Finding The Right Cycling Bib Shorts
The cycling bib shorts have been the cornerstone of cycling apparels for many years now, giving cyclists around the world a much pleasant riding experience. However, finding the right bib shorts could just be as tough as finding the right saddle. Whether if it's an easy long Sunday rides or a fast pace road race, the choice of bib could mean the difference between outright comfort or hours of pain and discomfort.
Golden Rule: Do not wear underpants beneath the bib shorts.
Designed to be worn like a 2nd skin, bib shorts are meant to be worn without anything between the chamois and the butt. Wearing underpants beneath the bib shorts could result in serious saddle sore and abrasion when the fabrics get caught between each other.
The most crucial component of all bib shorts is the chamois. It is the primary contributing factor for comfort. Companies have invested much into chamois research, using premium fabrics and multiple layers to achieve the optimal density for comfort. This sometimes contributes to the much higher cost of some premium bib shorts. Fortunately, with the advances in material technology, one could bag themselves a $100 bibs short that is as comfortable as their $300 counterpart.
How come so? The chamois may be the main factor for comfort, but there are also other components that made up the cycling bib that will affect the overall comfort
The chamois is meant to mould with the shape of your butt, providing cushion along the area of contact with the saddle. The most important areas are where the pelvis sits on the saddle. Lower tier bibs shorts might have a single thickness chamois. Higher tier bib shorts use various foam thickness and density, keeping it thin where cushioning is not needed, and more support where it is required.
Bib shorts with such complex chamois generally yields a more comfortable ride. The chamois should feel reasonably soft and have some flex for it to mould your butt. A good chamois should mould to your butt nicely and almost feel non-existent.
When comes to choosing the right chamois, there are 3 key deciding factors. Gender, riding style/discipline and weight.
Gender - There are key differences between men's and women’s chamois, each with shapes to suit the gender’s physical anatomy. Anatomically, women’s have a wider pelvis than men. Women’s specific chamois is made wider to accommodate their wider pelvis. Men’s chamois has a cutout or channel running down the middle. This helps to relieve pressure on the men’s perineal region. Unlike men’s, women’s chamois has full foam down the center to help protect soft tissues from abrasions. The front area of the men’s chamois is made thinner to accommodate the men’s baggage.
Image: Women's Chamois Vs Men's Chamois
Riding style/discipline - There are various type of bib short catered to different riding style and discipline, and depending on the type, the chamois varies as well. You may want to choose a bib short with that has thicker chamois for long endurance riding, while thinner options are better suited for shorter rides or racing. Some chamois are designed with channels or perforations to wick away sweat during long rides. Chamois inside triathlon bib shorts are much thinner to allow triathletes to run in them without restricting their movement. Similarly, chamois for commuters are thinner as well to allow ease of walking without much restriction.
Image: Long Distance Endurance Chamois Vs Time Trial Specific Chamois
Weight - Chamois made for long endurance riding tends to be denser as well. Over a period of time, the foam inside compressed from the rider’s weight, losing its cushioning property. A denser foam insert allows the chamois to retain its shape and thickness. Heavier riders can opt for such bib shorts which are better at cushioning their weight. Likewise for lighter riders, one can opt for thinner and less dense chamois.
The primary purpose of a bib shorts is to mould the chamois onto the butt and hold it in place during the ride. Its crucial to find the right size bib short to fit your own physique. A bib shorts that is too big may cause the chamois to sit loosely on the butt and shift around during ride. Excess material will cause possible saddle sore and abrasion. A bib shorts that too small may cause the chamois to press tightly against the groin and perianal region, resulting in numbness. Excessive tightness form the bib shorts may cause the stitching to “bite” into the skin, causing irritation and possible skin rash.
How well the bib shorts does its job is largely influenced by the fit. The fit is determined by the type of fabric used and how the individual fabrics are stitched together. A bib shorts with more panels tends to give a better fit. However having more panels also means more stitchings are required, which may result in irritation and abrasion.
Image: Velocio Luxe Bib Shorts utilized their own 3-panel design to achieve better comfort
Image: Morvelo Standard Bib Shorts uses 17 panels to improve their overall fit
Most premium bib shorts uses a complex combination of fabrics and panels to improve the fit. The property of a fabric is determined by the blend of material used and how the individual fibers are weaved together. Some shorts are made with more breathable fabric to help cope with riding in hot weather, while some are made with thicker or fleece infused fabric for cold weather riding.
