Best Men’s Shorts for Indoor and Outdoor Cycling

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By Robbie Ferri, Cyclist, Personal Trainer, and Group Exercise Instructor.

Being uncomfortable on a bike ride indoors or outdoors is just awful, and it can ruin the experience. When I first started cycling, I didn’t wear padded shorts, and I still regret it to this day. They make such a huge difference, and you see very few experienced cyclists without them. 

Do you really need cycling shorts to ride an indoor bike?

In a short answer, no, but it really helps. I have been a spinning instructor for many years, and it doesn’t take long for people to switch over to wearing the correct clothing. What’s unique about cycling shorts is the support. They often have a special pad that wraps around the saddle when you sit on it and cushion your behind. They stay tight to your body and keep your mobility to a maximum. 

Regular shorts do work, but they can cause unnecessary friction and also get in the way. The last thing you need when trying to smash a personal best right? I have seen people trying to get to the end of a spin session in a lot of discomfort before, which could have been easily avoided with the right pair of shorts.

Is there any difference between indoor and outdoor shorts?

This is probably an unpopular opinion, but I don’t think there’s a tremendous amount of difference between indoor and outdoor clothing apart from one thing. They use pretty much all the same fabrics and generally have the same pads. Many indoor of them come purely as shorts without any shoulder support, and in an indoor spinning environment, that’s fine. Outdoor shorts typically are more often bib shorts with shoulder supports. They both will be able to do the job of cycling indoors and outdoors. Hence I don’t feel much sets them apart.

What are the Benefits of cycling shorts?

Cycling shorts have a massive amount of benefits that people don’t know about, and before you decide on the shorts for you, it’s vital to understand everything they do.

  • Comfort: The first thing is comfort, which is obviously the most important thing about wearing cycling shorts. Having a pad goes a long way to protect your body and also makes the experience of cycling just much nicer. Even cycling shorts without a pad remove a lot of friction and just make the experience of riding a bike indoors and outdoors so much better.
  • Hygienic: Hygiene is vital when it comes to cycling indoors and outdoors. When we sweat, it’s not all water coming from our bodies. It is actually a byproduct of the body cooling itself and is 99% water and 1% salt of fat. Salt isn’t good sitting on the skin, and the padding can absorb this easily and help stop irritation.
  • To hold everything in place: When you’re in a class, jumping up and down all over the bike, you must have some form of support. When you keep sitting up and down, it does make it very challenging to keep finding that comfortable place. Cycling shorts help with this. Tight lycra isn’t always about being streamlined and aero. It’s about being efficient. 
  • To Coverup: Many people go to the gym and tend to wear very short shorts. In an indoor cycling class and even outdoors on a ride, this can be a tad revealing, and honestly, it’s something you want to avoid, in my opinion. Just because it says fitness gear on the shorts doesn’t mean it’s ideal for cycling. Cycling shorts are fantastic at covering up that area and ensuring there’s no chance you’re going to be flashing anyone.
  • To reduce next-day pain: If I had a cent for the number of people that would come to my spin class and say their rear hurt the next day, I’d have quite a few dollars. Unfortunately, this is just normal, and no matter what saddle you use, you’ll probably feel a little sore on the behind the day after until you’re used to cycling. It puts people off wanting to spin again, and they then think that cycling isn’t the sport for them. Padded shorts can completely sort this out and relieve you from this discomfort.
Best Men Cycling Shorts

Let’s look at some of the Best Cycling Shorts

Now it’s time for us to look at some cycling shorts. When it comes to cycling shorts, we must look at a few different things. Firstly the design, style, and color, the protection it offers, the support, and any special features.

Primal Men’s Cycling Shorts

I am a huge fan of Primal when it comes to cycling wear. They actually have been making excellent clothing for quite a long time and are many cycling teams and many avid cyclists go-to choice.

The thing to look at is the design, simplicity is key, and they are using a classic cycling bib short style. The first thing to mention is the two shoulder supports that are going to keep that pad perfectly in place no matter if you are doing sprints or just the odd bit of stand up climbing. It’s a race fit, so it is going to hug you nicely.

The style is very cool. I absolutely love the black, white, and green mix and how the white swoops through the bottom. This is a very intelligent though I understand they haven’t done this just for looks. Typically, you don’t see many sets of shorts in bright colors because they tend to be quite revealing in areas. What they have done here is kept it black in those areas and the rest bright. 

