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Ian Slack wearing MUCUBAL bib cycling shorts

Best budget bib shorts – MUCUBAL cycling shorts review

Are you looking for the best budget bib shorts? Here’s my MUCUBAL cycling shorts review. I’ve been riding with their bibs for a few months now, which is long enough for me to have a good idea of how they perform. It’s a cycling clothing brand that only seems to be available from Amazon and you can find them listed as “MUCUBAL Men’s Cycling Bib Shorts with 3D Breathable Pad Elastic Compression Bike Bibs.”

Buy name brand? Yeah, I used to be a Kool-Aid drinker

What’s the deal with cycling clothing? No haters, I don’t mean why do men clothe themselves in form-fitting Lycra – why is it so damn expensive? I’ve been a fairly loyal Pearl Izumi customer for decades and Descente for a decade before that. My only detours into other brands came when I’ve bought team kit customized by brands like Hincapie or Sfatto (I really liked Sfatto, but they went out of business). When I first started buying Pearl Izumi shorts in the early 2000s, I recall the typical price for their top-of-the-line model at that time was about $75, which I felt was high, but doable considering I ride almost every day and only buy a couple of pairs of shorts a year. Since then, the price has more than doubled to $170. I held my nose and paid the higher prices until I bought a pair of PRO bib shorts about four years ago and absolutely hated them. I purchased the same size I always have, but they seem to have a different cut through the crotch area, and they pinch and chafe my testicles to the point that after an hour’s riding, one ball is literally squeezed down one leg or the other and I have to stop, get off my bike, and re-adjust.

The purchase came at a point when I’d just bought a good number of Sfatto team kit shorts, so I didn’t need to buy any replacements until this year. After my PRO bib experience, I was damned if I’d pay Pearl Izumi another $170 for shorts that are my absolutely last choice at the bottom of my short’s drawer (note to “established” bicycle clothing brands: it’s a known fact the majority of customers won’t come back after a single negative experience, and you’re looking at one.)

My search for the best budget bib shorts begins

Searching around for Pearl Izumi alternatives and reading reviews, I first decided to try out a pair of SUGOi RS Pro bib shorts ($170) and had a similar experience to the last pair of Pearl Izumi shorts I bought. They don’t squeeze “my boys” quite as much, but they chafe them to a ridiculous degree. So now, I have two pairs of $170 shorts that I have little interest in wearing, and I was left wondering “Is it me? Has my physiology changed somehow as I’ve gotten older or has the cut of cycling shorts changed industry-wide?”

Anyway, one thing was clear. I’m not rich enough to continue with $170 “experiments,” and I started looking for best budget bib shorts options as my existing shorts inventory was rapidly aging beyond continued use. Looking on Amazon, I came across MUCUBAL cycling shorts and – despite being only $35 – they had a few good reviews from “confirmed” buyers, so I thought “what the hell, I’ll try a pair.”

MUCUBAL cycling shorts arrive

MUCUBAL bib cycling shorts
MUCUBAL bib cycling shorts

I have to admit that when my MUCUBAL men’s cycling bib shorts arrived my heart sank and I thought I’d wasted $35 because the chamois resembles the foam pads I’ve experienced in early Hincapie cheapo team kit shorts which were so thin – and compressed so much – that they were awful.

MUCUBAL bib cycling shorts
MUCUBAL bib cycling shorts

Pardon a quick tangent, but I’m six feet tall and can weigh in at 200 pounds or more in the early spring if it’s been a long cold winter of Ian drinking beer and eating comfort food, so my best budget bib shorts need a good amount of padding until I’ve put in enough miles and starved myself back down to my “normal” 175. After my Hincapie experience, I judged chamois by its thickness and by its “substance” – by that I mean when you squeeze it does it compress like a kitchen sponge or does it feel more tangible. Because of that, I’ll admit I’ve been won over by the marketing of brands like Pearl Izumi and SUGOi that offer pads with layers, “zones,” and other gimmicks that make it appear like much scientific research was done to produce the ultimate cutting-edge chamois.

MUCUBAL cycling shorts review: chamois quality

MUCUBAL has made me completely rethink how I evaluate best budget bib shorts. While the pad is foam and not “hi-tech,” it’s got some substance while being comfortable and highly flexible – so no chafing. In fact, the shorts are highly stretchy throughout which seems to be perfect for me and hold my boys in place with none of the problems of a ball wandering down one leg, etc. that I’ve experienced with shorts that cost five times as much.

Side-by-side comparison of Sugoi RS Pro Bib, Pearl Izumi PRO bib (circa 2015), and the MUCUBAL bib short.
Side-by-side comparison of Sugoi RS Pro Bib, Pearl Izumi PRO bib (circa 2015), and the MUCUBAL bib short.

The MUCUBAL chamois is fairly wide at the back and does make you feel even more like you’re wearing a diaper than some other brands that have a narrower pad, but I’ve gotten used to it.

Because the pad feels like it has so much less substance than the name-brand shorts I’ve been buying, I assumed MUCUBAL cycling shorts would be fine for rides of about an hour or two, but not for long weekend rides of 75 miles plus. I was wrong. I completed a longer-than-usual Bicycle Ride Across Georgia this year, and after six days of 70 to 85 miles a day, I had no problems whatsoever with these shorts. I’m honestly a little stunned that $35 shorts would perform that well.

Fabric and materials

I’ve mentioned the chamois appears to be primarily foam. As I also said, the overall material is very stretchy, and I’d attribute that to the fabric being very thin throughout. They’re some of the thinnest shorts I’ve ever owned.

MUCUBAL bib cycling shorts leg gripper
MUCUBAL bib cycling shorts leg gripper

The leg grippers follow the industry trend of what appears to be silicone tape or something similar. That’s really the only thing about these shorts I’d change. I’ve got a jersey or two with silicone tape at the end of the short sleeves, and I’ve found them to lose their stretch and roll up at the ends quickly. Call me a Luddite, but I never had a problem with the exposed elastic grippers that worked fine on shorts for decades. I’m hoping that because these grippers fit tightly (unlike jersey sleeves on my spindly arms) there won’t be a problem.

MUCUBAL cycling shorts review: final thoughts

Like my experiences with buying no-name Chinese carbon frames, MUCUBAL has given me an extremely valuable lesson about the folly of blindly buying only name-brand products. I’ve long said that if cycling clothing was cheaper, I’d buy a hell of a lot more of it, and I wish the established brands would listen to that advice instead of trying to get us all to buy into a stupid notion that it should cost as much as designer jeans. At least there has been obvious technological improvement in bike design and materials (like titanium) to somewhat justify higher bike component prices. I just don’t see that with clothing.

One thing that remains to be seen is how well MUCUBAL cycling shorts will hold up over the long term, so I’ll likely revisit this MUCUBAL cycling shorts review and update it at some point. But, for $35, if they last half as long as a pair of Pearl Izumi shorts, I’ll feel like I got a hell of a bargain. I also know that buying cycling shorts is a very personal choice as we’re all different physically, so while I love them, others may not. However, because I know small clothing companies can quickly disappear, I’ve loaded up and now have seven pairs in my short’s drawer. If I thought Goodwill had any use for them, that’s where I’d be depositing my last two SUGOi and Pearl Izumi purchases.