best cycling shorts

Best Cycling Shorts for Road Biking [2017 / 2018]

Cycling shorts are an important and functional piece of your cycling clothing that help you to ride in comfort for longer periods. The best cycling shorts do this by replacing your normal underwear with comfortable form fitting materials and a pad to sit on.

If you do not have road biking shorts among your cycling apparel then we strongly advise you to invest. You will really appreciate the difference. Bicycle shorts one of your most important cycling clothing items.

In this article we will show you the best options available for mens padded cycling shorts and ladies cycling shorts as well.  Then learn about the quality criteria used in this review article in How To Choose The Best Cycling Shorts For You.

And also see our other reviews of these road biking gear: Pedals, Shoes, Shorts, Wheels, Tires and Handlebars.

Quick Answer: Best Cycling Shorts

  1. Btwin 500
  2. Pearl Izumi Women’s Quest
  3. Endura Firefly
  4. Santini Mago
  5. Santini Photon 2
  6. Giro Women’s Chrono Expert
  7. Castelli Free Aero Race

Best Cycling Shorts

 Btwin 500Pearl Izumi Women’s QuestEndura Firefly
editors choice


Material & PaddingBody: 80% Polyamide / 20% Elastane
Padding: 82% Polyester / 18% Elastane
Body: 88% nylon 12% elastane
Padding: Polyester / Cotton Blend
Body: Poly/Nylon
Padding: Endura's 200-Series molded 3-D CoolMax chamois (non-removable)
Mens or WomensMensWomensMens
Special FeaturesSpace-age materials for dry wicking and performance Durable, practical, comfortable pad for womens anatomy and ride postureSide-entry non-zippered pockets, easy front zipper access
Customer RatingsNew Item4.4 / 5.0 Stars4.4 / 5.0 Stars


 Best Cycling Shorts Reviews

#1 Btwin 500

A cheap and cheerful pair of shorts for shorter rides, commuting or training sessions. Intended for three season use, you will be comfortable wearing these shorts in all temperatures and weathers outside of winter.

They wick sweat away well and dry fast. Pair them with some leg warmers on cooler days. The medium-density pad is antibacterial. It does feel a bit thick at first but will break in with time.

You can wear these shorts for short training sessions, to comfortably get to work, or on approximately 50 mile rides. If you are looking to embark on longer rides, you should look elsewhere.

#2 Pearl Izumi Women’s Quest

Designed for and loved by entry level cyclists, the quest shorts will keep you dry and comfortable as you make the transition from light recreational riding to longer days in the saddle.

The six panel design allows you to move easily and the rear waistline sits high. The Select Transfer Dry fabric ensures that sweat is moved away from your skin and can evaporate quickly.

best cycling shorts

Despite the top notch performance and ability to keep you comfortable for many hours in the saddle, the Quest shorts do not have a huge price tag.

The performance and great price mean that these shorts are very popular women’s padded bike shorts, and worn by commuters and serious hobby riders alike.

Sizing does come up a bit tight on the legs, so take this into consideration when choosing your size.

#3 Endura Firefly

A baggy option if you do not want to wear skin tight shorts. Although the Firefly shorts are technically for mountain biking, their light weight and comfort makes them popular among road cyclists too.

A padded liner is included. It has an antibacterial treatment to keep it fresh but otherwise is really only an entry level pad. It is fine for commuting or short rides. Eventually you will want to replace it with a higher quality pad.

The waist of the outer short is elasticated so will stretch to your form. There is a pocket on each side. All in all, the Firefly shorts represent great value for money if you want a loose fitting pair of shorts. Among baggy cycling shorts available Endura Firefly is your best choice.

#4 Santini Mago

This mid-price bib is incredibly comfortable and on par with much more expensive padded bicycle shorts.

The Mago shorts are intended for summer and spring use. The whole construction, including the mesh shoulder straps help to keep you cool. Use these shorts in temperatures below 60 degrees and you will certainly feel the cold. In hot summer weather you will be glad to have them on.

