Welcome to the second installment of the new RoadBikeReview.com Women's Test Team where we continue to examine women's bibshorts. This time we start with an offering from Primal Wear (below) followed by Rapha, Panache, Castelli and Capo. Also be sure to read our previously published bibshorts reviews on Hincapie, Pearl Izumi and Assos. And check back to RoadBikeReview.com soon where we'll announce the overall winner of the test, plus best bibshorts for $200 or less, and easiest to operate when you have to use the restroom in a hurry.



Primal Elita Women's Helix Bib Shorts

Sizes: XS to 2X
Color: Black with Blue/White Accents
MSRP: $200
More Info: www.PrimalWear.com

What The Manufacturer Says

The Elita Bib Short was designed for competition but built for everyday rides. The highest level performance fabrics and our top of the line HX8 Carbon chamois are used to create unmatched performance and unparalleled comfort. Ergonomic panels and elite fabrics create compression around key muscle groups to help increase strength, movement accuracy and endurance. The mesh bib upper stretches and moves with the body and provides easy airflow between the surface of the skin and the jersey. A flexible silicone gripper in the leg band creates a secure, comfortable fit. The new fusion technology of the HX8 creates an entirely seamless chamois without chemical fixatives and allows for the progressive reduction of foam thickness, removing the "steps" between layers. The 4-density, 4-way stretch chamois forms to your body to provide superior comfort, while the antibacterial Resistex anti-static carbon fabric helps promote blood flow and reduce lactic acid.

Tester: Lisa Sumner (Size Tested: Medium)



Fit: The medium fit was true to size on the lower half of the bib, however, the straps were a little too long for me. The loose straps didn't move around on my shoulders while riding, but did cause a slight bunching of material around my lower stomach and hip flexors. However, I never experienced any chafing as a result of this bunching. The legs were a good length, coming to about mid-thigh and the leg band was an adequate tightness and was comfortable on my legs.

Function: These bibs are designed in a traditional men's bib style with two straps up the front, with one subtle design difference. Instead of the straps starting down near the belly button, the Lycra continued higher up the body, to about mid-torso, before splitting up into two mesh straps. I liked this slightly adapted design. It was comfortable because there were no fabric changes or seams around the waist area and it resulted in a clean look and fit when wearing a jersey. The chamois was constructed differently than the others tested. Instead of being all one thickness, the padding was thinner on the outside and gradually increased in thickness moving inward toward the center of the chamois. For me, this design was comfortable on the back part of the chamois but was constructed a bit too narrow for my body in the front and was slightly uncomfortable after an hour in the saddle.

Materials: The Lycra has good elasticity and a very soft feel to it. All of the seams on the inside of the bib are flat so I never had any problems with chaffing. The material breathed well and it was really comfortable to ride in.

Fashion: I thought these bibs were very flattering when on. The seam lines contoured my body shape and the two-toned black material gave a slimming affect. The color band around the leg is also a nice touch to give it a bit of flare, but the blue would not be my first choice of color.

Additional Comments
: Although the chamois did not fit my body perfectly, with a bit of re-positioning I could make it more comfortable and I liked the fact that there were no seams in the chamois. Unlike other bibs that were tested, there was no mechanism on these bibs to make using the restroom during a ride any easier.

Overall Rating:
4 out of 5

Tester: Kate Powlison (Size Tested: Small)



Fit: All of Primal's investment in their women's teams seems to have paid off in the accurate fit of their apparel. These shorts are just the right length for me, especially on summer rides when I prefer a little less coverage and don't need to worry about keeping knee or leg warmers from gapping. My main gripes had to do with overbuilt seams. The seams on the straps and gripper panels were thicker than I'd like.

Function: The traditional leg grippers kept these from riding up. The comfort was average: I could happily ride a few hours in these, though I wasn't exactly melting into them either. I appreciated how the seam on the inside of my thigh stopped partway up the leg panel, instead of continuing all the way across the crotch and setting me up for major chaffing.