I love the fact these stand out without being too much. It also makes me feel protected outdoors as they are much more visible than most. The padding is the E6 Carbon Chamois pad, and it is excellent. The Primal Bib shorts need a place at the top of this list as they are amazing shorts.

Pros

  • Race Fit
  • Bib Shoulder Support
  • Look Excellent
  • Great Visibility

Cons

  • Not the Cheapest
  • Race fits can be tight
  • Shoulder support can be annoying getting on and off

Sponeed Shorts

Sponeed is a brand we hear more and more about, and the reviews are typically always excellent. They make a very nifty product. I love that they are awesome in performance, and they come in so many different colors.

The Sponeed shorts are an excellent design, and unlike the Primal shorts, they don’t have the bib shoulder supports. They are more like a standard set of sports shorts. They are designed to not only be long in the leg, but they also come high up your back which is excellent because it means they cover you up more leaning over.

The shorts are pretty bold. Yes, you are going to stand out a little in that class, and people will for sure know what shorts you are wearing. That’s not a bad thing though, especially out on the roads where you need to be seen. The range of colors gives you many options to match to jerseys and even bikes.

The padding is excellent, and you are going to find yourself sitting on silicone support here. You have mixed materials to help reduce moisture in the shorts, but they are also quick-drying and very breathable. All this for the price is absolutely amazing, and we can’t recommend them enough.

Pros

  • Race Fit
  • Easy to get on and off
  • Look Excellent in many colors
  • Great Visibility
  • Price is incredible

Cons

  • Race fits can be tight
  • Less support than bib versions

Mens Vayager MTB Shorts

Cycling shorts don’t all have to be race fit and tight and aerodynamic. Some of us enjoy shorts that look a bit more casual but also very functional at the same time. The MTB Shorts are the perfect compromise.

The design is excellent, and I feel these MTB shorts can fit into a variety of different situations, such as riding with friends, being in a spinning class, and even the local club run. I love the fact these have pockets in, which very few shorts on this list have, and it goes such a long way having a place for your keys and phone. You don’t get the grip of a race-fit short with relaxed-fit shorts, so you find they flap about a bit more.

The shorts come in a variety of different colors without being anything too crazy. They are all dark colors that will work with most sports tops. The padding is not as tough as the Primal padding, but it offers a good level of protection, and it’s going to improve your comfort level. These shorts really tick a box for me because they are very casual compared to the others, and the price is impressive.

Pros

  • Relaxed Fit
  • Easy to get on and off
  • Look excellent in dark shades
  • Pockets
  • Price is incredible

Cons

  • Less pad support than other shorts
  • Heavier and less aero
  • Less gripping to skin

Craft Essence 2 in 1 Shorts

So we have seen a few different types of bib shorts in this list already. We have seen race fit and relaxed fit, but what if you’re looking for something in between them. The Craft Essence Shorts are an excellent in-between and give you the best of both worlds.

Firstly the design is great. They look nice and wouldn’t look out of place even if you wore them to a spinning class at the gym or were out smashing the miles in on the road. I feel like these will be more suited to any kind of training than any other shorts on this list. They come in many different colors, including hi-visibility.

The shorts offer the compression of a race-fit pair of shorts but also have the relaxed out layer giving them the look of a relaxed fit pair of shorts. Not only does this suit what a lot of people like to wear but having layers massively reduces friction. These shorts, unlike the others, don’t have a pad, so they won’t offer as much support as the others, but for short rides and indoor sessions, they will be fine. I like these craft shorts because they are generally just more sporty shorts than cycling shorts.

Pros

  • Relaxed Fit and Race Fit
  • Easy to get on and off
  • Look excellent in multiple colors
  • Pockets
  • Price is good

Cons

  • Not internal pad

Cerotipolar Men’s Long-Distance Cycling Shorts

If you are looking for a very impressive pair of bib shorts at a minimal price with loads of extra features, then the Cerotipolar long-distance shorts will tick all those boxes for you. They are incredible, and we have saved the best until last here.

The design of these shorts is excellent, and the first thing we can see is they are a bib style set of cycling shorts. One thing I have so much time for is the sheer amount of the body they wrap. They are designed to give you full mobility with considerable support, even over the stomach.

