Best cycling shorts 2023: More than just a comfy chamois when the weather heats up

Our cycling shorts product tester lifts the leg of his bib shorts to reveal a strong tan line
Josh's strong tan lines are a symptom of a lot of time testing the best cycling shorts (Image credit: Josh Ross)

When the sun shines and the going gets hot, the best cycling shorts really show their worth. Warmer weather often means more time on the bike, and that increased saddle time can often highlight the flaws in your existing shorts. The chamois is perhaps the first thing we have in mind when we're picking out pair of cycling shorts, but – especially in the height of summer – ventilation, sweat-wicking and temperature regulation is where the technology has trickled down from the pro peloton and benefitted from years of improvements.

The best cycling shorts are engineered for maximum comfort on long, hot – let's face it, sweaty – rides. Lightweight, soft fabrics that offer UV protection and wick moisture quickly away from the skin, clever weaves that enhance airflow, flatlock seams that reduce chafing, and chamois that combine protection and padding with antibacterial, fast-drying properties. 

Many of the best cycling shorts feature shoulder straps, and are also known as bib shorts. The straps keep them from falling down, and therefore keep the cushioning chamois (pronounced shammy) pad in place as you ride. If you're not sure whether you need the straps, take a look at our feature on bib shorts v cycling shorts to help you decide.

Even the best cycling shorts can't help if you're on a saddle that's totally wrong for you, though, so be sure to check out our guide to the best road bike saddles, as well as the best cargo bib shorts if you want a bit of extra storage - they're basically the same, but with pockets and some other gravelly details.

We test each pair by riding them for many miles to really explore their limits, ensuring they are appropriate for the distances and the conditions – sun, rain, wind or (thankfully rarely) snow – their manufacturers claim they are suitable for. We compare them to their rivals and make sure they are comfortable and effective across a range of riding positions. We know that cyclists need them to be durable enough to maintain their performance not only after the first mile but for many more after that.

We've also got a sister list outlining the best women's cycling shorts, which are designed to provide greater suitability - and therefore comfort - to the female body, as well as make nature breaks a little easier if you do want to use bib straps rather than waist shorts.

If you end up a little overwhelmed by the choices on offer, which is entirely understandable, we've put together a handy guide at the bottom to help you find the best cycling shorts for you.

Best cycling shorts available now

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A rear view of the Endura Pro SL bib shorts modelled in front of a brick wall

(Image credit: Ruby Boyce)
The best cycling shorts for finding the perfect fit

Specifications

Material: 78% Nylon, 22% Elastane, 32% Polyester, 45% Nylon, 23% Elastane
Pockets: 2
UV Protection: UPF50
Multiple chamois sizes: 3
Colours: Black

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent durability and longevity
+
Different leg length and chamois width options
+
Very comfortable fit
+
Well-positioned straps

Reasons to avoid

-
Our rear logo is peeling off

Endura knows how hard it is to find a pair of bib shorts that fit just right, which is why it not only offers its Pro SL in three different chamois sizes across six different bib sizes but also two different leg lengths. Endura even has an online Pad Fit tool that advises which chamois size to get based on the saddle you ride. That's 36 different options to choose from. 

Italian lycra provides compression and uses Endura's Coldblack technology to reflect UV and inferred sunlight keeping you cooler on hot days. The pre-shaped multi-panel construction and silicon print on the hem keep the bibs in place when riding. The straps have also been reworked to be wider and offer more lumbar support.

We have been using these bib shorts for over a year now, easily clocking up 5000km of saddle time, and they are consistently one of the most comfortable shorts in our rotation, not to mention, other than the logo at the back peeling off, they are yet to show any signs of wear.

Read our review of the Endura Pro SL for more information.

Our cycling shorts product tester wearing the Castelli Free Aero Race 4

(Image credit: Josh Ross)
The best cycling shorts for pro-level performance

Specifications

Material: 62% Polyamide (Nylon), 38% Elastane (Spandex)
Pockets: 1
UV Protection: Unpublished
Multiple chamois sizes: No
Colours: Black, Dark grey, Saville blue

Reasons to buy

+
Aerodynamically optimised
+
High-density chamois under the sit bones
+
Excellent fit
+
Flat front

Reasons to avoid

-
Not every seam uses flatlock stitching

If you like the idea of riding in top-of-the-line bib shorts with an excellent chamois then these are a great option. 

