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Best women's cycling shorts: Padded bib shorts for day-long comfort

Best women's cycling shorts
(Image credit: Velocio)

Choosing the best cycling shorts can be an absolute minefield. When selecting a pair of bib shorts to purchase there are so many different elements to look at to determine what is right for you. Pads, straps, compression and comfort all play their part, and all of these elements can be quite personal and subjective to each individual.

We've gone through and tested our picks of the best women's cycling shorts on the market. Here's the catch: what works for me as a tester doesn't necessarily mean it will work for you the user. I'm five foot three and 53kg. I've got some hips on me, and generally, I wear a size small (UK8) but sometimes a size XS for tops. In my testing, I've paid close attention to the universal elements, and we've provided some key measurements on each garment to give you a better idea for how it will work for you.

Our tip to using this guide: find your favourite (or least favourite) pair of shorts and check the measurements of those against what we list here. If you are buying your first pair, measure the width of your sit bones (the contact point for your bum on the saddle) and work from there. It's also worth noting your position on the saddle; is your weight more on the front or rear? If you sit quite far forward you will want a pad with even foam distribution. But no matter what any marketing spiel might tell you, we are all unique in our anatomy.

Alongside the all-important chamois, the other key elements we tested for was straps (comfort and placement) length, banding, and compression. Tighter compression on the hips and stomach area help with the shaping, and I tend to find them more flattering. We've also noted the front rise of the shorts, the colour of the pad, and any other details that stood out to us.

For our chamois measurements, we've measured the actual padded part, without the surrounding fabric, you can use this diagram as a reference:

Best women's bib shorts

(Image credit: Courtesy)

Where are the negative reviews you ask? Well, we carefully did our research before selecting the brands we tested, and any that we tested that didn't make the cut, we didn't publish.

Best women's cycling shorts: Our picks

Best women's cycling shorts

(Image credit: Courtesy)

Sportful Supergiara

Best for off-road adventures

RRP: £125 | Front rise: 1cm above belly button | Inseam: 20.5cm | Pad: 18 mm (thick), perforated. High density foam. (grey) | Pad measurements: Max width, length 24cm | Colours: 1 (black)

Cargo pockets
One colour only, while men's version gets four

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 an ergonomic fit, and it 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 pad extremely comfortable: it is the TC Pro Seat-Pad, its dimpled and perforated for good 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 bunching up of excess padding when riding on the drops or hoods. The straps are a wide mesh, lay flat bib-straps, and 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 in 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. 

Best women's cycling shorts

(Image credit: Courtesy)

Katusha Allure

Best for petite frame and variety of options

RRP: €180 | Front rise: At belly button | Inseam: 15.5cm | Pad: TM Armadillo very high density (purple) | Pad measurements: Max width 16cm, length 22cm | Colours: 3 current (black, black and white, grey) plus 6+ previous season

Numerous colour choices
All-day comfort
Short leg length won't suit taller riders
Narrow pad

Katusha's women's shorts are cut with a smaller frame in mind. The shortest of the shorts we measured, the inseam comes in at 15.5cm, a great option if you want a higher placement of tan line, one that stays hidden in casual clothing. The contrasting colour bands on the shorts give a lot of options for different colourways, as many from their previous seasons are also still available, giving the brand top marks for visual variety. The TM Armadillo pad is suited to longer rides, the website claims 8+ hours, and we were not let down, with one of the highest density foams on the market. The pad is a bit thicker and isn't the widest available so it might be best for women with narrower hips. The flat seamless straps remained low profile and comfortable after many hours, and moderate compression in the waist kept our core in place.

On first wear, the leg grippers were a bit tight, giving a bit of 'sausage leg' but as per instructions, a few washes eased them off. The Allure shorts are a great option for women of shorter or petite stature. Sizing runs on the small side so if in doubt, go up one size.

