Buyer's Guide To Women's Cycling Shorts

Click to enlarge!One of the easiest things you can do to improve your cycling comfort is to wear quality bicycling shorts. Why do you need special shorts for biking? One of the key reasons is that most ordinary shorts, even those made for sports like running, have seams in them. And, when you sit on a bike seat, these seams are right in the way, where they can cause chafing and numbness.

Also, gym and casual shorts aren't made to breathe, wick or protect, and they don't support the major muscles used for pedaling. That's why most common saddle discomfort issues go away once you start riding in cycling shorts, and why they're so popular.

And, the best news is that modern women's cycling shorts come in all styles and fashions, from basic spandex models, to casual and versatile baggies, to capris and knickers, to even skorts, a cycling skirt with shorts beneath. Plus, you can choose from basic black, to logo prints that make you look like a pro, to a wide range of hues and styles made to go perfectly with your favorite cycling jerseys, gloves and socks. 

Packed With Features
Beyond the style and fashion, all our women's shorts are functional pieces with impressive features designed to maximize your comfort. Such fine touches may include a custom-feeling anatomic fit, top-notch freedom of movement for easier pedaling, stretch panels that compress and support your muscles, wicking and breathing fabrics so you stay dry, leg grippers that hold the shorts in place, pockets, and women's-specific protective padding (called a "chamois") that prevents chafing, reduces ride vibrations and can also be antibacterial. Some shorts even include reflective detailing for safety.

It all means that you'll say goodbye to discomfort and start enjoying riding more. And that your shorts will become an indispensable part of your cycling wardrobe. Plus, a good pair of women's cycling shorts will easily last for several seasons making them a great value.

We carry a wide selection of women's cycling shorts and look forward to showing you, and having you try on some of our favorites. You'll be impressed. Until then, here are some basic tips for selecting a great pair.

Click to enlarge!All Types
With so many companies offering women's cycling shorts you're sure to find the perfect pair for you and your body. Because they're so comfortable, body-hugging spandex/Lycra models are among the most popular. They come in a variety of styles, designs and inseam lengths and all provide excellent freedom of movement, muscle support and usually wicking and padding too.

Baggies, capris and skorts provide outstanding coverage and fashionable flair, making them great for the office after commuting into work, hanging out at the burrito joint, etc. Then, there are shorts designed specifically for indoor cycling (Spinning). These feature a mini chamois because it's actually more comfortable for this type of riding since you are more likely to sit and spin and not move around as much as riding outdoors.

There are also triathlon shorts that also have a smaller tri chamois made from fleece or a thin foam that dries fast, offers comfort on the bike, and won't interfere with your legs and chafe on the run. Note that tri-specific seats generally have more padding so the shorts can have less.

Buying Tip - By getting several pairs of shorts in different inseam lengths, you can keep changing and avoid a distinctive tan line. That's why most makers offer similar styles in varying inseams.

Click to enlarge!Materials And Construction
When you sit on a bicycle, you flex at the waist, lean forward and bend your legs to pedal. To accommodate this unique position, cycling shorts are usually contoured to match. The back is a little higher than the front, the legs are long enough not to ride up and the shorts are cut to follow your curves.

Manufacturers accomplish this many ways. You may find shorts comprised of panels, contoured shorts and anatomic models. Many shorts are sewn together with flat seams so they don't chafe. And, some models feature welded seam construction.

As far as materials go, tight-fitting shorts may use basic spandex, nylon, Lycra or other proprietary fabrics that boost freedom of movement, breathability and support. In baggies designed for off-road and everyday riding, you see tougher fabrics in the outer short to withstand the rigors of trail riding and often pockets to hold small essentials. Baggies sometimes have mesh inner shorts with padding, vents for airflow and gussets for additional durability,  too.

Buying Tip - If you ride several times a week, you'll want multiple pairs of cycling shorts since they should be laundered after every ride. 

Maybe the best reason to ride in cycling shorts is the padding most models offer. Often called a "chamois," this lines the crotch area and adds a protective layer of padding between you and your seat that prevents excess friction and heat, eliminates chafing, absorbs vibrations from the road and trail, and wicks and breathes so you stay dry and comfortable.

Women's shorts have padding designed for your anatomy but you should still try the shorts on to see how it works for you. There are different shapes, padding thicknesses and materials. Depending on how upright or leaned over you sit, how fast you pedal, how far you ride, what types of riding you do and even the seat you ride on, you will like some types of padding more than others.

You want the padding to fit so you're not sitting on an edge. The softest parts should be under your sit bones. The padding should be thick enough for comfort yet not so thick you experience that bulky "diaper" feeling that actually interferes with pedaling. There also shouldn't be any wrinkles or bunching in the padding because this can create bumps that chafe and cause pain.

Padding (chamois) has become impressively high-tech over the years. For example, you may find some with 3- and 4-way stretch for an awesome fit and feel, perforations for superior moisture management, gel inserts and cutouts to protect sensitive areas and multi-level and multi-density padding. As mentioned before, there are even mini styles for triathlon and indoor cycling. We're happy to show you these features and recommend what we find works for cyclists like you. You'll really enjoy how much more comfortable the right padding makes cycling.

Buying Tip - A common source of discomfort for many people new to cycling-specific shorts is the wearing of standard underwear. The seams in underwear cause the very chafing and numbness that seam-free and padded cycling shorts are made to prevent. Keep in mind that for even more wicking and protection, there is seam-free cycling-specific underwear available, but please leave the standard undies in the drawer.

Click to enlarge!Fit
Like all types of apparel, the fit of cycling shorts differs from maker to maker so we carry a variety of brands to help you find what you like. A great starting point is to select the style of short that appeals to you, and then choose a short, medium or long inseam. This has to do with your leg length, whether you ride indoors or out (or both) and how much coverage you want for your legs. For example, long-distance road riders like longer inseams so the large quadriceps muscles are supported. If you're riding shorter distances you can get by with less coverage. But, it's really a personal decision and you should choose what you prefer.

When it comes to waistbands, women's shorts are moving away from the drawstrings of old, and toward wide-banded elastic, grippers (wide versions of a leg gripper) or contoured Lycra panels, sometimes wider than 3 inches. These feel great and keep the shorts in place without the constriction of a tight waistband or drawstring.

There are bib shorts for women too. These have built-in shoulder straps that act like suspenders but are usually made of stretchy, light and breathable mesh. Bibs mean that the shorts can be made without a true waist for the ultimate in freedom of movement and breathing ease. Bibs are also great for women with long torsos because they prevent any exposed skin between your jersey and shorts when you lean over into the riding position.

Buying Tips - Most companies provide sizing charts for their shorts that you can check to find the right fit. And, if you can't actually sit on a bike seat to check the fit of a pair of shorts, be sure to at least bend over a little and assume your cycling position. Do the shorts feel comfortable? Can you breathe easily? Are they too tight anywhere? Does the padding feel natural, like a second skin? Is the length right for your legs? Does the waist land in the right spot?

We hope this article is helpful and we look forward to showing you our wide selection of women's cycling shorts soon! Thanks for reading.