The Castelli Free Aero Race 3 bib shorts were long considered the best cycling shorts available and, despite their popularity, Castelli felt it could make them even better. This resulted in a complete overhaul to create the new Castelli Free Aero Race 4. An updated Progetto X2 Air Seamless chamois promises to be the brand's softest seat pad and while it's not bulky, it's dense. For really long rides these are one of the best options on the market – and we've tested them on 200-mile, 12-hour-plus rides across wholes states of the US – but they also work for short, fast, rides. 

The seamless design reduces the chance of chafing. Variable thickness padding provides support where needed and cuts bulk where it is not. We really like the aesthetics of the Doppio V design, which isn't a perfect solution in terms of construction as it is one area where we have found the seams do begin to chafe, but when you're standing around off the bike the front of the bibs sit flat.

Castelli has also redesigned the leg grippers and the straps. GIRO4 leg grippers now have a vertical strip design to improve grip without affecting stretch to offer a smooth transition from skin to short. The bib straps and back panel have been trimmed down and are made from a light mesh so that they are breathable and unobtrusive.

The best way to sum up the performance of the Castelli Free Aero Race 4 bib shorts is just to say that with a closet full of the best cycling clothes on the market, we go back to these over and over again.

To learn more, read our in-depth review of the Castelli Free Aero Race 4.

Rapha Pro Team II bib shorts modelled in front of white external wall

(Image credit: Josh Croxton)
The best bib shorts for those who like a thick chamois

Specifications

Material: 78% Nylon, 22% elastane
Pockets: 2
UV Protection: Unpublished
Multiple chamois sizes: Chamois size based on bib size
Colours: Black/White, Dark Navy/White, Dark Green/Off-White, Black/Black

Reasons to buy

+
Hardwearing, still in as-new condition after 18 months of use
+
Thick yet breathable size-specific chamois is comfortable

Reasons to avoid

-
'Regular' legs have become 'short' legs over time
-
Chamois thickness won't be for everyone

Rapha doesn't simply offer the same chamois across all sizes, instead opting for a size-specific chamois. It is dual-density, offering support to sit bones and reducing bulk where it isn't needed, while also being perforated for improved breathability. The result is a pad that felt thicker than almost any other brand we've tried when first putting on these shorts, but which quickly disappeared into a plush perfection once we were on the bike. 

The Pro Team II comes in two leg lengths, regular and long, with 3cm difference between the two, and our only bugbear is that in the 18 months we've been testing them, our 'regular' legs have shortened over time. However, that's the only change, because all logos, stitching and leg grip silicone is as good today as it was when new, which will make the initial price an 'investment', rather than a risk. 

Read our review of the Rapha Pro Team II to learn more.

Our cycling shorts product tester wearing the Assos bib shorts

(Image credit: Josh Ross)
The best cycling shorts for indoor use

Specifications

Material: 64% Polyamide (Nylon), 27% Elastane (Spandex), 9% Polyester
Pockets: 0
UV Protection: Unpublished
Multiple chamois sizes: No
Colours: blackSeries

Reasons to buy

+
Lighter than an outdoor bib could possibly be
+
Top-quality chamois
+
Excellent leg gripper design

Reasons to avoid

-
Seams aren’t flatlock
-
Expensive

The Equipe RS S9 bib shorts use Assos' A-Lock racingFit system which combines their Type.441 knit compression fabric with the shoulder straps to form a rollBar frame, so we found them to be a little tighter than the Assos Mille GTO C2. The idea is to stabilise the shorts during the side-to-side and position adjustments that are a part of riding. The construction also uses fewer panels and 30% fewer seams, which we found to reduce the points of irritation, and also results in making the shorts lighter.

The chamois is attached at the front and the back of the short to allow the pad to move laterally with your body, independently of the shorts, to minimise rubbing. Assos' kraterCooler features a system of small holes to enhance airflow, rather than Endura's Coldblack system. While we are a big fan of thicker, endurance-focused, design of the chamois in the Mille GTO, this one is much thinner and was perfect for the one-to-two hours of high-intensity riding we subjected it to.

Read our Assos Equipe RSR Superléger S9 review to find out why they got full marks.

Our cycling shorts product tester wearing the Assos bib shorts

(Image credit: Josh Ross)
The best money-no-object bib shorts

Specifications

Material: 76% Polyester, 20% Elastane(Spandex), 4% Polyamide(Nylon)
Pockets: 0
UV Protection: Unpublished
Multiple chamois sizes: No
Colours: Black, Flamme d'Or

Reasons to buy

+
Soft to the touch, luxurious-feeling fabrics
+
Chamois is both thick and well ventilated
+
Plenty of chamois under the sit bones even with the pelvis rotated forward

Reasons to avoid

-
The patterned textile at the front calls undue attention

A full-marks five-star set of bib shorts, the Assos Mille GTO C2 come at a premium price but we think they are an excellent investment for long-distance endurance riders. They feature a high-volume chamois for long-lasting comfort, and the brand's own goldenGate technology, which allows the chamois to move alongside your body.