Materials: Nothing fancy here, but nothing cheap either. The bib strap material was a bit heavy and could stand to be more minimal. Overall the fabric and chamois seemed durable and able to hold up to many miles.

Fashion: The "92" graphics made me feel a little bit like an Abercrombie 'tween. But I did appreciate the pop of bright blue against the white and black. The heavy seam above the leg panel made my legs look lumpy. If bib shorts are basically spandex with a butt pad, they really could stand to be more flattering. Leg gripper panels just don't flatter many women. I'd love to see more shorts without them, especially custom kits.

Additional Comments
: Primal seems to be getting a lot right on their women's kits lately. Fine-tuning a couple small details like seams and bib strap thickness could take them to the top of the ranks. If you're looking for a custom kit for your club or team, your female members can be guaranteed a legitimate women's-specific fit with Primal, not just a men's jersey in a smaller size.

Overall Rating:
4 out of 5

Tester: Liz Barcheck (Size Tested: Medium)

Fit: I liked the length and overall fit of these shorts. The straps also fit well and were relatively easy to put on.

Fit: The short length and overall fit is good, and I like that they have a wider band at the bottom of the leg. I found the bib straps to feel loose and too wide. That might be because I have a very short torso, but I don't usually have this problem.

Function: I really liked the chamois on these shorts, it was comfortable, not too bulky, and stayed in place.

Materials: The material on these shorts feel a lot like the Panache shorts, breathable, flexible, the standard of a good bib short. The mesh bib is a little thick, especially in the lower back.

Fashion: Everyone who has seen these shorts has complimented me, and I think it's because of the blue band at the bottom and on the number. It's an interesting short because it has some fabric patterns in some areas and then a flat fabric in others and I also think that helps it stick out a bit. I'm not sure I love all of the seams, some of them on the leg and lower back stick out and are bulky, and could cause some chaffing on the inner-thigh.

Additional Comments
: I'd place these in the same category as the Panache shorts. They are solid, made of good fabrics, move and fit well. There is nothing extraordinary about them, other than what I and my friends noticed which is the color.

Overall Rating:
4 out of 5

Tester: Elizabeth Train (Size Tested: Small)



Fit: These bibs fit great. They ended up being my go-to mountain biking bibs during the test, and I kept coming back to them because I knew they'd perform well on long rides.

Function: These bibs are super functional. They're comfortable, supportive, and the chamois is nice.

Fashion: There is a lot going on in the material department here. While it keeps things visually interesting, it felt too much like NASCAR for me. So I chose to rock them on my mountain bike - under the cover of baggies shorts.

Overall Rating:
3.5 out of 5

Next: Rapha Team Sky Women's Bib Shorts »





Rapha Team Sky Women's Bib Shorts

Sizes: XXS to XL
Color: Black with Team and Sponsor Logos
MSRP: $220
More Info: www.Rapha.cc

What The Manufacturer Says

Made from a comfortable, compressive stretch fabric that is breathable and durable, these shorts are designed for maximum comfort and durability on long rides. The shorts use a chamois pad designed specifically for women riders and have a panelled construction to guarantee a superb fit. Flatlock stitching throughout means they won't chafe, no matter how long or hard you ride. The fabric also has a wicking treatment to improve moisture transfer and an anti-bacterial treatment to prevent the build-up of the bacteria that can irritate the skin. The bib section is made from two different mesh fabrics to regulate body temperature. Cut high for a more flattering line, the mesh at the front offers excellent support and is designed to be worn with a sports bra.

Tester: Kate Powlison (Size Tested: Small)



Fit: These fit me quite well. The seams and fabric expanded where I needed them to and fit close where I didn't.

Function: Most comfortable bibs I've ever worn, hands down. Two and a half hours into an epic six hour ride, I suddenly realized that I had no crotch pain, no chafing, no discomfort whatever. I didn't think that was possible! I'll have to find new excuses to cut my rides short now.