The construction of bib shorts varies from brand to brand. Some brands emphasize on a more “Pro” looking fit which are much tighter and longer. On the other hand, some brands using more stretchable fabrics which fits better on cyclists with “Sprinters” quads.
Second to chamois, the simple gripper is probably the next most important component to look at in bib shorts. Staying true to Velominati Rule #7, the gripper could be a winner or rule breaker in the search for razor sharp tan lines. A good set of gripper will stay in place and prevent your bib shorts from riding up.
Most often, elastic hem lined with silicone stripes or dots are used as gripper. However, one may experience skin irritation from the silicone blocking up pores or digging into the skin. Most brands and manufacturers have opted to line their hems with broad highly elastic fabrics as grippers. These grippers rely on elastic compression to hold themselves in place, reducing the need for silicone stripes or dots.
Higher tier bib shorts usually comes with this broad highly elastic hem as gripper. Some have tiny silicone particles infused into the fabric to improve grip, while some has gone without any silicone help, only relying on elastic compression and a broader gripper. They tend to be more comfortable and cause less irritation.
The Right Bib Shorts Checklist
by Tan Wei Jie
Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia. Situated 350km up north of Singapore, the City will play host to the 2017 South East Asian Games. Considered by many as the epicenter of Malaysia’s cycling, the city is splatted with many cyclists and bicycle shops. Planning for a cycling route is never of a problem with their wide variety of road and terrains. Options of fast flat roads around the city center for the speed demons or the long steep climbs on the outskirts for the mountain goats. Either will prove to be fun and challenging for everyone.
In lieu of the SeaGames fever kicking in, Velo Velo Club decided to host a 5 days trip up to Kuala Lumpur and explore some of the infamous climbs that paved the outskirts of the city.
On the minivan
Day 1 took us about 6 hours of traveling from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur via a chartered mini bus. The bus was nicely tailored to fit 6 riders and their bicycles, with some rooms to spare for baggage. The custom was relatively crowded as it was a public holiday, but everyone made it through the Singapore and Malaysia custom faster than expected. We managed to land ourselves a nice accommodation in Putrajaya. Coincidentally, it was situated just minutes away from what will be the epicenter of the all of the SeaGames Road races. After unloading the bikes and getting ourselves acquainted with our new home, we set off on foot to explore the neighboring area. Basic necessity was within 10 minutes walk away. A mini town housing multiple supermarkets and eateries have everything we needed for our stay. After grabbing our dinner and some groceries, we head back and set ourselves down for tomorrow's itinerary
Day 2 got us up bright and early as bike shop hopping was our top agenda. We managed to pop by some popular bicycle shops based on the local's recommendation. Top on our list was The Bike Artisan which was situated on top of a roll of nice cafes serving delicious coffee. Definitely a good post ride hangout spot. After an early dinner, we head back home to suit ourselves up for the Putrajaya Night Ride happening later at 8 pm. We decided to roll out relatively early and went for a lazy scenic ride exploring the surrounding area. Much like our park connectors, a nicely paved path runs along the river that surrounds the Putrajaya Boulevard. There were also food trucks parked along the path to served you some of the local delights.
Exploring the city before the night ride
Before long, it was half past 7 and we slowly make our way to the gathering point of the Putrajaya Night Ride. Happening almost every night of the week, we saw 50 over riders gathering outside a small Laksa Kiosk located along Putrajaya Boulevard. The ride will take us through the nearby highways that encircle the Putrajaya Boulevard. Fast pace the ride was with strong riders from neighboring clubs turning up. With no traffic lights to slow you down, the pace will be as fast as your legs can be. The main loop was about 40km long with an additional 15km extension around the Putrajaya Boulevard for the faster few. The rides end at where it started, so one can grab a quick serving of Laksa to ease their post ride hunger. If you are not a fan of Laksa, afraid not as the area is littered with other food options that just a short ride away, so nobody goes home hungry.
Jon looks tired....
Morning rain greeted us as we woke up early for the 2nd ride of the trip. Undeterred, we got dressed, loaded our bikes up onto a chartered van and drove down to meet with our Malaysian friend, William, over at Kajang district. The meeting point was a Chinese eatery that serves up some old school morning breakfast. We took our time with the breakfast and waited for the roads to dry out. Soon the sun came out and the road was drying up. Everyone finished up their coffee and began to roll off for the ride. William and his cycling buddies were kind enough to lead us for the ride. The route took us through the well-known Lekas Highway which played host to the annual Shimano Lekas Highway Ride. First time riding on the highway, it was a daunting experience rolling alongside speeding vehicles. However, the experiences soon took a positive turn as drivers greeted us with their horns as they drove by.
