Zara’s ‘Strappy Cycling Culottes’ are – wait for it – bib shorts

Cycling clothing meets fast fashion.

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It’s a sign of the health of cycling, I suppose, when it crosses over into the mainstream – when it’s not just a niche activity, but something that’s popular and lucrative enough for big brands to deem it worth their time. 

German sporting titan Adidas is one such example, having released a growing range of cycling shoes and accompanying clothing. Now, the Spanish fast-fashion giant Zara has joined the fray with a men’s and women’s range – one that looks well-considered, but that’s a bit of a headscratcher. 

For once, it’s the women’s range that isn’t an afterthought. Designed in collaboration with Spanish adventure cyclist Sami Sauri – she’s also a big deal on the ‘Grams – along with Fizik, it’s a gravel-leaning capsule that sits in the brand’s ‘Outdoor’ sub-range. 

There are merino T-shirts, flappy hats (sorry, ‘Cap With Ears’), and even a nice-looking handlebar bag that you can strap around your waist as a bumbag/fanny pack (circle as regionally appropriate). There are also padded shorts, and overshorts that are called cycling shorts (but not padded). Zara has the high street female adventure cyclist covered from top to toe – Fizik’s even selling its Terra Ergolace X2 shoes through the store. 

The men’s range is a bit more of a mixed bag. No stylish adventure wear; no earthy tones. 

The headline act is what you and I (and just about anyone else) would call ‘bib shorts’. For whatever reason, that naming didn’t fly at Zara HQ, which has decided they’re called ‘Strappy cycling culottes’. 

No, over the shoulders.

Culottes? I’m glad you asked. According to the little-known online fashion resource (it’s great, check it out):

“The term can refer to either split skirts, historical men’s breeches, or women’s under-pants; this is an example of fashion-industry words taken from designs across history, languages and cultures, then being used to describe different garments, often creating confusion among historians and readers.

The French word culotte is (a pair of) panties, pants, knickers, trousers, shorts, or (historically) breeches; derived from the French word culot, meaning the lower half of a thing, the lower garment in this case.”

But these ones are strappy. And they are for cycling, obviously. 

Zara’s non-historical men’s breeches are “made of a fabric with high elasticity”, they feature an “ergonomic pad with different padding for easing pressure”, and “reflective tab appliqués”, which are like reflective tabs but fancier. 

Those appliqués are a-okay. The bum pocket makes me nervous about losing a phone.

Zara’s take on the bib short, at least, looks pretty good – conspicuously less billowy around the knee than Adidas’ Strapless Bib Shorts (what is it with these names?!). It doesn’t sit in Zara’s ‘Outdoor’ range like the women’s stuff, but is instead under the Zara Athleticz umbrella. 

In addition to the bib shorts – available in black and navy – there’s also a Cycling Training Top which is basically a technical T-shirt with tighter fitting arms. One of those arms says 26 1 18 1 on it, which is not a very hard code to crack because it is a numerical representation of Z A R A. 

If any of the above tickles your fancy, head to, or your local Zara outlet. Just ask the friendly shop assistant to point you toward the strappy cycling culottes. I’m sure they won’t be confused at all.