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The Best Cycling Shorts for a Seamless Bike Ride

Carousel Feature | Around The World | By Butterfield & Robinson

Our Operations Coordinator and in-house bike expert, Andrea Rataj, hones her years of bike experience to recommend how to choose the right pair of cycling shorts for a seamless bike trip.


It’s no secret that one of our favourite ways of getting around is by bike. There’s nothing like exploring new territory on two wheels to absorb the surroundings and appreciate the little things. But choosing what to wear while riding can really take your next bike ride to the next level while providing maximum comfort through different types of terrain. Below, we’ve shared our expertise so you can enjoy your next bike trip with us to the fullest.

morocco biking

What makes a good pair of cycling shorts? 

A good pair of cycling shorts are ones that you are most comfortable in—keep in mind that everyone has a personal preference when it comes to look, fit and features. While you can absolutely wear just about any style of shorts on a bike, I recommend investing in a pair that is specifically designed for riding. They typically feature higher waistbands, flat lock seams and features such as pads or pockets that keep you comfortable and efficient while on the road.

The most common type of bike shorts are compression-style and feature a pad or chamois. If you’re not into the spandex look, many brands offer more casual shorts that perform well both on or off the bike. For a women’s fit, the Wild Rye Freda Shorts feature a cycling-specific cut that can take you from bike to patio in a flash.

Velocio Women's Foundation Bib Shorts
Velocio Women’s Foundation Bib Shorts

Are bib shorts more effective when cycling?  

Bib shorts are a style of cycling short with built-in shoulder straps (basically suspenders) that eliminates the waistband and makes for a more comfortable pair of shorts. Bib shorts are a great addition to your cycling wardrobe if you plan for long days in the saddle and prize comfort above all else, but they come with a warning: they may require some tricky maneuvering if you need to use the washroom!

My tip: the Velocio Women’s Foundation Bib Shorts are built with extra-stretchy straps that make washroom breaks a cinch. Simply pull them down and let the straps stretch, all without having to remove your top.

What would protect me from getting sore on long bike rides? 

Even the most experienced cyclists get sore after a long day in the saddle. Before you head out on your B&R biking trip, we recommend that you get out on your bike a few times in the weeks leading up to your departure to make sure your body (and butt!) are ready. This includes testing out your new cycling shorts to make sure you stay chafe-free.

What type of cycling shorts would be the most comfortable to wear on hot summer days? 

I would recommend a pair of compression-style cycling shorts with a built-in chamois for hot days. The Rapha Core Shorts are one of my all-around favourites for the summer as the ultralight fabric sits snuggly against my skin and helps keep me cool. Hot weather can lead to an increased chance of saddle sores, so it may work be worth purchasing a tube of chamois cream if you’re extra worried.

What type of cycling short will keep you warm on cold/rainy days? 

For cooler days, you could consider a pair of cycling tights.

biking in Norway

Do I need to wear anything under my cycling shorts? 

This might feel a bit controversial, but you shouldn’t wear underwear with any cycling shorts with a chamois. The extra layers of fabric and seams put you at risk for chafing and discomfort that could seriously derail your trip plans. These types of shorts are designed to be worn without underwear, so bring a few pairs so you can have them washed on the in-between days. If you’ve opted for a casual pair of shorts, I would recommend a pair of underwear designed for sports that are seamless or made from performance material such as merino wool.

What is a saddle sore, and what causes them? 

There are a few things you can do to protect yourself from the dreaded “saddle sore.” Saddle sores can occur during long days in the saddle where the skin is chaffed from repetitive motion, like pedalling, and can cause significant discomfort, not to mention putting a wrench in your trip! One of the best ways to avoid saddle sores is by wearing a good pair of cycling shorts, especially ones with a built-in chamois that’s ergonomically designed with flat seams. You may also want to purchase a tube of chamois cream, especially if the weather is hot or you plan on joining the long-option rides.

Biking in Myanmar

What are some useful post-ride hygiene tips? 

While it’s not always possible, change out of your cycling shorts as soon as possible—sitting around in damp shorts increases your chances of developing saddle sores. Finish your day with some loose clothing made of natural materials, such as cotton or linen, and you’ll be good to go the next day.

Are cycling shorts supposed to be washed after every ride? 

In a perfect world, I would wash my shorts after every ride to keep them fresh and clean. On the road…well things are a bit different. I usually pack two pairs of cycling shorts and have an alternating wash/wear cycle, or sometimes wear them two days in a row depending on conditions. I typically handwash my shorts using Sport Suds, a residue-free detergent that is great for active clothing and then leave them to hang dry overnight.

Can I put my cycling shorts in the laundry dryer? 

Most cycling shorts are made from synthetic materials and should not be exposed to the high heat of a dryer, but please follow the care instructions on the label.

What is the benefit of cycling shorts with padding? 

The padding found in many bike shorts is called a chamois and can be found in the “seat” of the shorts. The padding is designed to provide extra saddle comfort and prevent chafing over long days of riding. I typically wear a chamois when I’m riding for longer than about an hour or in hot weather.

bike shorts


Glossary 

Cycling Shorts

Shorts that are designed specifically for cycling, typically with stretch material and flat,  mid-to high-rise waistbands. They may feature a chamois, pockets or bib straps.  

