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Best Women’s Cycling Shorts of 2021: Ride Comfortable on the Road and Trails

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Choosing the right bike shorts for you is one of the most important things a woman cyclist can do for her riding comfort. A good pair of bib shorts or regular shorts can help a rider avoid chafing, saddle-area pain, and even stomach pain.

Thankfully, women’s shorts have come a long way in the last decade. 10 years ago, bike shops typically only stocked one or two options for women, and now, there are dozens of companies devoted solely to women’s cycling apparel on the market.

Though it is still tricky to find a great pair of shorts in most stores, if we’re being honest, there’s a plethora of good options online if you know what to look for. Here, we’re looking at our favorite bike shorts, bib shorts, bike tights, mountain bike baggies, and chamois-liners to make your ride much more pleasant.

These are our top picks, followed by Buyer’s Guide and FAQ sections to help you determine the right features for you!

 BEST OVERALL: Velocio LUXE Bib Short 

velocio-luxe-bib-short-black-cherry-front best womens cycling shorts

This editor has been wearing one of Velocio’s first-ever bib shorts since they were introduced eight years ago, and they’re still going strong. That first iteration used a rear zip to let the bibshorts pull all the way down so riders could easily pee without needing to remove a jersey first.

But Velocio didn’t just sit on their chamois in the meantime. They replaced the original back zipper with a stretchier panel of fabric for the same result but with less chance of leaving your fly down or the zipper irritating your skin.

The Signature Chamois has stayed the same—a long-lasting, ultra-comfortable pad that isn’t too thick or too thin. The mesh panel is low cut, improving air flow when you’ve unzipped a jersey in hot weather, and the silky smooth fabric has improved in both feel and durability. Bonus: The bibs now come in several different jewel-toned, muted colors…perfect for someone who prefers wearing mostly neutrals but wants to break it up a bit.

And yes, these Luxe bib shorts are a bit of a spend, but like I said: Despite testing other iterations of these shorts over the years, that first pair I ever got still has a place in my cycling wardrobe, making them the longest-lasting shorts I’ve owned. Get one or two pairs of these shorts rather than buying five cheaper pairs, and you won’t regret it.

  • Style: Bibs
  • Sizes: XXS-XXXL
  • Chamois: Yes
  • Colors: Deep sea, cherry, navy, deep olive, black
  • Price: $279

PROS: Fantastic fit, great colorways, lasts for years
CONS: Expensive


rapha core shorts best womens cycling shorts

Rapha released a “Core” collection a few years ago and it’s been a big success since. The collection focused on “everyday basics” for riding: Nothing loud, just simple jerseys, bibs, and other must-haves that a newer cyclist or a cyclist on a budget needs. The bib shorts use Rapha’s sizing and great design and are the everyday basic that your wardrobe truly does need, at a reasonable price.

Sure, you can’t pee in them without taking off a jersey, but they fit well, they’re ultra-comfortable, and they’re just simple. They’re stretchier than some other brands, and the legs are laser cut and have lightweight rubber grips, avoiding the sausage leg issue that older bib styles have.

  • Style: Bib shorts
  • Sizes: XXS-XL
  • Chamois: Yes
  • Colors: Black
  • Price: $115

PROS: Great value for high quality bib shorts
CONS: Not an inclusive size range


TheBlackBibs best womens cycling shorts

This editor fell in love with The Black Bibs brand a few years ago after scouring the internet for reasonably priced plain bib shorts. It’s easy to find cheap bike shorts in most stores, but to find a truly inexpensive pair of bibs to recommend to new cyclists who are a bit skeptical about bib shorts? Nearly impossible. This brand answered a budget cyclist’s prayers, yet live up to long-time cyclists’ expectations.

These $40 bibs are unlabelled and unbranded, and unlike some cheaper shorts on the market, the Black Bibs for Women use a women’s-specific designed chamois. (Though this reviewer found that the chamois was a bit thicker and less comfortable than higher-end models). They’re nothing fancy, but they will get you started enjoying the benefits of bib shorts over regular shorts. They’re the ultimate in starter bibs—buy a pair for the new cyclist in your life and be a hero!

  • Style: Bib shorts
  • Sizes: XS-3XL
  • Chamois: Yes
  • Colors: Black
  • Price: $40

PROS: Awesome price point and size range, logo-free design goes with everything
CONS: Chamois is a bit thick


7mesh-wk2-short best womens cycling shorts

While most of us prefer bibs, bike shorts have several things going for them…namely being easier to take bathroom breaks. But in the heat of summer, they can also be a cooler option since they don’t add another layer under your jersey.

