Skip to main content

Best cargo bib shorts: Cycling shorts for gravel and adventure riding

Included in this guide:

A close up of the leg pocket on a pair of the best cargo bib shorts, complete with snack
(Image credit: Sportful)

The most important piece of clothing in a rider's cycling closet is bib shorts, but to cater to the needs of the emerging crop of gravel riders, the best cargo bib shorts take the necessary feature list from normal bib shorts and add extra functionality such as pockets for storage, redesigned materials for durability, and adjusted fit for the altered riding position. 

Normal road cycling bib shorts are all about two things, fitting well is the obvious first consideration and the best cargo bib shorts continue that trend, but the second consideration is going fast, with modern designs heavily influenced by wind tunnel tests. This emphasis on speed leaves a hole in the market for those who are less concerned with average speed and more concerned with the journey. Those same riders might find themselves spending long days riding through remote locations in jerseys without pockets, with little space to store their essentials. That's where cargo bib shorts with pockets come in.

It may seem like one extra feature to worry about, compared to choosing the best cycling shorts, but if you're less worried about speed and would prefer to be comfortable over long days in the saddle with a multitude of snacks immediately to hand, then opting for a decent pair of cargo bib shorts is a wise move.

To save you the hassle of trying to figure out what to buy, we've rounded up our pick of the best cargo bib shorts available today, but if you're not sure what to look for, head straight to the bottom for a guide on what to look for when choosing cargo bib shorts

Once you know which cargo bib shorts are right for you, check if they're included in the current Cyber Monday cycling clothing deals - you could end up with an absolute steal. While you're bargain hunting, don't forget that many retailers are dropping their prices, making it even easier to get a great deal. Take a look at the Cyber Monday Rapha deals and Cyber Monday Wiggle deals if you're looking for something specific, or check out our roundup of Cyber Monday Garmin deals and Cyber Monday Wahoo deals for something special.

Castelli Unlimited cargo bib shorts

(Image credit: Courtesy)

Castelli Unlimited

A good all-round option for mixed surface riding

Specifications
Material: 80% nylon 20% lycra
Pockets: 4
UV Protection: Unpublished
Multiple chamois sizes: No
Colours: 1
Reasons to buy
+Less likely to snag if a branch catches the fabric
Reasons to avoid
-Rear pocket placement isn’t as useful as other designs

Castelli's Unlimited design is all about riding wherever it makes sense. The design uses the same chamois and fabrics from the Castelli road-focused bib shorts and really just adds pockets to proven designs. This is a great approach for a heavy emphasis on mixed surface riding.

The chamois is the same Kiss Air2 found on the Competizione Bib short while the fabrics come from the Free Protect Race Bib short. For the Unlimited bib shorts, small pockets get added to the area of the lower back under the space jersey pockets occupy. On the outer thigh, the dual-layer construction helps reduce injury if you experience a slide on gravel, or pavement. In the case of the Unlimited bib shorts, the two pieces of fabric have a flap instead of a seam at the top. The design allows for storage between the layers.

Specialized RBX Adventure Bib Short w/SWAT

(Image credit: Specialized)

Specialized RBX Adventure Bib Short w/SWAT

More storage than anyone else and a patented design to keep items from bouncing

Specifications
Material: Main short/body: Knit 68% Nylon, 32% Elastane, Upper straps & mesh pockets: Knit 77% Nylon, 23% Spandex
Pockets: 7
UV Protection: UPF 50
Multiple chamois sizes: No
Colours: 1
Reasons to buy
+More than enough storage+A patented design that keeps stored items stable
Reasons to avoid
-Empty List

If you want storage, and a lot of storage, then the Specialized RBX Adventure Bib Short w/SWAT are the best cargo bib shorts for you. The pockets on the thigh alone are larger than other options and those are only the start of what's available. Besides the thigh pockets, there are a total of five pockets on the rear of the bibs. Two large pockets centred on the back, with a small zippered pocket over the top, and two smaller pockets off to each side.  All together seven pockets are available with plenty of storage for anything you might need to carry. 

Rapha Cargo Bib Shorts

(Image credit: Courtesy)

Rapha Cargo Bib Shorts

Wear them with a technical t-shirt and shorts or on their own with a jersey

Specifications
Material: 71% Nylon, 29% Elastane
Pockets: 4
UV Protection: Unpublished
Multiple chamois sizes: No
Colours: 3
Reasons to buy
+Quick drying and water resistant+Lots of storage+Works with or without over-shorts
Reasons to avoid
-Lack of availability

No discussion of cargo bib shorts would be complete without including something from Rapha. They weren't the inventors of cargo bib shorts but Rapha, arguably, was the brand to bring the idea into the forefront of modern cycling.

The Rapha Cargo Bib Shorts work hard to cover a wide range of different needs. The style is close to the Brevet Bib Shorts and if you choose to wear them on their own with a traditional jersey they won't look out of place. If you prefer a more casual style instead, there are pockets on the low back, high enough to allow for shorts worn over the bibs, to replace those found on a cycling jersey.

As of June 2021, Rapha now offers a women's only special edition Nomad Cargo Bib Shorts as well, with a distinctive aesthetic inspired by the 1970s golden era of cycling. 