The design of the full length bib top also changed my mind about the concept. It didn't seem as restricting or hot as other versions of this design. I think this was a combination of the zipper, a lower neckline, and the super-lightweight mesh. I never ended up using the zip pocket. As long as you're wearing a jersey with well-designed pockets, it seems unnecessary and restrictive.

Materials: Nice and lightweight. Does seem a bit delicate. I had to be careful about snagging or abrading the fabric. Even with careful washing, the silk screened graphics started to crack and peel, particularly the Pinarello logo.

Fashion: I found the zipped top to be very flattering. When I unzipped my jersey on a sweaty climb, I didn't have to worry about distracting motorists with a flash of bright white belly fat.

Additional Comments
: I thought it was really cool that Rapha offered a women's version of the Sky team kit. For all the female racing fans out there, this is all too rare of an offering. Now, the next step is to get their own women's pro team!

Overall Rating:
5 out of 5

Tester: Liz Barcheck (Size Tested: Medium)



Fit: These shorts fit okay. I liked the length but they were a little tight. They have the small elastic band at the bottom of the short that I really dislike, but it's not terribly unflattering. The bib fit well and isn't too tight.

Function: Unfortunately, I found that for my body the chamois was bulky and misplaced. It sticks out too far in the back when I'm on my saddle. I don't really think the chamois is all that comfortable in general. I do like the bib style, even though traditionally I like thin straps that allow for lots of airflow, I almost feel like this style of bibs that provides more mesh coverage almost acts as a little base layer. There is a pocket hidden in the back, which is place to keep an ID or some cash.

Materials: They definitely feel great, the material is breathable and isn't too constricting. The mesh is soft and there is a liner on the chest where the zipper is to keep that area free of chaffing.

Fashion: My biggest beef with these shorts, is the seam on the chamois that puckers out in the back. It makes more of a bubble butt scenario than a girl in a chamois wants to have. Otherwise the lines are smooth and clean, and I really do like the look and feel of the bib.

Additional Comments
: These shorts feel really nice, they are comfortable mostly because the fabric is really soft and thin. I could definitely ride for a long time in them and feel fine, they just don't fit perfectly.

Overall Rating:
4 out of 5

Tester: Elizabeth Train (Size Tested: Small)



Fit: These bibs fit very well - they're supportive and comfortable.

Function: I'm not sure why there are so many zippers on these bibs. The one in the front seems unnecessary. The fabric seems like it would stretch well enough to get them on without it. And the zippered pouch in the small of the back is absolutely inaccessible unless the bibs are off. So I'm not sure what it's for. (Maybe it's to transport super-secret intel?) In any event, I found them a little overwrought in the zipper department. But I love the chamois.

Materials: The materials in the Rapha bibs are understated yet luxurious. (Yes, I realize we're talking about Lycra here. Humor me.) These are beautiful, high-quality bibs.

Fashion: These bibs look and feel great on. The detailing is beautiful (love the oval cutout in the back) and I like the longer short length - that's hard to find in women's shorts in general.

Overall Rating:
4 out of 5

Tester: Lisa Sumner (Size Tested: Medium)



Fit: These bibs look and fit like a body suit. The legs come to mid-thigh and the upper mesh part of the bib is a good length and fit me well. The only compliant I have on the fit is the leg bands are slightly tight. They didn't result in any major unsightly leg bulge but I would like just a bit more room.

Function: I don't really understand the benefit of the body suit bib. Rapha claims it's for a clean look when wearing your jersey, no strap seams showing. It does accomplish this task; however, on hot days I prefer less material up top when riding. One nice feature Rapha added to the upper mesh part is a zipper allowing you get more air flow when needed. The material continued up the bib until just under my sternum and then transitioned to the mesh upper. Having the fabric transition higher up on my body was much more comfortable while riding and resulted in a more flattering overall look. The chamois did its job well. I didn't really notice it at all which is a good thing and I was comfortable while riding.

Materials: I don't know how better to explain the material than just plain soft. It feels like the tissues you buy that have just a hint of lotion in them. They feel very luxurious when on. There were no seams on the inside of the bibs. The elastic leg band was an inch thick band, which is smooth on the upper side with a slightly sticky feel on the underside, so there no glue spots, which I found comfortable.

