The best cycling shorts will provide a comfortable base on which you can rest your weight throughout the majority of your ride. While it helps to have one of the best road bike saddles on your bike, if you pair it with a sub-par pair of shorts you're likely to be missing out on all its benefits. A badly fitting or poor quality pair can ruin even the shortest of rides, while the best cycling shorts can leave you riding comfortably for hours on end.
A well-designed chamois (the padded insert) will go a long way to improve comfort, but it has to be supported by quality materials cut and constructed in a way that keeps everything in place. This is not only to avoid uncomfortable bunching or friction, but also to spare your blushes - and the eyes of the rider on your wheel.
Whether you opt for waist shorts or bib shorts is a personal choice, and each has its merits. Waist shorts are certainly much easier when it comes to toilet breaks, though more brands are now producing nature break-friendly bib shorts, regardless of gender. Be sure to check out our list of the best women's cycling shorts too, if it's relevant to you.
Here's our pick of the best bib shorts you can buy today, but if you're not sure what to look for, skip ahead to our guide on how to choose the best cycling shorts.
- Best cycling jerseys: long sleeve jerseys for your cold-weather rides
- Best waterproof cycling jackets: cycling jackets to keep you dry when the weather turns wet
- Best cycling socks: colourful, comfortable and cleverly constructed socks for cycling
- Best cycling base layers: : body temperature and moisture management done right
Best cycling shorts: bib shorts
Luxury by name, luxury by nature
Materials: 62% Polyamide / 38% Elastane | Pockets: 0 | UV protection: Unpublished | Multiple chamois sizes: No | Colours: 5
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 who 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 perform well over long-distance rides.
The slim-cut bibs provide a pleasant amount of compression, which supports your muscles and prevents them 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.
Castelli Free Aero Race 4
Castelli's best cycling shorts have been updated
Material: 62% Polyamide(Nylon), 38% Elastane(Spandex) | Pockets: 1 | UV Protection: Unpublished | Multiple chamois sizes: No | Colours: 4
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 their softest seat pad and the seamless design reduces the chance of chafing. Variable thickness padding provides support where needed and cuts bulk where it is not.
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.
Best cycling shorts for all-day comfort
Materials: 71% Polyamide, 29% Elastane | Pockets: 1 | UV protection: Unpublished | Multiple chamois sizes: No | Colours: 1
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.
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.
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 to keep them in place without cutting into your thighs. They are reasonably lightweight, so will be best suited to summer riding conditions, but reflective details keep you visible, should your long-distance ride continue into the dusk hours.
Assos Equipe RS S9
The Assos Equipe RS S9 cycling shorts are packed full of features resulting in race-ready high-performance bib shorts
Material: 68% Polyamide (Nylon), 32% Elastane (Spandex) | Pockets: 0 | UV Protection: UPF50+ | Multiple chamois sizes: No | Colours: 2
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. 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 has reduced points of irritation and made the shorts lighter.
The chamois is attached at the front and the back of the short which 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.
Uncompromised performance and comfort
Materials: 70% Polyamide / 30% Elastane | Pockets: 0 | UV protection: Unpublished | Multiple chamois sizes: No | Colours: 2
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 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.
Rapha Pro Team II
Rapha has designed its Pro Team II bib shorts to be as comfortable on training rides as they are high-performing in race situations
Material: 78% Nylon, 22% elastane | Pockets: 2 | UV Protection: Unpublished | Multiple chamois sizes: Chamois size based on bib size | Colours: 5
Rapha doesn't simply offer the same chamois across all sizes, instead opting for a size-specific chamois. A dual-density pad offers support to sit bones while reducing padding where it isn't needed. They also offer two leg lengths, regular and long, with 3cm difference to help find the perfect fit.
The Pro Team II features multiple bonded panels combining fast-wicking supportive lycra and breathable mesh uppers that are designed to be comfortable during high-output riding.
Best for a combination of breathability and muscular support
Material: 40% Polyamide(Nylon), 40% Polyester, 20% Elastane (Spandex) | Pockets: 2 | UV Protection: Unpublished | Multiple chamois sizes: No | Colours: 3
Sportful have taken what they have 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 they call AeroFlow Compress which aims to improve aerodynamics whilst providing muscle support and compression to reduce muscle fatigue. The lightweight straps are breathable and everything is flat-locked 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 to the comfort it offers, while still offering enough support for long-distance riders. Although this plushness might not be to everyone's tastes.
