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, gravel grinding, mountain biking, and even for indoor cycling.
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.
Table Of Contents
Best Women's Bib Shorts Best Regular Bike Shorts Best Budget Bike Shorts Tips For Buying (And Wearing) Women's Cycling Shorts Other Ways To Keep Your Butt Happy
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.
The biggest complaint we have is that they only come in black. While black is always great, sometimes us ladies like to mix it up, you know?
Read Our Review: Specialized SL Race Bibs
Price (List): $180
Pearl Izumi Women’s Pro Bib Short
The Pearl Izumi Pro bib shorts aren’t cheap, but they sure are comfortable. There are very few seams to irritate sensitive skin, and the chamois is substantial.
The bibs are designed with cross-over straps to help taking the shorts off easier for nature breaks. They run to size and come in a nice range of sizes (x-small to xx-large).
The one thing to be aware of is that the chamois is substantial and may be too much for some. You might love the additional padding, but it does feel more like a “diaper” than some other chamois we have tested.
Read Our Review: Pearl Izumi Women’s PRO Bib Short
Pactimo Ascent Vector Bib
The Pactimo Ascent Vector Bib is our go to summer cycling bib. Thanks to the mesh upper and thinner material, this is a great choice for hot days. (And less so for cool days).
The shorts are mildly compressive but not overly so, so if you don’t like the super tight European feel of bibs like the Machines For Freedoms bibs listed above, these are a good choice. The straps are comfortable and stay in place, although there is no quick release for pee breaks.
These are a high quality bib for under $200 making them a killer deal in my book.
Read Our Review: Pactimo Ascent Vector Bib
Wild Rye Baddie Bib
Wild Rye targets the mountain bike and gravel market with the Baddie Bib, but you could wear this short on the road as well. The inseam is shorter than most so a good choice for preserving tan lines or for wearing underneath baggies.
We really appreciate the exact sizing that goes from size 0 up to a size 18, which helps in getting the perfect fit. (Though we recommend going down a size based on our experience).
The chamois is one of the best we’ve tested and terms of comfort and it doesn’t feel like a diaper. We liked the unique back design that keeps the straps in place but to the side of your boobs.
In addition to the black, the bib also comes in a pretty maroon color that includes a little bit of flair at the legs. We hope to see more prints for this short in the future.
The Baddie doesn’t have as much compression as higher end shorts, nor is it particularly potty friendly. Still, for the price, we think these are a good choice.
Read Our Review: Wild Rye Baddie Bib
Velocio Luxe Bib Short
They ain’t cheap, but if you’re an avid cyclist who lives for long hours in the saddle, the Velocio bib shorts are what you want. There’s actually nothing negative to say about these shorts other than the high price.
The material is incredibly soft, the chamois is comfortable, the strap design is our favorite we’ve tried, and the colors are rich and beautiful. The compression is high on these and may feel tight to women who aren’t accustomed to high end bibs, but trust us, you’ll end up appreciating the support.
The sizing on these shorts is inclusive, going from a XXS to a XXXL. The sizing guide is actually helpful, and the fit runs true to the chart.
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.
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.
Our one complaint is if you are wearing the shorts for multi-hour rides, the leg band can begin to become uncomfortable.
Read Our Review: Terry Bella
Samsara Performance Short
The Samsara Performance short wins in both form and function. These shorts come in adorable prints, but also have a high quality chamois and superior construction.
The Performance short comes in two lengths–9″ or 7″–which allows women to choose the coverage they prefer. Both the waistband and leg bands are comfortable and stay in place.
Something unique about these shorts is that there are two fabric layers. The inside layer is thin and mesh like and the chamois is sewn into it. This means there is no external stitching where the chamois is.
Read Our Review: Samsara Performance Short
Terry Breakaway Short
Another Terry bike short on the list! (Can you tell we like and trust this brand?!)
The Terry Breakaway is Bicycling Magazine editor’s choice and we agree with them. It’s a relatively affordable short that checks all the boxes.
Unlike many bike shorts, the waistband is extremely comfortable and does not roll down. Similarly, the leg bands don’t dig in and stay in place.
Price (list): $95
Read Our Review: Terry Breakaway Short
Pearl Izumi Attack Short
Pearl Izumi sells LOTS of bike shorts, but the Pearl Izumi Attack short is their best-selling short of all time. It’s 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.
Of course, the best part is the price. The Attack short is comfortable and well constructed, but won’t break the bank.
