Once you start cycling for longer distances, there's a natural progression towards wearing padded bib shorts. That's because the longer we spend sitting on a saddle, resting all our body weight on our delicate tissues, the more likely it is we'll start to experience discomfort. The best women's cycling shorts are designed to mitigate this, and support our nether regions where it's needed most, while also fitting around hips and curves.
Choosing the best cycling shorts can be an absolute minefield if you don't know what to look for. There are so many different elements to consider, from chamois (pronounced 'shammy') pads and bib straps to compression and comfort. All play their part, and all of these elements can be quite personal and subjective to the individual.
Having tested many of the market's offerings, we've rounded up a list of what we think are the best women's cycling shorts you can buy today. Of course, everybody is built differently, and what works for one person may not work for the next, so while we're recommending these women's cycling shorts based on our testers' experiences, it's worth bearing in mind that your experience with them may differ greatly. Choosing cycling shorts is just as personal as choosing the best women's cycling shoes.
That's why we'd always recommend trying on a pair before you buy them, or at least buy online where there's free exchange and return postage available. If you're still unsure what to look for we've included a handy guide at the bottom of the page to answer any questions you might have.
Best women's cycling shorts
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1. Endura Women's FS260 Pro DS Bib Shorts
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
You don't have to pay a fortune to get a versatile pair of cycling bib shorts that are well-designed and thought-out. Endura's FS260-Pro DS bib shorts, for example, come with a modest price tag compared to some of the options listed here, and yet they offer an extremely comfortable fit, along with one of the ultimate things we look for in women's bib shorts: a pet-friendly design.
This has been mentioned already above, but to reiterate, being a woman out on a long road ride can be an absolute pain when you need to hop behind a bush for a quick nature break. It often involves a lot of de-layering before you can pull the straps (and everything else) down to do your business. More often than not it leaves you practically naked in a field.
So, when companies consider this and add a feature to alleviate that problem, we pay attention. Endura's solution is a zip-flap, which means you need some private time behind a hedge, you simply unzip the rear panel, do what you need to do, and then zip it back up again. All the faff is gone.
Of course, because these shorts are more affordable than some of the others listed here, they don't offer as much in the way of compression or breathability, as the fabrics are less technical. Also, Endura's chamois pads often tend to measure up a little wide compared to other brands, so this may not work for some.
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There's a small segment of summer (at least in the UK) when the temperature is sweltering and you want to wear as little as possible while out on a ride. That's exactly the type of weather that Velocio's Ultralight bib shorts are designed for. They're made from a thin, woven fabric that feels slightly papery between the fingers and offers ultra-high-gauge stretch.
Inside is the brand's proprietary EIT chamois that's luxuriously soft and contains varying foam density in strategic zones to provide support.
Velocio is a brand that has perfected the art of women's cycling shorts by adding its own FlyFree design, which essentially equates to a stretch panel at the rear, allowing you to pull the shorts down and pee, without needing to remove your jersey. It works exceptionally well.
Due to their thin and lightweight nature, we also find these shorts to work very well for indoor cycling, too.
For an in-depth look at these, be sure to read our Velocio Women's Ultralight bib shorts review.
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
Similarly to Velocio's Ultralight bib shorts mentioned above, Castelli's Premio All Black bib shorts also reap the benefits of woven fabrics as opposed to the more traditional knitted ones. In fact, it's here that the woven fabric really gets to shine.
Essentially, it comes down to having a higher density gauge, which makes the material completely opaque, while retaining stretch and reducing bulk. The resulting bib shorts from Castelli are super lightweight, thin, comfortable and deliciously airy when it's hot.
The women's Progetto X² Air Seamless chamois is great as well, with varying levels of foam density to offer targeted support where it's needed, namely under the sit bones and perineal area, without over-cushioning the soft tissues at the front that need room to breathe.
Check out our review of the Castelli Premio Black bib shorts, written by a male reviewer but with input from our female reviewer Mildred who spent several weeks riding with the women's version.
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
As one of the market leaders for women's focused brands, Velocio appears on this list more than once because its bib shorts are just that good. The Luxe shorts are designed to be worn all day, over many miles, and they definitely deliver on that front.
It's actually difficult to adequately explain the feel of the fabric: a soft touch, almost brushed finish, it feels silky, smooth, and soft, while maintaining high levels of compression. We found the shorts some of the most flattering over the hip area, while the design of the upper part of the shorts is unique on the market, too.
A solid mesh front prevents there from being any pressure on the chest, (and almost doubles as a base layer) whilst the 'fly free' back design means stopping for a quick nature break is easy. The stretch of the fabric in the rear panels means that you can literally just pull them down without having to remove the straps (and, as a result, any upper layers).
Minimal seams reduce chafing points, which is something we can confirm from long days in the saddle. The compression was really noticeable on our test rides (which is a good thing), giving support to key muscle groups and keeping everything feeling fresh with good blood flow.