The garment is designed as one single piece with limited seams for minimal chafing and maximum comfort. The shorts are very highly engineered with a plethora of proprietary fabrics and technologies. They offer compression support across the legs, and come in two leg-length options so you can get just the right fit.

To find out why we rated these shorts so highly, head over to our Assos Mille GTO C2 review.

Trek Circuit bib shorts in Deep Dark Blue modelled on a light blue background

(Image credit: Josh Ross)
Best budget bib shorts

Specifications

Material: 77% Recycled Nylon / 23% Recycled Elastane
Pockets: 0
UV Protection: 50+
Multiple chamois sizes: No
Colours: Black, Deep Dark Blue

Reasons to buy

+
Value pricing
+
Bluesign certified and STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX tested
+
Low-profile chamois keeps the bulk down

Reasons to avoid

-
Chamois has a definite time limit
-
Fabric is a bit heavy

Trek has shown that quality doesn't have to cost a fortune with its Circuit bibs that we felt warranted a place among the best cycling shorts as a great budget option, but with one caveat – that they are for shorter rides only.

That's the trade-off here and why Trek is able to market them at a much more affordable price point that is almost a third cheaper than some of the alternatives in this list, such the five-star-rated Assos Mille GTO C2. 

These are a no-frills option, but one which also has no obvious flaws. A well-constructed and well-fitting fabric offers no aero claims and we felt it was slightly on the heavier and roomier side. You can notice the lack of flatlock seams upon inspection but these caused no objections once we were wearing the garment. 

Trek uses recycled plastics in the creation of the nylon it uses and these shorts are Bluesign approved, which is a promise of a safe production chain, as well as meeting STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX, which certifies the safety of the final product.

For the chamois, Trek uses a simple proprietary design that does not shy away from the fact that it isn't going to offer long-ride comfort. In fact, in an unusually transparent marketing move, Trek specifically states these shorts are for rides up to 2.5 hours – and we discovered that was exactly right. Under the limit, the lightweight pad did a decent job but as soon as we went over it, we started to experience discomfort. 

If you are just getting started in cycling or you regularly ride shorter distances, Trek is offering a great option. They look great, they feel pretty good, and they do exactly what they say they will. 

Check out our full review of the Trek Circuit bib shorts for a more complete overview.

Black Albion Cycling ABR1 Bib Shorts seen from a side view

(Image credit: Nick Odantzis)
The best bib shorts for longer-legged riders

Specifications

Materials: Main 80% recycled nylon, 20% polyester | Mesh 73% recycled nylon, 27% recycled elastane
Pockets: 0
UV protection: Unpublished
Multiple chamois sizes: No
Colours: Black, Navy, Slate

Reasons to buy

+
Superlative Elastic Interface pad
+
Generous leg length
+
Good range of colours
+
Premium feel
+
Made from recycled materials

Reasons to avoid

-
Could be a little tighter at the leg gripper

These ABR1 bib shorts from Albion earned a five-star review from us, thanks to their excellent fit and feel, the superlative Elastic Interface chamois, and the fact that they're made from recycled materials. They're designed to be worn for endurance rides lasting seven hours or more.

We found the leg length to be extraordinarily generous, which is great for the long-legged cyclist, or those who seek more coverage. But if you're not into your bibs grazing your knees, then Rapha shorts in the regular length come up shorter. 

The Liège HP Men chamois from Elastic Interface featured on the ABR1 was one of the best we have tried. It has a mixed-density construction, offering extra support in the areas that need it most, while a central perineal channel eases pressure on the urethra and improves blood flow to the area.

We found the fit to be close, but not race-level close, and the material felt luxurious against the skin. There aren't many panels in the pattern, and seams are flatlock stitched to help prevent chafing. Meanwhile the four-way stretch material move freely with our legs, making them supremely comfortable to ride in.

Our only gripe about the fit was concerning the silicone leg gripper, which was slightly loose around the bottom of the quadriceps.

Check out our Albion Cycling ABR1 review to see why we rate them.