Endura Pro SL II
36 different size options make for an almost tailor made fit
Material: 78% Nylon, 22% Elastane, 32% Polyester, 45% Nylon, 23% Elastane | Pockets: 2 | UV Protection: UPF50 | Multiple chamois sizes: 3 | Colours: 1
Endura knows how hard it is to find a pair of bib shorts that fit just right which is why they not only offer their Pro SL II 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. The 700 series pad has seen an update for 2020 with improvements to foam constructions and a micro-polyester face fabric.
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 more lumber support.
The best cycling shorts for the budget conscious
Material: 64% Polyamide, 19% Elastane, 17% Polyester | Pockets: 0 | UV Protection: Unpublished | Multiple chamois sizes: No | Colours: 1
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 comfortable for all types of riding, on-road and off, hard and easy, short and long.
Le Col Pro
Pro by name, pro by nature. The Le Col Pro bib shorts are a premium, comfortable offering designed with performance cyclists in mind
Material: 80% Polyamide, 20% elastane | Pockets: 0 | UV Protection: Unpublished | Multiple chamois sizes: No | Colours: 3
Simply named 'Pro' the Le Col Pro bib shorts are directly targeting riders who are looking for pro-level performance from their riding clothing.
Featuring a race focussed cut and flat-lock construction, the Pro bibs seek to offer an aerodynamic and supportive fit. The lycra sports fibre material is breathable and should offer comfort in a wide range of temperatures.
Le Col has chosen a Dolomiti Pro Gel Chamois, using a silicone treatment and incorporating channels in the padding allows Le Col to reduce bulk and increase airflow. Mesh shoulder straps are perforated for breathability and silicone leg grippers are used to stop the legs riding up.
Assos Mille GT
The best in trickle-down tech means high quality at an attainable price
Material: 74% Nylon/Polyamid, 18% Elastane, 8% Polyester | Pockets: 0 | UV Protection: Unpublished | Multiple chamois sizes: No | Colours: 2
Assos took all the knowledge gained whilst creating its high-end bib shorts and applied the best of it to the Mille GT bib shorts, which are priced at less than half the cost of its range-topping S9 RSR bibs.
One of those is an air-cooling insert to the chamois pad called kraterCooler, meaning less heat build up in your nether-regions for increased comfort and less chafing. The pad itself is made using a three-layer perforated material which includes memory foam and cleverly-positioned seams for maximised comfort.
The construction of the shorts is given a raw-cut edge for a low-pressure fit, and the cleverly constructed Y7 Frame straps converge at the upper back to keep everything stable and secure. These straps are then finished with what Assos calls superFlat grippers, which do a very good job of keeping them in place without chafing, twisting or digging in.
Best cycling shorts: waist shorts
Castelli Entrata Waist Cycle Short
High-performance waist shorts with a beloved heritage
Material: 80% Polyamide(Nylon), 20% Elastane(Spandex) | Pockets: 0 | UV protection: Unpublished | Multiple chamois sizes: No | Colours: 1
Castelli is known for its high-performance cycling kit, and these waist shorts are designed for anyone looking for an easy upgrade. The 8-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 Cycle Shorts
Performance-oriented shorts with an excellent chamois
Materials: 80% Polyamide(Nylon), 20% Elastane(Spandex) | Pockets: 0 | UV protection: Unpublished | Multiple chamois sizes: No | Colours: 2
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
Versatile shorts with great value for money
Materials: 64% Polyamide(Nylon), 19% Elastane(Spandex), 17% Polyester | Pockets: 0 | UV protection: Unpublished | Multiple chamois sizes: No | Colours: 3
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, designed for all manner of riding, from racing to recreational weekenders.
They're made from Granfondo 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
Highly capable all-rounders from indoor training to big rides
Materials: 80% Polyamide(Nylon), 20% Elastane(Spandex) | Pockets: 0 | UV protection: Unpublished | Multiple chamois sizes: No | Colours: 2
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.
Endura Xtract Lite Short
Lightweight summer shorts for when the mercury rises
Materials: 71% Polyamide(Nylon), 29% Elastane(Spandex) | Pockets: 0 | UV protection: Yes | Multiple chamois sizes: No | Colours: 1
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.
How to choose the best cycling shorts
It is hard to advise on a chamois 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 and shape should also be a consideration.
Thicker endurance-focussed 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.
2. Material and straps
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.
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