There are lots of benefits of wearing bib shorts: you get a sleek, aerodynamic fit minus the uncomfortable and restrictive waistband; a chamois that stays in place to cut down on chafing issues; and shorts that won’t ride down on you when you’re in the drops or climbing hard.
But when I first tried bibs, I hated them. The reason? I had to get fully undressed every time I needed to pee, which meant I was usually stripping in a Porta-Potty (where on earth do you hang your jersey in one of those?) or worse yet, behind a bush on the side of the road. So unless I was going out for a quick no-pit-stop lunch loop, I refused to wear them—until cycling apparel manufacturers stepped it up. Now many women’s cycling bibs come with some form of pee-friendly drop-tail design.
I put the following bibs to the test over hundreds of miles and countless bathroom stops. Here are my favorites.
Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Escape Bib Short ($170)
Best For: Everything from racing to touring to training
Pee-Friendliness Rating: 3 (out of 5)
Pearl Izumi ditches all the fiddly buckles, zippers, and clips in favor of super stretchy fabric in the bib straps. Overlapping in a V-shape at the back with a bridge across the top, the straps move out of the way without falling off your shoulders as you pull and crouch down. I had no problems taking bathroom breaks in tight Porta-Potties on my regular long-distance pastry-run ride to Point Reyes, California. I also appreciate the minimalist, seamless aesthetic of these bib shorts with laser-cut edges that eliminate the dreaded sausage-leg effect and simple, low-profile silicone grippers that keep everything in place.
7Mesh WK2 Women’s Bib Short ($150)
Best For: Long weekend road rides
Pee-Friendliness Rating: 3
7Mesh applies the same stretchy-strap principle in their aptly named Pull2P technology. Crossed at the back and attached to the outside edge at the rear rather than at center, the straps give you the length and clearance you need to get things done. (Though I sometimes felt I was going to rip the thin straps when stretched too far.) A wide, yoga-style waistband gently supports your stomach, and laser-cut hems with bonded grippers keep the legs secure without digging in. I found the bibs give a nice little butt lift minus the expensive surgery, and the completely seamless chamois cut down on saddle-sore potential.
Club Ride Quick Drop Bib ($90)
Best For: All-day mountain bike rides
Pee-Friendliness Rating: 4
Just because you’re wearing baggy shorts over top doesn’t mean you can skip the bibs on the mountain bike—the same principles apply. As your lady bits tend to see a lot more jolts and vibrations on the trail than on the road, Club Ride added some strategically placed gel inserts to their chamois, something I appreciated after sitting on the saddle five to six hours a day for six days in a row while racing the Breck Epic. The drop seat works much like the access hatch on onesies—zippers running three-quarters of the length of each side unzip for more than enough clearance. Just be sure to tuck the flap under when you go, so you don’t hit the inside of your shorts.
Assos T.Laalalaishorts_S7 ($229)
Best For: Summer races
Pee-Friendliness Rating: 2
While technically not intended to be used for nature breaks, the monostrap on these sleek moisture-wicking bibs can be unhooked at the front and slipped over your head in an emergency. The trick is shimmying the strap back up underneath your jersey without having to get undressed—it’s possible, but requires a few yoga moves. Women with longer torsos might find the monostrap a little tight when standing or sitting upright (I did) but all should be well when you lean into the riding position. The chamois is unique in that it moves with you, so it’s never in a position where it could cause pressure points or chafing, and the waffle-pattern foam helps with breathability.
Giro Chrono Expert Halter Bib Short ($150)
Best For: Hot days
Pee-Friendliness Rating: 4
You can ditch the base layer with these bibs, as the sides come all the way up to your armpits—almost like a pair of Spanx gently holding everything in place without being restrictive. Instead of of shoulder straps, Giro uses a halter-style design that you simply slip over your head and pull down when nature calls. And scooching everything back up under your jersey without unzipping doesn’t take much effort. On warmer days, I really appreciate Giro’s Chrono chamois, which uses multidensity padding to give support only where you need it and employs air channels to help keep things dry. A small pocket at the back of the bib shorts comes in handy for storing stuff you don’t need access to while on your ride like keys, spare tube, or CO2 canister.