Fashion: The bibs fit very well and the Lycra coming up higher on the body creates a flattering look. We tested the team Sky bibs so they included the Sky logo on the legs and back, but it's possible to buy the bibs in all black, which looks very sleek and classic. I also like that the Rapha logo is very non-descript.

Additional Comments
: Rapha did alter the design of the bib to be specific for a woman but they did not address the restroom issue in this altered design.

Overall Rating:
4.5 out of 5

Next: GS Panache 12 Women's Bib Short »





GS Panache 13 Women's Bib Short

Sizes: XS to 2XL
Color: Black with White Accents
MSRP: $160
More Info: www.PanacheCyclewear.com

What The Manufacturer Says

The GS Panache Bib Short allows you to reach your potential in situations that require speed and endurance. It's our go-to bib for racing and performance training. Durable, long-wearing nylon under the chamois, compression Power Lycra on the printed panels for good looks and muscular support. Breathable, wicking poly elsewhere to regulate temps. Bibs are for allowing you to belly breath more effectively - low contour gives great breathability as well. Nine panels let us put the right material in the right place. Absolutely no cross-seam in the chamois, making the most comfortable contact point possible. Anatomically correct (gender specific) high density open-cell all-way stretch-foam padding with two layer X-TRACT Fabric against the skin. Ultra fast drying with great breathability. Tagless - we'll save you the work of cutting out the tags and labels. Highest-quality silicone won't crack over time and keeps shorts in place.

Tester: Liz Barcheck (Size Tested: Medium)



Fit: The shorts fit great, I liked the length and they have a wider band at the bottom that works well. The bib straps fit comfortably and were the standard, over-the-shoulder style, which I personally prefer.

Function: The chamois is a bit bulky and thick, but comfortable. The bibs and shorts move appropriately and aren't too tight or constricting, but everything definitely stays in place.

Materials: The shorts are breathable and fit well. The chamois is soft. The bib is mesh and minimal which helped to keep my torso cool.

Fashion: I like the thicker white band at the bottom of the short, it adds a little pop and also helps the dreaded sausage leg problem. The seams don't stick out and the overall shape of the short is flattering.

Additional Comments
: To me this is a pretty standard bib short. I like them, but I don't really think there is anything amazingly spectacular about them. They are a great short for a longer ride, and they are certainly made of high-quality, long-lasting fabrics and they have a good clean design.

Overall Rating:
4 out of 5

Tester: Elizabeth Train (Size Tested: Small)



Fit: The front of these bibs hit an awkward place on my stomach/lower ribcage, so I didn't find them super comfortable. They sort of feel like men's bibs with a women's chamois.

Function: The straps themselves are standard issue and work great, but I don't love the chamois in these. It's a bit too wide for me, so it felt bulky.

Materials: The Lycra is nice and soft, but the mesh material is much rougher than that of the other bibs we tested, which I didn't love.

Fashion: These bibs look good on. Panache's trademark leg band is a nice detail.

Overall Rating:
2.75 out of 5

Tester: Lisa Sumner (Size Tested: Medium)



Fit: The fit is true to size and the straps are a good length. The legs are slightly longer than the other bibs and came about three-quarters of the way down my thigh. The one poor part of the fit was the leg bands were too tight on me. Because the length of the short was slightly longer I didn't experience the unflattering bulging look, but they just aren't as comfortable as some of the other bibs with looser leg bands.

Function: Besides the women's specific chamois, there are no other visual features that set these bibs apart from a men's bib. Despite that, the women's specific chamois is done well. The chamois is an appropriate size and thickness, it's well positioned, flexible enough to allow it to conform to different body types and it's very comfortable to ride in.

Materials: The Lycra is stiff but is still soft which made them comfortable to wear for long rides. The seams on the inside of the bib are all flat so chaffing was not a problem. The material wicked sweat away and breathed well. The straps are a nice light weight mesh and come down low in the front (below my belly button) and to about mid-back in the back so there is plenty of airflow and the lack of extra material on top helped keep me cool while riding in warmer weather.

