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17 Best Cycling Shorts For Every Type of Rider: Find Your Perfect Fit

Looking for the best cycling shorts? Whether you’re a seasoned road rider or a total beginner to cycling, the key pieces of kit you need to get out there are pretty much the same: A bike, obvs; a helmet (safety first); and some cycling shorts.

Now that you’re as likely to see a pair of cycling shorts in Urban Outfitters as you are in the Tour De France, you might think finding the best pair is a simple mission. Not so fast. Even though they’re now a wardrobe staple for the likes of Kim K et al., the jersey bike-shorts you might find on the high street definitely aren't cut out for an intense road biking sesh. How do you know what to go for?

For instance, should you go for waist shorts or bib shorts? And what exactly is a chamois (pronounced: 'shammy')? Don’t panic – find answers all the burning questions you have about cycling shorts below, plus the WH edit of all the best pairs to buy now. You’re welcome.

Why should you buy proper cycling shorts?

First thing's first – why are decent cycling shorts worth the investment when a pair of gym leggings might do the job? Maria Olsson, Head of Design at the expert cycle apparel company Rapha, says: 'Comfort and durability are two key things to consider here. A cycling specific product (chamois or not – more on that later) is better because of the durability of the materials, especially in regards to saddle contact. Saddles can be quite abrasive and the majority of legging materials are not suitable for that kind of wear.'

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What is a chamois, and do I need one?

A chamois, also known as a pad, is the padded material in the seat of a pair of cycling shorts that keeps chafing and pain at bay while you cycle.

'If you are planning to do short rides (10 mins or so) and want versatility in using your cycling shorts for other activities, you can probably get away with using something without a chamois. But, if you're riding more or have a longer commute, a cycling short with a chamois is definitely recommended for comfort and support,' Olsson says.

Advice for beginner cyclists on buying cycling shorts

  • Only invest in key pieces of kit: You don't have to spend a fortune on kit, but a quality, comfortable pair of cycling shorts are worth the investment.
  • Get the size right: Beginner cyclists aren't used to the feel of compressive cycle clothing and it can be tempting to size up for a looser fit, says Olssen. 'I would strongly recommend you don't do this as fabrics can stretch a bit after use. This can cause problems (like the chamois moving around) and discomfort. If you are choosing between sizes I would always recommend to go for a snugger fit as it will give slightly over time.'
  • Go for kit designed especially for female cyclists: Rapha in particular has spent a lot of time problem-solving for female cyclists.'We take women's cycling very seriously,' says Olssen. 'The big thing which sets us apart is the vigorous testing we do for all of our products – we spent over 3.5 years developing our chamois range specifically for women.'

17 best cycling shorts to buy now