Weijie rocking his Morvelo kit and Carol on her TSH kit
Nice smooth tarmac paved our path for a good 25km with no traffic lights in sight. Clueless of the full details of the route, William decided surprised us and took us on a detour off the highway. We were surprised indeed. About 2km out, we were greeted with a 2km climb. Average of 5% gradient with the steepest at 9%, the climbs ended with a scenic view overlooking the Lekas Highway. After the descent, we were immediately greeted by another climb. Longer at 3.5km, the climb was much gentle with an average gradient of 4%, but a short 10% section did take our breath away. A long descend came after and soon we found ourselves in Seremban.
Everyone was so happy after the climb
We took a lunch stop over at Seremban before making our way back. Hungry from the morning, we popped by a popular bakery that serves up some pretty delicious puffs and buns. We bought ourselves some puff to accompany our lunch over at an eatery.
Puffs all fresh from the oven!
With hunger satisfied and water bottles filled, we rolled off for home. The return was a thrilling experience with a long 7% descend down into the Lekas Highway. The 5km stretch was gone in just 3mins and soon we are back on familiar roads. Soon we saw storm clouds rolling in behind us as we make our final push back. Turns out to be a blessing as the clouds block out the scorching afternoon sun. Luck was on our side as we manage to finish our ride right before the sky pour on us.
TLC joining us in the Fight Cancer jersey
40 minutes later, we are back at our place in Putrajaya. After quick wash down of the bikes, everyone took their turns for the shower. It was almost 6 pm after everyone had cleaned themselves and dinner were top of the agenda. We decided to take a gamble and took an hour long drive up to an interesting restaurant recommended by our Malaysian friends. Situated on the top of a scenic hill off Ampang Jaya, getting to Veg Fish Farm Thai Restaurant proved to be a bit of a challenge. But it was all worth the trouble as we were served with a wide spread of delicious food cook in Thai and local Malaysian style. The food was pretty fresh with produce pick from their backyard farm. Everyone left the restaurant happy as well as a few kg heavier. Food coma hit us hard as we make the long journey back home.
The 4th day was the highlight of the trip as we challenge ourselves to tackle the infamous Broga loop. Our planned route took us through the 3 Infamous climb and other smaller peaks along the way. The day starts with an hour drive to an eatery located in Kampong Batu Lapan Bela where we will meet up with our Malaysian friends. The eatery was very easy to spot with multiple bicycles hanging out on the bicycle rack provided by the eatery’s owner. We started our ride with eggs and toast before making our way to the very first climb. Nicknamed Hantu, the first climb sits just 12km out from the eatery. The quiet winding road stretched all the way up the climb with the morning mist shielding us from the sun. The ghostly climb stretched 3.5km long at an average gradient of 6%. Present too were some double digits segments that haunt our still half asleep body. After a fast 2.5km descend down Hantu, we continued on a 49km journey through the rolling hills of the Broga Loop before the next major climbs.
Our first try on Broga Loop
What awaits us ahead was a climb up the road of Bukit Tangga. 5km long and an average gradient of 6% the 4 lanes road was nicely paved with smooth tarmac. The most exciting part of the trip was what that came after the climb. As the phrase goes, what goes up must come down, the long 5km descend Bukit Tangga was just exhilarating. Easily hitting the speed of 70 odd km per hour without pedaling, the descent will test all your guts and skill. A relatively flat 18km journey took us to a small town of Titi where we had our lunch stop. Lunch was served from a popular eatery that cooks up delicious Wonton noodles. Everyone made quick work of their lunch and took some time to rest before pushing off for the final climb.
Lunch Point at Broga
It was about 1 pm and the roads were scorching hot from the Sun. With stomach and water bottle filled, everyone continued the final push to the last climb under the blazing sun. A 13km journey leads the rider to the start of the final big climb. The climb will take the riders on a 14km ride up through 3 peaks with Genting Peres on the last. The first climb up to the 1st peak is 4.5km long with an average gradient of 5%, followed by a quick descent down to the bottom of the 2nd peak. 2.6km with an average gradient of 4% was the climb up to the 2nd peak. After another quick descend comes the toughest part of the ride. Exhausted, the riders have to dig deep riding up a 2 km climb with an average gradient of 8%. Thankfully a support van was present at the top of Genting Peres for riders to rest and hydrate. Gradually, more riders began to cross the peak. With everyone accounted for, we began the long descent back down to the morning’s eatery.