Fashion: The tighter Lycra helps to compress certain parts of the body which leads to a more flattering look. I also like the color bands at the bottom of the short and think the black and white color combination looks clean and crisp when on. The stitching is all black so the different panels on the shorts are not noticeable from afar.

Additional Comments
: Like the others tested in this round, these bibs did not attempt to include a mechanism to allow women to make a pit stop while riding without completely disrobing. Although these bibs were the closest to your typical men's bib, overall, I found them comfortable to wear on long rides.

Overall Rating:
4 out of 5

Tester: Kate Powlison (Size Tested: Small)



Fit: These were a little tight in the thighs, especially around the leg gripper, and were slightly long too. However, I appreciate the longer length when I wore knee warmers, as I could be sure my warmers would never gap or fall down.

Function: I've put a lot of miles on these shorts, and they've never let me down. The absence of a seam horizontally bisecting the chamois reduces chafing. The leg grippers work really well.

Materials: I liked the smooth, shiny fabric and the large perforations on the bib strap material. The chamois is a perfect thickness, size, and density for me.

Fashion: The look is simple and classic. The bright white panels seemed to stay bright white longer than most white things I own, which made me feel like I was always pulling on a new pair of shorts. My only complaint about the look of these is the way the seam above the leg gripper bulges on my "well-insulated" thighs.

Overall Rating:
4.5 out of 5

Next: Castelli Palmares Due Bibshort »





Castelli Palmares Due Bibshort

Sizes: XS to XL
Color: Black
MSRP: $175
More Info: Castelli-cycling.com
Note: Only two pairs of test shorts received.

What The Manufacturer Says

Highlights include Softlex RS fabric for soft stretch with a cotton-like hand, mesh bib straps, soft touch waist, two rear reflective tabs and KISS3 Donna women's-specific seat pad. Start building your summer wardrobe with this versatile short. Not only do you get a touch of color with flattering lines, you get the comfort of Softlex RS fabric, our women's-specific KISS3 Donna seat pad, and the new microfiber elastic band with silicone Castelli script that keeps the leg in place without the sausage effect.

Tester: Kate Powlison (Size Tested: Small)

4.5 out of 5

Tester: Elizabeth Train (Size Tested: Small)



Fit: These bibs fit well in every way. They aren't quite as supportive as some of the other bibs I tested, but they're very comfortable.

Function: I really like the way the straps work in these. They're light and unobtrusive.

Materials: These became my go-to bibs on the hottest days of the test. It may have just been in my head, but they felt cooler because there's so little fabric (and it's all very breathable) in the top/suspenders, and they're nice and short. The chamois is good, but not fabulous. I started loving it less on long rides.

Fashion: These bibs look pretty good, but aren't quite as slimming as some of the others I tested in this round (probably because they're not as supportive). I like the little reflective detailing at the back of the leg. Safety first!

Overall Rating:
4 out of 5

Next: Capo Cipressa Bibshort 2.0 »



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Capo Cipressa Bibshort 2.0

Sizes: XS to L
Color: Black
MSRP: $190
More info: www.CapoCycling.com
Note: Only two pairs of test shorts received.

What The Manufacturer Says

Made in Italy with HG Lycra coldblack and Carbon Lycra that regulates temperature and delivers unmatched muscle compression. Part of the GS Series that pushes the envelope with leading-edge Italian style and innovation. Advanced anatomic designs, muscle compression, thermal regulation, and cycling performance technologies. Top of the line construction in every pure detail. All to ensure maximum comfort, support, fatigue reduction, and freedom of movement.

Tester: Lisa Sumner (Size Tested: Medium)



Fit: The shorts portion of the bib fit me perfectly, the legs went to mid-thigh and the leg bands were just tight enough that knee or leg warmers stay in place. The top portion of the bib, however, was too long and just ended up being bunched up extra material around my mid-section while I rode.

