For the most part I don’t cycle enough to merit investing in dedicated cycling gear. I usually run six times a week and ride my bike to get around town. However, when running injury strikes I turn to the lower-impact sport of cycling to keep myself fit, and I’ve just gone through a period of regular riding on my turbo trainer while nursing an achilles niggle.
During this spell I tested bib shorts for the first time—the Endura Xtract Lite Bibshorts, to be exact. These are padded shorts with straps that go over your shoulders to hold the padding around the crotch in the right place throughout your ride.
I have always considered bib shorts a bit too pro-level for my riding, particularly since they’re quite expensive. The Endura shorts are $99.99/£74.99, and that’s the cheaper end of the spectrum for bib shorts.
For longer rides I usually wear cycling shorts, which have the padding but not the straps, relying instead on a tight waistband to hold them in place. I have a very old set of dhb cycling shorts; a more modern option would be these dhb Shorts, which are just £35, or Endura’s Xtract Gel Short, which are $75/£49.99.
Having some kind of padding in your shorts is a worthwhile comfort upgrade as soon as you’re riding for more than 30 minutes regularly. But are bib shorts worth the extra outlay if you use a turbo trainer and don’t plan to become a serious road cyclist?
I was riding for around 45-90 minutes three or four times a week, mostly doing indoor sessions with my bike on a turbo trainer, and found that the bib shorts were more comfortable than cycling shorts but also a bit more annoying at times.
The straps can be a pain if you need the toilet, for example, or forget to put your shorts, jersey and chest strap heart rate monitor on in the right order. However, the straps do help me get more benefit from the padding because they hold the shorts in the right position better than my shorts without straps, which moved around more during the ride. Some people also find them more comfortable than cycling shorts because you don’t need a tight waistband.
In truth, I’d say this extra comfort was only really worth the extra hassle and cost of bib shorts for my longest rides. Since those still weren’t that long, I’d recommend starting with a set of padded waist shorts if you’re new to regular cycling and not planning on spending more than a couple of hours on the bike at a time.
I would definitely invest in some kind of padded shorts, though, especially if you, like me, are just using the standard saddle your bike came with. Your behind will thank you.
Our guide to the best turbo trainers can help you decide which model is right for you.
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Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.