How to Choose Your Ideal Cycling Shorts
Questions to ask yourself when comparing women's cycling shorts
If you have decided the extra comfort, fit and performance of premium padded bike shorts is for you, you've come to the right place.
Our cycling shorts for women include many different options, and each one of them is the right pair for someone! It all depends on what type of cycling you will do, your shape and size, and your preferences.
Start with this list of questions to consider, then use the categories and filters to narrow down the selection to only those shorts matching the features most important to you.
What kind of cycling do you do?
- Performance: ride hard, long distances (50+ miles; 3+ hours) and challenging terrain; race, tri, mountain bike. Plan to spend $100+ on a performance-level pair of shorts.
- Touring: long distances (50+ miles; 3+ hours) and multiple days in a row; bike touring with overnights away from home (and washing machine), cross country riding, centuries and life by bike. Again, plan to spend $80+ on touring shorts.
- Fitness/Fun: 10-40 miles (1-3 hours) per ride in a variety of conditions and temperatures; around town, events, group rides, commuting, bike paths, weekend outings, spinning/gym use. You can find good quality women's bicycle shorts from $50+.
Do you prefer a skin-tight or loose fit?
We have plenty of options whichever you prefer. There are different degrees of tightness and bagginess of course, so do read the product details and fit notes to find your match.
Do you prefer a longer or shorter leg?
This is often a personal preference based on what feels comfortable, what looks good on you, and the amount of sun exposure or protection you are looking for. Many of our most popular bike shorts are offered with different leg lengths, so you can get the right combination of features in a length you prefer.
How often and how long do you ride?
The more often you ride, and the longer your rides, the more important features like breathability, moisture and temperature control, and anti-microbial treatments will be. The quality and thickness/density of the chamois will also be important to consider.
Do you push yourself hard when you ride, and want your bike shorts to assist your performance?
If so, you may find cycling shorts with high compression give you the performance boost you are looking for.
Are you looking for a forgiving fit for a curvy body type?
Bike shorts with lower compression are generally more conforming to a wider range of shapes. You can also choose a size up to help a moderate compression short adapt comfortably to your shape.
Do you ride multiple days in a row?
If so, you will want to consider bike shorts in our touring or endurance category. These are made with fabric and chamois optimized for extended days in the saddle, are made to hold up to regular washing, and will dry relatively quickly.
Are you concerned with how the waist and legs of the shorts will look and feel?
Look closely at the waist construction, height, and leg gripper configuration.
- Wide, elastic-free waistbands will usually feel more comfortable, and fit more flatteringly, for more riders. The length of your torso, and your waist profile, will have a lot to do with which waistband height and construction will work best for you.
- The higher the waist band, the less likely it is to create a "muffin-top" look.
- Silicon and elastic grippers will hold the shorts in place more securely, but may feel more constrictive.
- Tighter legbands with lower compression fabric are more likely to create a "sausage" effect.
- Fabric and gripperless legbands may feel less constrictive, and avoid a pinched appearance.
Do you like to have pockets on your bike shorts?
Even if you don't plan to use them, many of our shorts offer the convenience of a place to stash your phone, keys, or card, without bulk. On the flip side, if no pockets is a deal-breaker for you, you can eliminate the ones without, and even choose between shorts with one or two, or a whole bunch of pockets.
These considerations should narrow down the choices quite a bit. Try using the filters on the category pages to see only the bike shorts that match the feature selections most important to you.
If you still have questions about which bike shorts are the right choice, reach out to our super-helpful customer service team.
Guide to Important Features of Women's Padded Cycling Shorts
Cycling short construction – how many panels?
The more panels in the construction of your cycling shorts, the more sculpted the fit becomes and the lower the potential for chafing. However, more panels also means more sewing and higher cost. Here’s the general rule of thumb:
- Performance: 6+ panels
- Touring: 6-8 panels
- Fitness/Fun: 4-6 panels
What's the best fabric for women's bike shorts?
Look for fabrics that are moisture wicking, fast drying, nice feeling against the skin. There are so many different fabric blends available in sportswear today, but they can and do differ in their levels of moisture control, texture and compression.
Performance cycling shorts typically use higher compression fabrics. The more spandex, the more compression (which can help improve muscle efficiency/recovery) and the tighter the fit of the short. Fabrics also vary based on the specific technical needs. Tri shorts, for example, require fabrics that can provide UV protection, withstand the effects of chlorine and air dry quickly.
Touring shorts really require the best moisture wicking, quick dry fabrics so you can spend all day in them, launder at night and potentially use the next day. Synthetics are used in bike shorts to aid in moisture transfer – the key to staying dry and comfortable.
Fitness/Fun shorts can run the gamut when it comes to fabric. It’s important that it has some degree of spandex so the shorts will retain their shape and it’s also important to avoid any blends with cotton (which retains moisture).
What to look for in chamois padding.
The heart and soul of any cycling short is its chamois. It’s a significant part of the construction and the cost of the short. It can make all the difference on a ride, so it’s important that you end up with your soulmate here. These are the things to consider when evaluating the differences between shorts with different chamois:
- Ventilation and moisture control (super critical for Touring). Due to proximity to lady parts, antibacterial and bacteriostatic fabric surface treatments are also important to evaluate.