The legs reach far down towards your knees, which along with the wide grippers is a plus for anyone who hates their shorts riding up. Although the seams are not flatlocked, Santini have managed to keep the stitching minimal enough so that it is not noticeable. There are even two small pockets at the rear to store an energy gel or bar. The outside of the pockets have reflective detailing.

These shorts truly are one of those items that you will put on and instantly forget about. The comfort of the material is matched by the high quality and best selling NAT pad. Circulation and cooling are boosted by this pad thanks to the gel core.

Everyone should be able to find a pair that fit the, as these bib shorts are available in ten sizes. That is not a typo…Santini really offer these in ten sizes!

#5 Santini Photon 2

For supreme comfort and fit on long rides, the Photon 2 bib shorts are worth every penny if you can afford them.

The fabric used for the main body of the shorts (the front and rear) is Thunderbike Power fabric. It is keeps its shape and remains comfortable while being light and elastic. The side panels in between are Eschler, which is highly breathable and also compresses slightly.

best cycling shorts

In warm weather you stay cool thanks to these materials. Further keeping you cool is the narrow back panel. When the sun is shining, the Photon 2 shorts will protect you from UV rays thanks to their anti-UV treatment.

Instead of silicone grippers on the inside of the legs, Santini have opted to use elastic to hold them in place. Silicone can become uncomfortable on long rides (4 hours or longer) so elastic is a good choice.

Santini have chosen one of the best pads on the market to use in these shorts. The gel inserts under the sit bones and multi-density foam ensure you are supported for many long hours in the saddle without being bulky like the thick padding used on lower priced bibs.

The pad is bonded to the shorts instead of being stitched, which further indicates Santini’s intention that these shorts have long ride comfort.

Overall these shorts are not cheap but they do offer market leading comfort, fit, and breathability among mens padded bike shorts.

#6 Giro Women’s Chrono Expert

The Chrono Expert use the same popular bib design as other shorts from Giro with some extra features to boost comfort. Cytech make very good women’s padded bike shorts, and the pad included in these shorts will keep you comfortable on rides up to five hours long.

The best feature of these ladies cycling shorts is the compression panel that supports your lower back. It may not sound like much but many cyclists experience pain or fatigue around their lumbar towards the end of long rides.

Elastic is used on the legs instead of silicone and there is a small storage pocket on the back.

Bathroom breaks are quick and easy with the halter design of these shorts. Just pull the strap over your helmet and you are good to go. The strap may feel a bit stiff the first few times you do this but softens up quickly. Despite where the strap rests on your neck, it does not pull or cause any discomfort when riding.

#7 Castelli Free Aero Race

If you ride a lot and can justify the price of this professional level bib, you will not regret getting a pair of Free Aero Race shorts. Developed in conjunction with a couple of professional racing teams, a lot of attention to detail has gone into them to ensure comfort.

Castelli use three different fabrics. On the sides there is Energia Micro to stretch and allow free movement, the front has Breathe Micro to ensure you stay cool, and the seat has the harder wearing Action Micro.

It is all held together with as few seams as possible. On the inner thigh there are no seams to eliminate any chance of chafing. This is a super important design consideration for mens padded cycling shorts.

The straps are spaced as widely apart as possible. This serves two purposes; allowing as much airflow and allowing free movement. The wide leg grippers do not use silicone and like the rest of the shorts will keep you comfortable for a long hours in the saddle.

In the seat of the shorts you will find Castelli’s best pad, the Progetto X2 Air. This pad uses a two layer design. The top layer is made from breathable foam and the lower layer is padded for comfort. The two layers are not bonded and can slide over each other allowing you to move freely.

As these shorts are used by professional racers, it comes as no surprise that they will keep you cool and comfortable on long rides and races. This comes with a fairly hefty price tag but if you ride a lot and need a top end pair of bib shorts to achieve your goals, then look no further.

How To Choose the Best Cycling Shorts For You

Now that we’ve looked at some of the best bike shorts on the market, now we can see the decision criteria we used for the best biking shorts chosen.

Among popular bike clothing there are a few different designs and styles of bike shorts available, as well as differences in materials used and price. Let’s dive in and look at everything that needs to be considered when looking for a new pair of cycling shorts.