Weijie making sure everyone is back
With more than 7 hours on the road, everyone was totally exhausted and hungry. After a quick gulp of homemade barley by the eatery, we load our bike up and make our way for dinner. Lucky for us, the Veg Fish Farm Thai Restaurant was just 15 minutes drive away. Still drenched in our sweaty cycling kit, we sat ourselves down and munch away on the sumptuous dinner. Spirit was high as everyone was chatting away and reminiscing the afternoon ride. Talks on the next trip back have already begun over the dinner table.
Happy meal after the ride
As we make our way back to the van, we gave our heartfelt thanks to our Malaysian friends who had lead up through the rides. We waved them goodbye as we slowly roll off for the journey back to Putrajaya. As we got ourselves clean up for the night, we slowly began to pack for tomorrow's early departure.
The journey back home was quick as we reached the custom pretty early, avoiding the weekend crowd. To end the trip on a high, all of us sat down for one sumptuous meal together before disembarking on our journey home.
To see more of our road trip, check the photos here.
by Jon C
Many of our customers will now know about Morvelo Apparels. It is one of Velo Velo's very first brand. I love their designs and the excellent bibshorts. It's my go to bibshort for long rides due to their excellent compression, fit and chamois.
Morvelo is based in the city of Brighton, England and they ride their bikes everyday. They are an intentionally small team of four working to their strengths, keeping all product design, graphic design, marketing and customer service in house and using specialists for everything else. Morvélo is also independently owned and self-financed.
To understand more about the story behind the brand, I did a short interview with the founders some time back.
Here's their story.
1. Tell us about your inspirations for the designs that we can expect to see in the upcoming autumn winter season.
The inspiration for the design comes from the worlds of fashion, sport, art, music, and film as well as a healthy dose of pop culture. Only for the more vintage designs do we ever look to the cycling world for inspiration, looking at retro designs. For AW2017 we have limited the color palette so you can mix and match across items, even if they are not the same design.
Morvelo Unity Evo
2. We hear that your bibs have received some accolades and positive reviews. What goes into the design and manufacturing process?
First and foremost we are riders and really do ride everything. It's not just a marketing ploy. So we get to try and test first hand. We've been racing bikes for over 25 years so have a deep understanding of what it takes to make a quality product having ridden in a huge amount of kit over the years. So we test, then get our team to test, taking on feedback all the time. Even when the product is launched we in-house over the years so all out products subtly evolve. Manufacturing is done in a small Polish factory run by an English guy who just so happens to come from our home town of Brighton. He's was a top amateur and set up his business in his wife's parent garden shed in 1989 so the grass roots approach is much the same as ours. Fabrics all come from Italy, as do the chamois because frankly, no-one else comes close. We've tried others but Italy is the best. Reflective details and trim come from Germany and the lycra binding from France so it's a purely European affair
Morvelo Reflective Tab found on their bibshorts
3. How do you choose the fabrics, stitching, testing of the kits etc?
Riding, riding and more riding. We pick fabrics, look at companies inside and outside of cycling to see what construction methods they are using. Try them out. Keep them if we are happy and more often than not modify as we don't ever accept there is a final solution. Our products, even though we are super happy with them, will always continue to evolve.
4. Many factories mass produce their kits but you still take pains to hand make your kits in Europe. Why did you decide to do that?
It started off because we couldn't afford to make large numbers. We are entirely self-financed, starting in 2009 with £500 and a box of t-shirts. We continually reinvest and so grow at a steady and organic rate. Only European manufacturers had the flexibility or inclination to do small numbers. However, we got to know the factories so well and love working with them so much we have stayed with them. Only our new rain jackets and MTB shorts are made in China because we, unfortunately, couldn't find the quality we were after in Europe. However, 95% of our clothing is still made in the cycling heartland.
Spring Summer 2017 Fifty kit
5. We'd like to get to know the team better. Between yourselves, Oli and Dave, how do you split the work on who designs and who does quality control?
Dave leads the design, Oli the product development, Lois the marketing and Danni the customer services and logistics, although we cross over on everything from branding, marketing, social media, events and coffee making. We are all riders so try and test all products first-hand every day so we are all aware if there are any quality issues. Because we are a small team we take feedback very personally and act on each and every response. There are no departments or board meetings. We are all completely involved in everything we do. It's our passion not just our job.
Thanks so much for the interview and insight into your brand. Can't wait to see the upcoming season!
Morvelo are a group of cyclists creating their dream kits and sharing with other cyclists. They have constantly evolve and always improving. Wish to try a Morvelo? We are having a end of season sale for their Spring Summer 2017 collection. Check them out here.