An Expert Guide to Bib Tights

Make sure you have the right gear to keep you warm on your rides this winter! Cycling Expert Jared Fontaine explains all you'd need to know about bib tights.

A cyclist biking in the winter. There is snow all around him.

Photo by Dmitrii Vaccinium

It's deep winter, and leg warmers and summer bib shorts are not cutting it. It is freezing outside, and round-trip tickets to Hawaii are out of reach, and if you are tired of riding the trainer inside, it is time to get a good quality pair of bib tights. Warmers with shorts will not cut it for deep winter, below or very close to freezing. This article will focus mainly on winter bibs. If you are interested in learning about all accessories for winter cycling, please read my article “An Expert Guide to Winter Cycling Gear.”

What Are Winter Bib Tights?

Bib tights are shorts with longer pant legs to cover the entire leg. These are best for early winter as they lack the warmth of deep winter bibs. Deep winter bibs generally have fleeced "Roubaix" material named after the early spring French Classic race. This material is soft and provides warmth without too much bulk.

The main difference between bib tights and tights is that they are lower cost as they do not have suspenders to hold them up. Bib tights are generally higher quality and have better features like an upgraded chamois or pad you sit on.

Three Main Benefits of Bib Tights

Keeps Tights in Place

Like bib shorts, the suspenders keep the tights from moving around, especially the chamois or pad. Many cycling pads have multi-density layers to support certain regions like the sit bones and less padding in other places to relieve chaffing, and when the pad moves around, this can be comfortable. One time my pants pulled down when I stood up, and I have worn bib tights ever since!

Keeps Your Back Warm

Bib tights extend higher on your core to keep your back and lower chest warm. This is important in wet wintery rides to keep water from creeping down your lower back. I am using tights right now, and I feel a draft in the back.

No Elastic Bands Around Your Stomach

Without suspenders, tights require a band around the waist to hold the pants up. This can be uncomfortable as the band can restrict breathing, and the band around a beer belly is not fun if you are a heavier rider.

Features of Premium Deep Winter Bib Tights

Higher Waist

High waist on the Castelli Sorpasso RoS Bibtights 2020.

High waist on the Castelli Sorpasso RoS Bibtights 2020

As mentioned above, since the bibs are built higher, they keep you warmer and prevent drafts from rolling up your back, especially when you are in the drops or the rain.

Water Resistant and Windproof

Most deep winter bib tights have a waterproof or water-resistant membrane to keep you dry, and the front of the legs will have a windproof layer to keep your legs warm. As you are cycling, the wind chill can cool you down. In regular bib tights, your core will be warm, but your legs will be super cold. Cold weather is bad for your joints and can lead to problems in the long term.

Ankle Zippers

One of the main places water and cold air can get to you is between the shoe and bib. Deep winter bibs have either ankle zippers or straps around the feet to close the gap between your winter shoe or overshoe and the tight. I like zippers at the end as I can tuck my overshoe or winter shoe inside of my winter to prevent water from dripping into my shoe.

Bathroom Break Zippers

Close up of the suspenders on cycling bib tights.

Higher end bib tights will have a mesh back for ventilation and some come with buckles to adjust the suspenders for fit and to go to the bathroom. Photo by Jared Fontaine

Since you have suspenders over the chest, taking the bibs down to pee is difficult. Since men's bibs ride up high on the chest, the center can come with a zipper in the front to use the bathroom without removing your top layers to pull down your bibs in the cold. Women's bib tights and shorts have drop-tail, detachable suspenders, magnets, and other features that allow them to pull down their tights without taking all their top layers off.


Reflective area on the back of the Castelli Sorpasso RoS Bibtights 2020.

Reflective area on the back of the Castelli Sorpasso RoS Bibtights 2020

The current cycling style is dark colors and black; however, this can be hard to see in low-level light conditions in deep winter. Therefore, many bib tights will feature reflective letters or stripes on the back caff of the leg. In addition, the human eye is attracted to movement, so having lights and reflectors on the feet spinning at 80rpm will attract a texting driver's attention.

The Castelli Sorpasso RoS Bibtights 2020 are a great example of premium bib tights and are rated from 28°F to 50°F. Castelli is one of my favorite brands as their clothing design has enough flash to warn off cars in Italian Style!

Should I Get Bib Tights or Tights?

When choosing bib tights, I consider two factors: The type of climate I am riding in and the type of training I will be doing. Generally, in the winter, I like to cut my 4 to 5-hour rides to 2 to 3 hours since I have fewer hours of daylight, and it is mentally easier to get out and ride for a short hour or two than a long 6-hour ride in the cold. There is nothing worse in cycling than bonking 30 miles from home with the sun going down and it is freezing.

So in January and December, I like to ride my gravel bike close to my house and ride hard, full of gas, for an hour or two. The intense effort warms me up, and I will not need as many clothes. If something goes wrong or I get cold, I can quickly ride home or to the local coffee shop. Therefore, I can get away with less warm clothing or tights with no chamois as I will be home quickly. I would wear the Sportful Neo Tight or the Sportful Classic Women's Tight for most of the features of the premium bib tights without the suspenders or windproofing to save money.

I am now trying to lose some COVID pounds, so I will ride many base miles in the cold to get a good race weight. Base miles are steady-state long miles in the winter to build endurance and get my body in shape. I am on my bike for 5 to 6 hours riding around 150 to 200 miles a week in the cold to lose approximately 10lbs and prepare for the cycling season. Therefore, I need heavy-duty thicker deep winter bib tights to ride 50 to 60 miles in the cold and rain. I would use a mountain bike bib tight like the Fox Racing Evolution Bib Full Liner, as it is designed to be layered for 6-hour rides in the cold.

When I lived in West Virginia, I had to buy expensive waterproof bib tights because the winters in West Virginia are dark and miserable. Once I left my house, I was immediately cold. Then I moved to warmer, dry climates. I did not need the waterproofing and thickness of the deep winter bibs, as thicker bibs can constrict movement.

Cycling Pad, Chamois, or Neither?

A women's specific cycling chamois.

Women's specific cycling chamois are generally wider for women's wider sit bones and they have less padding in the front comfort for a women's anatomy. Although these are made for women, both men and women can find them comfortable. Photo by Jared Fontaine

Since premium cycling tights can cost between $250 to $500, many brands offer more affordable tights with no pad to save money. If you are on a budget and have a good pair of summer shorts, you can get away with wearing your summer shorts under the bib tights with no pad to get most of the features of the top-end bib tights. The main drawback to bib tights with no chamois is that you can create more friction and chaffing since you have two layers of clothing rubbing. In the winter, cold temperatures are the number one enemy, and number two is friction. You don't want saddle sores.


Bib tights are indispensable part of your cycling kit for extending your cycling season into the fall and winter. They are designed to keep you dry and comfortable in all weather conditions. If you need help deciding which bib tights are best for you, contact a Curated Cycling Expert, and we will answer your questions.

Meet the author
Cycling Expert Jared Fontaine
Jared Fontaine
Cycling Expert
Jared here! How can I help?
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Hi! I am a lover of professional cycling and training. I have been cycling well over 10 years and I usually go to Europe to see the Tour de France and the Giro. I have ridden most of the France mountains in the Tour like Alp d'Heuz, the Galibier, and others. Moreover, I have ridden in Ireland, Germa...

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