Women's Castelli Premio Black bib shorts modelled in front of a brick wall

(Image credit: Mildred Locke)
The best cycling shorts for seam-free comfort

Specifications

Material: Forza fabric with 38% Lycra content
UV protection: Unpublished
Pockets: 0
Multiple chamois sizes: No
Colours: Black

Reasons to buy

+
The only seam is at the back of the thigh
+
Progetto X2 Air chamois
+
Tags on bib straps add just enough structure

Reasons to avoid

-
Fabric isn't soft
-
Short bib straps will be a challenge for tall cyclists

Castelli's Premio Black bib shorts marked a departure from the traditional knitted fabric that often makes up the majority of bib shorts, including the other Castelli shorts in this list, in favour of woven. What this actually means is you get an ultra-thin and lightweight fabric that is still opaque, feels somewhat papery against the skin, and does an impeccable job of moisture-wicking. These are yet another excellent option for riding in the height of summer.

We've tried both the men's and women's versions and were hugely impressed. Castelli's Progetto X2 Air Seamless chamois is arguably one of the best on the market, while the garment has minimal seams for a comfortable second-skin fit. We found the fit to be even better than Castelli's usual high standard, with a bit of extra width in the panels between legs and no hard-to-slide-on silicone grippers.

For a more in-depth look, read our Castelli Premio Black bib shorts review.

Velocio Luxe Bib Short

(Image credit: Josh Ross)
The best bib shorts for a luxury feel

Specifications

Materials: 62% Polyamide / 38% Elastane
Pockets: 0
UV protection: Unpublished
Multiple chamois sizes: No
Colours: Navy, Black, Charcoal, Black Cherry, Dark Olive

Reasons to buy

+
Quality of the fabrics
+
Simple yet effective design
+
Minimal logos
+
Women's Fly-Free version is excellent for nature breaks

Reasons to avoid

-
Price may be hard to swallow for some

They've got 'luxury' in the name, and as soon as you get your hands on a pair, you'll see that luxury is what these bib shorts are about. Before you baulk at the price, it's worth noting that Velocio creates its own pattern designs from scratch, unlike many brands that buy an off-the-shelf pattern to begin with. This means the brand has full control over how it wants its garments to look, feel and perform, and a lot more time and effort goes into it.

The fact is, these bib shorts feel soft to the touch, they're made with high-quality materials, and are extremely well thought-out for all riders, and we found that they perform well over long-distance rides.

The slim-cut bibs provide a pleasant amount of compression, which supports your muscles and prevents them from becoming fatigued after hours in the saddle, while the fabric also has a lot of give so you won't be victim to the 'sausage legs' phenomenon.

For women riders, the female version of these bib shorts come with the brand's proprietary Fly-Free feature, which makes nature breaks a breeze and doesn't require any undressing. 

Check out our review of the Velocio Luxe bib shorts for more info.

Velocio Concept bib shorts modelled in front of gravel track

(Image credit: Rich May)
The best cycling shorts for a blend of performance and comfort

Specifications

Materials: 70% Polyamide / 30% Elastane
Pockets: 0
UV protection: Unpublished
Multiple chamois sizes: No
Colours: Navy, Black

Reasons to buy

+
Supremely comfortable on the bike
+
Well made
+
Perfect leg length

Reasons to avoid

-
Bib shorts have a compressive fit in areas that don't need compression

The concept behind Velocio's Concept range is to create cycling kit without limits, that ticks all the performance boxes and remains comfortable enough to wear all day. All this while committing to sustainable production as Velocio does, seems to be a tall order, but delivers remarkable results. The Concept bib shorts feature a multi-panel construction which provides an compressive finish and a pre-shaped race fit much like the Luxe model for comfort on the bike. 

The slightly ribbed fabric delivers the compression, while a soft and breathable rear panel helps to shed heat when the mercury rises. The wide straps prevent bunching and chafing, and there are reflective logos on each thigh to help with on-road visibility.

Most importantly, the Concept bibs come with Velocio's proprietary chamois, with its contour-shaped high-density foam, aerated base and anti-vibration inserts. The shorts incorporate a floating design to suspend the padding to reduce chafing and work alongside a more natural pedalling motion.

Read our Velocio Concept bib shorts review to learn why we rate them.

Ale PR-S Master 2.0 in black modelled on a light grey background

(Image credit: Josh Ross)
A great bib short for if you want something from a smaller brand

Specifications

Materials: Polyamide, polyester, elastane
Pockets: 0
UV protection: Yes
Multiple chamois sizes: No
Colours: Grey, white, yellow, blue

Reasons to buy

+
Comfortable bib straps
+
Reflective details
+
Exceptional fit
+
Flattering design details

Reasons to avoid

-
Chamois isn't dense enough under the sit bones for the longest rides

Alé is a slightly lesser-known brand among those listed here, but don't let that put you off. The PR-S Master 2.0 bib shorts come with bags of style as well as performance. They fit exceptionally well, offering supportive compression but without being a struggle to put on.