7Mesh created their shorts with an emphasis on making the most comfortable waistband possible, and was one of the first companies to do a “yoga pant waist” with a wider band. Essentially, these high-waisted shorts were meant to feel like bibs, without the suspenders. (If you prefer bibs, you can opt for 7Mesh’s WK3, which earns an honorable mention from our testers, but we were so impressed by the comfort level of the shorts that we wanted to highlight them!)

The WK2 shorts are super comfortable, don’t ride up or sag down, and don’t hit your waist at an awkward spot. Even the rubberized grips at the bottom are specifically designed not to compress, yet hold the shorts perfectly in place. No sausage casing situation here.

  • Style: Shorts
  • Sizes: XS-XL
  • Chamois: Yes
  • Colors: Black
  • Price: $150

PROS: Comfortable waistband compared to other shorts
CONS: Not the best inclusive sizing

 BEST INCLUSIVE SIZING: Machines for Freedom Endurance Bib 

machines for freedom endurance bib best womens cycling shorts

While other brands are also moving into creating more inclusive size ranges, California-based Machines for Freedom really started the push in the size inclusivity game for the cycling industry. The simple Machines for Freedom Endurance Bib is great-looking and unique, with triangular paneling and mesh accents adding both visual interest and breathability to the front of the bibs.

We also appreciate that the brand features cyclists of all sizes on their site and social media, making sure that it’s clear that every body is a cyclist body. And we also love that the Endurance Bibs come in two lengths: a more traditional just-above-the-knee length and a shorter inseam that hits mid-thigh. No other shorts offer that option.

  • Style: Bib shorts
  • Sizes: XS-XXXL
  • Chamois: Yes
  • Colors: Black
  • Price: $235

PROS: Fantastic size range, and appreciate the two options for length
CONS: Peeing isn’t a simple process

 BEST CUSTOM: Jakroo Cadence Pro 

jakroo cadence bibs best womens cycling shorts

Honestly, when it comes to custom, it’s getting cheap enough that creating your own custom kit for just you (and maybe a friend or two) is a completely reasonable decision. Advertise for your own small business or just have the kit of your dreams with a custom kit. Bikerumor testers like the Jakroo Cadence Pro for its nice compressive feel and wide leg grippers for maximum comfort. (Our staffer also found that their customer service, design process, and turnaround time was excellent.)

The Cadence Pro bibs are a budget-friendly compromise compared to higher-end options from the brand. If you’re not a serious endurance rider who’s on the saddle for hours at a time or racing, these bibs will do the trick. Because they’re custom, expect more seams and panels. Our tester noted that while they were comfortable, she did need a bit of chamois cream to avoid chafing thanks to seams on the thighs. But the material itself felt good, though too stiff to pull to the side for easy peeing.

  • Style: Bib shorts
  • Sizes: XXS-XXXL
  • Chamois: Yes
  • Colors: Your choice!
  • Price: $160 down to $96, depending on order volume

PROS: Great pricing for custom cycling kits
CONS: No easy way to pee

 BEST MTB BAGGIES: Shredly The MTB Short 

shredly-the-MTB-SHORT-SHANNA best womens cycling shorts

Shredly MTB shorts were designed solely for women. This isn’t a brand that took a men’s baggie short and repurposed it, these are made for curves and a relaxed, comfortable fit for women who love to shred. The fabric is lightweight and breathable, and stretchy enough that it moves with you, rather than cutting you off at the waist or fitting oddly if you need to hike-a-bike. There are zippered vents for super-hot rides, and plenty of storage in a side zipper pocket.

Riders note that these shorts are not only great for riding, they can also be used for hiking or as board shorts at the beach. And we love that they come in dozens of great fun patterns, but also a basic black option if you prefer a more neutral look.

  • Style: Baggies
  • Sizes: 0-14
  • Chamois: No
  • Colors: Dozens of patterns plus basic black
  • Price: $105

PROS: Great fit, comfortable on trail
CONS: Some reviewers note the sizing runs large (though you can return and exchange)

 BEST CHAMOIS LINER: Giro Womens’ Boy Undershort II 

giro-boy-undershort-ii-womens-dirt-apparel-urchin-hero best womens cycling shorts

For comfort while riding in MTB baggies or commuting/doing more casual rides in jean shorts, wearing a set of boy shorts with a thin chamois is a great way to avoid feeling ultra-sweaty while maintaining some level of comfort. The Giro Womens’ Boy Undershort II is made with a polyester/wool blend (just like bike shorts were back in the day) and the chamois is just thick enough to offer some comfort on the mountain bike when wearing baggies, without feeling overheated.

