Last updated: 17/10/2022

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Cycling shorts protect against unwanted skin redness, irritation and inflammation while cycling. Especially during long or multi-day cycling tours, you often feel your bottom afterwards without cycling shorts. These unpleasant pains can be avoided by wearing cycling shorts.

We want to help you find the right cycling shorts with our big cycling shorts test 2022. We have compared the different types of cycling shorts with each other. We also present these types with their respective advantages and disadvantages. This should make your purchase decision as easy as possible. You will also find answers to the most frequently asked questions in our cycling shorts test.




Summary

  • Cycling shorts with specially integrated seat pads protect against unpleasant reddening of the skin, irritation and inflammation while cycling.
  • Cycling shorts are available in three types: cycling shorts, bib shorts and MTB cycling shorts. Each type is available in short, long or three-quarter length.
  • Cycling shorts may be tight-fitting when standing. The right fit is especially important in the bent cycling posture.

The Best Cycling Shorts: Our Picks

Buying and evaluation criteria for cycling shorts

In the following, we will show you which aspects you can use to decide between the many possible cycling shorts. The criteria that you can use to compare the cycling shorts with each other include:

In the following paragraphs, we will explain what is important in the individual criteria.

Size

The most important thing about cycling shorts is that they fit properly. They should neither be too tight nor too loose, otherwise the protective factor of the cycling shorts is not given. The only way to find out for yourself which cycling shorts fit best is to try on different models and types. This is the only way to find the perfect pair of cycling shorts for you.

Some manufacturers offer size charts.

These can help you make a preliminary selection! However, it is still important to try on different cycling shorts, as different manufacturers have different models. When choosing a size, you should make sure that the trousers fit well on the saddle, especially when sitting. When standing, the trousers should fit snugly and tightly, as they will widen somewhat when you are bent over while cycling.

Length

The correct length of a pair of cycling trousers depends on the intended use. In general, there are long, three-quarter length and short cycling shorts. Three-quarter length models are a good alternative for spring and autumn. In winter, it is advisable to choose long cycling trousers, which may even be particularly thick.

[/su_box] If you choose long cycling trousers, it is important to pay attention to the width of the trouser legs. If the legs are too wide, they can rub against the chain. At best, this is only uncomfortable while cycling. In the worst case, this leaves oil stains on the trousers or the trousers even get caught in the bicycle chain. With tight-fitting hems on long cycling trousers, you are on the safe side.

Material

The material of a pair of cycling shorts is usually made of spandex and polyester. It is important that the cycling shorts meet the following requirements:

  • Breathable
  • Windproof
  • Abrasion-resistant
  • Non-slip

Furthermore, the material of cycling shorts can be made sustainable. You can choose to buy cycling shorts from companies that clearly describe their processes and supply chains and use recycled and environmentally friendly materials.

Special features

Special features of cycling shorts that you can look out for are:

  • Reflectors
  • Anti-slip rubber
  • Seams

Reflectors on cycling shorts are especially important for people who like to go for a ride in the evening. To prevent accidents, it is important to ensure good visibility. The reflectors can help with this because they reflect the lights of passing and approaching cars. This makes you more visible to drivers and hopefully an accident can be avoided.

The anti-slip elastic band is important for a good fit of the cycling shorts. This exists mainly on cycling shorts without straps and is intended to help ensure a good fit even while riding.

In order to cause as little skin irritation as possible, it is important that the cycling shorts have as few seams as possible. Most manufacturers already take this into account in their production. However, if you cannot decide between two models, one way of deciding is to look at the number of seams.

Seat pad

One of the most important features of a pair of cycling shorts is the seat pad. For this reason, it is also important to pay attention to the seat and the quality of the seat padding when making a purchase decision. The seat pad should be antibacterial so that you can do without underwear while cycling.

This allows you to avoid unwanted reddening of the skin. When comparing different cycling shorts, you should always see how the different seat pads feel. You should also make sure that they fit properly. This is important so that they can protect the sensitive nerves in the pubic area and avoid unwanted skin redness and irritation.

Decision: What types of cycling shorts are there and which is the right one for you?

If you want to buy a pair of cycling shorts, there are three different alternatives to choose from.

Type Advantages Disadvantages
Cycling shorts Tight-fitting, less wind resistance, breathable material Slips easily, kidney area not protected, no pockets
Bib shorts Kidney area protected, straps prevent slipping, little wind resistance, breathable material No pockets, not stylish
MTB cycling shorts Stylish, very robust, pockets for small items Lots of wind resistance, not aerodynamic

If you want to know more about the different types of cycling shorts, you can read more about each in the following three sections.

Cycling shorts

These classic cycling shorts, as you probably know them, are usually part of the basic equipment of every hobby cyclist. Most of the time, these cycling shorts are made of a blended fabric of spandex and polyester. This allows the cycling shorts to be stretchy and tight-fitting at the same time. As a result, the trousers provide less wind resistance.

Cycling shorts are usually breathable and windproof. They are also abrasion and slip resistant and usually have reflectors. For the warm season, it is advisable to buy short cycling shorts. Three-quarter trousers are practical for the transitional period and long trousers for the colder season.