Sportful Supergiara cargo bib shorts

(Image credit: Courtesy)

Sportful Supergiara

A gravel race-ready cargo bib short

Specifications
Material: Stretch woven 71% nylon 29% lycra
Pockets: 3
UV Protection: Unpublished
Multiple chamois sizes: No
Colours: 3
Reasons to buy
+Rear pockets positioned below jersey pockets+Gravel-specific chamois design
Reasons to avoid
-Missing a cargo pocket on the right leg

The Sportful SuperGiara are the best cargo bib shorts for anyone planning on doing some gravel racing. Some designs are looser to match the laid-back style of off-road riders. Sportful has gone in the opposite direction with highly compressive fabrics matched to all-out efforts. If you are comfortable with road-focused bib shorts, the Supergiara will be a good match.

Along with the highly compressive fabric choice is a pocket design with considerations for a pocketed jersey. By positioning the pockets far down the back Sportful makes it possible to use both the pockets in the bibs and the pockets in a jersey. It's a smart design that adds pockets instead of replacing them. It also makes the inclusion of a pocket on only one leg a little easier to deal with.

A gravel-specific chamois, which Sportful calls the DMS seat pad, shifts the padding rearward to offer increased comfort in the slightly more upright position that gravel riding tends to require.

Pearl Izumi Interval Cargo Bib Shorts

(Image credit: Courtesy)

Pearl Izumi Interval Cargo Bib Shorts

Hot-weather shorts made from recycled materials

Specifications
Material: Front Panel: 80% recycled nylon, 20% elastane Side Panel: 47% recycled polyester, 42% polyester, 11% elastane Upper: 75% nylon, 25%
Pockets: 4
UV Protection: Unpublished
Multiple chamois sizes: No
Colours: 1
Reasons to buy
+Sustainable production practices+Lots of compression+Soft straps
Reasons to avoid
-Not a lot of detail in the chamois

Giving back and sustainability is an important consideration. It's not the only consideration but when a company makes it easy, it's worth considering. Pearl Izumi works hard to use as many recycled, renewable, and organic materials as possible, and does it without compromising performance.

The Pearl Izumi Interval Cargo bib short puts a small pocket on each leg and two on the low back. Placement of the rear pockets means they are under any jersey pockets you may have. The fabric used on the lower section of the bibs is one of the more compressive options on the market. The straps are a similar material to a jersey so they practically disappear while riding. As a package, it's not far off a traditional bib short design. Just add pockets.

Santini Gravel Bib Shorts

(Image credit: Santini)

Santini Gravel Bib Shorts

Gravel shorts designed for moderate weather conditions

Specifications
Material: 200g / m2 Gabardine fabric with 25% elastane
Pockets: 4
UV protection: Unpublished
Multiple chamois sizes: No
Colours: 2
Reasons to buy
+Compression support+Wide shoulder straps and leg grippers+Ample and well laid out storage space
Reasons to avoid
-Sizes up small

Santini's very simply named Gravel Bib Shorts are designed for use over long gravel and off-road adventures, with abrasion-resistant gabardine fabric that feels soft against the skin for added comfort. The wide leg grippers keep everything firmly in place while also offering lightweight compression support, to help stimulate blood flow to the muscles and prevent fatigue setting in. Meanwhile the bib straps are also particularly wide and sit very comfortably and flat.

The Santini bibs come with four pockets in total: two on the lower back, and one on each leg. All four pockets offer ample space for cargo storage, with the leg pockets being ideal for smaller items like energy gels and bars, and larger 'real food' items like bananas and sandwiches being reserved for the back pockets. 

The shorts come with Santini's C3 insert, its most durable, lightweight performance chamois, designed to keep you comfortable after long hours in the saddle.

7mesh Mk3 Cargo Bib Short

(Image credit: Courtesy)

7mesh Mk3 Cargo Bib Short

A road-focused option with enough generous pocket space to forego a typical jersey

Specifications
Material: 62% nylon, 38% elastane
Pockets: 5
UV Protection: Unpublished
Multiple chamois sizes: No
Colours: 2
Reasons to buy
+Plenty of sizes to fit every body type+Lots of storage space+Soft straps
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive

Cargo bib shorts encompass a huge range of end uses and every company is trying to carve out their little piece. 7Mesh has targeted endurance road cycling and built a product that fits the needs of this audience.

The 7Mesh Mk3 Cargo bib shorts start from a base of the regular Mk3 bib shorts. There's an elastic interface chamois designed for long-distance riding day after day and 45mm wide shoulder straps. Added for the cargo bib shorts are large pockets on each thigh as well as three large pockets in the rear. If you decide to go with a technical t-shirt instead of a jersey, there's plenty of storage in the mk3 cargo bib shorts.