Velocio Bib Shorts
Velocio Men’s Foundation Bib Shorts

Bib Shorts Cycling

Shorts that feature non-removable shoulder straps to keep them in place while riding. They are typically worn underneath a cycling jersey and are significantly more comfortable than cycling shorts with waistbands. It’s worth noting that bib shorts can be a bit annoying when stopping to use the toilet, as you must remove your top layers first! 

Chamois

Pronounced “sham-ee” is the padding that may be found in cycling shorts. Wearing shorts with a chamois helps to increase the comfort of a saddle and makes for a good substitution for a gel saddle cover. They are typically not removable, but some casual shorts offer optional chamois liners. There are different shapes and styles of chamois for men and women.  

Chamois Cream

A cream that’s used to prevent chafing caused by cycling. The cream is applied directly to a chamois or body areas that are at-risk for chafing. It is especially helpful for long days of riding as well as during hot weather.  


Men’s Cycling Shorts 

Rapha Core Shorts 

These are a great option if you’re looking for performance cycling shorts. They’re lightweight, have a built-in chamois and are from one of our favourite high-end cycling brands. They are available in a bib version which features shoulder straps for an even more comfortable fit.   

Rapha's Men's Core Short
Rapha’s Men’s Core Short

Key features: Performance/Good Value/Premium Brand/Easy to Order/Free Returns 

MAAP Training Bib Shorts 

These are a premium pair of bib shorts that are lightweight, have a built-in chamois and are made in Europe. They are ideal for hot-weather riding and made using environmentally-conscious production standards.  

Key features: Performance/Premium Brand/Made in Europe 

Velocio Foundation Shorts 

These are also an excellent option for performance shorts, with the added benefit of being made in Europe. They also have a built-in chamois, are lightweight, and Velocio is a committed member of 1% for the Planet program.  

Velocio foundation shorts
Velocio Foundation Shorts

Key features: Performance/Premium Brand/Made with Recycled Nylon/Repairable/Made in Europe 

Ornot Mission Shorts 

If you’re looking for something more casual and chamois-free, we love these ones. They are specifically cut and sewn for cycling, made with a 4-way stretch material, and are proudly manufactured in the US.   

Key features: Casual/No Chamois/Premium Brand /Made in the US

Patagonia Dirt Roamer Shorts 

An excellent casual option with a bit more of a sportier look. These are designed for mountain biking but make a great option for most types of recreational cycling. There is an optional chamois liner that you can purchase to wear underneath these shorts for versatility. 

Key features: Casual/Chamois-Optional/Premium Brand/Easy to Order/Fair Trade Sewn 


Women’s Cycling Shorts 

Rapha Core Shorts 

These are a great option if you’re looking for performance cycling shorts. They’re lightweight, have a built-in chamois and are from one of our favourite high-end cycling brands. They are available in a bib version which features shoulder straps for an even more comfortable fit.   

Rapha Core Womens
Rapha Core Shorts

Key features: Performance/Good Value/Premium Brand/Easy to Order/Free Returns 

PNS Mechanism Bib Shorts 

One of the most comfortable bib shorts in the performance market and available in an assortment of eye-catching colours. These are all-rounder bib shorts with a super-comfortable chamois.  

Key features: Performance/Premium Brand/Made in Italy 

Velocio Signature Shorts 

These are also an excellent option for performance shorts, with the added benefit of being made in Europe. They also have a built-in chamois, are lightweight, and Velocio is a committed member of 1% for the Planet program. 

Velocio Signature Shorts 
Velocio Signature Shorts 

Key features: Performance/Premium Brand/Made with Recycled Nylon/Repairable/Made in Europe 

Rapha All-Day Shorts 

These are an excellent option if you’re looking for chamois-free shorts. They offer a sporty compression fit, high waistband and convenient leg pocket, made by one of our favourite cycling brands. Also available as full-length leggings.   

Rapha All Day Bike Shorts
Rapha All-Day Shorts

Key features: Performance/No Chamois/Premium Brand/Easy to Order/Free Returns 

Wild Rye Freda Shorts 

While these shorts are designed with mountain biking in mind, they are also an excellent option for any type of recreational cycling. They offer a casual look in fun prints, with the option of a chamois liner. Wild Rye is a committed member of 1% for the Planet program.  

Wild Rye Freda 7 Women's Bike Shorts
Wild Rye Freda Shorts 

Key features: Casual/Chamois-Optional/Premium Brand/Woman-Owned Company 

We hope this has helped provide some insight on how to pick the right cycling shorts and that we will see you on one of our bike trips soon! If you have any other questions about biking or our trips, be sure to get in touch with a member of our travel team.

Photography credit: Rapha bike shorts images courtesy of rapha.cc // Velocio bike shorts images courtesy of velocio.cc // Wild Rye bike shorts image courtesy of wild-rye.com