Best Women’s Shorts for Indoor & Outdoor Cycling

All products are independently selected by our editors. If you purchase something through our links, we may earn a commission.
Screenshot 2022 05 17 at 3.12.25 PM
By Katie Pierson CPT

Certified Spinning® Instructor & CPT

No one likes the feeling of saddle soreness during class or in the days following a great ride. For some riders, a simple adjustment to their bike set-up is all that is needed to ride comfortably. But for others, investing in a great pair of cycling shorts might be required. So let’s break down everything you need to know to pick out the best women’s cycling shorts for if you are riding indoors or outdoors. 

Our Top Pick
Pactimo Classic Minimalist Cycling Shorts for Women

Featuring an Endurance Anatomic Super Air Chamois, the Pactimo Summit Classic Short also offers a yoga-style waistband for extreme comfort. 

Price & Reviews

Do You Really Need Cycling Shorts to Ride a Peloton or another Spin Bike

I often get asked whether a rider should invest in cycling shorts, especially from new riders coming to my class. It comes down to how long you plan to be riding in the saddle and how sensitive you are in the area that comes in contact with the seat. If you plan to be in the saddle for over ninety minutes, it might be beneficial to snag a pair with a quality chamois. A chamois is a pad sewn into the bottom of cycling shorts to protect sensitive areas that touch the seat. In contrast, if you are only taking a 20- or 30-minute ride, you can probably ride in your regular workout gear, but it won’t be as comfortable as cycling shorts. Typically, once your body becomes used to riding, the seat will eventually become more comfortable for those shorter rides. Still, in some cases, people who are more sensitive in that area will need to invest in a quality pair of cycling shorts as their saddle soreness doesn’t get better.

Bike Shorts for Outdoor vs. Indoors: Is There any Difference?

There can be a difference between indoor and outdoor bike shorts, but one thing is for sure, a quality chamois is needed. A chamois is a padded cushion sewn into the inside of the shorts. Most indoor cyclists opt for padded bike shorts, but it is prevalent for outdoor cyclists, especially the pros, to wear bib shorts instead. Cycling bib shorts have straps that go over your shoulders and are ideal for long rides in the saddle as the chamois stays in a better position throughout the ride than just cycling shorts.

Benefits of Cycling Shorts 

  • Diminish Chafing- Chafing is a potential issue when riding in the wrong gear, but cycling shorts help to reduce chafing by diminishing friction and offering moisture-wicking fabrics.
  • Disperse Road Vibrations- Besides an excellent bike set-up and quality saddle, cycling shorts also help reduce road vibrations that can increase pressure points.
  • Reduce Pressure Points- the chamois in cycling shorts help reduce pressure points while riding in the saddle. Unfortunately, these pressure points are often the culprit of saddle soreness.
  • Cycling Specific Designs- the design teams for cycling manufacturers have you and cycling in mind when they consider what features and design options these shorts should include. 
  • Moisture-Wicking-cycling shorts help remove the moisture that accumulates where your body is positioned on the seat, decreasing the potential for an embarrassing sweat ring after a hard ride with regular workout shorts or pants.
  • Reflective Feature- Since cycling companies design their shorts to be used indoors or outdoors. They often include reflective highlights to help when riding in low light.
best womens cycling shorts

Best Women’s Cycling Shorts

Best Budget Cycling Shorts for New Riders: Beroy Women’s Cycling Shorts

Beroy Cycling Shorts with 3D Padding for Women

The Beroy Women’s Cycling shorts include a 3-D chamois and moisture-wicking fabric. In addition, the hem includes silicon grippers and features a spandex and polyester mix.

Price & Reviews Get Holiday Deal

We selected this option based on its price and its features. This short from Beroy is a best seller on Amazon with over 17,000 reviews. Reviewers gave this short a 4.5 out of 5 rating. Sixty-eight percent of the reviews were positive, especially highlighting the price and comfort. However, a theme throughout the various star-level reviews described trying to pick the right size as a bit of a mystery. 