The pad is the company's Signature chamois, the latest iteration is a dual-density pad, incorporating an anti-vibration super-high-density layer with a supportive high-density layer to create all-day comfort and support. The only minus to the shorts was the smidge too tight banding on the legs- we noticed mainly on our first ride, after speaking to them, they've mentioned they will have options next year without it, and options in multiple lengths. That said, as with the tightest banding on the legs, a few runs through the wash and some extra hours on the bike loosen these up nicely.
While it was written by a male tester, it's well worth checking out our review of the Velocio Luxe bib shorts, as our female tester Mildred has covered many miles in the women's version of these shorts, and agrees with everything in there.
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Reasons to avoid
Those days when it's chilly in the morning, but once the sun breaks through and you've climbed a hill or two, you start peeling off layers, that's what the Assos Women's Dyora Spring/Fall RS Bib Shorts are designed for. Also working well with some of the best leg warmers.
The outer fabric is Assos' proprietary Osmos Heavy textile, which acts as a shell that offers compressive support, while inside the leg is lined with low-bulk fleece for added warmth.
A highlight is a chamois pad, made from Assos' superAir microShock foam, an 11mm-thick foam with a perforated fabric layer for breathability and vibration damping, topped with a foam layer with large perforations. A neat addition is what the brand calls its goldenGate technology, where the sides of the pad aren’t sewn into place, keeping this sensitive area completely seam-free.
Our reviewer Mildred, who's on the round side, found the Assos Dyora bib shorts to be curve-friendly. The leg is relatively long, sitting just above the knee on her small 5'2/156cm frame.
For more details, head over to our Assos Women's Dyora Spring/Fall RS Bib Shorts review.
6. Rapha Women's Pro Team Powerweave Bib Shorts
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Reasons to avoid
Rapha’s Pro Team Powerweave Bib Shorts are the top-end race-ready offering. They are constructed from the brand’s proprietary Powerweave fabric, which is woven rather than knitted (the more traditional material for bib shorts), similarly to the Castelli and Velocio Ultralight shorts listed above.
From experience, we've found them to offer decent compression, supporting fast recovery and helping to prevent fatigue, while there's a lot less bulk to weigh you down on race day. Since they are designed for high-intensity race efforts in summer, they offer high breathability and moisture wicking. In fact, Rapha claims they wick away moisture twice as fast than with knitted fabrics, and while we can't quantitively confirm or deny this, we definitely found them to manage sweat build-up really well compared to other shorts we've tried.
Other features include ergonomic laser-cut bib straps, an integrated radio pocket, and a brand new race chamois pad that Rapha says is more breathable, quicker drying, slimmer and lighter than its predecessors.
However they are incredibly expensive, so think of them as more of a long-term investment in your racing success.
7. Sportful Supergiara
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
The Sportful Supergiara bib shorts are tailored with off-road and gravel rides in mind while staying in line with the road heritage. The company claims they provide an ergonomic fit, and this was definitely true. When we talk about ergonomics, these shorts are designed to be comfortable and correctly fitted when in a gravel cycling position. Sportful has gone all-in on this, meaning the shorts, unfortunately, do lack a bit of comfort when off the bike (if that is important) but are engineered to sit close to the body on the bike.
We found the TC Pro Seat-Pad extremely comfortable, with its dimpled and perforated surface offering great moisture management, allowing airflow to keep the pad relatively dry and in turn stopping any irritation. The pad has a slight taper on it, which will stop the bunching up of excess padding when riding on the drops or hoods. The straps are a wide mesh, lay flat bib-straps, and are quick-drying, but their placement anchoring near the centre of the stomach could be an issue for larger bust sizes. The outer leg pocket was super handy, adding a nice element of accessibility beyond the three jersey pockets I had, and the reflective detailing is well placed, modest but effective. The fabric is on the stiffer end of what is on the market, due to its abrasion resistance, but if you are looking for a well-priced, versatile, off-road short that can take a beating, these bibs are for you.
How to choose the best women's cycling shorts for you
What are the key things to look for in women's cycling shorts?
The decision doesn't have to be a stressful one, once you know what you're looking for. When choosing the best cycling shorts for you, first consider what you'll be using them for.
For example, if you're a long-distance rider and likely to be spending all day in the saddle, you should look for shorts with an endurance-focused chamois pad that can support your nether regions for hours on end without chafing or moving around too much.
If you're out for hours at a time, you'll likely need to take a pee break occasionally, so consider a pair of shorts with pee-friendly design features, to avoid having to undress behind a hedge.
If you are more of a fairweather cyclist, you can get away with minimal design features as long as the fabric is thin and breathable, whereas if you ride year round and plan to wear shorts through spring and autumn, look for added warmth, like a fleece lining and thick fabric.
If you're training hard, look for a pair of shorts that offer a decent amount of compression, which helps keep the blood flowing to your leg muscles and makes for an easier recovery.
This should hopefully give you a starting point to think about what it is you specifically need.
Do my shorts need to have bib straps?