They’re also comfortable enough to wear under a skirt or jeans when riding around town to run errands, in those situations where you’d rather not be wearing spandex, but riding just a bit too long to skip the chamois entirely. And while these shorts are definitely not designed for this, one Bikerumor editor found that for short-but-sweaty trainer rides, they work great!

  • Style: Shorts
  • Sizes: XS-XL
  • Chamois: Yes
  • Colors: Black, gray, blue, maroon
  • Price: $60

PROS: Comfortable and great for under baggies or commuting
CONS: Not ideal for longer rides (but they’re not meant to be!)

 BEST WINTER TIGHTS: GORE® Wear C3 Thermo Plus Tights 

gorewear c3 tights best womens cycling shorts

Of all the purchases my younger cycling self made in an attempt to be comfortable/warm/cool/fit in, an early iteration of the GORE Wear C3 Thermo Plus Tights is maybe my favorite original purchase 12 years ago, and they’ve only improved in the years since.

The cozy fleece-lined shorts are great for winter road rides or fat bike rides, and what sets them apart from many other tights on the market is the genius addition of two zips in the back that allow the rider to unzip, pull down, and pee without taking off 15 top layers.

They’re comfortable and stretchy despite being fleece-lined, and my original pair lasted through eight winters of riding and the occasional extremely cold cyclocross race. Eventually, my propensity for tossing them in the dryer despite the ‘hang dry only’ recommendation caused the fleece to pill and the fabric to stretch out, but they outlived most of my other cycling kit from that time.

NOTE: Buying out-of-season gear is tricky as many sizes are out of stock, but also (usually) heavily discounted). Gore will be releasing an update with the Ability Thermal Bib Tights + at a similar price point, and we’ll update this recommendation accordingly…just be ready to act quickly, winter cycling gear is usually made in fewer quantities and popular sizes and colors sell out very fast.

  • Style: Bib tights
  • Sizes: Euro 34-44
  • Chamois: Yes
  • Colors: Black
  • Price: $165

PROS: Warm without being constrictive
CONS: Not for mild weather, you will get overheated quickly unless it’s literally freezing!

Buyer’s Guide for Women’s Cycling Shorts

These are the factors to consider when choosing your next pair of shorts:

Comfort: This is the most important hardest-to-find element in a good pair of shorts for you. Does it feel comfortable in general? Were they easy to put on or do you feel like you’re holding your breath to fit in them? Can you bend and move around in them, and can you imagine wearing them for long rides? Be picky.

c. Machines for Freedom

Price: Shorts can run anywhere from $30 to $500. Generally speaking, it’s better to pay up front for a good pair of shorts once than to buy 10 pairs of cheaper, junkier shorts that aren’t super comfortable or that fall apart after a season.

Sure, it stings a bit to shell out $200 for a pair of shorts, but the higher-end ones we’ve mentioned here are built to last. This editor has a pair of Velocio bibs from the first year they were brought to market, and despite having at least 20,000 miles of riding on them, they look almost new. (You likely don’t need the $500 shorts, if we’re being honest here, but $200 is more than reasonable for a pair that will last a decade.)

Durability: All of the shorts in this review have held up to wash and dry cycles. If you find that your bike shorts start fraying in the wash after one use, contact the company and try to return them. That shouldn’t happen.

Fit: While shorts should be fitted, they shouldn’t make your legs or torso feel like a tightly squeezed sausage. You want slight compression, but nothing that impacts your ability to take a big breath or eat a big snack.

Waist/bib top: Bend over into your riding position when trying on shorts. Often, people try on shorts standing up and walking around, looking in a mirror. But bend over to see how the waistband feels and where it hits when you’re in a cycling position. Often, that can change your feelings on how comfortable a pair of shorts is…because many of them, even the really good ones, can feel a bit like wearing a diaper when you’re standing upright.

Find a gripper style that you like.

Grippers: Everyone’s preference will be different here, but the trend in higher-end shorts is to have grippers built into the fabric rather than a rubber strap around the end of each leg of the shorts. But whatever grip your shorts have to keep them in place on your legs, it should feel comfortable. It shouldn’t feel like it’s cutting off your circulation! And from a pure vanity aspect, this editor prefers to avoid any grippers that create a ‘bulging effect’ on my legs.

