Cycling shorts might make you feel a little, ahem, exposed, but the benefits they provide make them a must-have. Simply put: Bike shorts keep you comfortable, can help improve your form and come in lots of styles and materials for different types of riding.
But considering cycling has grown so popular, there are tons of options out there. For your convenience, we've narrowed down the best cycling shorts on the market.
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Best Cycling Shorts to Try
- Best Overall: POC Aero VPDS Bib Shorts, Ultimate VPDS Bib Shorts ($325, $240, na.pocsports.com)
- Best Bib Shorts: Pearl Izumi Expedition Bib Short ($125, Pearlizumi.com)
- Best Cycling Liner Shorts: REI Co-op Link Padded Liner Shorts ($34.95, REI.com)
- Best Mountain Biking Shorts: Rapha Trail Fast & Light Shorts ($125, Rapha.cc)
- Best Budget-Friendly for Men: Sponeed Men's Cycling Shorts Padded ($39.99, Amazon.com)
- Best Budget-Friendly for Women: BALEAF Women's Bike Shorts 3D Padded ($36.99, Amazon.com)
- Best for Cold Weather: Velocio Thermal Bib Short ($239, Velocio.cc)
How We Chose
We chatted with Garret Seacat, CSCS, triathlon coach and founder of Absolute Endurance, to learn all about his favorite cycling shorts. With his guidance, we chose our products based on criteria including:
A Quick Language Note
We make deliberate choices about the language we use when it comes to gender. While more brands now carry gender-neutral workout clothes, you’ll still typically see clothing brands market their products to men or women.
The main difference between most women's and men's cycling shorts is the fit: Men's versions tend to be roomier in the front due to physical differences. However, fabrics, quality and comfort should be the same between gender-labeled pairs. We encourage everyone to purchase the products that feel right for them.
1. Best Overall: POC Aero VPDS Bib Shorts
While standard shorts are easier to take on and off, Seacat loves cycling bib shorts, like this high-end pair from POC. Bibs have an overall-style design, helping keep your bottoms in place without any unwanted friction and chafe. (Pro tip: You may want to invest in some anti-chafe products).
"The comfort [of this bib] is second to none and the slightly wider chamois that tapers down is perfect for 6-plus hour-long days in the saddle," he says. "At the retail price of $325 it may hurt the wallet but your rear end will thank you!"
2. Best Bib Shorts: Pearl Izumi Expedition Bib Short
One of Seacat's other favorite cycling bibs, this pair from Pearl Izumi, is made with a durable, sweat-wicking fabric for even the hardest climbs. They also have two thigh pockets, which can easily fit your keys or a granola bar.
"These are my 'go-to' training bibs," he says. "I have three pairs that I use weekly, and they show no signs of wear. And, I have been just amazed with the quality and feel of the fabric. They are a legit must-have!"
For cycling, a chamois (a layer of protective padding along your butt and crotch) is a must-have, Seacat says. But if your favorite pair of bike shorts doesn't have a built-in pad, liner shorts are a great investment.
Not only are liner shorts cheaper than a full cycling short or bib, but they're snug so you can layer them seamlessly under another pair of shorts or a workout skirt. Plus, the chamois in this pair is ultra-sleek, so you don't have to worry about too much extra bulk under your clothes.
4. Best Mountain Biking Shorts: Rapha Trail Fast & Light Shorts
For cyclists who love to hit mountain trails, snag-resistant fabric is a must-have. That's why so many bike clothing companies make separate mountain bike (MTB) bottoms. This Rapha pair has a breathable fabric and an adjustable waistband, so you can find your perfect fit.
Many MTB shorts don't have a built-in chamois (including this pair), so you may want to invest in a padded liner for extra comfort during your ride, especially if you're hitting a bumpy trail.
5. Best Budget-Friendly for Men: Sponeed Men's Cycling Shorts Padded
Although Seacat recommends splurging on high-end shorts for guaranteed quality (more on that below), the world of Amazon does provide some price-friendly, quality options, too.
This pair has an anti-bacterial, sweat-wicking fabric and chamois. Plus, these have a rubber lining around the thigh to prevent the legs from riding up while you ride.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $39.99
6. Best Budget-Friendly for Women: BALEAF Women's Bike Shorts 3D Padded
A popular Amazon activewear retailer, this BALEAF bike short is a popular pair that's friendly on your wallet. These women's cycling shorts have a high waist band, so you don't have to worry about your shorts slipping down as you pedal.
The chamois in these shorts is also built specifically for women's anatomy, with extra padding on more sensitive parts of your body.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $36.99
7. Best for Cold Weather: Velocio Thermal Bib Short
During a cold-weather bike ride, thermal fabrics are a must-have. This Velocio bib has a fleece lining that's breathable and sleek, so you won't get the usual bulk of warm materials.
This bib also has reflective logos, which is much-needed as the weather gets colder and days get shorter. And while reflective fabrics are a great precaution, you still want to make sure to invest in a good bike light to stay safe in traffic.
3 Factors to Consider Before You Buy
With any sport, including cycling, you want a high-performance fabric that won't hold you back during your workout. Before you buy any pair of cycling shorts, check that they're made of a sweat-wicking fabric like nylon or polyester. These fabrics pull sweat off your body and dry quickly.
Avoid cotton and cotton blends, as this material absorbs moisture and takes a while to dry.
2. Style and Fit
Cycling bottoms come in two different styles, as you may have noticed: shorts and bibs. Shorts are worn like a standard pair of workout shorts, whereas bibs have overall-style straps that sit on your shoulders, according to Seacat.
"The biggest pro to going the bib route is you no longer have a waist band that [can cause] irritation on your stomach when bent over and they also hold the chamois and shorts in place," he says. "The only real con is you cannot go to the bathroom as easily."
Shorts, on the other hand, are a little easier for bathroom purposes and allow for easier layering with other pieces of clothing.
No matter which style you choose, you want your biking bottoms to fit snug against your body. The more they move, the higher the odds that you experience chafing. And while we're on that subject, you actually don't want to wear your cycling shorts with underwear. Instead, the padding should fit snug against your crotch and butt to offer proper protection.
We all love to save a little cash here and there. But when it comes to your cycling shorts, investing a little extra may be worth it.
"It can be hard to spend $100 on shorts when you just spent money on a bike, but to truly enjoy the bike you'll be happy you did," Seacat says. "In all my time as a bike shop manager and cycling coach, I never once had someone complain they spent too much on shorts or bibs after they used them."
Investing a little more helps guarantee you're getting durable fabric and padding for a distraction- and pain-free ride.