Best Cycling Shorts

Updated October 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

26 Models Considered
5 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
168 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best cycling shorts

Last Updated October 2019

Bicycle seats are designed for rider support and balance first, comfort second. When cyclists go on long rides, even a “comfort” bicycle seat can get uncomfortable fast. Which is where a good pair of cycling shorts comes in.

New riders and experienced road cyclists alike deal with discomfort and soreness around the sit bones (where the rump meets the bike seat). Cycling shorts are designed to alleviate this problem with strategic cushioning.

But today’s performance wear does far more than just ease a sore tuchus. High-tech materials address several factors that cyclists deal with on rides of every distance, including wind, weather, and sweat. Indeed, in the cycling world, there’s no such thing as “just a pair of shorts.”

How can riders pick the best cycling shorts for their needs? Read on for all the stats on the perfect cycling shorts for every situation. If you’re ready to buy, consider one of our top picks.

Road cycling shorts must fit snugly. If they’re too loose, the fabric will bunch up and the chamois pad will slide around as you ride. Check the fit of your shorts by sitting on a bike and riding for a bit.

Key considerations

Why should you choose a pair of snug cycling shorts over regular shorts or clothes for long rides? Here are a few reasons to persuade you:

Chafing

An ill-fitting pair of shorts that collects sweat can causing chafing of the skin from the thighs upward, and riders can feel discomfort within just a few minutes. Well-made cycling shorts, on the other hand, wick away sweat from the skin to the outside of the fabric, where it can evaporate. This prevents chafing and helps riders maintain their body temperature.

Fabric wear

Ask a daily bike commuter about this problem, and they’ll tell you just how many denim jeans and slacks they’ve had to replace early due to constant contact with the bike seat. Fabrics can also be damaged or stained through contact with the chain, splashing through puddles, or falling from the bike (it happens to the best of us). If you’re headed to the office, wear your durable cycling shorts to work and change when you get there.

Freedom of movement

There’s a good reason you don’t see anyone wearing pants in the Tour de France. When you need complete freedom of movement, cycling shorts are key. Cycling wear should never restrict the rider’s legs or make it difficult to bend, twist, and pedal. At the same time, the shorts have to fit well so they don’t slip around during the ride.

EXPERT TIP

Riding in cold weather? Pull on leg warmers that reach to the hem of your shorts to protect your lower legs and knees from the elements.


Staff  | BestReviews

Features

You can find cycling shorts in a range of distinct styles for both men and women:

  • Road shorts: The signature look of Tour de France and day commuters alike, these skintight shorts are designed not to slip or chafe the rider and to wick away sweat.

  • Mountain biking (MTB) shorts: Originally designed to look “rad” in the heyday of mountain biking, “baggies” are worn more loosely than traditional road-cycling shorts but also have an inner liner to provide support and padding.

  • Casual cycling shorts: Similar to MTB shorts, these look more like everyday shorts but have an inner liner to make riding more comfortable.

  • Bib shorts: Dedicated road cyclists are often seen in these one-piece outfits that stretch up and over the shoulders. The advantage of bib shorts is that they don’t have an elastic waistband, which can be uncomfortable.

  • Skorts: Another variant of MTB and casual shorts, skorts combine a padded inner spandex liner with an outer skirt for stylish, casual cycling.
     

Each of the above styles offers many of the following features:

  • Chamois pad: This is the cushioning sewn into cycling shorts to protect the sit bones and the crotch. This foam or gel cushion can be very thick (ideal for new riders or those putting in long training miles) or thin (for short rides and hot days) and may extend downward to protect the inner thighs.

  • Tech fabric: Cycling shorts use a combination of synthetic fabrics to provide comfort, compression, and durability. Nylon fabric holds up to wear and tear, while polyester is comfortable. Spandex yarn woven throughout the main fabric helps shape the garment, so it provides support where needed.

  • Panels: Today’s shorts are built using either six or eight fabric panels, which is far fewer than the shorts of the past.

  • Leg gripper: The cuffs of cycling shorts should fit snugly around the leg to keep the shorts in place during a ride, as sliding around or flapping can chafe the skin. An elastic band or a drawstring is sewn into the end of each leg so that the cuffs grip the thighs.

  • Pockets: While not common on road shorts, pockets are popular on casual and mountain bike shorts.

