The best gravel bike shorts are designed to take on the demands of gravel cycling, which involves long hours on the saddle, more risk of falling onto rough ground, and a need to carry more supplies.
Of course, you could opt for a pair of the best mountain bike shorts, but they're not always breathable and aero enough for an all-day ride, which is commonly what gravel bikers are doing.
Compared to regular road bib shorts, the best gravel bike shorts will often come with extra cargo pockets that don't sag under load and be made from durable materials that resist abrasion in the event of a fall (or a particularly thorny overgrown trail). Another reason you wouldn't opt for road bib shorts on a gravel ride, is that while you're riding on much rougher dirt roads and trails, you'll experience a very different vibration frequency through the frame, seat and handlebars, which gravel shorts are designed to accommodate.
With padding that has a particular density and ergonomic shape to deal with riding surface harshness, gravel bike shorts also feature clever paneling and mesh, to balance the need for ventilation and carrying capacity.
We've rounded up what we think are the best gravel bike shorts below, to help you narrow down the plethora of choices out there and find the shorts that work best for your needs. Read on to see our picks, or skip ahead to find out how to choose the best gravel bike shorts for you.
Best gravel bike shorts
Endura's GV500 Reiver bib shorts feature six mesh pockets: two on the thighs, two on the lower back, and two CO2 cartridge-sized stashes at the point where the bibs are stitched into the body. Alongside the ample cargo storage, the Reivers boast high levels of support and compression, thanks to technology borrowed from the brand's highly coveted Pro SL range. This results in muscle-stabilizing, lumbar-warming and a 'Spanks'-like belly taming to boot.
The chamois is Endura's top-tier 'Continuously Variable Profile' (CVP) 600 Series pad II, complete with a stretch 3D design and gel inserts to damp vibrations from rough road surfaces.
For more on the Endura GV500 Reiver bib shorts, as well as the rest of the GV500 collection, check out our review.
The Convoy Cargo bibs from Spatzwear are a great option for gravel racers, as their bulk/capacity balance favors speed over stowage. Still, the three pockets on offer are enough to carry all the essentials on a fast-paced ride.
The chamois is synthetic, 3D-ribbed and perforated, and is definitely up there with other premium seat inserts that we've tried. Drying and wicking is good enough to leave you feeling fresh and comfortable over long, hot or wet rides, and our reviewer was impressed with the lack of bulk.
For the brand's first foray into cargo bib shorts, Spatz did a fine job with these. Read our full review of the Spatzwear Convoy Cargo bib shorts.
The Big Red S comes through with a typically comprehensive product. Specialized’s RBX Adventure bib is designed to carry a lot of stuff, with great comfort.
Bib shorts are lightweight and they need to stretch, conforming with the motion of riding. In principle, that makes a big short less than ideal for loading. But Specialized decided it would choose the right fabric to tackle this issue.
Rethinking the traditional bib short, Specialized’s product team managed to add no less than seven pockets to the RBX Adventure. Each one is constructed in a way that doesn’t drag your bib into an uncomfortable, sagging fit.
This gravel riding adventure bib also features zippered storage, for keeping those high-value items (like a credit card), from edging out and bouncing onto terrain, unnoticed.
Rapha's Cargo bib shorts combine functionality and fashion, featuring lower back and upper leg storage pockets that are vented to ensure both rider and snacks stay in great shape on a long gravel ride. In addition to this, they carry some bold colorways and graphic design elements.
Riders also have the option of combining the Cargo bib with Rapha’s Cotton or Randonnée shorts, which are cut precisely at the right height to still offer access to the Cargo Bib's rear pockets. Combining the two will offer a bit more crash protection, for those high-speed gravel road descents.
A design for those long rides on badly corrugated roads. If you regularly roll over a surface that generates a lot of buzz, this cargo bib is structured to remain firmly in place.
Gravel riders know all about garment migration: that annoying feeling of a bib starting to move, as the combination of laden pockets and gravel road surface vibrations overwhelm the fabric’s stretch and material memory.
Designers at Sportful selected a more compressive fabric for the SuperGiara cargo bib. That means it has a snugger fit and remains more securely in place when you are riding along a challenging gravel road, with its pockets at full capacity.
The design has one compromise, with only a single leg pocket, but it is a sacrifice worth making for those riders who want a garment that stays put.
Santini's gravel bib is made for endurance riding, perfect for if you are planning a multiday adventure.
Overall cargo storage and distribution is similar to most other gravel bibs of its type. The Santini has two upper leg pockets, supported by two larger lower-back pockets for bigger food items and that smartphone.
The fabric structure prioritizes a compression fit, which means leg grippers and an abrasion-resistant gabardine fabric – that will always feel soft to the touch.
Santini uses the C3 chamois pad insert with its gravel cargo bib. This pad features gel, to deal with dynamic loads, typical of riding across rough gravel terrain.
Recognizing that many gravel riders starting at dawn and often ride into dusk, Santini has added reflective logos to its cargo-carrying gravel bib.
Yeti is one of mountain biking’s most esteemed frame brands, but the Coloradoan company also knows a bit about long-distance adventure riding.
Its Enduro bib is an interesting concept, providing all the comfort you would expect for a long-distance riding garment. Yeti’s product team has shown great awareness of how its Enduro bib can match the brand’s dedicated riding short.
Why would you want to wear an additional pair of shorts over a bib? In deep winter, it provides insulation, but crash safety is the crucial issue. Bib shorts are expensive, and when you crash, they usually tear beyond the possibility of repair.
The Yeti Enduro cargo bib and short combination give you all the storage, with added crash protection. Best of all, if you wear the Yeti short over the Enduro cargo bib, you don’t lose any access to the storage pockets.
How to choose the best gravel bike shorts for you
How do you choose bib shorts?
One of the key things that distinguish bib shorts from waist shorts are the straps, and this is something that's important to get right, as they're the key to keeping everything in place.
By virtue of the rougher terrain that gravel bikes traverse, a lot more vibration is transferred through the tires and frame to the rider, and that means a higher likelihood of straps starting to move and run towards the edge of your shoulder – or neck.
To prevent this, look closely at the structure of your gravel cargo bib. Wider straps are better and the weight penalty of carrying a bit more material is negligible.
The other issue with cargo bib straps is how they distribute the load.
If the shoulder straps are too narrow, they will create point pressure – when your cargo bib is fully loaded. That might not be a problem for a short ride, but if you are bikepacking, it is sure to become a fatigue point. Wider straps are comfier for longer.
How many pockets do I need?
Many of the best gravel bike shorts have two smaller pockets on the upper legs, and two larger pockets on the lower back. The question to ask yourself is how much stuff do you really want to carry, and is it time to transition to a technical t-shirt for your gravel riding, instead of a traditional zippered jersey with its own pockets?
For most riders, the four storage pockets on a gravel cargo bib should be adequate for keeping light snacks, a small multitool and a smartphone, comfortably along for the ride and within easy reach.
By virtue of their compression structure and shoulder straps, a cargo bib will carry items with less risk of pocket sag, than the pockets on a jersey.
Although they use the same fabrics, technical t-shirts are cheaper than jerseys with rear pockets and zips. A technical t-shirt can deliver excellent airflow with perforation technology, compensating for the lack of a front zip.
With cargo gravel bibs moving the burden of storage to a lower center of gravity, and freeing up riders to experiment with the choice between t-shirts and jerseys, there has been a move to the former, which is more on theme with the free spirit of gravel riding.