The are more seams and potential irritation points than more expensive Pearl Izumi shorts, so keep this in mind if you have particularly sensitive skin.
Read Our Review: Pearl Izumi Attack
Pactimo Ascent Vector Short
Like the Ascent Vector bib above, the Pactimo Ascent Vector short is a high-quality short at a competitive (though not budget) price. These are supportive without being overly compressive, so if you don’t like feeling like a sausage you’ll like these.
The Ascent Vector shorts are comfortable as well as flattering. They aren’t too short and aren’t too long, and the chamois is not too thick and not too thin. Talk about hitting the sweet spot.
Read Our Review: Pactimo Ascent Vector Shorts
Budget Bike Shorts
If you’re just getting into biking, you might not want to spend a fortune on a pair of bike shorts. Here are our favorite entry-level, “budget” bike shorts.
Balaef Bike Shorts
For a pair of budget bike shorts, the Baleaf women’s shorts perform pretty well. They are comfortable, and have a chamois that doesn’t rub or chafe. I’ve worn these on plenty of multi-hour rides and finished happy.
Where they fall a little short (pun intended!) is their durability. The fabric is thinner and the stitching inferior to higher end shorts.
Still for women wanting to try out their first paif of padded bike shorts, or needing some shorts for spin class, we’d reccomend these.
Price: $27.99 (Last updated: 2023-05-12 at 09:19 – More Info)
Read Review: Baleaf Women’s Bike Shorts
Pearl Izumi 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. It’s also great for ladies who prefer a more minimalistic chamois.
The legs grippers aren’t as good as higher end shorts, and these do end up riding up a bit. That’s pretty typical for shorts at this price point though.
Price (List): $65
Specialized Women’s RBX Bib Shorts
There aren’t many “budget” bibs around. If you want a pair of bibs under $100, we highly recommend the Specialized RBX bibs.
They have a comfortable chamois (that works even better if you’re using a complimentary Specialized saddle). The material is of good quality, and they are breathable even when hot.
I am especially impressed with the quality of the chamois in these lower-priced bibs. It is substantial but not too thick, the material is of great quality, and it is incredibly breathable which is just so important, especially on longer rides.
The only place where you can tell it’s a “budget” short is with the mesh and seams on the straps. They aren’t as high of quality or as comfortable as higher end shorts. Still, this is a great place to start.
Read Our Review: Specialized Women’s RBX Bib Shorts
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.
Options For Plus Size Ladies
For women with bigger bodies, it can be really hard to find a pair of bike shorts. Walk into your local bike shop, and it’s highly unlikely that you’ll find anything at all.
Fortunately, there are a growing number of brands offering shorts in a wide variety of sizes. To learn more about these, check out our article on plus size bike shorts.
About The Reviewers And How We Test
The shorts on this list have been tested by Stacy Smith and Kristen Bonkoski, both avid cyclists. Stacy is the founder of Sascy Cycling, and her mission is to encourage women to love their body and focus on what it can do, not what it looks like. She spends countless hours in the saddle as a leader in her local bike shop group rides.
Kristen Bonkoski is the founder of Femme Cyclist and a certified USA cycling coach. She loves biking too much to choose any one discipline and is constantly out on her road bike, mountain bike, or commuter bike. Kristen is also the founder of Rascal Rides, a website dedicated to getting more families out on bikes.
We’ve tested these bike shorts on the road, gravel bikepacking overnighters, and way too many hours on the trainer. They’ve been thru countless wash cycles and plenty of abuse. Since we ride nearly every day, we just go about our regular lives and test shorts as we go.
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.
5 thoughts on “10 Best Women’s Padded Bike Shorts (Cycling Shorts)”
Can you tell me who makes or where to find the shorts in the above image with the black chamois and purple fabric?
Do you have any recommendations for riding with drop handlebars? I had a pair of (cheap) bike shorts pre-pregnancy that I liked all but for the chamois, which definitely sat back farther towards my bum than was helpful for the leaning forward required for the handlebars.
which bike shorts with wide padding do you recommend? thx!
Hi Karen! The Bella short by Terry would be a great option for you.
I have been cycling for years … however, this year I notice my tailbone is very sore after a 30K ride. Same saddle, same bike shorts, but, new tailbone soreness!
Are there any women’s bike shorts that offer extra padding for the tailbone? I do sit back on my sits bones … isn’t helping.