Whereas some shorts require a lot of stretching and pulling to adjust the fit properly over the first couple of miles, we found these just fell into place right away and, once they were in place, they stayed right where they should be. The straps in particular were excellent for this. Alé has nailed the strap design, which leads down to a suitably high waist. There's a mesh structure at the waist that remains compressive and comfortable throughout the ride.

Having spent many hours on the chamois, we recommend these for rides that fall within three hours or less, as the thinness of the chamois began to wear after that point. For longer rides try something like the Albion ABR1.

Read our Alé PR-S Master 2.0 bib shorts review for more information.

Gore Wear Long Distance Bib Shorts+ modelled against a corrugated metal backdrop

(Image credit: Josh Ross)
The best bib shorts for longer summer rides

Specifications

Materials: 71% Polyamide, 29% Elastane
Pockets: 1
UV protection: Unpublished
Multiple chamois sizes: No
Colours: Black

Reasons to buy

+
Soft-to-the-touch fabrics feel great against your legs
+
Design details do a good job creating visual interest
+
Excellent fit

Reasons to avoid

-
Windstopper cup makes little sense for summer bibs
-
Chamois is narrow at the sit bones

As the name suggests, Gore's C7 Long Distance pads are some of the best cycling shorts available if all-day comfort is the aim. When we reviewed them we found them to be easily one of the best cycling shorts on the market - both in terms of fit and fabrics used.

At their heart is Gore's Central Core Architecture, which flips typical design chronology on its head. Starting with a solid understanding of where the pad should sit in relation to the body, Gore took this and designed shorts and straps around it to keep it there. Gore uses an Elastic Interface branded chamois in these bibs, and it's a good one. Pinch it between your fingers and you can feel how dense it is.

The C7 Long Distance sits in the middle of the three-strong C7 range, above the C7 Vent, but below the higher-priced C7 Race. 

All seams are flat-locked and placed strategically to avoid chafing, and the hem of the legs is raw cut with a silicone band part-way round, which kept them in place without cutting into our thighs. They are reasonably lightweight, so are best-suited to summer riding conditions, but reflective details kept us visible when our long-distance ride continued into the dusk hours. 

Want to know more? Read our Gore Long Distance Bib Shorts + review.

Le Col Hors Categorie II bib shorts modelled on front of a brick wall

(Image credit: Ruby Boyce)
A good option for a compressive fit with an endurance focus

Specifications

Material: Main fabric: 62% polyamide, 38% elastane. Bib Uppers: 75% Nylon, 25%
Pockets: 0
UV protection: Unpublished
Multiple chamois sizes: No
Colours: Black/Black, Black/White or Navy/White

Reasons to buy

+
Supportive material
+
Comfortable chamois
+
Good leg length

Reasons to avoid

-
Material can be very slippy with some saddles
-
Pricey

The Hors Categorie II bib shorts are Le Col's endurance offering. During our review we found them to be comfortable, well-tailored for long days in the saddle, supportive and stylish.

When designing these shorts, Le Col set out to strike a balance between tempo performance and all-day cruising comfort. The shorts are constructed with a 160 GSM fabric that maintains breathability while also insulating against a chilly breeze. Wide two-way-stretch straps hold them in place, supported by a single layer of mesh at the back to aid breathability.

While many endurance-oriented bib shorts would offer a more relaxed fit, Le Col has opted for a more supportive performance-fit, as it wants to offer the best of both worlds. We found the fit to be very good, supporting without being overbearing after many hours on the saddle. The leg length is good, the straps sit comfortably without irritating the shoulders, and 12mm-thick chamois is is very comfortable.

Be sure to check out our Le Col Hors Categorie II review for an in depth look.

Sportful Bodyfit Pro Ltd bib shorts modelled on a white background

(Image credit: Josh Croxton)
The best bib shorts for maintaining connection to the road

Specifications

Material: 40% Polyamide (Nylon), 40% Polyester, 20% Elastane (Spandex)
Pockets: 2
UV Protection: Unpublished
Multiple chamois sizes: No
Colours: Black, Blue, Cacao, Red Wine

Reasons to buy

+
Comfortable over long distances
+
Good leg length
+
Good value

Reasons to avoid

-
Lack of padding plushness
-
Straps can be a pain when putting on

Sportful has taken what it has learned from the WorldTour and developed this technology to develop the Bodyfit Pro LTD; a bib short that suits both racing and long distances at a competitive price.

