Best cargo bib shorts of 2024: All-day comfort, and maximum carrying capacity

best cargo bib shorts
(Image credit: Will Jones)
BEST CARGO BIB SHORTS

While some purist stick-in-the-muds will say cargo bib shorts are a cardinal sin, akin to putting a mini pump on your frame, I say they're the best thing since sliced bread. While they began as a gravel-oriented wardrobe item, and still primarily are marketed as such, I wear them more or less exclusively in the summer. The only thing stopping me in the winter is that many of the best thermal cycling shorts are yet to have pockets added, but it's only a matter of time.

More storage, in the form of pockets that sit completely flush with your legs when empty, has no downside in my book, and as someone who likes to carry all sorts while riding (camera, painkillers, a whole malt loaf) I've spent plenty of time sorting out which ones work and which don't quite cut the mustard. If you don't need quite so much haulage space then be sure to check out our guide to the best cycling shorts, which has the top picks from all of our cycling shorts guides across a range of budgets.

Quick List

The best cargo bib shorts available today

You can trust Cyclingnews Our experts spend countless hours testing cycling tech and will always share honest, unbiased advice to help you choose. Find out more about how we test.

Cycling shorts, be they standard, cargo, thermal, race, or budget, are ultimately a very personal purchase. Sadly, as a product tester, my rear end won't be the same as yours, and so a chamois pad that works for me may not be the right one for you. Pads are often common across a brand's shorts, at least to some extent, so with our collective experience in the tech team we can at least make a decent estimate as to the general comfort for the majority of consumers. 

While the pad is important, I've also highlighted other features that make these cargo bibs stand out from the crowd. Good pockets are one thing, but compression, fit, leg grippers, straps, and durability all come into play too. 

Best Overall

A white man wears a set of cargo bib shorts against a white background

(Image credit: Will Jones)

1. Albion ABR1 Pocket

Specifications

Pockets: 3
Compression: Light
Sizes: XS-XXL
Colours: Black

Reasons to buy

+
Best pockets
+
Simple, understated aesthetics
+
Very comfortable

Reasons to avoid

-
Fans of compression will want to go elsewhere

To my mind, the selling point of cargo bibs is the ability to store things (controversial, I know!). None do storage better than the Albion ABR1 Pocket bib shorts. The two-leg storage pockets are perfectly adequate, but where it shines is in the rear pocket department. 

Most cargo bibs for some reason seek to emulate the rear pockets of a jersey, often adding two or three small pockets at the lower/mid back. I presume this is to appeal to those riders (myself included sometimes I must admit) who wear a t-shirt in place of a jersey. Albion does things a bit differently, instead opting for a large mesh tube, open at both ends, at the very bottom of your back, right where your pelvis begins. 

Into this tube, you can easily stuff a jacket on the fly without missing a pedal stroke. The rear pocket doesn't look to replace jersey pockets, it supplements them, and does it brilliantly.  Especially in changeable weather, these are the shorts I reach for most. 

In addition to the brilliant pocket setup they are also extremely comfy, well made, and nicely understated, meaning they'll pair with more or less any jersey you can think of... or that baggy t-shirt!

Best Budget

A white man wears a set of cargo bib shorts against a white background

(Image credit: Will Jones)

Specifications

Pockets: 4
Compression: Light
Sizes: XS-XXL
Colours: Black, Navy

Reasons to buy

+
Luxurious chamois pad
+
Performance matches more premium options
+
Breathable back

Reasons to avoid

-
Lacks any real compression

If you're after a good jumping-off point into the world of extra pockets, you could do an awful lot worse than the Rapha Core Cargo bib shorts. While they lack the compression of more race-oriented options, they are super comfy and offer up a slightly thicker chamois than the rest of the competition, which is ideal if you want a bit more cush for your tush. Be mindful that a thicker chamois can sometimes mean you need to drop your saddle height a fraction.

The pockets are solid, as are the straps, and the back design means it's good and venty. The chamois is unperforated, a point of difference to the more premium, non-core cargo bibs from the brand, but to be honest when it's hot enough to worry about whether your chamois is perforated, things are sweaty down there whatever you do.