Advantages
  • Breathable
  • Windproof
  • Low wind resistance
  • Abrasion and slip resistant
Disadvantages
  • Slip hazard
  • Kidneys unprotected
  • No storage

Because normal cycling shorts have no straps, it is possible for them to slip while riding. This can again cause unpleasant pressure points, which can become infected. The cycling shorts and T-shirt are not connected. This means that when the two parts slip, the kidney area can be exposed. This can quickly lead to kidney inflammation in sensitive people. Another disadvantage of cycling shorts is that they are very tight-fitting and therefore offer no storage space.

Bib shorts

The second type of cycling shorts are the bib shorts. These are especially popular among men. This type is also made of a blended fabric of spandex and polyester. This means they offer the same advantages as normal cycling trousers. The biggest difference to a normal pair of cycling shorts is clearly the straps.

These help to keep the shorts in position and thus prevent them from slipping. This can prevent unwanted pressure points and inflammation. Another advantage of bib shorts is the lack of elastic at the waist. This is often perceived as annoying and irritating. Most bib shorts are very high at the back. This protects the lower back and prevents inflammation of the kidneys.

Advantages
  • No elastic at the waist
  • No unwanted slipping
  • Protection of the kidney area
Disadvantages
  • Not much storage space
  • Narrow cut
  • Not very stylish

Unfortunately, bib shorts also have disadvantages. One is that the trousers don’t offer much storage space. This means you have to carry a bike backpack on longer tours. Another disadvantage is that the trousers are also very tight and therefore not very stylish. [/su_spoiler]

MTB cycling shorts

Some cyclists prefer a pair of cycling trousers that are not tightly cut. This is where MTB cycling shorts come into play. These usually sit a little looser and are perceived as more stylish. As the name suggests, MTB trousers are particularly popular with mountain bikers, BMX riders and trekking cyclists.

However, these trousers are also increasingly worn for road cycling and other cycling groups. They are especially popular with people who value coolness. The material of MTB trousers is no different from the other two types of trousers. Here, too, there are models with and without integrated seat cushions. As a rule, MTB trousers are extremely robust and abrasion-resistant.

This is important because downhill riding in particular can lead to a lot of falls. Mountain bike trousers are available in both long and short versions. Long trousers often have an integrated ventilation system, which allows optimal air circulation while cycling. Another advantage is that MTB trousers usually have several pockets. This makes it possible to carry smaller items directly on the body.

Advantages
  • More fit
  • More pockets
  • Stylish
Disadvantages
  • More drag
  • Less aerodynamic

The disadvantage of MTB trousers is that the wider fit creates more air resistance. These trousers are also less aerodynamic. For this reason, MTB trousers are not usually worn by road cyclists, unless they place more emphasis on style than speed. [/su_spoiler] [/su_accordion]

Guide: Frequently asked questions about cycling shorts answered in detail

What are cycling shorts?

A pair of cycling shorts is a pair of functional shorts specially designed for cycling. An internal seat pad prevents the unpleasant redness and soreness of the rear. This is often a problem, especially on longer journeys, which everyone who has ever cycled longer distances knows.

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For a longer bike ride you should pack as light as possible. Every gram less you have to carry is to your advantage.
(Image source: unsplash/ Coen van den Broek)

In tests of cycling shorts, particular attention is usually paid to the inner seat padding. In order for the cycling shorts to fit well, they must be of high quality and have a precise fit. In this way, cycling shorts offer the necessary comfort to avoid a sore bottom. As a rule, cycling shorts are made of synthetic fibre fabrics.

Who are cycling shorts suitable for?

In principle, cycling shorts are suitable for everyone. There are different models that cover men, women and children. Especially people who have problems in the pubic area while cycling often use cycling shorts. They alleviate the problems and enable pain-free cycling. Professional and semi-professional cyclists also usually use cycling shorts. These also offer them protection in the pubic area, as well as an aerodynamic cycling outfit.

What size cycling shorts should I buy?

The right size of cycling shorts is the be-all and end-all, as is the case with almost all items of clothing. However, there is something important to consider when buying cycling shorts, which is often not known, especially by cycling beginners.

The cycling trousers do not have to fit when you are standing up, but when you are sitting on the bike.

When you are standing up, the cycling shorts should fit rather tightly, so that they feel tight and crisp. They should never be too loose. In the bent position on the bike, the cycling shorts will feel a little wider and more comfortable. If the cycling shorts are too big, the seat padding will not fit perfectly. This can cause your buttocks to slip inside the cycling shorts and cause unwanted pressure points.

Due to the uneven distribution of pressure, many cyclists experience pain and chafing in the pubic area.

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Plan your cycling tour so that you are on roads with as little traffic as possible.
(Image source: unsplash/Viktor Xok)

When buying cycling shorts, you should therefore check the fit of the shorts in the bike seat. Sizes and fit vary from different manufacturers. You can find the right cycling shorts for you by trying on different models.

How much do cycling shorts cost?

