Whether you’re a serious cyclist who puts in the miles or a casual commuter, bike shorts can make a big difference to your ride.
Chaffing and saddle sore are no joke, and these can seriously impede your comfort when cycling.
The right pair of bike shorts will allow you to ride in comfort for longer while ensuring a streamlined fit that allows you to pedal faster.
Not sure where to start? We’ve scoured the internet for the best bike shorts for women, and have also put together a handy buyer’s guide and FAQ section.
OUR TOP PICK
These best-selling shorts are a combination of 80% Polyester and 20% Spandex for a close fit with plenty of stretch. They have a 3D gel pad to provide breathable comfort on long-distance rides, reducing the risk of chafing and saddle sores.
The interior of the shorts has a super soft, brushed microfiber layer that maximizes comfort while eliminating friction. The hem also contains silicone to wick moisture and dry quickly.
These shorts cling to the skin without feeling oppressive and will stay in place securely while you cycle. They also have a zip pocket at the back for your valuables and have reflective logos for better visibility in low-light conditions.
- 3D gel padding to reduce saddle sore
- Brushed microfiber layer for increased comfort
- Moisture-wicking and quick-drying
- Zip pocket for valuables
- Secure no-slip fit
- Reflective strip
- Pay close attention to the size chart - these tend to run small.
These 80% Polyamide and 20% Spandex bike shorts are specially designed for female cyclists and long-distance riding. They have a wide waistband that stays firmly in place and lies flat against the skin.
Their streamlined fit and flatlock seams avoid friction and irritation while providing a soft, fitted feel that allows a full range of movement and enables you to cycle smoothly and quickly.
These shorts have been optimized with a 3D gel padded chamois to provide extra comfort, while the smooth and seamless fabric between the legs reduces the opportunity for abrasion and saddle sores.
These shorts also have soft silicone grippers that hold the legs in place comfortably so you can smoothly glide while pedaling, and the reflective tabs on both leg hems offer visibility when riding at night.
- Padded chamois to provide comfort
- Flatlock seams avoid irritation
- Silicone grippers for a secure fit
- Wide, smooth waistband
- Reflective tabs for visibility
- The lighter colors are a little see-through
Made from 80% Nylon and 20% Spandex, these shorts are super durable while also providing stretch and range of movement.
The fabric is moisture-wicking, breathable, and quick-drying, keeping you cool and comfortable as you ride.
The high waistband provides a firm but comfortable fit, while the 3D stereoscopic pad made of high-density foam and silicone gel offers protection and support, without feeling like you’re wearing a diaper!
These shorts are also designed with flat seams to provide a soft and smooth fit and decrease irritation, while silicone grippers keep the shorts in place for more efficient cycling.
They also have a four-way stretch crotch with high elasticity that enables you to eliminate the risk of embarrassing rips, as well as two big side pockets and a back zipper pocket for storing your valuables.
The reflective dot design is also handy for nighttime or early morning rides when lighting is poor.
- Moisture-wicking, quick-drying fabric
- High-density foam padding
- Flat seams to reduce irritation
- Four-way stretch crotch
- Multiple pockets
- Reflective pattern for visibility
- Sizes run small - buy one size larger than you normally wear.
If you’re looking for a pair of understated bike shorts that are simple and effective, look no further than these 80% Nylon/ 20% Spandex ones from Baleaf.
The durability of the nylon and stretch of the spandex provides the perfect balance between compression and breathability, keeping you cool and comfortable.
These shorts are equipped with a multi-density 3D gel chamois insert, providing protection from your bike saddle on long-distance rides.
Soft and supportive, they offer cushioning to prevent dreaded chafing and saddle sores and allow you to ride in comfort for longer.
These shorts have an arc-shaped waistband that’s been designed to avoid ride-up while adding great comfort. The non-slip silicone grippers have been strategically placed to prevent hems from rolling up and will keep your shorts in place.
Other features include a reflective logo and flatlock stitching for less irritation.