The lack of compression can be a bonus too, and I found them particularly comfy for multi-day rides where you often spend your time in bib shorts but not on the bike, perhaps sat at a roadside cafe sipping an orangina and contemplating a second pizza.

For the price, they are hard to beat, and in many ways outperform the brand's more premium offering, and for that, they should be applauded. 

If you want to find out more about why I like these so much, and why they're such good value, head to our Rapha Core Cargo Bib Shorts review

Most Comfortable

A white man wears a set of cargo bib shorts against a white background

(Image credit: Will Jones)

3. Pearl Izumi Expedition Pro

Specifications

Pockets: 3
Compression: Medium
Sizes: S-XXL
Colours: Black

Reasons to buy

+
Amazing straps
+
Luxurious feel
+
Great grippers

Reasons to avoid

-
No longer any fun colours
-
High RRP
-
No upper pocket hem

If comfort is your number one concern, and I'm not only talking about the chamois pad here as that's very much a personal choice, then the Pearl Izumi Expedition Pro cargo bibs are second to none. 

The material is soft to the touch to the point of almost being silken, the straps are seamless with raw edges so they never dig in, and the leg grippers are minimal and never bite, with raw edges. When they're on they don't even look like they have leg grippers.

The pockets are a little small and don't have a seam on the upper lip to keep things secure, so storage is perhaps where these fall a little short, but if I want to feel truly luxurious on the bike (as much as is possible when riding a bicycle), I choose these shorts. 

Sadly they no longer come in the floral pattern that I still have, but what has remained is the super-stretchy straps that allow you to relieve yourself without having to take your jersey off completely. 

The compression is also spot-on for me. Tight enough to feel supportive, but never any more.

Dyneema Protection

A white man wears a set of cargo bib shorts against a white background

(Image credit: Will Jones)

4. Castelli Free Unlimited

Specifications

Pockets: 4
Compression: Moderate
Sizes: XS-3XL
Colours: Black, Grey

Reasons to buy

+
Abrasion resistance where you need it
+
Raw edge leg grippers

Reasons to avoid

-
Dyneema panels look a little odd

If protection is the name of the game then the Castelli Free Unlimited are the cargo bibs for you. The hips, traditionally what tends to end up rubbing along the ground in a spill, are reinforced with Dyneema.

While it may look a little unorthodox, Dyneema really does work in the event of an unscheduled lie-down. My colleague, Tom, rode into a wall to test some reinforced kit and was suitably impressed. It's not going to match up to motorbike leathers, or offer any padding, but especially on gravel where things get lairy more regularly it can be a handy mental win knowing you aren't going to immediately shred your shorts if things get out of hand.

The pockets are suitably large, easily holding a decent-sized smartphone, and the moderate compression keeps things in place in the absence of any leg grippers - a particularly comfy setup that's being utilised more often by brands.

My main criticism is the straps, which are rather unyielding. If you're too tall for these shorts you're going to know about it in the straps before you will do in the fit of the legs. They also feature a few slightly bulbous joins, and while they're never enough to be a genuine annoyance, they also aren't a contender for most comfy straps. 

As with most Castelli shorts, you'll probably want to size up one size.

Fashion Forward

A white man wears a set of cargo bib shorts against a white background

(Image credit: Will Jones)

Specifications

Pockets: 4
Compression: High
Sizes: XS-XXL
Colours: Black, Pale Blue, Brown, Petrol Green

Reasons to buy

+
Brilliant aesthetics
+
Zip pocket for valuables

Reasons to avoid

-
High RRP
-
Zip pocket is less versatile

Cargo bibs came out of gravel riding, and like it or not there's very much a fashion element to that particular segment of the cycling world. I'm fine with that; I have a moustache, I wear neckerchiefs unironically, and I think these are the coolest cargo bibs on the market. 

It also helps that they're very comfy, with a particularly sculpted chamois that I get on with very well indeed, and wide, stretchy straps that never seem to interfere with the day out. 

Unlike most cargo bibs, one pocket is a standard elastic slot (one of the largest as it happens), but the other leg is a fully enclosed pocket, secured by a zip. You can easily slot a phone in here, or other valuables, and worry about them less.