The design is not just beautiful but intelligent. The Cerotipolar comes in a variety of different designs, and they look great. It doesn’t stop there though. You also have the fact that they have a rear pocket, which is rare in bib shorts but so handy if you are cycling indoors or outdoors and need a place for keys or a mobile phone. 

The support system is incredible, and the pad is a 120g/m2 Agis Shield open cell foam pad. What makes this excellent is that it is great at padding your behind and keeping the area fresh and dry to avoid irritation. On top of that, the large grippers on the bottom hold the shorts in place excellently, keeping that pad working efficiently. These shorts offer the best support of any on this list, but they could be overkill if you just do an hour on the bike.

Pros

  • Race Fit
  • Incredible Support
  • Look excellent in multiple colors with color-coded pocket
  • Pocket on rear
  • Price is amazing

Cons

  • Overkill for short rides
  • Indoor can be warmer than some of the others on this list

Padded vs Non Padded Shorts, how do they compare?

There’s a big debate when it comes to pad or no pad with cycling shorts, and honestly, it comes down to two different things when you look at cycling shorts and how to make the choice on if you need the support or not. 

When people come and ask me if they need padding in shorts, the first thing I always ask is about how long do you plan to ride for. If you are doing a 45-minute session indoors, then you probably don’t need a pad. You might feel a little discomfort the next day, but typically you will get used to it in time. Anything under an hour and padded shorts aren’t typically needed. If you’re riding anything above 90 minutes, I’d highly recommend a pad.

We are all different, though, so if you are just on your bike and you’re feeling uncomfortable after five minutes, you probably will need padded shorts. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about; it just is one of those things. Some of us are a bit more resilient in the rear compared to others. Padded shorts are not a fashion statement, they are functional clothing, and I feel people forget that sometimes. You want to make the cycling experience as enjoyable as possible, and there are lots of options on the market for hidden padding.

What to look for before buying men’s padded shorts?

So you’re ready to buy yourself some padded shorts but still not entirely sure about what you need. In this next section, we’re going to tell you what you need to be thinking about. Let’s break it down for you.

Support Pad

The most important thing by far is support. As I mentioned before, cycling shorts are a functional piece of clothing, and they are there to support you and help you. If you’re going to be riding for long periods of time or often, you will benefit significantly from a padded set. If you do 30 minutes twice a week, then you can get away without.

Bib or Normal Shorts

Bibs are the straps that go over your shoulder, and they are exceptional at keeping everything in place and just making the shorts feel a part of you but do you need them? I feel for indoor cycling, not really, regular shorts stay in place, and if they do, they are very quick and easy to adjust. 

For outdoor cycling, you hugely benefit from having bib shorts. If you’re out on a ride, you want the shorts to always be in the right place. The extra shoulder support goes so far when it comes to holding your clothing in place. If you use regular shorts wish to adjust them while riding, it can be dangerous, or if you stop, it can take up a lot of time.

Race or Relaxed fit

Indoor and outdoor cycling, you can both use a race or relaxed fit. The relaxed fit is what a lot of people use when they go to spinning classes, as it looks much more casual, and you can hit the weight section right after and not feel out of place. They are also favored by mountain bikers and casual touring cyclists.

Then you have race-fit shorts, they do offer an excellent level of compression compared to the relaxed fit, but they are going to feel tighter. Road cyclists often use them because they are much better for mobility and can offer slight aerodynamic advantages. I feel race or relaxed, it does come down to what you like more than anything.

Design

Although some might not mind what they wear, I personally feel it’s essential to be wearing something that you like the look of. I like a bit of color in my shorts, so I’m visible to road users, but some people are more of a fan of a stealthy black look. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s something you really like and suits your personality.

Pockets

I know it might not be the first thing you think of when buying cycling shorts, but a pocket can make such a difference. I personally am a huge fan of having pockets when I am riding indoors and outdoors because sometimes you need a place for your keys or phone. 

Conclusion

Cycling shorts are a very functional product, and they can make a big difference to your workouts. If you have never tried them before, we highly recommend giving them a go as they just add so much to the experience.

Related: Best Cycling Shorts for Women

Robbie Ferri

A Personal Trainer and Ultra Cyclist living in King's Lynn in Norfolk, UK. From Ultra Cycling World Records to Bikepacking Races and a huge amount of time on the gym floor training myself and clients my experience when it comes to Health and Fitness is vast.

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