Best cycling shorts 2019: padded and streamlined shorts for a faster, more comfortable ride

Lycra shorts, ladies’ shorts, two-layer shorts and variations on that padded theme: there’s more to finding a pair of the best cycling shorts than you think

The best cycling shorts

Cycling shorts top the list of essential cycling gear. As the last layer between you and your trusty saddle, the best padded cycling shorts perform a crucial function, letting you cycle for hours without chafing or saddle sores. So finding the best cycling shorts is a crucial job. 

There are two types of cycling shorts: waist shorts and bib shorts – we're covering the former here (you'll find our best bib shorts recommendations elsewhere on the site). These have an elasticated waist, are often cheaper, and prove a popular choice for newer and casual cyclists. Serious cyclists tend to opt for bib shorts, which stay up thanks to comfortable supporting braces, but can make toilet stops more complicated. 

Here, we’ve rounded up the best waist cycling shorts for women and men according to expert testers and online reviewers, to help you decide which are right for you. 

What are the best cycling shorts?

Our best cycle shorts and all-round top pick for everyday wear are the new 2019 Rapha Core Cargo cycling shorts, available for men and women. They're in Rapha's more affordable Core range, yet feature the same chamois pads as you get in the Classic range.

All cycling shorts have some degree of padding, which is where they differ from your average pair, although how much is up to you. The same goes for price. If possible, it's always worth grabbing your bike helmet and going for a test run in new cycle shorts before setting off on a longer ride, just to make sure everything sits as it should. Read on for our pick of the best cycling shorts for men and women right now...

The best cycling shorts

(Image: © Rapha)

1. Rapha Core Cargo shorts

Dependable Rapha quality and comfort with understated styling

Specifications
Sizes: XXS, XS, S, M, L, XL, XXL
Material: 82% Polyester, 8% Elastane
RRP: £95-£110
Reasons to buy
+Really comfortable+Pockets!
Reasons to avoid
-Not the cheapest (but not the most expensive either)

Buy the women’s Core Cargo shorts from rapha.cc for £95
Buy the men’s Core Cargo shorts from rapha.cc. for £95
Buy the men’s Core Cargo bib shorts from rapha.cc for £110

Pockets on lycra cycling shorts are rare things, and you don’t realise how useful they are until you’ve had a pair of shorts that has them. Rapha’s Core Cargo shorts feature such pockets – a mesh one on each leg so you can easily carry a phone, a snack or whatever else you might put in a jersey pocket. The pockets fit snugly to the shorts, so if you’re not carrying anything, the shorts just look like an ordinary pair of streamlined lycra shorts.

The Core range is Rapha’s more affordable range and while still not cheap, you get Rapha quality, which includes a supremely comfortable chamois, and that's the same Rapha chamois pad used in all of the brand’s Classic range. For men, the Core Cargo shorts are available as bib shorts and non-bibs, while for women they’re only available as non-bib shorts. For the non-bib cycling shorts, instead of using a drawstring at the waist as some brands do – which can chafe skin on longer rides – Rapha has opted for the same grippy silicone around the waist as you’ll find around the leg openings. When it comes to balancing quality, comfort and price, we think Rapha's pocket cycling shorts are the best you can buy right now.

2. FWE Women's BKB Waist Short

Affordable women’s cycling shorts

Specifications
Sizes: S, M, L, XL, XXL
Material: Polyamide, Elastane, Polyester
Reasons to buy
+Flattering, comfortable shape+Fit-specific padding
Reasons to avoid
-Some reports of snug sizing so check the guide

Evans Cycles own-brand FWE has put out some corkers when it comes to great value cyclewear, and these women’s cycling shorts are no exception. Reviewers commended the FWE Women's BKB Waist Shorts for their flattering cut and comfortable fit, with some claiming this was the only pair that didn’t give them what cyclists seem to variously call “muffin legs” or “sausage legs”, all thanks to snug but not over-tight bands that hold the shorts in place at mid-thigh. The padding is specifically engineered for ladies. These are great cycling shorts for women that won't break the bank.  

Endura 8 Panel Xtract Gel Short

3. Endura 8 Panel Xtract Gel Short

Warm weather-friendly wickers with comforting gel

Specifications
Sizes: S, M, L, XL, XXL
Material: Nylon, Elastane, Polyester
RRP: £44.99
Reasons to buy
+Quick wicking+Gel padding to relieve pressure 
Reasons to avoid
-May be a little long on the legs for some riders

“Gel cycling shorts” might sound like a folly, but reviewers say the Endura 8 Panel Xtract Gel Shorts come in pretty handy in hot weather. These bike shorts do everything they can to keep riders comfortable on warm days. This includes super-fast wicking to whisk away sweat; antibacterial finishes to eliminate sweaty smells; dimpled gel padding to relieve put-upon pressure points; and soft-on-skin microfibre for a cool and comfortable feel. That's a lot of promise, but 94% of reviewers on the Evans website recommend these cycling shorts – and at under £50, they're great value too.

Best cycling shorts: Endura Hummvee Chino Short (with liner)

4. Endura Hummvee Chino Short (with liner)

The best cycling shorts for city riding

Specifications
Sizes: S, M, L, XL, XXL
Material: Elastane, Polyester, Cotton
Reasons to buy
+Comfortable and practical+Look like normal shorts+Comes with a detachable cycle short liner
Reasons to avoid
-People may think you're a bike courier

Buy the Endura Hummvee Chino Short from Wiggle for £56.99

The Endura Hummvee Chino Short (with liner) is brand new for 2019. The Hummvee range was originally aimed at mountain bikers, but these new cycling shorts have a more tailored cut. They’re designed to take you from the bike to the office or pub, making them a great option for urban riders and more modest road riders. That's because they just look like shorts, but are hard wearing and comfortable, with a detachable liner short providing extra seat padding and support – but under your shorts, so nobody need know. Quite literally the best of both worlds. As you'd imagine, this can feel a little bulky and odd initially, but you soon get used to it.   

Tenn Mens Coolflo 8 Panel Padded Cycling Shorts

5. Tenn Mens Coolflo 8 Panel Padded Cycling Shorts

Best cheap cycling shorts

Specifications
Sizes: 30-44
Material: Nylon
Reasons to buy
+Budget-friendly+Eight-panel construction

Single-figure prices are, understandably, few and far between in the world of cycling garments, but these budget Tenn Mens Coolflo 8 Panel Padded Cycling Shorts come very highly rated by users. It’s certainly no bad thing in a sport that can sometimes feel inaccessible to those on a budget, and whether they’re an entry-level pair or a spare, they’re sure to perform admirably. The eight-panel construction allows maximum range of movement, while the nylon-spandex blend stays stretchy in action and retains its shape when washed. If you're tight on cash, these cycling shorts are worth a look.