Whether you're a seasoned cyclist, or a beginner just getting their bearings with life on two wheels, there's always more to learn when it comes to the art of cycling. Road warriors and dirt junkies alike can, and will, talk your ear off when it comes to geometry, specs, derailleurs, suspension... you name it, there's probably a forum devoted to it.
An impassioned group of souls, cyclists push innovation and product development forward faster than you can bomb a hill on a fixie. One major advancement in the last few decades has been the emergence of the cycling bib: the skin-tight, somewhat-luxe piece of apparel that grips the hearts and minds of almost everyone that slides one on. If you're not familiar with the cycling bib — you're about to be.
What are cycling bibs?
Cycling bibs are a key part of riding apparel, and can be thought of as a riding short that includes integrated, supportive straps which lock everything into place and minimize adjustments and discomfort during rides. Bibs started out as the modern cyclist's take on the suspender. Before the bibs started gaining mainstream popularity (and therefore, investment), intrepid cyclists would fashion their own at home, attaching old-school clip on suspenders to their favorite riding shorts.
The cycling bibs today are a far cry from those humble prototypes: the beauty in the bib is that they combine the performance and comfort of bike shorts, and add functionality in spades.
Why are cycling bibs superior to bike shorts?
Bibs are built in a very similar fashion to bike shorts — they make use of compressive, moisture-wicking fabric and a padded groin — with one very critical upgrade: straps, which anchor the clothing and prevent slippage, bunching and general discomfort. Prized primarily by hardcore cycling enthusiasts at first, bibs have entered the mainstream conversation, one chamois at a time. These days, bibs are built for aerodynamic riding and speed, and prevent chafing and friction points that riding shorts or baggier clothes would cause. There are two major complaints associated with bibs: they're hard to take off (which make pee breaks more complicated) and they're... revealing. But, showing off a little and more strategically-planned pee breaks are small prices to pay for the speed, comfort and versatility that bibs provide.
When you should you wear a bib?
Any time you want, damn it! No but really — some stuffy cyclists argue that you should only wear a bib for road cycling, or at the very least that you definitely shouldn't wear one while bikepacking. As someone who's personally done it all, I can tell you it ultimately comes down to a matter of personal preference. Anyone attempting to dictating what you should and shouldn't wear on your own bike probably needs to work on their own priorities.
That being said, you should definitely take your shiny new bib on a couple low-stakes test rides before sending it on a two-week trip with no back-up apparel; it's important to feel comfortable in what you're wearing, and it may come to be that you personally like wearing a bib for shorter rides to your coffee shop rather than a six hour, full-send on the network of trails you've been eyeing on Google Maps.
If you're sold on bibs, check out our full buying guide on the best options, or scroll onward for a short list of surefire picks.