Using 220g Lycra, Sportful creates what it calls AeroFlow Compress which aims to improve aerodynamics while providing muscle support and compression to reduce muscle fatigue. The lightweight straps are breathable and everything is flatlocked for comfort.

The Bodyfit Pro LTD uses Sportful's Total Comfort Pro chamois, which compresses a little more easily than most of its competitors, offering a pillow-like softness while still giving enough support for long-distance riders. However, if this plushness isn't to your taste, the Rapha Pro Team II bibs might be more to your liking.

Our review of the Sportful Bodyfit Pro Ltd bib shorts has a more in-depth look.

(Image credit: dhb)

dhb Aeron

The best long-ride shorts on a budget

Specifications

Material: 64% Polyamide, 19% Elastane, 17% Polyester
Pockets: 0
UV Protection: Unpublished
Multiple chamois sizes: No
Colours: Black/Black, Black/Blue, Black/Red, Black/White, Navy

Reasons to buy

+
Comfortable
+
Value for money
+
Tried-and-tested Elastic Interface chamois pad
+
Range of colours

Reasons to avoid

-
The seam-edged straps can chafe over longer rides

DHB have been strong performers in the budget and mid-range cycling short market for a long time, and for good reason. Its Aeron range is its performance range of clothing, which comprises various bib shorts tailored to endurance, racing, XC and specific weather conditions. 

Despite those, we always come back to the classic Aeron, dhb's best-selling bibs designed for all-around use, thanks to their impressive balance of fit, compression, durability, and of course, price. 

Built around the tried-and-tested Paris HP chamois pad from Elastic Interface, they are made to last using Bluesign-approved fabrics. Despite missing out on some of the technologies you'll find on the more expensive shorts here, they don't disappoint in the comfort stakes and manage to remain enjoyable for all types of riding, on-road and off, hard and easy, short and long. 

Best cycling shorts: waist shorts

Endura Xtract Lite Short in back

(Image credit: Endura)

Endura Xtract Lite Short

Lightweight summer shorts for when the mercury rises

Specifications

Materials: 71% Polyamide(Nylon), 29% Elastane(Spandex)
Pockets: 0
UV protection: Yes
Multiple chamois sizes: No
Colours: Black/Grey

Reasons to buy

+
500 series chamois for hot weather
+
Lightweight, fast-wicking Lycra
+
UPF50+ sun protection

Reasons to avoid

-
Legs come up quite long
-
Chamois is very firm

Endura's Xtract Lite shorts are designed for hot-weather riding, constructed from lightweight and supportive Lycra that dries quickly, wicks away moisture and provides UPF50+ sun protection. Flatlocked seams prevent any kind of rubbing for a comfortable fit that also promises long-lasting wear.

They feature the brand's 500 series chamois pad, which is specifically designed for regulating heat and sweat build-up in warm weather. It comprises water-expelling foams which can improve air flow dramatically and leave you feeling cool and dry in the hottest of climates.

Castelli Entrata waist cycle shorts in black

(Image credit: Castelli)

Castelli Entrata

High-performance waist shorts with a beloved heritage

Specifications

Material: 80% Polyamide(Nylon), 20% Elastane(Spandex)
Pockets: 0
UV protection: Unpublished
Multiple chamois sizes: No
Colours: Black

Reasons to buy

+
Compression support
+
Performance fit

Reasons to avoid

-
Sizes up small

Castelli is known for its high-performance cycling kit, and these waist shorts are designed for anyone looking for an easy upgrade. The eight-panel design is constructed with Pro Dry matte Lycra, which provides excellent compression support to help reduce muscle fatigue, while allowing the body to move freely on the bike.

The brand's KISS Air2 seat pad provides the sit-bone support, which is faced with the its softest fabric and sees a seamless construction and stretch fit. This is combined with dual-density padding with variable thickness in specific zones, resulting in a chamois that eliminates chafing and supports you on the bike.

Alé Solid Corsa cycling shorts in black

(Image credit: Alé)

Alé Solid Corsa

Performance-oriented shorts with an excellent chamois

Specifications

Materials: 80% Polyamide (Nylon), 20% Elastane (Spandex)
Pockets: 0
UV protection: Unpublished
Multiple chamois sizes: No
Colours: Black/White, Black/Fluro Yellow

Reasons to buy

+
Performance-focused fit
+
Excellent low-bulk chamois 

Reasons to avoid

-
Leg bands are quite tight

Alé's Solid Corsa Cycle Shorts are designed to be perfect for cyclists of all shapes and sizes, using a multi-panel pattern with an anatomically shaped fit for ultimate on-the-bike comfort. They're performance-oriented and this shows in how well they fit, though it's worth bearing in mind that the leg bands come up a bit tight if you have larger thighs.

