Whether you’re ready to invest in your first pair of bike shorts or simply need to add another pair to your expansive cycling wardrobe, we’ve rounded up the best cycling shorts for women. A good pair of padded bike shorts can make a world of difference, allowing you to ride longer in comfort and to avoid chafing and saddle sores.
The bike shorts on this list can be used for road cycling, commuting, mountain biking, and even for indoor cycling. If you prefer a pair of baggy shorts instead, check out our article on the best Mountain Bike Shorts for women.
We’ve also grouped the shorts into two categories: bib shorts and traditional shorts. Not sure of the difference or which you should pick?
Keep scrolling. At the end, we have some tips on what to look for in a cycling short and how to make the best purchase for yourself.
Womens Bib Shorts
Women who swear by bib shorts won’t choose anything else. Women who are afraid of bib shorts due to the pee-trap factor, rest easy. We’ve picked bibs that are easy to get in (and out) of.
Specialized SL Race Bib Shorts
When we asked the Femme Cyclist Community which bibs they preferred, the Specialized SL Race came out as the resounding winner. Why?
The magnetic rear clip makes the shorts super easy to get out of for road-side pit stops. Women also like the compressive four-way stretch fabric and the higher cut on the belly, both of which help hold everything in.
There’s also a slightly cheaper SL bib (not the Race version), but the chamois on the SL Race is significantly nicer, so if you can afford the extra coin, I’d recommend it.
SUGOI Women’s RS Pro Bib Shorts
Like bibs but don’t like trying to figure out how to stop for a pee break in them? The Sugoi bib solves this problem with their patent-pending “Pit Stop” design. The straps detach and we found that they were easy enough to operate even in a road-side port-a-potty.
They also happen to be extremely comfortable, the legs stay put, and we didn’t have any problems with chafing. That said,our shorter testers found that the straps were a bit long, so we recommend these for average to taller height ladies.
SheBeest Petunia Bib Shorts
If you’re the kinda girl that can’t stand another pair of boring black bike shorts, SheBeest is your kinda company. Their cycling clothing is colorful and loud, and the Petunia Bib is no exception.
It has a unique halter-style design, which comes in handy during pit-stops. You can just slip the halter over your head and pull the shorts down.
The halter, while great for our shorter testers, was uncomfortable for taller women with longer torsos. This is a short we recommend for shorter riders.
The chamois is fairly thin and non-bulky. We found we liked the thinner padding, but probably wouldn’t pick it for a 100-mile day.
Traditional Women’s Bike Shorts
If you’re not sold on the idea of bibs, no worries–here’s a list of good old bike shorts. We’ve included shorts in a variety of inseam lengths, so whether you are looking for something with more coverage or some shorties, you should find a good pair.
Castelli Free Aero Women’s Bike Shorts
These Castelli shorts have my absolute favorite chamois. It manages to be well-padded without feeling like a diaper.
These are my go-to shorts for a long day on the bike. The leg and waistbands are comfortable and stay put; no annoying adjustments required.
The only thing to be aware of when ordering is that these shorts run small, so make sure to order up a size or you’ll be disappointed.
Craft Belle Glow Women’s Bike Shorts
For hot days, the Craft Belle Glow is a top-pick. The fabric is lightweight and the shorts have breathable panels on the sides. We found that these were the kind of shorts you could put on and forget you were wearing bike shorts!
While these shorts are a bit more expensive, in our experience Craft makes highly-durable long-lasting pieces that make them well worth the investment.
Price: Price not available (Last updated: 2020-09-18 at 08:45 – More Info)
Co-Op Cycles Junction Short
For curvy ladies and those with thicker thighs, we love the Co-Op Cycles (REI brand) short. It fits bigger ladies well and comes in two different versions–one with a 6.5″ inseam and one with a 9″ inseam–so you can pick whichever length you prefer.
The other really cool thing about these shorts is the side pocket that allows you to store your phone, an ID, some cash, or a gel. This is a feature you don’t usually see in road bike shorts, and I thought it was awesome to have.
Inseam: 6.5″ or 9″
Pearl Izumi Pursuit Attack Short
Pearl Izumi sells LOTS of bike shorts, but the Pearl Izumi Pursuit Attack short is their best-selling short of all time. It’s is a no-frills, get her done kinda short.