Best women's cycling shorts Le Col women's Pro

(Image credit: Le Col)

Le Col Women's Pro

A reliable pick for mixed weather days

RRP: £150 | Front rise: 2cm above belly button | Inseam: 19.5cm | Pad: Women's Dolomiti Pro Gel Chamois (pink) (12 mm thick) | Pad measurements: Max width 18.25cm, length 24.5cm | Colours: 2 (black and navy)

Comfortable pad
Multi-season versatility
Lack compression

The British brand Le Col makes some really popular products so we were keen to try its women's Pro bib shorts. The biggest plus of these is the super comfortable chamois (although the pink is a questionable colour option). The fabric was robust enough to be warm on a 14-degree dry day, making the Le Col shorts a good option for the transition seasons. 

The shorts lacked compression though, although balanced perhaps by a more comfortable feel with soft wide straps. There is a rear embroidered logo, which I could feel on my lower back, but if you wear a base layer normally you wouldn't notice. The dolomiti gel chamois is recommended for two to three hours rides, although we had no issues with it any point in the test. If you are looking to buy just one pair of bibs, the Le Col women's pro is a great choice for a versatile pair of shorts.

Best women's cycling shorts

(Image credit: Courtesy)

Velocio Women's Luxe

Best fabric and compression from the women's focused company

RRP: €228 | Front rise: N/A | Inseam: 20cm | Pad: Velocio Signature Chamois dual density | Pad measurements: Max width 1cm, length 22cm | Colours: 5 (black, navy, dark olive, charcoal and black cherry)

Eco friendly
Nature break functionality
High price at RRP
Tight leg bands

Velocio is one of the market leader's for women's focused brands. The Luxe shorts are designed to be an all-day short, and they definitely live up to it. It's hard to even explain the fabric in words: a soft touch, almost brushed finish, the fabric feels silky, smooth and soft, while maintaining high levels of compression. We found the shorts some of the most flattering over the hip area. The design of the upper part of the shorts is unique on the market, too. 

A solid mesh front ensured no pressure on the chest, (and almost doubled as a base layer) whilst their “fly free” back design leads to ease of nature breaks. Minimal seams across the product reduce chafing points, and after a few hours, we can indeed say we had no chafing. The compression was really noticeable (a good thing) on our test rides, 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, which after speaking to them, they've mentioned they will have options next year without it, and options in multiple lengths. That said, as with most tight banding on the legs, a few runs through the wash and some extra hours on the bike loosen these up nicely. 

Best women's cycling shorts

(Image credit: Courtesy)

Assos UMA GT winter bib tights

Because winter is coming, and best be ready for it

RRP: £165 | Front rise: N/A (front closure) | Inseam: 17.5cm | Pad: UMA EVO, 8mm memory foam | Pad measurements: Max width 15.5cm, length 23cm | Colours: 2 (Black and Aubergine)

Memory foam pad
Nature break functionality

For the coldest of days, the Assos Uma GT winter bib tights are a great option to stay cosy on the bike. One of the bigger companies on our testing list, Assos was the first company to create a female-specific bib strap structure to allow nature breaks with a centre clip and a single central band that comes up and sits through the centre of the chest. The design is unique to Assos, and it has been using it for over a decade. Perhaps in the last few years, more companies have come in with specific challenges and new innovations for this, but Assos is sticking to what it knows. 

A decade ago, Assos shorts were really the only top-end shorts you could buy as a woman. These winter bib tights have different fabrics in key places, the warmest being a brushed warp-knit fabric developed to provide exceptional comfort, wick moisture, add high levels of insulation, and remain extremely flexible. It's 290g/m2, ECO water-repellent, and odour controlling. There are reflective details on the back of the legs, a great feature for the darker winter months. The women's specific UMA Evo pad is tried and tested and remains a market leader for comfort over the years. These bib tights are firmly a winter staple in any cold-weather country.