Best Cycling Shorts – Style

Most road cycling shorts (and road cycling pants) are usually skin tight for better aerodynamics. Tight shorts end either at the waist or are bib shorts with straps that go over your shoulders. The latter offers more comfort when spending long hours in the saddle, as there is no elasticated waistband that can dig in. best cycling shorts

The disadvantage of bib shorts is that they make bathroom breaks more tricky. They are also more difficult to put on.

Some road cyclists do choose to wear baggy shorts, or shorts that are at least looser than the tight versions. This is fine if you are not bothered about a bit more wind resistance and a few milliseconds added to your ride time.

Best Cycling Shorts – Cut

A good pair of cycling shorts will have a cut that is higher on the back than on the waist. This may feel strange the first time that you try them on, but when you are on your bike in the riding position it will be comfortable. The multiple panels of material used are arranged to fit and move with your body on the bike.

Best Cycling Shorts – Material

A variety of synthetic materials are used in cycling shorts, usually a blend of lycra and nylon. There are different weights of lycra available with different levels of stretch. Depending on the blend used, the shorts may squeeze more or less.

best cycling shorts

Some believe that a certain amount of compression is good for your muscles but there is no consistent evidence to back this up. There is no harm in trying it out to see if it works for you though.

Regardless of the material and blend used, the best cycling shorts for your preferences should have wicking properties to move sweat away from your skin to the outer layers of the material where it can evaporate. This keeps you cool and dry.

It is usual to find grippers, often made of silicone or elastic, on the inside of the legs and waist. These help keep everything in place. Other features you may find are reflective details and mesh at the back to aid ventilation and cooling. Some shorts also have UV protection.

Best Cycling Shorts – Seams

Holding it all together is the stitching. The last thing anyone needs on an item of sports clothing is stitching that either digs in or rubs when you move. Most shorts have flatlock seams whereas others may have a neat seam that does not stick out.

Check your new shorts before wearing them for any mistakes on the stitching or seams that look like they will cause irritation.

Best Cycling Shorts – Padding

Also known as the chamois, the padding is the heart of the best padded bike shorts, and the main reason why they are comfortable to ride in. The padding creates a cushioning layer between your body and the saddle that relieves a lot of pressure and abrasion.

Consequently you can ride in comfort for longer than you can without padded cycling shorts. There are many types of pads. Thick, thin and everything in between can be found. As a general rule, for endurance riding a thicker pad is better with denser foam at the rear.

best cycling shorts

In the best cycling shorts for short races more padding is needed at the front, as this is where most pressure will be when in a low racing position. Getting the right thickness and type of pad is the key to comfort.

Pads are also breathable, wick sweat away and may have an antibacterial treatment. Not all pads are made equally so do your homework before purchasing. Even if your shorts have antibacterial treatment, you should still wash them after every use.

You can find men’s and women’s specific pads that cater to our anatomic differences. Women’s shorts often have an inbuilt solution to make bathroom breaks easier.

Best Cycling Shorts – Price

While a cheap pair of shorts will certainly get the job done, spending more will get you shorts with more panels for a better fit, a higher quality pad, and better materials.

This does not mean that you have to break the bank but it is something to consider depending on how much riding (frequency and duration) you intend to do.

Thanks for reading. If you want to get in touch with us or have comments use this contact form.

We hope that this article helped you to determine the best padded bike shorts for you.  Have fun and be safe out there!

 

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About El Tigre

Richard M. aka El Tigre is an avid adventure traveler with extensive trekking experience throughout Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean. In 1998 he weathered category 5 Hurricane Mitch on the northern coast of Honduras. He has mountain-biked, hiked and 4x4 toured extensively in Central America, Puerto Rico, Cuba and Mexico. In the summer of 2004 he lived among the Kuna Indians of the San Blas islands in Panama. Today, he manages a real estate investments company based in San Jose, Costa Rica and organizes adventure travel excursions to Costa Rica. He is a motorcycle enthusiast and enjoys sport touring and dual-sport riding. Richard lives in Arizona.

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