The compression is pretty high, and to be perfectly frank I decided to size up a full size versus my usual Maap shorts, and things were far more comfy. The stitching at the leg grippers is a little restrictive if you're between sizes and can lead to sausage legs, but in the larger size, they are perfect. 

If you are bored of black, and can't be doing with the sea of gravel-specific olive green pairs out there, then give these a look and you'll feel a million bucks. 

These were a big hit, not just with me. Our Maap Alt Road Cargo Bib Short review has all the juicy details.

Best For Road

A white man wears a set of cargo bib shorts against a white background

(Image credit: Will Jones)

6. POC Rove Cargo VPDS

Specifications

Pockets: 4
Compression: Light
Sizes: XS-XXL
Colours: Black, Brown

Reasons to buy

+
Road oriented feel
+
Wide leg grippers
+
Security flap in pockets

Reasons to avoid

-
Leg grippers feel a little old fashioned

Most cargo bibs I've tried have a certain gravelly feel to them, but the POC Rove cargo bibs feel more like a 'normal' pair of road bibs than any other I've tried. For long days on the tarmac, especially if you don't like a super compressive fit, they're ace.

The chamois sits a little more underneath you meaning that if you're running an aggressive position (more likely on the road than on grav) it's more likely to be in the right place. The pad itself has gel inserts where your sit bones go, but I'm happy to report that they aren't intrusive, and to be honest you can't notice them, which is high praise from someone with a princess-and-the-pea rear end. 

The pockets have a really neat touch too in that the upper hem on each leg pocket has a subtle flap on the inside, meaning things that have a tendency to migrate upwards (phones, mostly), are more likely to be held in place.

The leg grippers are wide and far from biting, but in a product landscape where raw edges are becoming the norm they do feel a little old-fashioned. That being said, there's nothing wrong with them, and I'm sure there are plenty of you who'd prefer these to a raw edge, particularly if you don't shave your legs - raw edges tend to ride up more easily if you're fluffy. 

Also Tested

A white man wears a set of cargo bib shorts against a white background

(Image credit: Will Jones)

7. Endura GV500 Reiver

Another excellent budget option

Specifications

Pockets: 6
Compression: Moderate
Sizes: S-XXL
Colours: Black, Green

Reasons to buy

+
Sensible pocket design
+
Rear gripper a neat touch
+
Double layer hip

Reasons to avoid

-
Pockets a little small

Endura has a reputation here at Cyclingnews for making really decent but affordable bib shorts, and the GV500 Reivers are no exception. They were a genuine contender for the 'best budget' title but fell short in my eyes as the pockets are a little small.

In all other aspects, they are a very well-appointed setup. The leg pockets, while a little on the small side, wrap further around the front of the leg than any others on test which goes some way to add support beneath heavy objects - On the side there is no leg beneath, whereas on the front the objects are supported by your quads for at least some of the pedal stroke. 

The hips are also reinforced, not with Dyneema as the Castelli pair are, but with an extra panel of a gridded, ripstop material over the main layer of Lycra. This extends the length of the leg to the grippers too, and beneath the pockets in case you're carrying anything abrasive.

The rear pockets, instead of the standard pair, or triplet, sit as two pairs rotated outwards so they sit more over the hips. This makes access easier, especially to the outermost ones, but with a jersey they're still going to lie beneath the hem.

One neat touch, especially if you're pairing it with the Endura GV500 Waterproof Jacket, is the strip of silicone gripper along the very small of your back that should help the corresponding gripper on the jacket, or the hem of anything really, grip better and resist riding up. 

A white man wears a set of cargo bib shorts against a white background

(Image credit: Will Jones)
Great for Multi-Day Adventures

Specifications

Pockets: 4
Compression: Low
Sizes: XS-XXL
Colours: Black, Dark Grey, Navy

Reasons to buy

+
Thick, vented chamois
+
Good reflectivity
+
Big Pockets

Reasons to avoid

-
Aggressive leg grippers
-
Stuff in pockets covers reflective details

In many aspects, these are very similar to the Rapha Core cargo bibs that came out as the best budget option. The compression is the same, the leg pockets are pretty similar too. The chamois is thick and cushy, as is the Rapha style. What's the extra cost going towards, then?