- Perfect balance between compression and comfort
- 3D chamois insert for cushioning and protection
- Arc-shaped waistband to avoid ride-up
- Silicone grippers for a more secure fit
- Flatlock stitching
- Reflective logo
- Some users felt the padding wasn’t quite in the right place
If you’re looking to invest in a high-quality pair of bike shorts, these ones from Santic are of great quality. They’re made from 80% nylon and 20% spandex and are also anti-pilling so your shorts stay looking brand new for longer.
These shorts are ideal for road cyclists and long-distance riders, while the 4D “cool max” cushioning provides protection where you need it most, while also wicking moisture.
The waistband is semi-elastic so it fits close to the skin without being restrictive. Comfort is key with these shorts, and they’ve been infused with an antistatic agent and fabric softeners in the fiber weaving process to reduce abrasion and maximize comfort.
We love the feminine Italian ink design and the lightweight foam on the hips which provides improved fit and feel. These shorts adapt to your body shape and allow a full range of movement.
- 4D “cool max” cushioning for protection
- Anti-pilling fabric for maximum durability
- Anti-static and fabric softeners for a smoother, softer feel
- Lightweight foam inserts on the hip for a better fit
- Moisture-wicking fabric
- Some people found that these shorts weren’t long enough
- These run small, so check the size guide
If you’re looking for a pair of bike shorts that will see you through shorter rides, and you prefer a moderately padded chamois, check out these Terry Actif cycling shorts.
The mono-density perforated technology in the comfort chamois has natural antibacterial properties to provide excellent moisture management and is anatomically shaped for comfort.
These shorts also have a 6-panel flat seam construction that aims to reduce the potential for chafing while also extending your range of movement - perfect for those riding drop bars.
The fabric is 90% nylon and 10% spandex so is highly durable and also wicks away moisture. The mid-rise waistband is elastic-free for comfort, as are the leg bands so you won’t feel restricted in any way.
- Antibacterial chamois for moisture management
- Moisture-wicking and breathable
- Moderate padding is perfect for shorter rides
- 6-panel, flat-seam construction
- Elastic-free waist and leg bands for comfort
- No grip or elastic means they may roll up/down for some people
Comfort is your priority when it comes to bike shorts. The material should be soft and fit smoothly against your skin.
With athletic wear, the seams are usually flatlock to prevent rubbing and irritation. You should also pay attention to the waistband, and whether it’s a ‘compression’ one that will streamline your figure or a comfort waistband that may be semi-elastic or elastic-free.
Bike shorts often have a ‘chamois’, which is a cushioning foam that comes in various densities and provides protection against the saddle. They usually have a moisture-wicking top layer for improved moisture management and are anatomically shaped for greater comfort.
Not every cyclist needs to wear a chamois, however. These are mainly designed for those who cycle long distances, rather than casual cyclists who are riding for a shorter amount of time.
Bike shorts will nearly always contain spandex, which is what gives them the ability to extend your range of movement. They’ll usually contain around 10-20% spandex and will be mixed with another fabric.
The fabric your shorts are made from will influence the price tag. Nylon spandex provides great stretch and durability. However, nylon spandex does not transfer moisture, so it’s usually mixed with other yarns such as polyester so that it wicks moisture more effectively.
Some fabrics may have a dimpled mesh construction to make them more aerodynamic, while others will have compression qualities that may rejuvenate muscles by promoting improved blood circulation.
Be sure to check the manufacturer’s sizing guide before you click ‘buy.’ Many shorts are made to Asian rather than US sizes, and this, coupled with the naturally tight fit of bike shorts means that many cyclists find themselves having to wear a size bigger than their usual size.
Check the measurements before you purchase, and read through the reviews to find out what others said about the fit.
There are also other aspects to bear in mind that affect the fit and feel of the shorts. For example, some shorts have gripping features that prevent the shorts from rising up or the waistband from slipping.
However, others will prioritize comfort and may eliminate these features as some people find them restrictive. If you go for a semi-elastic or non-elastic waistband just bear in mind that it may not provide a secure fit.
Bike shorts usually feature panels that allow the shorts to mold to your body shape when you’re sitting on the saddle, bending over the handlebars (on a road bike), and pedaling.
It’s worth bearing in mind that the more panels a pair of shorts have, the greater the range of movement and more curvature they’ll offer.
High-end shorts may have as many as 8-10 panels, which will provide a better fit and a more natural feel.