The chamois is Alé's 4HF seat pad, made from elastic micro-fibre for a super soft finish, and strategic padding for the vital contact points, combined with a central relief channel. This alleviates any pressure on the nerve endings and keeps the pad itself so low-bulk that you barely notice it's there.

dhb Aeron shorts in black

(Image credit: dhb)

dhb Aeron Shorts

Versatile shorts with great value for money

Specifications

Materials: 64% Polyamide (Nylon), 19% Elastane (Spandex), 17% Polyester
Pockets: 0
UV protection: Unpublished
Multiple chamois sizes: No
Colours: Black/Black, Black/Blue, Black/Red

Reasons to buy

+
Italian Granfondo fabric
+
Compressive fit
+
Ultra-high density foam insert

Reasons to avoid

-
You may want to size down to prevent the chamois from moving

The dhb Aeron Shorts are the latest evolution of the brand's bestselling line, which has been continually developed with customer feedback and hours of testing. This latest iteration is incredibly versatile and designed for all manner of riding, from racing to recreational weekenders. 

They're made using Granfondo fabric from MITI, which promises the perfect blend of comfort, breathability and compression to help with recovery. Meanwhile, the insert is dhb's Elastic Interface Paris HP Chamois, which comprises three layers of ultra-high-density foam inserts supporting the sit bones for all-day comfort.

Assos Mille GT Half Cycle Shorts in black

(Image credit: Assos)

Assos Mille GT Half Cycle Shorts

Highly capable all-rounders from indoor training to big rides

Specifications

Materials: 80% Polyamide(Nylon), 20% Elastane(Spandex)
Pockets: 0
UV protection: Unpublished
Multiple chamois sizes: No
Colours: Black, Caleum Blue

Reasons to buy

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Compressive support
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Super soft fabric

Reasons to avoid

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Pricey

The Mille GT Half Cycle Shorts from Assos are designed to be versatile, so they're ideal if you're looking for some all-rounders for all occasions. From big days out on the bike, to a quick spin around your local area, or an hour in the pain cave, they're easily up to the task.

The Type.429 Titanio fabric from which they're made is comfortable and compressive, offering some muscular support, while the 4-way stretch promises flexible movement.

The chamois is Assos' proprietary Mille Evo pad, which consists of 8mm memory foam made up of several layers to provide low-bulk support for the sit bones.

How to choose the best cycling shorts for you

What are the most comfortable cycling shorts?

This is like asking 'which are the most comfortable shoes?' to a certain extent. Everyone's anatomy is subtly different, and so not everyone will get on with the same pair of bib shorts. Some are better than others, and at the very least each of the shorts we've reviewed and listed here we've got on with. 

Instead of thinking which are the most comfortable single pair of cycling shorts, think instead on which chamois will be best for you (thick, thin, wide, narrow), how compressive a fit you'd like in the legs, and whether the straps sit comfortably. 

Moreover getting the size right is critical; too small and the legs will be too tight and the shoulder straps will cut in. Too long and the chamois pad might not be held firmly in place and could shift about, resulting in chafing and saddle sores.

Are padded cycling shorts good?

Whether you go for bib shorts or waist shorts, having the combination of the right saddle for you and a good pair of padded shorts will massively improve your riding experience. 

Sure, you might be OK with a heavily padded saddle and no Lycra, but padded saddles are heavy, and crease under your bodyweight resulting in pressure areas and the risk of saddle sores. 

They may seems like a lot of money, especially if you're just starting out, but the right pair can be truly transformative to your everyday riding, so yes, they are worth it.

How do I choose padded cycling shorts?

It is hard to advise on a chamois (the seat pad) as everyone's anatomy is different, however, certain considerations are important when deciding what may work for you. A chamois should fit close to the body with the key areas of padding located in your sit bone area when in a riding position.

It's not simply the thickness that will indicate comfort but size, shape, and density should also be a consideration.

Thicker endurance-focused pads will orientate padding towards the rear of the chamois to accommodate for a more upright position as opposed to a race designed chamois that will have more padding to the front to cater for an aggressive riding position.

Perforations and channels in the pad improve airflow and breathability to reduce heat and moisture build-up which can cause chafing. The use of antibacterial treatments keep your shorts feeling fresh.

How tight should cycling shorts be?