Well, the overall feel is a little more premium. The leg grippers are among the most grippy I've ever experienced and are especially effective if you have hairy legs. If you're approaching needing to size up they can be biting though. 

The chamois is perforated, so it is slightly less sweaty, but I only found this was the case when it wasn't super hot. Beyond a certain point, you're going to be sweaty regardless.

You have better reflective details here, with two strips on the outside of each leg. These are good, but they do get obscured if the leg pockets are full. 

The material used for the main construction is thinner, not in a way that makes them feel less flimsy, just less prone to feeling waterlogged in the rain, or sweat-saturated. 

Finally, the back is one big mesh panel rather than two straps, meaning any pressure is very well distributed. 

In short, they're better overall, but especially in hot or wet environments.

My Rapha Cargo Bib Shorts review has all you need to know about these bibs if you're curious.

A white man wears a set of cargo bib shorts against a white background

(Image credit: Will Jones)

9. Pearl Izumi Expedition

Luxury feel, but with a smaller price tag

Specifications

Pockets: 3
Compression: Low
Sizes: S-3XL
Colours: Black

Reasons to buy

+
Luxurious materials
+
Brilliant straps
+
More secure pockets than 'Pro' model

Reasons to avoid

-
A little saggy in the rear
-
No XS size

Yes, I know mine are green, but the green ones have been discontinued sadly. Black is what you'll get now, but in all other aspects, they're the same.

In the same way as Rapha, Pearl Izumi has a standard and a 'Pro' version of its Expedition bib shorts. The standard version is excellent and with a lower price tag too.

You get the same wonderful, low profile and super stretchy straps, but the material for the legs is slightly less silky. It does still feel like a deluxe option compared to others at this price point, but it's not the same as the Expedition Pro.

The pockets, though, are better than those on the Pro model. They are mesh, rather than a flat layer of lycra, and have an upper hem which makes things feel a lot more secure.

The leg grippers are pretty low profile, definitely better with shaved legs but they do the job well enough and are super comfy. The lack of compression makes them great for all-day wear, especially at a cafe/camp. My only real bugbear with the fit is that the rear end isn't quite snug enough around my behind, so the chamois can feel a little mobile. If you're blessed with a more powerful posterior than I then you'll probably be fine.

Also, there is no XS option, which is a shame as I know for a fact I'm not as small as some cyclists and I wear a size small.

A white man wears a set of cargo bib shorts against a white background

(Image credit: Will Jones)

10. 7Mesh MK3 Cargo

Another luxury option

Specifications

Pockets: 2
Compression: Moderate
Sizes: XS-XXL
Colours: Black, Blue, Brown

Reasons to buy

+
Mesh-lined crotch
+
Great grippers
+
Low front 

Reasons to avoid

-
Central rear pocket a little baggy

These are a challenger for the Pearl Izumi Expedition Pro, though I got on slightly less well with the chamois in this case - as ever, this is down to my anatomy, and your mileage may vary.

The materials used feel very premium, there's a lovely moderate compression, and the front is cut low which is excellent if you have an aggressive position. The combination of the low front and the double-layer, mesh-lined crotch does put me in mind of some Assos shorts, which is high praise. 

The pockets aren't all that big, definitely more for snacks, and wrappers than any heavy cargo. They are secure, however, and feature the same inside flap along the upper hem that helps keep things in over rough ground. 

The pockets in the small of the back are fine, though I so rarely use them. I am nit-picking but the central pocket is a little baggy, so if you are wearing these with a t-shirt rather than a jersey then just be a bit careful of what you put in there.

Like the Pearl Izumi options, the straps are raw-edged, stretchy, and fade into unconsciousness. They're a little firmer though, and feel more supportive of the lowers.