Most Affordable 3-5 Hour Ride Time Cycling Shorts: Santic Women’s Cycling 4D Gel Padded Shorts

Santic Women's Cycling Shorts 4D Gel

The Santic Women’s Cycling 4D Gel Padded Shorts includes silicone leg grippers, 4D chamois, and moisture-wicking fabric.

Price & Reviews Get Holiday Deal

The antimicrobial 4D chamois of the Santic 4D Padded Shorts are designed to be used during rides ranging from 3-5 hours. This cycling short has accrued over 1,300 reviews, which gives it a 4.6 out of 5. Reviewers liked the affordable price point of the item. However, some of the riders that came back after using the product over a longer timeframe shared that the silicone grippers failed to stop the shorts from riding up, and the shorts did not hold up as well as they would have hoped.

Ideal for Newer Indoor Riders: Pearl IZUMI Women’s Sugar 5” Padded Cycling Short

PEARL IZUMI Women's Sugar 5" Padded Cycling Short

The Pearl IZUMI Women’s Sugar 5” Padded Cycling short includes a lightweight, high-stretch SELECT Transfer Fabric. This cycling short also has mesh pockets as well as BioViz reflective elements.

Amazon Reviews Check Official Deal

We liked this 4.4 out of 5 rated cycling short from Pearl IZUMI because of its unique design elements. We loved the broader waistband that doesn’t cut into you during your ride and provides additional coverage in the back. Another unique feature we want to mention is the power mesh stretch pockets that are the perfect size to store a card so you can grab a smoothie after class. Most reviewers expressed they were satisfied with the quality for this price point, but overwhelmingly the consensus was that they ran a little bit small even compared to the old sugar model.

Best Long Cycling Short: Terry Women’s Touring Cycling Shorts/Long

Terry Padded Women's Touring Cycling Shorts/Long

The Terry Women’s Long Touring Cycling Shorts offer riders a 10” inseam and a Flex Air Tour chamois with additional padding.

Amazon Reviews Buy from Terry

Terry Cycling is a well-known name in the industry and has a reputation for designing great riding gear. The Terry Women’s Touring Cycling Shorts do not disappoint. The Flex Air Tour chamois is one of the main reasons we selected this specific short. It offers greater chamois density than other chamois on the market, which is especially important during endurance rides. Perforations have also been added to the chamois for superb ventilation. In addition, this short design includes 8-panels which help to provide a superior fit. This specific model offers an inseam two inches longer than standard cycling shorts. Purchasers praise this 4.6 rated cycling short for its comfort and design. Reviewers commented “incredibly comfortable in the saddle” and “my go-to short.” This cut is also available in a short or regular inseam length as well.

Best All-Around Short: Pactimo Summit Classic Short 

Pactimo Classic Minimalist Cycling Shorts for Women

Featuring an Endurance Anatomic Super Air Chamois, the Pactimo Summit Classic Short also offers a yoga-style waistband for extreme comfort. 

Price & Reviews

One of the main reasons we love this cycling short from Pactimo is the design. Unfortunately, many lower-quality cycling shorts make you feel as if you are wearing a sausage casing instead of a performance short. This is not the case with Pactimo’s Summit Classic, with the double-knit fabric and the Elastic Interface® Endurance Anatomic Gem chamois, which provides comfort for rides up to 12 hours. Also, the raw edge leg openings include not just a single silicon gripper at the hemline but soft grippers that are scattered around the bottom couple inches of the short for maximum comfort and functionality.

I have to admit I am a little biased when it comes to cycling gear, as Pactimo is the only gear that I ride. However, for full disclosure, I worked for this Colorado-based company years ago and absolutely fell in love with their gear. Although they are priced at $190, these cycling shorts are made to endure even the most strenuous rides for years to come.

Padded vs. Non-Padded Women’s Shorts: How Do They Compare?

There are a lot of great women’s exercise shorts on the market that are padded or non-padded. These two styles’ overall fabrics and cuts include similarities, but the riding comfort level is very different.