Function: The Capo bibs look and wear like a body suit. The top part of the bib is a combination of mesh and stretchy Lycra and wears like a tank top. I found no useful purpose for this feature of the bib and for me it fit poorly, and just felt like an extra layer of material that made me sweat more on a hot day. As fall approaches, however, the extra layer of material could be beneficial and act as an extra base layer. Due to the design, I felt like I was wearing shorts instead of bibs. The Lycra material stops just above my tummy, where a short would, and transitioned into the mesh/Lycra upper. The placement of the material transition was uncomfortable when riding and created an unflattering tummy bulge like when you wear shorts. The chamois, however, was quite comfortable. It is a good size, thicker in the back, thinner up front and has a strategically placed vertical slit in the back and horizontal slit closer to the front which helps the chamois contour to the shape of a body without being bulky.

Materials: The Lycra has a different feel compared to the other bibs tested. It is a stiff material with small, narrow ridges and was comfortable when riding. The seams on the inside of the bib stick out, and each time I rode in these short I had noticeable seams lines on my legs, but the seams never caused any chaffing.

Fashion: The bib shorts are pretty nondescript, all black with a medium sized logo down the front of the left leg. Since there are two seams that attach the mesh with the loose Lycra on the upper part of the bib, if you're wearing a tighter fitting jersey you see the seam lines just like you would the lines from a bib strap.

Additional Comments
: Capo did attempt to design their bib differently for a woman, however, I didn't understand the utility of the design and it makes it no easier to use the restroom during a ride.

Overall Rating:
3.5 out of 5

Tester: Elizabeth Train (Size Tested: Small)



Fit: I love the way these fit. They're comfortable, supportive and fit me perfectly.

Function: The full coverage on top is nice. It's very breathable, so it's not hot (which I was afraid of, at first) and felt super comfortable. The chamois in these bibs is great, too. I'm not sure if they're hoping folks can skip the sports bra with this design - but I certainly couldn't.

Materials: This is perhaps my favorite thing about the Capo bibs. The materials used throughout this get-up are ultra light-weight, breathable, and super high quality. They just feel great.

Fashion: They look great, too! I love the detailing on these bibs - everything from the contrasting textures of the panels, gussets, and upper area to the logo placement - they're beautiful. Great length, too.

Overall Rating:
5 out of 5

Next: Meet The Testers »



Meet the Testers


Kate Powlison

Kate Powlison lives for the lunch ride. Invite her on a midday ride, and the answer is almost always "yes." Bicycling is her essential outlet and personal passion. It's also her solution to society's most pressing problems in her work at PeopleForBikes, the national bike nonprofit. In fact, Kate loves bikes so much that she rode all 2,161 miles of the 2012 Tour de France course with a team of five women. Whether on a lunch ride, commute, or Grand Tour adventure, Kate believes that good design can make a great ride better.


Liz Barcheck

Liz Barcheck rides and resides in Boulder, Colorado. She received her first "real" bike in her early twenties from her now husband, owner/head builder of Mosaic Cycles. Since then she has developed a love and affinity for long road rides in the mountains of Colorado and bike commutes to her middle school classroom. Currently she helps to manage and race for local cyclocross team, Team Small Batch, and continues to work for Mosaic Cycles as a product tester and advocate of custom bicycles.


Elizabeth Train

Elizabeth Train believes that few things compare to great rides with great friends. While she loves to spin on gorgeous roads, it's singletrack that truly has her heart. She's also been in the bike industry for nearly a decade, working for organizations such as Bikes Belong and Boulder B-cycle, and logging loads of volunteer hours with the Boulder Mountain Bike Alliance.


Lisa Sumner

Lisa Sumner's cycling career began later in life when she landed a job as the advertising coordinator for VeloNews. Lisa worked there for five years and quickly discovered a love for cycling on asphalt and singletrack. Lisa has done a handful of racing over the years, but her real passion is going out for long rides in the mountains of Colorado with good friends.

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