Best women's cycling shorts

(Image credit: Courtesy)

Universal Colours Mono

Minimalist styling with low profile details and seamless straps

RRP: £120 | Front rise: At belly button | Inseam: 21cm | Pad: Women's specific multi-density pad with perforated 13mm thick foam (dark grey) | Pad measurements: Max width 17cm, length 23cm | Colours: 1 (Navy)

Nature break functionality
Eco friendly
Comfortable straps
Only one colour

The recently launched brand, Universal Colours, sent us a set of its brand-new Mono Bib shorts to test. Sold exclusively through Sigma Sports, the Universal Colours range is not only Bluesign certified, its 100% recycled Italian materials, making these an eco winner. A low profile design gives a clean look, and the women's version features an open back, making nature calls a bit easier with the design. The pad near the 'nose' is sort of in a U shape, creating peripheral extra padding and a bit of movement without extra bulk.

The front waist area stays true to the low profile nature but wasn't the most compressive that we tried. The thick leg bands are made from the same material as the legs, meaning there was no 'sausage leg' effect with these, and the material was snug enough to sit tight and compress on the hip area. We found these straps some of the most comfortable, with no seams to cause pressure points on the shoulders or back. The shorts are on the longer end of the spectrum of our testing pool, but not so long that it caused any discomfort. The biggest selling point for us on these was the open back and front, super low profile strap set up. For super hot days in the saddle, when any extra material isn't welcome, the Universal Colours Mono bib shorts are a great option.

Best women's cycling shorts

(Image credit: Courtesy)

MAAP Women's Pro

A pro-level short best for taller figures

RRP: €235 | Front rise: 5cm above belly button | Inseam: 23cm | Pad: Maap women's dual density Chamois | Pad measurements: Max width 18.5cm, length 22cm | Colours: 2 (black and navy)

High front to keep the chill off
High price at RRP
Long legs not suited to shorter riders

The MAAP Women's Pro bib shorts come in at the top end of the price range in our testing pool, and it's clear this is a race-focused offering. One of the stiffest and more compressive pairs of shorts on test, the MAAP shorts feature reflective detailing and a long cut for a pro race look. The fabric feels almost like a 'softshell' material, and they back this up using a woven over a knitted fabric.

On our tests, we found no problems at all with the pad. It's a custom in-house design, with dual-density foam and more padding on the sit bones. This short is great for a taller figure, as the length was quite long for my short frame. The leg grippers were quite snug, so if you want a short that will not move on the bike, these are for you, but note the silicone gripper dots do sit into the thigh a bit. The front panel on the stomach came up 5cm above my belly button for a reference point, offering a fair amount of lower abdominal shaping.

For sizing, we found the kit a bit snug, if you are between sizes we recommend going one size up. Their team bibs  3.0 come up 1cm shorter in the leg length, so if you are petite, but keen to give MAAP shorts a try, we recommend trying this model.

Best women's cycling shorts

(Image credit: Courtesy)

Cuore Pioneer Utility

Exceptional comfort and technology

RRP: €185 | Front rise: 1cm above belly button | Inseam: 17.5cm | Pad: Embody WS-1 Chamois I multi density (grey) | Pad measurements: Max width 16.5cm, length 21.5cm | Colours: 2 (black and grey camouflage)

Comparatively short leg length

Cuore is a Swiss brand that focusses on custom projects. But the girls at WNT-Ceratizit sing the praises of their team sponsor, so we asked them to send us some shorts from the range.  The back hook for nature break functionality worked perfectly, the brushed fleece lining is soft against the skin, and the seamless legs balanced compression with comfort while managing to add in four pockets.

The Utility shorts are designed for an all-road experience, just as suitable on the road as they are during gravel adventures. The shorts have no silicone, rubber or grippers on the leg, instead relying on engineering and fit to stay in place (which they did). 

The open-cell foam, multi-density-layered pad stayed cool and fitted during our tests. The short comes up on the heavier side, great for transitional seasons, and probably not the best for the hottest of summer days, but for long hours, you can't fault these. 