Budget designs will have 4-6, though the stretch fabric available today means that you can still get a good fit even with fewer panels.
Just bear in mind that if you ride a road bike with drop handlebars, you’re likely to benefit from more panels, whereas if you ride in an upright position, you can get away with fewer panels.
The leg length of bike shorts can measure anywhere between 3 to 10 1/2 inches. Traditionally, these shorts were long and covered the quads to prevent the shorts from riding up and causing chafing.
However, the range of stretch fabrics and elastic leg grippers on the market means that manufacturers can now design shorter styles that still provide a secure fit.
Here are the three different leg lengths you’ll find and their main uses:
- Short (3 - 5 inches): these resemble "hot pants", so are best for cross-training, spinning, and triathlons.
- Medium (6 - 8 inches): this is the average cycling short length
- Long (9 - 11 inches): these run past the quadriceps and can be seen in European races like the Tour de France.
Men’s vs Women’s bike shorts
Men’s and women’s bike shorts differ in several ways.
The main difference is the padding or chamois used to offer protection to the crotch area.
These are anatomically shaped to suit each gender. Whereas men’s have a central panel for increased blood flow, women’s have wider support in the sit bone area and offer continual cushioning throughout the chamois.
The second biggest difference is the waistband of these shorts. Because a woman's back tapers to a narrower waist, women’s bike shorts have smaller waistbands and provide a more tapered fit just above the hips.
They will usually also have a longer inseam than men’s shorts, as women are generally longer-waisted than men.
Finally, you’ll find that women’s shorts also differ in that they’re often slightly shorter, as traditional men's bike shorts are designed to cover the quads, whereas most women prefer a shorter fit.
That said, some women will cross gender ‘lines’ and opt for a men’s style instead, particularly if they’re tall or have a muscular build. It’s important to opt for the most comfortable style for your body shape.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do women choose cycling shorts?
The whole point of cycling shorts is to improve your comfort when you’re on long-distance rides, so most women will be looking at the cushioning provided by the shorts, and, in particular, the chamois.
You can get several different types of chamois and these differ mainly in the thickness of the pad.
The different densities are designed to provide shock absorption and abrasion control while preventing saddle sore.
Those who are cycling for shorter distances can get away with moderate cushioning, whereas those who are cycling long distances will need maximum protection in their chamois.
Most women will also pay attention to the overall design of the shorts. Some women are looking for a compression fit, while others want a less restrictive, more comfortable design.
You should also pay attention to the number of panels, as the more panels the shorts have, the greater your range of movement.
Should women wear padded cycling shorts?
If you cycle for fun, or you only cover short distances when you cycle, you probably don’t need padded cycling shorts. You can get shorts that still provide the aerodynamic fit of cycling shorts, without the chamois.
However, women who cycle long distances should wear padded cycling shorts, as these offer vital protection and increase comfort, while also reducing issues such as abrasion and saddle sore. Some women also opt for padded underwear that is specifically designed for cycling.
Are expensive bike shorts worth it?
An expensive price tag does not automatically make a pair of shorts high quality, however, usually, higher-end bike shorts will be made from better quality material and will have more panels to provide greater flexibility and range of movement.
They’re also likely to feel softer against your skin and will wick moisture to keep you cool and comfortable. Investing in a pair of good quality bike shorts will also pay off in the long run, as they’re likely to last longer and will be more resistant to regular wear and washing.
What do you wear under bike shorts?
If you’re looking to buy your first pair of bike shorts, this is probably a question that’s on your mind.
Most bike experts are adamant that you should NOT wear your underwear under padded cycling shorts, as the cotton material will simply negate all of the benefits provided by the chamois - such as friction control, cushioned protection, and moisture management.
That said, you can also get padded underwear specially designed for cycling, so some women opt to wear a pair of these underneath their bike shorts.
Why is my bike seat so uncomfortable?
If you’re finding cycling uncomfortable after cycling for short distances, it could be something to do with your seat position and height, as well as the position of your handlebars.
You may need a proper bike fitting to check your bike measurements are correct for your body proportions, but it could also be the shape of your saddle, or not having enough protection between you and the saddle, which is where a good pair of bike shorts come in.