Most cycling shorts will come with bib straps as they really help shorts stay in place whilst cycling and lend additional support. There are riders who do prefer regular lycra or fabric shorts and this is fine too. Non-bib shorts also make toilet breaks a little easier.
See what works for you, but should you prefer non-bib shorts several brands make regular lycra cycling short options
Do I need a chamois pad?
Not everyone needs a pad, and it's a very personal choice. More often than not, women who cycle long distances or spend at least several hours on a saddle prefer some padding to help with comfort and support, however, there are some who thrive without them. It depends largely on your individual anatomy and preferences.
If you decide you want to at least try riding with padded shorts, finding a chamois pad that works for you could dramatically increase comfort whilst cycling. The best thing you can do is try a few different brands and see what feels right to you. It's a good idea to check the returns policies, as some companies allow you to return a product if you don't like it, which gives you the option to try lots of options before you commit. Some will also have crash replacement discounts and warranties.
If you've been cycling for a while and have a pair of shorts you are super happy with, stick with that company, or at least that pad. Luckily, many pad manufacturers tend to be third-party, so you'll find different brands using the same chamois. Most companies have a range of different options all using the same pad as well, so you can have some variety and range whilst ensuring performance and comfort.
How tight should women's cycling shorts be?
The best women's cycling shorts should be skin-tight but not uncomfortable. You want to be able to breathe, and you don't want to be cutting off your circulation or experiencing bulging 'sausage legs'. However you also don't want them to be too loose, otherwise, the chamois pad is more likely to shift from side to side as you pedal, causing unwanted friction and making it more likely that you'll develop saddle sores.
If you measure up between sizes, it's the best bet to go for the smaller size, however, if you're unsure you should always try them on first before you commit, so either visit your local bike shop or check different companies' returns policies first.
Do you wear underwear beneath cycling shorts?
Absolutely not! It may seem strange if you're new to cycling shorts, but one of the key jobs of the chamois pad is to absorb and wick away moisture, keeping your downstairs area clean and free of harmful bacteria build-up. If you wear underwear underneath, then the chamois cannot do its job, you'll experience more sweating and bacteria as a result of the extra layer, and are at a higher risk of developing saddle sores and/or a yeast infection.
What's more, the best women's cycling shorts are usually designed with minimal seams to prevent any rubbing or friction. Adding elasticated underwear into the mix will likely cause irritation.
Why does cycling hurt your bum?
When you think about it, it makes a lot of sense that you might feel sore downstairs after a day on the bike, because you're resting all your body weight on a small object (your saddle). There are so many reasons you could be experiencing discomfort, so if this is a real problem for you, we'd, first of all, recommend you check out our saddle sores feature, which details how to prevent and treat all undercarriage-related discomfort.
It's also worth mentioning that if you are struggling to achieve comfort on the bike investigating a bike fit may help correct some positional issues that are causing discomfort as this may not wholly be down to just the shorts you are wearing.
Wearing padded shorts can help ease this discomfort, as it creates a cushioned barrier between your sensitive skin and the firm surface of a saddle. This pad is called a chamois (pronounced 'shammy') and there are lots of different types to choose from, depending on which brand and style of women's cycling shorts you opt for.
It's also down to your choice of saddle, so be sure to take a look at our guide to the best women's road bike saddles too.
I'm overwhelmed by all the choices. How do I choose the best shorts for me?
If all else fails, wear what you like and what you like yourself in. There's absolutely nothing wrong with opting for the shorts that are flattering over the ones with maybe the slightly better pad. If you feel good and confident, you will want to spend more time on the bike, and ultimately that's the goal. There are enough high-end women's cycling shorts out there that performance, comfort and style can all work hand in hand, and at least we can know it's not our shorts stopping us from going the distance.
For information on Cyclingnews' testing protocol and how our scoring system works, see our how we test page.
Mildred has been testing women's cycling kit for around six years, and has tried out offerings from a huge variety of brands. She's an all-round cyclist who dabbles in road, gravel, mountain biking and bikepacking, and has a keen eye for what matters when it comes to women's specific cycling kit.
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Mildred joined as Reviews Writer for Cyclingnews and BikePerfect in December 2020. She loves all forms of cycling from long-distance audax to daily errand-running by bike, and does almost everything on two wheels, including moving house, and started out her cycling career working in a bike shop. For the past five years she's volunteered at The Bristol Bike Project as a mechanic and session coordinator, and now sits on its board of directors.
Since then she's gone on to write for a multitude of cycling publications, including Bikeradar, Cycling Plus, Singletrack, Red Bull, Cycling UK and Total Women's Cycling. She's dedicated to providing more coverage of women's specific cycling tech, elevating under-represented voices in the sport, and making cycling more accessible overall.
Height: 156cm (5'2")
Rides: Stayer Groadinger UG, Triban RC520 Women's Disc, Genesis Flyer, Marin Larkspur, Cotic BFe 26, Clandestine custom bike