How to find the best bib tights to keep your legs warm this winter
However once the temperature really begins to drop in November, then you’re going to want something with a little more protection.
For the coldest three months of the year, you’re probably going to be doing all of your riding in bib tights.
These will keep your legs warm through the cold weather, meaning that you’ll not only find it less traumatic to force yourself out of the door, but will also be able to ride faster as your body won’t be wasting energy trying to keep you warm rather than pushing down on the pedals.
Clearly the most important thing in determining how warm a pair of bib tights are is the material that they’re made of.
At the most basic level you’ll have tights which are just longer versions of your run-of-the-mill bib shorts, made of a looser knit lycra material.
These will offer a similar level of protection to bib shorts and leg warmers, so you’ll need some bib tights made of sterner stuff to get you through the winter.
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Unless you’re planning to spend the whole of December and January on the turbo trainer, then you’ll probably need some tights that are designed for properly cold weather; at least down to freezing.
These sort of bib tights will be designed to protect you from cold air, usually using windproof materials such as Gore’s Windstopper technology, and will also have some form of light insulation.
The most common way of doing this is by using a Roubaix fabric, which has a light fleece on the inside of the bib tights.
However if you’re the sort of rider who will be heading out of the front door whatever the weather, then you might be after even more protection.
Producing waterproof (or at least water-resistant) bib tights can be difficult, as you in order to maintain comfort, manufacturers need to make sure the material can still stretch.
There are plenty on the market, and if you search online and filter by “highest price first” then they’ll be easy enough to find…
But aside from the material of the main part of the tights, what else should you be looking for in a good pair of winter bib tights?
Well of course the most important thing is that they fit properly. One of the biggest problems with bib tights is that the material can tend to bunch behind the knee: a real annoyance particularly during the longer rides that should be making up most of your winter riding.
If possible, the best way to avoid this is to try the tights on in a shop before you buy, or failing that stick to a brand that you’re familiar to make sure there are no surprises with the sizing.
For extra warmth it’s also worth looking for a pair of bib tights with a front panel that extends a decent way up your torso, which will really help to keep your core warm when riding in seriously cold conditions.
The only snag with this is that it can make the mid-ride loo stop a little tricky. To solve this men should look for tights with a nice low zip up the front of the bib tights, while a few women’s bib tights come with a drop-tail design so you can avoid having to fully de-robe at the side of the road.
One thing that is really a matter of personal preference is whether you go for bib tights with or without a pad, and there are advantages and disadvantages to both options.
The majority of bib tights will come with a pad. For comfort and convenience these are hard to beat, as it means you don’t have the extra layer of a pair of bib shorts underneath your tights, and you can get out of the door a minute or two quicker in the mornings.
However unpadded bib tights are probably a more cost-effective option. Not only are they usually cheaper, but if you wear bib shorts underneath, you can usually get good few rides in them before they’re in need of a wash.
The final couple of things to look for in a good pair of bib tights are well-designed bibs and a loop going underneath your foot.
The bibs should be nice and wide to offer good support to keep the tights up and to stop them digging in at the shoulder.
At the other end, a loop underneath your foot might sound uncomfortable, but will prevent the bib tights from riding up your leg while you pedal, often causing them to bunch behind your knee.
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How much should I pay?
The sky really is the limit when it comes to the cost of a good pair of winter bib tights. Top-end kit from the likes of Assos, Castelli, and Gore can often be approaching, if not over, the £200 mark, so it can be quite easy to blow a great deal of money on your new bib tights.
However, depending on the riding you’re doing, you probably don’t need to break the bank. If you’re not going to be heading out when it’s both cold and raining (or even snowing!) then you don’t need bib tights that claim to offer waterproof protection.
But that doesn’t mean you should skimp on your new purchase. If you’re buying bib tights with an in-built pad, then paying more will almost always guarantee a better quality pad, translating into improved comfort over the long winter miles.