Best Cycling Shorts: Ride Long Distances Comfortably
Gear up and race hard with these padded cycling shorts
The Drive and its partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links. Read more.
BY Scott Roepel / LAST UPDATED ON January 4, 2021
Biking is a great way to stay healthy. Whether you’re a professional racer or simply ride for fun, the right cycling gear keeps you more comfortable while you pedal all those miles. One of the biggest issues for cyclists is the bicycle seat, which can be small, uncomfortable, and occasionally painful. To combat these issues, upgrade your cycling shorts; they are equipped with an extra layer of padding, so your ride is much more comfortable.
Dri-More Moisture Wicking Technology ensures they don’t retain sweat.
Why Trust Us
Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
Benefits of Cycling Shorts
- Better performance. Cycling shorts are designed to improve a cyclist's aerodynamics. There is less resistance, and therefore, more power to move forward. They also reduce the chances of straining.
- Protection. Cyclists are prone to injury and muscle strain. These shorts protect your body from friction, shock, and chaffing. They help prevent minor injuries and straining.
- Improved flexibility. Cycling shorts are very flexible. You will not feel restricted when riding your bike. This allows you to cover a long distance without exerting yourself.
- Better circulation. Airflow to the legs is extremely important before, during, and after cycling. Cycling shorts are designed to be mildly constricting to enable better air circulation in the lower body. They improve your biking experience as well as your health.
Types of Cycling Shorts
These are sometimes called road shorts. They are made from a stretchy material called lycra. Lycra is effective against sweating as it wicks away moisture. The sweat generated during cycling is absorbed into the shorts and pushed to the surface where it evaporates. The sweat does not stick to the skin and irritate it. Some bib shorts have shoulder straps to give you more support.
Mountain bikers often use these shorts which are also known as baggies. They do not have the expandability of Lycra shorts. However, they are made from a lightweight material that reduces friction and wicks away moisture. MTB shorts are usually worn with padded liner shorts that are breathable. They also have an elastic waistband that’s adjustable. These shorts offer more protection against falls than bib shorts.
Fox Sports is based in the heart of California. It was founded in 1974 to cater to the extreme sports market. Its product range includes motorcycle gloves, cycling gloves, and biking gear. The brand also makes apparel for cycling enthusiasts. If you ride your bike every chance you get, buy the Fox Ranger Shorts. They come in different colors and have a detachable liner.
Pearl iZumi has its headquarters in Colorado. Pearl Izumi USA is the sole distributor of the brand's products in the U.S. The brand set up shop in the 1950s in Tokyo and makes high-quality apparel for performance sports. Its PEARL IZUMI Men's Elite Escape Shorts are made from 46 percent polyamide, 38 percent polyester, and 16 percent elastane. They fit well, offer enhanced comfort, and ensure optimum circulation in the lower body.
Louis Garneau was founded in 1983. It is a popular name in cycling, triathlons, and winter sports. Its core business is the manufacture and distribution of sports apparel and gear. Its product line includes cycling gloves, protective gear, and performance cycling apparel such as the Louis Garneau Men's Fit Sensor 2 Compression Bike Shorts. These shorts are designed to keep you visible at night and to make you as comfortable as possible.
Cycling Shorts Pricing
- Under $50: If you’re looking for comfortable everyday cycling shorts but have a small budget, you can get off-brand shorts for less than $50. These are usually made of spandex and have ample padding in vital areas.
- $50-$100: There is a wide range of bike shorts in this category. You can get cycling shorts made by reputable brands for as little as $70. They fit snugly and are suitable for competitive cycling. For $100 or a little less, you can get shorts with well-built pockets for storing your belongings.
- $100-$200: Here, you'll find premium-quality, highly specialized bib shorts for cycling. They are made for high-mileage cycling and improve circulation to the legs for reduced muscle strain.
You can either opt for loose-fitting MTB shorts or you can choose tighter bib shorts. Both of these options have their advantages. If you want shorts to wear on your daily commute, loose-fitting shorts are ideal. They are also stylish. However, the tighter shorts made from spandex or Lycra are best suited for long-distance or speed cycling.
The fabric used to make cycling shorts determines their comfort, level of protection, and durability. Popular fabrics include polyester, spandex, Lycra, and nylon. Each of them has its upsides and downsides. You also need to look at the liner shorts. Bib shorts do not have them as fabrics such as lycra and spandex are meant to be worn without underwear. However, MTB shorts have them and offer superior comfort.
If you want to make your rides more comfortable, invest in cycling shorts with good padding. The chamois will absorb the shock from the bicycle seat and reduce strain on the perineum. It’s also important to check the density of the padding so you can know if the shorts are ideal for long rides. Chamois is gender-specific due to placement and fitting. Avoid buying unisex cycling shorts, as they aren’t designed with comfort in mind. It is also worth noting that shorts with quality padding cost more than those with basic padding.
- Construction. The construction of cycling shorts affects their efficiency and durability. Get biking shorts that can handle intense cycling. Take a closer look at the stitches and the seams. The hems of your shorts will also dictate how long they last. Most riders prefer above-knee inseams as they allow for faster cycling and less friction.
- Design. Some bikers prefer cycling shorts with shoulder straps, especially for biking events. Others prefer tight shorts that stay in place and are good at moisture wicking. But the most popular cycling shorts are MTB shorts as they enhance circulation and are comfortable to wear.
Best Cycling Shorts Reviews & Recommendations 2020
- Many cycling shorts include a drawstring around the waist to tighten them. If you get a pair that might be too large, make sure they come with a drawstring.
- For additional padding, get a pair of cycling underwear. This will help reduce sweat and increase airflow around your body.
- Another way to increase comfort on a ride is by purchasing a wider and more comfortable bike seat.
Q: Do all cycling shorts come with pockets?
A: This will vary by manufacturer. You can find pairs with either zipper or velcro pockets for added storage. However, while pockets may be convenient, they can also be a pain while riding. Keys or other sharp objects can poke through the material or jab your legs. If you need to store something while riding, it may be better to wear a bike jersey with pockets in the back.
Q: How do I clean a pair of cycling shorts?
A: You can either toss the shorts in the washer with your jersey and other gear or wash them by hand with soap and water. Some brands may need to be washed at a certain temperature and without bleach, so consult the tag if in doubt. You should then leave them out to dry on a line.
Q: How can I tell what size shorts I need?
A: All brands will feature a sizing chart. Many cycling shorts tend to run small and snug, so it is wise to get a larger pair. Also, a large pair of cycling shorts will not be the same as a large pair of cargo shorts. You may need to go up one or two sizes to get a proper fit.
For one of the best pairs of cycling shorts, consider the Fox Racing Men's Livewire Shorts for their breathability and slim fit.
Or, save some cash and get the Athletic Works Women's Bike Shorts, which will keep you cool and dry in hot weather.