This is a question of personal comfort. The reason why cycling shorts are made with a figure-hugging fit is for aerodynamics – baggy material will create drag – and to ensure they stay in position while riding. This is particularly important for the padded chamois that acts as a barrier between you and the bike seat because, if this moves out of position, it can become uncomfortable. Cycling shorts often have a tight fit at the end of the legs combined with grippers that ensure they stay in place around the thigh and do not ride up. For some riders, a tight compression fit around the legs can be supportive and help to reduce muscle fatigue, but others may find this restrictive. It is worth trying a few different styles and brands to work out what suits you best – getting it right can make a big difference to your ride.

Do you wear undies with bike shorts?

Most cycling shorts are designed to be worn direct to the skin. They work by wicking away sweat, ventilating and regulating temperature, and any material – especially traditional cotton underwear that would soak up and retain moisture – would severely restrict their effectiveness. They are also fitted with a chamois that gives padded protection from the saddle and this is similarly constructed with comfort in mind to minimise soreness and chafing. Some cyclists – especially mountain-bikers who are less concerned with aerodynamics – wear thinner, padded cycling undershorts or liner shorts underneath baggier outer shorts that offer more protection from obstacles such as tree branches and bushes, as well as having pockets and key holders.

Do I need bib straps?

Is a tight fit and good quality material enough?

No matter how good the chamois is, it needs to stay in place when riding. Specifically shaped panels allow structure and stretch to be focussed where needed to achieve a close fit, offer muscle compression and utilise a material's specific properties in key areas. For example, some panels benefit from being more breathable while other parts need to be hard-wearing.

It is important to consider the properties of materials used when choosing a pair of cycling shorts. Some materials provide protection when riding in cold wet conditions while perforated mesh materials maximise cooling airflow on hot days. Materials can even be designed with dimpled surfaces to disrupt airflow for better aerodynamics. If you are a four-seasons rider, it is worth considering owning a couple of different bib shorts that suit a wide range of conditions.

Flat-lock stitching is popular on most high-end shorts as these flat seams reduce edges that can cause areas of discomfort whilst offering a smoother transition between panels to aid aerodynamics.

When it comes to cycling shorts, waist shorts are available, but bib shorts are more popular as they don't have a thick waistband that can dig in when riding, and even more importantly, they can't ride down and leave a gap between the top of your shorts and the bottom of your jersey. Instead, shoulder straps are used to hold the top of the shorts in place and keep the chamois in the correct position. These straps need to be stretchy, wide and ventilated to stop any pressure or irritation.

How do I pee in bib shorts?

There's no realistic way to be delicate here, but we're all friends so it's no problem. If you opt for waist shorts then you pee in the same way you would in any other pair of shorts, which makes life simple and is one of the reasons riders opt for waist shorts.

Bib shorts, with straps and a higher cut around the waist, makes things a little tricky. Fortunately they're all constructed from stretchy fabric, which helps with the next bit. 

Gents, you have two options; over the top, or through the leg. Over the top is almost always preferable, as rolling one leg up and exiting downwards risks completing your ablutions over your favourite pair of cycling shoes. 

Ladies, or anyone requiring a slightly more lengthy call of nature, the usual practice involves removing ones jersey first and then taking the shoulder straps down. It's not terribly dignified, and can be cold in shoulder seasons, so manufacturers have been designing cycling shorts recently particularly for women that can be pulled down without having to totally undress first.

How we test

Some issues with even the best bib shorts only come to light after hundreds of kilometres, so first and foremost we test by riding in each pair, comparing them directly to their rivals as we do so. We make sure they are comfortable across a range of riding positions, and through a range of appropriate weather conditions too to see if you're going to boil over or freeze, or hit that sweet goldilocks zone. Finally, with enough miles, we can see if they're durable enough to stand up maintain their performance not only after the first mile but for many more after that.

Josh Croxton
Tech Editor

As the Tech Editor here at Cyclingnews, Josh leads on content relating to all-things tech, including bikes, kit and components in order to cover product launches and curate our world-class buying guides, reviews and deals. Alongside this, his love for WorldTour racing and eagle eyes mean he's often breaking tech stories from the pro peloton too. 


On the bike, 30-year-old Josh has been riding and racing since his early teens. He started out racing cross country when 26-inch wheels and triple chainsets were still mainstream, but he found favour in road racing in his early 20s and has never looked back. He's always training for the next big event and is keen to get his hands on the newest tech to help. He enjoys a good long ride on road or gravel, but he's most alive when he's elbow-to-elbow in a local criterium.