They have a nice wide waistband that stays in place and prevents plumber crack, and a comfortable chamois. They also come in a wide variety of sizes so are a good pick for all sizes and body types.
Terry Bicycles Bella Short
We don’t know anybody who has tried Terry’s Bella bike short and not liked it. From a company that designs solely for women, the Bella short is an all-around winner.
The waistband is super comfortable, the legs stay put, and the padding is magical. These shorts are also durable even with frequent wear. In fact, I have a pair that I wore for close to five years before they wore out.
Pearl Izumi Escape Sugar
If you’re looking for a “short” short, the Sugar short is one of our faves. It works well you want to wear it alone or under a skirt or gym shorts.
It’s not the best pick for LONG days in the saddle, but is ideal for spin class, avoiding ugly tan lines, and wearing under your favorite bike skirt when you want to look cute.
Price: Price not available (Last updated: 2020-09-18 at 08:45 – More Info)
Tips for Buying (and Wearing) Women’s Cycling Shorts
Don’t Wear Underwear
If you’re new to cycling, you might not know yet: you’re not supposed to wear underwear with padded bike shorts. Really.
Yes, I know that might seem weird, but trust me. Cycling shorts are designed to be worn without anything underneath and if you do wear underwear, you’re gonna end up with extra bulk, chafing, and even saddle sores.
What’s a Chamois?
A chamois is the pad inside your bike shorts. It provides cushioning and helps prevent chafing and saddle sores.
We recommend choosing a women’s-specific short rather than a men’s short because the chamois will be better designed for a woman’s anatomy. A women’s chamois is wider at the rear (because our sit bones are wider) and provides more soft tissue support.
What You Should Look for in a Chamois
If you are new to cycling, you may just assume that the more padding a short has the better off you will be. This isn’t necessarily true.
A chamois that is too bulky will feel like a diaper (not comfortable), and can actually cause rather than prevent saddle sores and other discomforts. We tend to choose a moderately padded chamois–one that isn’t too thin or too thick.
Of course, a chamois is also a highly personal thing. Some ladies like more padding, some like less. You may have to try a few different pairs of shorts until you discover the chamois that works just right for your body.
For shorter rides, indoor spin classes, and hot days, a thin chamois is ideal. For longer century rides and week-long tours, you’re probably going to want something a little thicker.
Another thing to look at it when buying a pair of shorts is the stitching around the chamois. Bad stitching can be the worst!
Look for flatlock sewing around the edges of the chamois, and feel it to make sure that it feels smooth. If you pick one of the shorts on this list, don’t worry about the stitching; we’ve already picked shorts with chamois with high-quality seams.
Bib Shorts versus Regular Waist Bike Shorts
Cyclists generally fall into two categories: those who love bibs and will wear nothing else, and those who think they’re a pain. In general, bibs tend to be more comfortable.
They don’t have a waistband to dig into your tummy while you ride, and they help you avoid that dreaded gap between your shorts and jersey where your muffin top can spill out. Plus sized ladies, in particular, tend to prefer bibs.
The one big drawback to bibs is that they are more challenging to change in and out of, and for women, make bathroom breaks considerably more difficult. That said, we’ve included some bibs on this list that have been designed to help make those pit-stops a little easier.
Leg Bands and Waist Bands
Secondary only to the chamois, leg bands and waistbands can make or break a bike short. We like waistbands that don’t cut into our skin, but that also doesn’t sag. Nobody wants plumber crack.
Leg bands are also important. Most bike shorts have a silicone leg band or other grippy material. This helps keep bike shorts in place so you don’t have to keep constantly pulling them down.
Choose Your Favorite Length
Not all bike shorts have the same inseam length. Some will hit right above the knee, and some show a bunch of thigh.
Which you should pick is totally a personal choice. Just pay attention to the inseam length when you’re shopping, if you have a preference.
Benefits of a longer short are more protection against chafing, and more protection in the event of a crash. Some women just might not want to show that much leg either.
Shorter shorts make for better tan lines and can provide additional airflow. Just keep in mind that you’re providing yourself less protection from the sun and from potential road rash.
Other Ways to Keep Your Butt Happy
A good bike short is one of the best ways to keep your bum and soft tissue areas happy, but it’s not the only way. We also recommend picking a good saddle and using chamois cream.