A white man wears a set of cargo bib shorts against a white background

(Image credit: Will Jones)

11. Specialized RBX Adventure

Best for wearing with a t-shirt

Specifications

Pockets: 5
Compression: Light
Sizes: XS-XXL
Colours: Black

Reasons to buy

+
Secure rear pocket
+
Decent-sized rear pockets

Reasons to avoid

-
Straps tight on upper back
-
Small leg pockets

Our Associate Editor, Josh, is a big fan of these and I'm inclined to agree. They represent a really solid value package if you want a first set of quality bibs, with the added utility of decent pockets.

The leg pockets are great, but are a little on the small side, meaning if you have a large phone they will peek over the hem a bit. This doesn't matter so much because the pockets on the back are bigger than most, and can easily hold a phone. There are two large pockets, and a third secure zippered one, and more than any others these cargo bibs replicate the rear pockets of a jersey, so if you want to wear a normal t-shirt then life is simple. 

The construction and materials feel about right for the price. They aren't super luxurious, but they feel well made. The compression is light, so they're comfy to sit around in too, and the leg grippers are similar to those on the Albion and POC options. 

The straps do feel a little basic though, and are a little constricting on me. If you're especially tall and skinny I suggest these won't be a good fit for you, whereas if you're shorter for your size then you should be golden.

How to choose

Regardless of the added bells and whistles on offer, the main thing that you should focus on is whether the chamois pad fits you well. This, unfortunately, may take some trial and error, especially as it works in tandem with having the right saddle for your anatomy. If you're coming to cargo bibs and you already have a set of normal bibs you're happy with then I suggest sticking with the same brand.

If you're starting afresh then be mindful of the fit, the compression, the pocket size, and the straps. If you're tall and slim for your short size the straps are going to be more of a factor in your decision as they're more likely to become restrictive. 

Are cargo bibs worth it?

In a word, yes. I wear them for all my riding now, and I've lost count of the number of times I've gone to slip a phone into a pocket and realised I've pulled on a pair of normal bibs, and felt rather disappointed. There are no drawbacks to having a few extra pockets in my eyes; if you don't use them you won't notice them, and if you do need them then they're there.

Like a decent pair of standard bib shorts, a good pair of cargo bibs can be the difference between a comfortable, enjoyable day out, and an uncomfortable slog. 

Are cargo bibs just normal bibs with pockets?

Essentially, yes, but there's more to it than that.

Normal bib shorts were almost exclusively designed for the road, so while they may perform perfectly well on gravel they weren't specifically designed for it.

The best cargo bib shorts are more aimed at either endurance riding, gravel riding, or both. They'll probably have a chamois that's a little more padded, and some will have a chamois that's designed for a slightly more upright position. The chamois in the POC Rove bibs for example is longer, with silicone inserts to help over rough surfaces and while riding in multiple positions.

Can I wear cargo bibs for road riding?

Absolutely. Some of us here at Cyclingnews choose cargo bibs over non-cargo for most things nowadays just for extra storage. Anyone who says you can't is just being a snob, and they'll be jealous when you whip out a chocolate bar from your leg.

How tight should cargo bib shorts be?

This mostly depends on how much compression you want. More compression can allegedly help fight muscle fatigue, but some riders find it uncomfortable over long durations. I like a middle ground, and if I'm riding for several days and I am going to be sat at a cafe or at a campsite I go for a lower compression. The fit should be snug, but no sausage legs, and definitely no loss of circulation!

You should be free to move as if you were wearing nothing at all. Some brands size up small, so pay attention to that front if you're between sizes.

Can I wear normal shorts over cycling shorts?

Sure you can, and some are specifically designed for this use case. Just be aware that if you have full pockets in your cargo bib shorts it may be a bit uncomfortable under baggy shorts, and might also be a bit hotter - short liners tend to be mostly mesh to counteract this.

How do we test cargo bib shorts?

Man, I am a serial overpacker. I can't fathom how people go riding without bringing the kitchen sink. Snacks, tools, spares, extra layers, a camera, phone... I only ever ride in cargo bibs now, and I've got a good eye for what works on them and what doesn't. 

Given their adventure focus my testing has been on all surfaces, so the material durability has been assessed too. I've been bikepacking, and worn several pairs for days at a time without removing them. 

As ever, the comfort they offer will depend on your anatomy matching well to the chamois pad, so I've tried my best to not pass judgement on them based on that particular factor