  • Reflectors: Thin strips of reflective material are sewn or glued onto the cycling shorts on panels that will be most visible to motorists. They provide an extra element of safety by making the rider easier to see in low-light conditions.

Cycling shorts prices

Inexpensive: Riders looking for their first cycling shorts can choose from nylon/spandex padded shorts as low as $15 to $30 and loose-fitting MTB shorts with all the basic bells and whistles, such as an elastic waistband, for around $19 to $33.

Mid-range: For $39 to $79, cyclists can find a wide selection of good-quality casual, commuter, and MTB shorts.

Expensive: Bib shorts tend to be among the highest-priced cycling shorts, ranging between $120 and $220.

DID YOU KNOW?

Cycling shorts in the 1970s and ’80s had chamois leather pads sewn into the saddle area. Actual leather padding is rare in today’s cycling shorts but the name stuck.

DID YOU KNOW?

The inseam of cycling shorts sells in three lengths: short (five to seven inches), regular (eight to nine inches), and tall (about 11 inches). While cycling shorts should normally fall to just a couple inches above the knee, some riders prefer a shorter inseam.

Tips

  • Do not wear underwear beneath cycling shorts — especially cotton briefs. Instead, wear cycling liners or just go commando. (Don’t brag about it, though).

  • Wash cycling shorts after each ride, including the chamois pad, and air dry completely before wearing again to prevent the growth of bacteria and mold.

  • Look for cycling shorts with at least 15% spandex in its fabric.

  • A wider elastic band in the shorts leg is less likely to slip or roll, which improves comfort.

  • Longer legs in cycling shorts — reaching almost to the knee — can prevent chafing and help keep shorts in place.

  • Still uncomfortable even with a thick chamois pad? The bike seat may need an adjustment. Visit a dedicated cycling shop for assistance.

  • Mountain biking shorts are made with tougher fabrics, such as ripstop nylon, and should have adjustment tabs at the waist that can be tightened or loosened as needed.

  • Road cycling shorts are supposed to feel tight, but if the shorts constrict your breathing or are painful to wear, choose a bigger size.

Other products we considered

BDI Cycling Apparel’s Eight-Panel Flatseam Gel Shorts are very comfortable and fit well for their price point. They also offer plenty of extra padding, which some riders appreciate. At the other end of the padding spectrum, Canari Cyclewear’s Velo Shorts had just enough padding to be a barrier to chafing, which experienced riders prefer, especially in hot weather. And the Pearl Izumi Women’s Attack Shorts fit well all around and don’t slip or roll during cycling trips.

Women’s cycling shorts increasingly have a yoga-style waistband that is less restrictive and more comfortable.

FAQ

Q. I think thick chamois pads will be uncomfortable. When can I opt for a thinner pad?
A.
Thick pads are great for riders who are new to cycling and not as skilled at riding techniques that ease soreness. They’re also very good for long rides of several miles. As you gain experience and confidence, try out thinner chamois pads. The thinnest pads mainly help prevent chafing, and they dry out quickly. That’s why multisport athletes, like those participating in triathlons, prefer thin chamois pads, as they can still be soaking wet after the swim portion but will dry in a hurry.

Q. Are there other options for cycling shorts besides the skintight compression shorts?
A.
Of course. Cycling shorts designed for casual riding are available. They look like everyday cargo or Bahama shorts but offer the padding and moisture-wicking that riders need. Pockets are a common feature of casual cycling shorts, often with a cargo flap to keep items from falling out. Those who want a more technical cycling short without the skintight look can also try out MTB (mountain biking) or ATB (all-terrain biking) shorts, which typically combine a stretchy inner liner and chamois pad with a baggy outer garment that falls almost to the knee.

Q. Should I look for cycling shorts with more panels so that they fit better?
A.
In the past, cycling shorts constructed with more than six fabric panels were sought after because they fit closely without being uncomfortable. Of course, that often meant paying a much higher price. Today’s fabric blends can do the same job with fewer panels needed, and while shorts made with six to eight panels are still considered good quality, lower-priced shorts are often comparable in fit and comfort.

The team that worked on this review
  • Angela
    Angela
    Editor
  • Devangana
    Devangana
    Web Producer
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Enid
    Enid
    Editor
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Samantha
    Samantha
    Writer

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