Designed and shaped for female mountain bikers.
Women’s bibshorts provide the ultimate in comfort and security, but women’s versions also need certain practical features come the inevitable comfort break.
Bibshorts incorporate shoulder straps to offer a more comfortable, secure fit. This eliminates tightness across the waist and also stops the short slipping down.
Women’s bibshorts require straps that are designed to comfortably accommodate the bust, and ideally some kind of feature to allow for a comfort break without having to strip off totally at the side of the trail. Short manufacturers do this in various ways, but, as we found out, not all of them are successful.
As with regular shorts, the chamois (padded insert) quality is of paramount importance, with the size and shape needing to fit well to the body and offer some cushioning, without friction or discomfort. They also need to be shaped slightly differently for the female anatomy.
Zipped drop-seat • Mesh upper with side straps • Sizes: XS-L • Colours: black
With the straps curving perfectly around the sides and up over the arms, clear of the bust and without any gaps, the fit of the Endura bibs is the best on test. The mesh construction is very similar in style to the Ale short and offers good ventilation and shaping, and overall the bib section feels secure, comfortable and gives a flattering profile.
The chamois is smaller and slimmer but has clearly defined channels for airflow and reduced pressure/friction points. It holds its shape well and doesn’t crease uncomfortably in the middle. The leg-grippers are a little on the tight side, though, and the inseam is only just long enough.
Endura is the only company on test here to properly address the comfort break issue — perhaps because its Scottish base makes it fully aware of the need to make this process efficient in poor weather. The zip for the drop-seat system is cleverly disguised, and its location — looping up across the lower back — avoids any friction issues. It is certainly the best solution out there, and that’s a significant factor when choosing a pair of women’s bibshorts.
Alé Women’s Plus
Multi-panel construction • Mesh upper • Sizes: S-XL • Colours: black
The Ale’s fit is on the snug side, though it does suit narrower hips. There’s a waffle foam construction in the chamois, but it’s less bulky than the insert in the Assos short, and we preferred it. It moulds well to the body, and, although the material is a touch less plush than the more expensive brands, it holds its shape and feels good quality.
The overall shape of the short is comfortable, and the deep-section leg cuffs sit well against the thighs without constricting or riding up.
The upper section of the bib was one of our favourites, being well constructed and simply designed. Wide straps are comfortable without providing too much coverage, and the stretchy mesh offers a good fit with plenty of airflow. Locating the straps around the sides of the body and up over the shoulders means it boasts the best fit after the Endura, avoiding the bust area almost entirely and remaining invisible beneath jerseys.
Assos T.LADY S5
Half-circumference leg grippers • Y-panel bib design • Sizes: XS-XL • Colours: black
This is a top quality bibshort, but so it should be considering the price. The chamois is the biggest on test, and a little wide, but the waffle foam construction offers both flexibility of fit and great air circulation. The pad design covers both the sit bones and moulds to the body and the material feels great against the skin. Deep-section leg cuffs boosted comfort and ensured the short didn’t ride up while riding.
The top of the bib was an issue though. Firstly, there’s a clip fastener at the front to facilitate discreet bathroom stops, but it fails because the shoulder straps remain looped round your neck. This clip offers three body-length settings, but it’s fiddly to adjust, and since undressing to go for a pee was necessary anyway, it just meant the whole process took even longer.
Secondly, the central strap design doesn’t give a close fit, running over both bra and cleavage — neither flattering, nor comfortable.
For some reason, the woman in the Assos catalogue doesn’t wear a bra though, so presumably she doesn’t have such issues…
Morvélo standard bib
Mesh straps • Flat-lock stitching • Sizes: S-XXL • Colours: various
Although there are various bibshorts on Morvelo’s website, there is essentially just one technical design produced in a variety of colours and prints. Styles also change regularly each season.
The chamois is fairly large, and as we have said before, we’re not a fan simply because the additional padding and associated bulk are only really necessary on the road, where you’re sat in one position for a long time.
Mountain biking is so much more dynamic, so a thinner pad is preferable. On the other hand, the pad is well made, securely stitched and of good quality. The wide leg-grippers are also extremely comfortable and stayed in place on most rides.
The shoulder strap extends up the middle of the chest, which is not good if you have a big bosom — or in fact any bosom. It’s not flattering, looks like you’re wearing a vest backwards, and it moves around as you change position. It has a lightweight mesh construction but the fact that it sits higher up at the front reduces ventilation options in hot weather.
Saddle Drunk Classic
Hand-tailored • Sizes: XXS-XXXL • Colours: black w/yellow and white
This is the only unisex bib on test, which is hardly surprising, as catering for both male and female anatomy is a tall order.
Now women are, of course, many different shapes and sizes, but certain things are common to all when it comes to padded shorts. Firstly, the pad shape needs to be appropriate, and for a female rider, it’s critical that the sit bones are supported correctly to alleviate pressure points, and the pad doesn’t folds upwards in the middle, which can cause discomfort and friction.
Saddle Drunk, while managing to keep my sit bones just inside the pad, has unfortunately not managed to successfully address the fold issue.
The relatively wide straps, while running up the side of the chest, still encroach on the bust area. This is not the end of the world, but they did end up somewhat pushed to the side, resulting in some bagging under the arms.
The wide leg-grippers are comfortable and didn’t ride up, and leg length is also good — one of the benefits of them being for men as well as women. However, we would query the concept of unisex — for a small woman with a reasonable bust, these shorts just didn’t work.