Yeti Cycles Enduro Bib Liner and Shorts

(Image credit: Courtesy)

Yeti Cycles Enduro Bib Liner and Shorts

Mountain bike-inspired cargo bib shorts

Specifications
Material: Bibs: 72% polyester 28% spandex, Shorts: 100% Polyester
Pockets: 4
UV Protection: Unpublished
Multiple chamois sizes: No
Colours: Bibs: 1, Shorts: 3
Reasons to buy
+A casual look+Lots of storage+Works with shorts or without
Reasons to avoid
-Extra layers and material-Not aerodynamic

As modern gravel bikes become closer in design to early mountain bikes than road bikes, different needs arise. If the kind of riding you are doing has more in common with mountain biking than road cycling, you might want to look at the mountain bike industry. Yeti Cycles has been producing mountain bikes since the beginning of the sport and it knows what works.

The Yeti Enduro bib shorts can pair with the Enduro shorts for a system that can handle the most aggressive riding possible on a drop-bar bike. The shorts are tough enough to shrug off branches and gravel slides plus there are pass-throughs to the pockets on the bib shorts. The bib shorts have more than enough storage so that a cycling jersey with pockets isn't necessary.

Alé Stones Cargo Bib Shorts

(Image credit: Courtesy)

Alé Stones Cargo Bib Shorts

An aggressive road-oriented design with a highly compressive fit and added pockets

Specifications
Material: Main fabric: 88% polyester, 12% elastane Back: 86% polyamide, 14% elastane Pocket: 88% polyamide, 12% elastane Leg hem fabric: 75% polyamide, 25% elastane Leg hem coating: 100% silicone
Pockets: 4
UV Protection: UPF 50+
Multiple chamois sizes: No
Colours: 1
Reasons to buy
+Performance-oriented design+Generous pocket space on the thighs
Reasons to avoid
-Sizing might be tight for some

The Alé Stones Cargo bib shorts fall under the Alé Off Road collection but make no mistake these are a road-oriented product. The fit and feel is the same as the Alé road bib shorts. The fabric is thick and compressive, making for a product that looks good and feels good as long as it fits your body style.

Pockets on the Alé Stones Cargo bibs include a total of four. The pockets on the low back are small and under any jersey pocket. These aren’t going to hold a lot but will help with organization in conjunction with a cycling jersey. Over the thigh the pockets take advantage of all the space available and provide a lot of storage.

How to choose the best cargo bib shorts for you

1. Chamois

With any bib shorts, the first consideration is likely going to be the chamois. Everyone's different, so fit and performance will not be exactly the same from one person to the next. The point where your sit bones make contact with the saddle is the most important place to pay attention to. There should be no seams or bunching, and there should be enough padding to keep you comfortable for long rides.

Cargo bib shorts go hand in hand with gravel cycling and gravel bikes. This matters because gravel bikes tend towards a more endurance-focused geometry that puts you in a more upright riding position, which requires a different design. Along with the change in position, gravel rides are often slower, requiring more time in the saddle. They're often a lot rougher as well, so the best cargo bib shorts should keep these considerations in mind. 

2. Fabric and design choices

The chamois is important but it's only one part of the package. Designers also have to choose appropriate materials to pair with the chosen chamois. The best cargo bib shorts will use a variety of materials strategically mapped to the individual needs of different areas of the body. Choosing the right material for each part of the bib shorts allows for the right fit in the right location.

Some areas of a bib short will need more stretch, while others will need more compression. Most designs call for higher compression over major muscles such as the quadriceps (thigh). Other areas, such as the lower back, don't need compression. Instead, cooling becomes the dominant design consideration. More materials also lead to more seams. There should be a consideration for where the seams fall, and how noticeable they are.

The shoulder straps of any bib short design are one of the trickiest to get right and there are a lot of available variations on the market. Consider if you prefer a wide or narrow strap. Does it feel better for you to have the straps connected to the lower part of the bibs more like a pair of suspenders? Or maybe you like the idea of the lower part coming up high with a slow transition into the straps. Lots of different approaches can be successful but people have different preferences. Consider what is going to work best for you.

3. Pocket design

A unique consideration for cargo bib shorts is the design of the pockets. The general term 'gravel cycling' encompasses a huge range of different riding styles. To some people, gravel cycling means mountain biking with drop handlebars. For other people, gravel cycling is more like road cycling on unpaved roads. Also, nothing says cargo bib shorts are exclusive to gravel bikes and some people prefer them even when road cycling.

All the variation in how cargo bib shorts get used means a lot of variation in the design of the pockets. Riders who take a more road-oriented approach will likely be wearing a traditional cycling jersey with pockets. If you already have pockets in your jersey it's less important to have pockets on the low back of your bib shorts. The thigh pockets become the focus in this scenario. Alternatively, riders coming from a more mountain bike focused background frequently use technical shirts without pockets. Without pockets available elsewhere it's important for the chosen cargo bibs to have lots of storage both on the thighs and on the low back.

Josh Ross

Josh hails from the Pacific Northwest of the United States but would prefer riding through the desert than the rain. He will happily talk for hours about the minute details of cycling tech but also has an understanding that most people just want things to work. He is a road cyclist at heart and doesn't care much if those roads are paved, dirt, or digital. Although he rarely races, if you ask him to ride from sunrise to sunset the answer is probably yes.
Height: 5'9"
Weight: 137 lb.
Rides: Look 795 Blade RS, Cannondale Topstone Lefty, Cannondale CAAD9, Priority Continuum Onyx