed to carry the extra thousand or so calories, freeing up space in the jersey for another bottle. But they're more than a pair of shorts with pockets. The targeted padding of the Formula FX chamois was a huge relief, adding density under the sit bones and removing density from the center of the perineum. It makes a difference, and it's one of the reasons we kept picking it for our long days.
It's not all rainbows with the Century Zaps, though. They use a fairly high mix of nylon, which improves their compression, yet it can be a little too tight at times. It doesn't seriously limit range of motion on the bike, but you still notice it if you do a big stretch movement like jump out of the saddle to sprint. Some riders also found that the upper edge of the chamois chafes. We didn't have that issue, but it's possible. All in all, we think these shorts will make a lot of long-distance riders very happy. They certainly pleased us.
Read review: Sugoi RS Century Zap
Why You Should Trust Us
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 10 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
Analysis and Test Results
There are two main types of cycling shorts — tight spandex-style and baggy mountain bike style with a padded liner underneath. Tight cycling shorts are mainly used for road biking but are also commonly worn by cross-country mountain bikers looking for the best fit and performance in their padded shorts and who aren't worried about needing the extra protection from an exterior layer.
Types of Cycling Shorts
Now that you know the difference between road and mountain biking needs and in tight and baggy shorts, you can figure out if you're in the right place. If you're still here, we assume you've settled on form-fitting cycling shorts. Now it's time to ask: bibs or shorts? Our testing combined both shorts and bibs into one category to find what works best for you on the bike. Most roadies prefer bibs, especially for longer rides. Newer folks and triathletes tend to go for the shorts. We get it, the suspenders look a bit dorky and prevent you from going shirtless if you're that guy, but they're worth it when you start doing regular rides over an hour. In the end, the decision is yours. If you like shorts more than bibs and want to wear them on 100-mile rides, that's your prerogative - there are more important qualities to consider than bib straps.
Value is always a chart-topper here at OutdoorGearLab. We purchased 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 provide a great performance for their rock bottom price. One of our favorite pairs, the SUGOi Evolution Bibs, cost more but still far below average of the pairs we tested and offer outstanding performance and fit.
Padding and Protection
Padding and protection are some of the most important factors in choosing the right cycling shorts. These features differentiate bike shorts from any other athletic shorts 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.
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 (soft tissue area between your unmentionables). 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.
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 that's 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.
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.
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 also did well in the padding and 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). On the longer rides, we had to actively change positions fairly frequently with many of the other selections to manage seat fatigue.
Comfort and Fit
Fit and comfort are both integral parts of any proper shorts for road biking. 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 seven or eight hour mark. For bad shorts or shorts that don't match your body, it might be less than 10 minutes in the saddle before 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 the 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 Sugoi RS Century Zap and Giordana FR-C Pro Shorts have a compression fit, which makes for a much different feel than traditional road bike shorts or bibs. These are 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.
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, Louis Garneau CB Carbon 2 Bib, and Assos T Equipe Evo.
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.
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.
Efficiency and Pedal Friendliness
Another category, which 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 Assos Cento EVOs and Assos Equipe RS Bib Shorts S9s ranked highest in this category. They 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. This 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 Louis Garneau CB Carbon 2 bib shorts used a less supportive but equally supple fabric blend to deliver a close, natural fit.
Both pairs of 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 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 to see exactly how many seasons we could get out of each pair. 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 products that used strong fabric with high nylon content and seam designs that minimized exposure to external rubbing or repetitive grinding. Lower scoring products, like the Louis Garneau CB Carbon 2, utilized lycra and thinner material, and we ended up getting a rip in the shorts version that we tested.
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.
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).
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.
In our assessment, we were looking for options that were more subtle or subdued. The SUGOi Evolution bib shorts utilize great color accents and panels designs and have 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.
This page is substantially dedicated to the best bike shorts. If it's not a top performer or doesn't top one of our ratings, it might not have been mentioned. That doesn't mean it's not an excellent pair of shorts that are just what you're looking for, so make sure to peruse the reviews to drill down on shorts that caught your eye or some that you need clarification on. We do our best to be as exhaustive as possible without being exhausting, so hopefully, you've learned what you wanted and can use some of our findings to get out there and grab a good pair of shorts that will work for you. Good luck and safe riding.
— Ryan Baham