- Four-way stretch that allows your chamois to move with you, providing comfort while pedaling (particularly important for long distances, high pedaling cadences and long hours). Elastic Interface® Technology is the standard and is the patented technology from Italy used in our Flex and Flex Air chamois.
- Unpadded wings reduce bulk through the center of the chamois which means greater freedom of movement and less potential for inner thigh chafing. You won’t find this anywhere other than Terry – it’s a unique feature of our Flex and Flex Air chamois on Touring and Performance shorts.
- Seamless construction (for all riders). No seams mean less irritation and abrasion. Most chamois are seamlessly molded with varying densities of foam, strategically placed for maximum comfort and support of your sit bones.
What's the right amount of compression in bike shorts?
Cyclists often find that high compression shorts help them boost performance and recover faster from intense efforts. This is because the compression can help remove lactic acid more efficiently, and by improving circulation allow more fresh, oxygen-rich blood to flow into the muscle tissue.
Achieving high compression in bike shorts means using fabric that feels harder to stretch, so there is less flexibility with fit and sizing in high compression shorts compared to those with lower compression.
A short with minimal compression is able to stretch more, and can adapt to fit comfortably for a wider range of body types and shapes at any particular size.
- When choosing bike shorts, or any other bike bottoms for that matter, it's important to take compression into consideration as well as size. In general, you can balance compression and size to get the performance you want with the fit and comfort that feels best for you.
- With a high compression option you can size up to reduce the amount of compression and still enjoy a good fit, because the fabric is resistant to stretching.
- The reverse of that applies also. With a low compression short you can size down to gain more athletic compression, while the "give" in the fabric still allows it to fit well.
How to choose the best leg banding option.
The devices used to keep cycling shorts from riding up have really come a long way. No longer do you have to accept the sausage casing look or feel. Historically, elastic banding has been the norm but there are new silicone-based grip tape, soft woven elastic, wide power lycra bands and additional gripper-free alternatives. No matter what level rider or short you’re looking for, you can find a range of options. In general:
- Gripper with silicone is the most secure, most restrictive, tightest feeling, used in Performance and Touring shorts.
- Enclosed elastic in the hemline is old school but secure, not as tight feeling. Used primarily in Fitness/Fun level shorts.
- High compression banding is found in Performance-level shorts and provides a low level of security, definitely not tight feeling against the lower thigh.
- Gripper free is now an option. The raw cut legs are designed to rise a little as you ride, giving blissful unrestricted comfort even on long rides.
Women's Bicycle Shorts FAQ
Are women's bike shorts different from men's?
Women's bike shorts are indeed quite different from men's, not just in style, but in tailoring and chamois design. Our bike shorts are made to fit a range of women's bodies, of all shapes and sizes. Women's padded bike shorts also have foam or fiber padding shaped and placed specifically for women's anatomies.
Why are good bike shorts so expensive?
When you buy top quality cycling shorts you are paying for greater comfort, better fit, higher performance and durability.
This performance is achieved with key features of better bike shorts, including the choices of fabric and chamois, the number of panels and the care taken in orienting the fabric weave in each, the quality of the seams, and materials used in details such as grippers and hems.
Sure, you can find garments sold as "bike shorts" for as little as $20. The problem is they are likely to fall apart after a very few rides and washes, and are unlikely to provide much in the way of comfort or performance at all.
Cheaper bike shorts are usually made with basic nylon or polyester. Adding fabric properties that make the shorts feel nicer against the skin, more comfortable, durable, breathable, wicking, and sun protecting, all add considerably to the cost.
Premium chamois are made with foam technology that does a better job of cushioning, transporting moisture, and controlling bacteria. A premium chamois will be more comfortable and more durable.
If you have a real interest in cycling, you'll find a premium short will give you greater comfort, and can be expected to hold up to regular rides and laundry for several years. In fact, you may find cheap bike shorts turn out to come at a surprisingly high cost over time.
Should I wear underwear under bike shorts?
Padded bike shorts are made to be worn without underwear. The chamois pad is made to cushion you, transport moisture, and discourage bacteria when worn next to the skin. Most underwear fabric is not hygienic enough, and does not wick well enough for the specialized demands of cycling. Additionally, the extra layers of fabric, hems and seams in underwear can cause chafing or abrasion when worn with padded bike shorts.
On the other hand, bike shorts without a chamois pad can be worn with underwear. If you will wear them for cycling though, a pair of liner shorts may be a better option. That way you can still get the advantages of cushioning, moisture transport and hygiene, but have more flexibility in your cycling wardrobe.
Should I use a chamois cream in my bike shorts?
We recommend not using a cream, or chamois butter, unless you have a strong preference for it. Our chamois technology is comfortable and hygienic for most riders without any additional treatment, because the pad itself is engineered to prevent the problems that chamois cream helps with. In fact, chamois butter clogs up the micro-perforations that help with moisture transport. However, many riders are used to using chamois butter, or find it helps them. If this is the case for you, go for it!