An actual cycling short will always include a pad, aka chamois. This cycling short design is made for long durations in the saddle and designed to offer comfort for over seven hours in the saddle or more.

padded shorts chamois
Padded Shorts with Chamois

Non-padded shorts can be used for a variety of activities, including cycling. This style of exercise short will not assist in decreasing saddle soreness, but you might feel more comfortable walking around the gym in it if you are planning on doing more than just cycling. 

For example, on the nights that I teach doubles, one being a cycling class and the other in a different format, I will wear regular exercise shorts or leggings since I do not have time to change between classes. I feel more confident in my non-spin class wearing this short, but it is definitely not as comfortable riding in this style of short. When I ride at home or outside, I always wear shorts or bib shorts with a chamois because they are incredibly comfortable. 

What to Look for Before Buying Women’s Cycling Shorts

Cheaper is Not Always Better

You might be tempted to purchase the cheapest pair of cycling shorts, but the entry-level short lacks many features that might help you fall in love with long rides. If you are new to riding, it is a mistake to purchase this basic short as it will not give you all the benefits of the next tier up. The second tier of shorts will often include upgraded material, grippers, and chamois. Chamois density is what you should be keeping in mind.

Opt for an Upgraded Chamois

Most brands have an entry-level short that includes an entry-level chamois. Often, the next tier of chamois includes better padding and might consist of carbon fabric as well. An upgraded chamois does not mean it is thicker, but the chamois profile might also be different. Many chamois are race cuts with a more slender profile and offer comfort for 7+ hours of riding. Try always to select a chamois that provides an extended comfort guarantee than what you plan on riding if you can. For example, even if you are only planning on riding for 90-minutes, select a chamois made for longer rides. Also, upgraded chamois often fit better as well. The chamois design provides a more enjoyable ride and is more ergonomically designed to fit your anatomical needs.

inside of a padded shorts
The inside of padded shorts.

Carbon Fiber Chamois

No one likes being the stinky kid, which is why a chamois that includes carbon is a plus. Carbon fiber helps decrease the growth of bacteria through its antimicrobial properties. In addition, this type of chamois will help decrease moisture and reduce friction.

Buy Women Specific Padded Cycling Shorts

Although, in theory, men and women could potentially use the same padded cycling shorts, the chamois design is slightly different to fit a woman’s anatomy. Therefore, a chamois designed for women will offer a little more protection and comfort where you need it most.

Not All Leg Grippers Are the Same

It is incredibly annoying if your cycling shorts continue to roll up your leg during a ride. The cheaper women’s cycling shorts with only a little silicone around the bottom of the leg opening can often creep up your leg while riding. Instead, focus on buying a short that includes a wider band at the bottom to help keep your shorts in place. 

Fabric Selections

Most cycling fabric is a nylon-spandex mix. However, new technology is allowing cycling fabric to become more breathable. Also, look for cycling shorts that mention cooling or moisture-wicking properties as they will help reduce moisture and chafing.

Try a Bib Short

If you plan to use these shorts for longer rides, you may want to consider a bib short compared to standard cycling shorts. Bib shorts often include breathable mesh uppers that go over your shoulders. Since bib shorts do not have a regular waistband, this shorts style is much more enjoyable to ride in than cycling shorts that include an elastic waistband. Bib shorts also help keep your chamois in the correct position for significant chaffing reduction and maximum comfort. Cycling shorts, not bibs, can shift while riding, therefore causing the chamois to move, which has the potential for the ride to become uncomfortable. Just note that this short style makes bathroom stops more of an adventure on the open road.

The Bottom Line

Padded cycling shorts will undoubtedly make each rider more comfortable. If you tend to have saddle soreness or like to ride for hours, then a quality pair of cycling shorts is an absolute must to help you reach your cycling goals.

Related: Best Cycling Shorts for Men

Katie Pierson CPT

Katie has been a certified fitness professional for twenty years and holds ten fitness certifications, including Spinning Elite and Personal Training. She has shared her expert knowledge in many fitness outlets like Bicycling & Verywellfit.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.