Just before the warm weather started here in the UK I was searching for a pair of bibshorts. I wanted something plain black and very good value for money. I’m associated with various clubs and teams and feel obliged to wear their jerseys at certain times. But I don’t want to have to then spend extra buying the matching shorts if I can find a single pair that will go with all my jerseys. Well, I found The Black Bibs. They’re black and simply designed to keep the price low. With no frills like Italian laser-cut silicone bands, no logos, and no sublimated fabrics. The price is very appealing. But I wanted to find out if they were just ‘cheap’, or if they really were good value for money.
The Black Bibs as a company started off with one objective. The main aim was to provide simple, better value clothing to racers. They wanted to make cycling and racing cheaper. As an offshoot of a custom clothing manufacturer, Starlight Apparel, they had plenty of knowledge so they went to work. What they came up with was the product they named the brand for, The Black Bibs. They also introduced black bibs and shorts for women and juniors, and a basic jersey. They’ve since expanded the range with bibshorts and a jersey that have some slightly more premium features.
I was pleasantly impressed when I opened the package containing my The Black Bibs. Sometimes on cheaper kit, you find loose threads and poorly finished seams. The Black Bibs were neatly sewn all round. They looked like a more expensive pair of bibs. Obviously there are some areas where money has been saved, but unless you know your stuff you wouldn’t guess just by looking at them or touching them. Even trying them on, The Black Bibs don’t feel cheap. So where have they saved the money, and how does it affect the overall result?
The leg openings are one area where money has been saved. Instead of an expensive silicone band manufactured abroad and shipped over from Italy, the American company used a fold and stitching to finish the leg opening. Due to the compression fit of The Black Bibs this fold seems to work perfectly well. In use I didn’t find any problem with the legs riding up, and the seams didn’t cut into my leg. Also, the absence of silicone in the leg opening actually meant that I didn’t get pulled hairs on my (as yet unshaved) legs. ‘Sausage legs’ are also less likely. The compression along the leg is uniform, so you get a nice flat leg that isn’t squeezed half-way down by an overly tight grip band.
The chamois isn’t the well-known brand that you often find in expensive shorts, but it’s still made from coolmax fabric and it’s a decent thickness. After riding on the pad for up to 4 hours, although the pad is comfortable enough, it’s not what I’d choose for an all-day ride. But it’s not meant to be. The shorts were designed for new riders, and racers that are on a budget. For the type of riding those two groups will do, the pad is sufficient and will provide enough comfort. I went out for a ride the day after pulling lunch and dinner time shifts on my Deliveroo ‘clunker’ bike. I was quite sore to start with, but once I got on the bike I found the pad more comfortable than I expected. Obviously decent chamois cream helped with this, but I use the cream on even my most expensive bibshorts, so it’s a fair test.
The fabric is a dyed lycra, rather than sublimation printed lycra. It’s not much different in feel or cling, but it’s cheaper because the manufacturing process is slightly cheaper. The fact the base material is dyed should mean the shorts can be stretched more before becoming see-through. It’s not something I noticed or could test but may mean The Black Bibs are more durable in some respects than the more expensive, custom coloured alternative.
A lot of my shorts have a seam that runs from the edge of the pad and down inside my leg towards my knee. The Black Bibs have an inside leg seam, but it doesn’t start from the pad, there’s a panel that provides nearly 2 inches (50mm) of seam free material before the seam starts. This is a huge bonus for me, as I sometimes find I get problems with seams rubbing in that spot.
The bib straps have a sewn-finished edge, instead of a laser cut. This means they will be more visible through your jersey. The straps were comfortable in use, not too tight and they didn’t want to slip off my shoulder either.
Overall I was very impressed with The Black Bibs. They cost $40 which is about £30. So, The Black Bibs aren’t the cheapest bibshorts around (Decathlon bibs start at around £25) but they are close enough, and the quality and comfort is on a par with something that costs a lot more. The only downside to buying from overseas is there’s a flat shipping charge of $12 (approx £9). To really make the most of the price you need to order a few items or get your mates and put in a group order. You can now get a slightly more premium version of both the bibs and jersey on the website below.
Compare prices and buy cycling clothing from:
|Chain Reaction||Wiggle||Cayclestore||Evans Cycles|
|ProBikeKit||Rutland Cycling||Hargroves Cycles||Merlin Cycles|
|Ribble Cycles||AW Cycles||Biketart||Cycle Surgery|
|Leisure Lakes Bikes|