Best women's cycling shorts

(Image credit: Courtesy)

No Gods No Masters Performance

Long-cut endurance shorts with feminist roots

RRP: €165 | Front rise: 1cm above belly button | Inseam: 24cm | Pad: Cytech (blue) | Pad measurements: Max width 18.5cm, length 23cm | Colours: 3 (black, bordeaux, brown)

Long legs won't suit shorter riders

Another boutique women's specific brand, No Gods No Masters is an Italian company founded in 2018 by Milly De Mori. The company is female-led and was born out of her inability to find a pair of bib shorts that ticked all the boxes for her. Instead of settling for second best, the company was created to tailor products to a women's only market. 

The Cytech U shaped tip of chamois gives great comfort in the front part of the chamois, and the pad was one of the wider ones of our testing pool: a great option for wider sit bones. The shorts are cut on the long side - the longest on the list actually - with moderate compression around the hips which held tight during our tests. The ends are raw edge, not banded with microdot grippers to hold the legs in place. The soft contrasting white mesh straps sat comfortably around the outside of my chest with no pressure points. Cytech guarantees this pad for up to seven hours, these shorts are a great choice for long endurance rides, and if you want a longer leg length.

Best women's cycling shorts

(Image credit: Courtesy)

Veloine Rocacorba

Innovative bib attachment and a flattering fit

RRP: €160 | Front rise: 4cm up from belly button | Inseam: 17.5cm | Pad: high density foam OEKO-TEX tested materials (black) | Pad measurements: Max width 16.5cm, length 22cm | Colours: 2 (Black and Aubergine)

Innovative bib attachment
High front for added warmth

Veloine is a small, boutique women's only cycling brand based out of Munich. The first thing we noticed on these shorts was the really unique cross-over front mesh panels, giving a bit of extra shaping to the lower abdomen. The shorts use microdot grippers on the leg bands and the straps are wide positioned to fit close around the outside of the bust. 

Veloine, as a company, only started in 2019, and the range is small but specific. The stand-out element for us on these was the length and the fit: the 17.5cm inseam is right in the middle of the range of what we tested- and we think hits the perfect spot. The pad is breathable and bacteriostatic covered, perfect for long rides, using high-density foam.

The microdot grippers, although a tiny bit snug, held the shorts firmly in place without creating 'sausage legs'.

Best women's cycling shorts

(Image credit: Courtesy)

Cafe du Cycliste Adrienne 3/4 bibs

The best pick for Autumn, mild Winter and early Spring rides

RRP: €195 | Front rise: At belly button | Inseam: N/A | Pad: Cytech (Red) | Pad measurements: Max width 18.5cm, length 22cm | Colours: 2 (navy/blue, black/grey)

Clever front closure

As the weather is changing we were keen to include some different length products, and the Cafe du Cycliste 3/4 bibs fit the bill for the best chilly weather offer.

Our favourite feature on these was the unique front closure snap, with material coming up the side panels, and the bracket on the front securing the top half in place while offering additional support in the chest area. It almost doubled as a sports bra. The warm fleece area is used solely on the shorts area, keeping a mesh backing panel on the bibs for wicking and moisture release. 

We tested these in a few conditions, and although even on the day it was arguably too warm for 3/4 tights, our upper body stayed cool and comfortable and the fleece layers provided enough moisture management to remain comfortable. The only issue we had was the fabric around the knee was a tiny bit too big for us, but as everything else was a comfortable but not snug fit, we could probably just go down a size. A great choice for a stylish look that will work across a few seasons.

How to choose the best women's cycling shorts

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. Finding the best women's cycling shorts for your body will be most dependent on finding a pad that you find comfortable. 

Luckily, many pad manufacturers are third-party so you'll find different brands using the same chamois. And most companies have a range of different options all using the same pad, so you can have some variety and range whilst ensuring performance and comfort.

It's a good idea to check the returns policies. Some of the companies have generous 'try and if you don't like' returns policies, some have crash replacement discounts and warranties. 

And lastly, wear what you like and what you like yourself in. There's absolutely nothing wrong with opting for the set of shorts that are flattering over the ones with maybe the slightly better pad. If you feel good and feel 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.