Chamois comfort: You want a chamois that feels right for you. Some people prefer a bit more padding while others prefer a chamois that feels thinner and less diaper-like. Generally, somewhere in the middle—the Goldilocks of chamois—is right. The options we list above all fall into that mid-range, with the exception of the boyshorts ‘liner,’ which is much thinner than a  normal chamois.

Returns/Exchanges: Check a brand’s return or exchange policy before buying, since some brands offer 30-day guarantees and free exchanges. And when you get a new pair of shorts, first try them on with underwear to check fit in case you need to return or exchange them right away.

Frequently Asked Questions about Bike Shorts for Women

What is a chamois?
While the chamois is technically the padded portion of cycling shorts, you may also hear the shorts themselves referred to as a chamois.

More accurately, it’s simply padding, as bike shorts haven’t used a true leather chamois material in decades (and that’s a good thing!). Typically, the more expensive the shorts, the more technically advanced the chamois pad will be. The best ones tend to have multi-density foams or even gel sections in different zones to match pressure points between sit bones and the saddle.

This pad in here is the chamois, though you may hear shorts in general referred to as chamois.

Why do I need a chamois?
While it might seem like the chamois is just there to provide padding, it’s also there to wick moisture and trap bacteria, keeping your nether regions happy. And because it’s a single seamless pad, it also prevents some friction between your delicate skin and the saddle.

Do I need a chamois with MTB baggies?
It depends. Some people prefer using a thinner chamois liner rather than a full pair of shorts, especially on hot days. Others prefer a proper chamois. And some even prefer to skip the chamois altogether, though we don’t recommend that unless it’s a very casual ride with little time spent on the saddle!

Why do people wear bib shorts?
Bib shorts—the shorts that have suspenders rather than a waistband—are generally more comfortable than wearing bike shorts with a waistband. Not everyone will agree, though almost every pro rider exclusively wears bib shorts. They help avoid the waistband digging into your stomach while bent over on the bike, and the straps keep them in place better than regular shorts.

If you really like shorts instead, look for ones with a yoga-style waist band as they’re typically far more comfortable and put less pressure around your belly. Shorts also make bathroom breaks a lot faster and easier.

How do I pee in bib shorts?
Unfortunately, some bib shorts require taking your jersey off in order to use the restroom. But many brands, like Velocio, are now offering some kind of easy-pee solution. Some have an ultra-stretchy pull down panel or zip in the back, or a halter neck that can easily come undone without taking your jersey off. And if the fabric is stretchy enough, you can always opt for the potentially messy “pull one leg up and over to the side” in a gotta-go-right-now situation.

best womens cycling shorts
A lot of shorts not come with pull-down options for easy pee access

Do I wear underwear with bike shorts?
No. This isn’t a style/visible panty line thing, it’s a comfort and hygiene thing. Underwear can cause chafing and traps bacteria and sweat, and that combination can lead to saddle sores. You don’t want that.

Can a woman wear men’s shorts?
Yes, but they may not be as comfortable. The chamois is designed differently for men and women, and proportions like hip-to-waist ratio or even length and placement of bib straps will change between men’s and women’s options. You may find that men’s shorts are more comfortable for you, though, and that’s completely fine! It’s all about finding clothing that makes you feel comfortable on the saddle.

How can you tell the difference between a men’s and women’s chamois?
Look at how the chamois is shaped. If it has more of an elongated front section, then flares out to the back, it’s likely a women-specific chamois. However, if it has a longer channel down the center, that’s designed for a male ‘undercarriage.’ (Again, you may find that a men’s chamois just feels more comfortable, and that’s fine. Everyone’s parts are different!)

best womens cycling shorts
No baggie shorts required for MTB.

Do I need to wear baggies to mountain bike?
Nope. Plenty of mountain bikers opt to wear regular bike shorts with no baggie layer over top, especially in hot weather. An argument can be made that baggies add a layer of protection for crashes on the mountain bike, but really, it’s more of a style thing than anything else. (If you’re downhilling, though, you’ll want baggies and some body armor like kneepads to stay safe.)

How do I wash a chamois?
Bike shorts can go in the washer, though some people prefer to do separate loads of just cycling kit and use cold water/delicate cycles only. (That said, this editor washes all of her cycling kit in with the rest of her laundry on ‘super’ and all of the shorts listed here have held up to that!).

While most shorts say to hang dry them, and that will increase their longevity, you can toss any of these in the dryer in a pinch…maybe just opt for a low/no heat setting. If you do hang dry though, make sure they’re 100 percent dry before putting them away, especially in the chamois. It helps to hang them inside out.

Featured image by Jody Wilson

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