The price of cycling shorts can vary greatly. Inexpensive models in discount stores can start at around 7 euros. Most models, however, cost between 20 and 50 euros. However, if you want a very special pair of luxury cycling shorts, the price can go up to 100 or 200 euros.

Type price range
cycling shorts 7 – 250€
bib shorts 20 – 200€
MTB shorts 15 – 180€

Since the price range of cycling shorts is so wide, it is usually good to try on a few cycling shorts before deciding on a model. This way you can find out the special features and what you value.

What alternatives are there to cycling shorts?

There is no alternative to cycling shorts that offers the same protection. However, if you generally don’t have problems with a sore, red bottom when cycling, you can wear normal sports shorts for cycling.

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Most professionals wear bib shorts with a matching cycling jersey. This allows the jersey to be changed to suit the position.
(Image source: unsplash/ Markus Spiske)

Generally, cycling shorts are worn mainly by amateur athletes, semi-professional as well as professional cyclists.

What are the advantages of cycling shorts?

There are good reasons why science invented cycling shorts. The integrated seat cushion, which protects against injuries, is just one example of the advantages of cycling shorts. Here is a short list of the advantages of cycling shorts:

  • Seat padding protects buttocks and pubic area
  • Breathable material
  • No restriction of freedom of movement
  • Low wind resistance

Whether you’re an amateur or professional athlete, if you’ve ever done a long bike ride, you know how valuable a pair of cycling shorts can be. This is especially noticeable on multi-day tours or particularly long trips. The cycling shorts allow you to sit down and relax the day after your ride.

How do I care for my cycling shorts?

Even after a short bike ride, especially in summer, your cycling shorts are often soaked with sweat. To ensure that the antibacterial seat pad in particular remains antibacterial, regular cleaning of the shorts is necessary. Creams such as sunscreen can also quickly adhere to the trousers. When cleaning the trousers, it is important to follow the manufacturer’s washing instructions. Most trousers, including their antibacterial seat pad, can be washed in the washing machine.

If you are cycling for several days, you can simply rinse the trousers with water. You can then clean them thoroughly as soon as you get home.

The machine’s gentle cycle is usually recommended for this. Use a mild detergent and, if possible, do not use fabric softener. This can cause the cycling shorts to lose their elasticity.

How tight can cycling shorts be?

Many people often wonder how tight cycling shorts should be. It has to be said that this is different for each person. In general, cycling shorts should not cut in and should be comfortable. As already described in the section on cycling trousers size, the fit of the cycling trousers is especially important on the saddle.

When standing, the cycling trousers should be tight and fit well. Due to the bent posture when cycling, the trousers are then a little wider and adapt perfectly to your movements.

It is important not to choose cycling shorts that are too tight or too wide. This could have the opposite effect of protecting your backside.

What to wear under cycling shorts?

The question of what to wear under a pair of cycling shorts is particularly preoccupying for novice cyclists. Do you wear pants or nothing at all?

Cycling trousers are the tartan kilt among cyclists.

As a general rule, nothing is worn underneath cycling trousers. Neither briefs nor boxers or any other form of underwear. A pair of cycling shorts has an antibacterial seat pad and everything is done in the design to have as few seams as possible.

So why put on pants that are not antibacterial? And which have seams and elastics that you can injure yourself on? Wearing underwear creates the risk of rubbing your skin raw at the seams. Cycling shorts try to avoid exactly that. Underwear is not designed to follow a demanding body movement. Skin irritations can occur, especially during prolonged exertion. These usually occur on the inside of the thighs and in the groin area. The elastic waistband of pants can also cause problems by cutting into the skin.

The combination of chafing, cutting and sweat creates a perfect place for infections. Cycling shorts are specifically designed to prevent chafing and infection. Of course, this can also happen with cycling shorts if they are ill-fitting or the wrong size. If this happens, we advise you to apply a special buttock cream or baby cream to the problem area.

However, do not apply too much, as too soft skin can cause irritation. If your cycling shorts do not have a seat pad, there are extra cycling pants that can be worn. However, it is advisable to buy cycling shorts with a seat pad.

What length should the cycling shorts be?

The length of the cycling shorts depends on the desired function of the shorts. If you want to wear your shorts more in the summer, then short cycling shorts are practical. However, if you want to wear cycling shorts in the winter or in between seasons, long cycling shorts are preferable. These are available with a thinner or thicker functional fabric.

This allows you to choose the model that suits your specific needs. For people who want to cycle all year round, it is advisable to have different cycling shorts for different seasons. Tip: Think about which season you want to wear your cycling shorts before you buy them!

What are useful accessories for cycling trousers?

The useful accessories of cycling shorts are rather few. To complete the outfit, a cycling jersey is good. These also come in a wide variety of shapes and colours. A cycling jersey completes your look and makes you look like a real professional.

If your cycling shorts don’t have a seat pad, it might also be practical to put on a pair of cycling shorts.

However, this is only recommended if you really don’t have a seat pad. Safety comes first, even when cycling. For this reason, it is always important to wear a helmet.

Image source: Gorgozo/ 123rf.com

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