The quality of your cycling shorts can make or break a ride - fact. Uncomfortable shorts can ride up, ride down, cut in, or flap around - none of the above are things you want to happen and all of them can be avoided with a pair of quality, well fitting cycling shorts.
We've rounded up a selection of our favourite options, and they're all pairs we've ridden and rated - but it's worth remembering that short choice is personal and you need to make sure you get a good fit to allow them to do their job.
When it comes to selecting your shorts, we'd always suggest trying them on (whilst wearing knickers, something you won't do if you buy them) if you can - either in a changing room in a shop or in your bedroom whilst you've still got a chance to return them if you're buying online.
Things to consider when trying them on are:
- The bib straps if relevant - where do they sit over/round/between your breasts, and is the material soft or irritating?
- If there are any comfort break features - a zip/clasp/clip - test them to see if you find them easy to use (you don't actually need to go to the toilet..)
- The waist if these are waist shorts - does it sit nice and high so they won't fall down? Does it cut in when you bend over in a riding position?
- The leg grippers - do they cut in? If so, this will probably get on your nerves quickly so you're best off trying another pair. If they flap around, the same goes.
- Does the chamois stay put when you lean over in a riding position? If they're too big, the material may shift and cause it to sit incorrectly
Housekeeping aside, here are some of our favourite pairs - all tried, tested, and loved by members of the TWC team...
Alé Women's PRR Thermal Bib Shorts
You can see Alé's new 2016 kit here and buy it from a local dealer, but stock is still on the way and these PRR shorts for £61.36 at Wiggle are a bargain. We would suggest these are best for someone who is already an Alé customer and knows their fit with the brand - sizes usually come up quite small in true Italian fashion.
These are high end bibs - with a fleecey thermal fabric they're designed to be worn in spring and autumn, when it's just warm enough to pop on shorts but there's still a nip in the air.
Alé have used their 'W4H' chamois, which is constructed from elastic micro fibre, with the padding at key contact points. The wings are flexible to allow for movement as you pedal and material is wicking and quick drying.
Probably our favourite feature is the 'free' system - the bib straps are made from a light, stretchy material and having tried these out we were hardly aware of them at all.
The legs feature a 60mm elastic leg band with silicone woven in to keep them in place, distributing pressure to avoid any constriction.
Pearl Izumi Women's Elite Drop Tail Bib Short
Pearl Izumi's drop tail bib is yet another clever idea to make pee-stops easier- the back of the bib simply pulls down, then tucks back in - clever!
These use an 'Elite 3D chamois' with 3 layers of padding up to 13mm, as well as an active carbon yarn to help you regulate your temperature. Multiple panels on the short legs mean they wrap around your body, as opposed to stretching, to provide a comfortable and flattering fit. All that, and a 'coolback' fabric provides heat regulation and sun protection for those summer days we can't wait for!
We tend to find Pearl Izumi offerings have slightly shorter legs - these measure 8.5 inches at the inseam in a size medium - an option for those who want to show off their pins and limit tan lines...
dhb Aeron Women's Halterneck Bib Shorts
We've always been impressed with these halter neck bibs from dhb - in fact they won 'best on test' in our recent 'Ready, Steady, Pee!' round up to see which bibs allowed for the quickest stops.
Halter neck bibs allow you to get all the added comfort of bibs, but they're so easy to remove without taking off your jersey - we really think it's the best idea.
On top of all that, these bibs use great high quality Italian fabric, with a CyTech Tour HP Super Air chamois which is designed to cater for up to five hours in the saddle. The leg grippers are wide to prevent any sort of muffin-leg fiasco, too. DhB bibs genuinely seem to be the best value on the market at the moment, and Wiggle's own brand offer a wide range of different prints and styles.
HOY Vupine Senko Women's Bib Shorts
Just in, we've already had a chance to put these HOY Vulpine bibs to the test and have to say they're a pleasure to wear. The brand have stuck with their full body approach on the top half of the bib, giving you extra support and an in-built base layer.
The pad is a pro level CyTech construction with added breathability, and we particularly liked the wide laser cut straps at the shoulders and soft leg grippers.
Granted, you'll need to take your jersey off if you need to stop for a wee in these, but it'll only take a second and of course you'll be riding for longer than you will be pee-ing (hopefully!)
This year's offering is the Le Tigra Helix - much like the Sound Barrier Helix we reviewed but in new 2016 colours. The fit is close, but Z92 fabric at the cuffs not only aids aerodynamics (oh-er!) but also provides light compression without digging in. The Vero Fabric used has a four-way stretch that's durable and quick wicking, and Primal have used an HX8 Carbon chamois, which prevents abrasion and promotes blood flow as well as using four different densities across the fabric to ensure targeted relief.
Castelli Velocissima Women's Short
If we're completely honest, at TWC we're really big fans of bibs. However, we know they're not right for everyone, and if you're after waist shorts then Castelli are a good place to start. These high wicking shorts feature a 'flat form waist construction' front and back which means the waist will sit against the skin snuggle without digging in.
These also use the Castelli Kiss Air Donna seat pad - one we absolutely love for providing all the comfort we need whilst being notably less bulky than so many options from competitors. The leg grippers are also wide to avoid digging in and there are some reflective details.
The brand has a reputation for being pricey, but these are £75 and we always find Castelli bibs and shorts to be some of the most comfortable around.
A more pricey waist short, these come in at around £120 but we couldn't recommend them enough!
Having ridden these with the Giro development team in Switzerland, we're still wearing them regularly over six months on. Available with a galaxy print to match the jersey or in plain black these are waist shorts that we can truly forget about when riding.
The waist sits high and is wide enough to spread compression, making it barely noticeable. The back features lumbar support compression to look after your back, and these feature Giro's very own Custom Chrono Expert Chamois that kept us smiling despite 80 miles in an unfamiliar saddle...
Chapeau! Ladies Classic Bib Shorts
These haven't changed since we reviewed them last summer - and in our opinion that can only be a good thing! Designed for every day riding, these are Chapeau!'s entry level shorts but we felt they were more than sufficient.
The shorts use a multi-panel design, which means they move around the contours of your body, and the legs finish around mid thigh in quite a traditional, 'euro' style fashion that will suit those who prefer longer legs. The back and straps are made from a mesh design, and a gripper holds these down - though it is notably thinner and tougher than some other options on the market.
Throw in the female specific pad, flatlock system and printed labels to avoid chafing, plus the cute polka-dot design, and you've got a great pair of shorts.
Morvelo Women's Unity Evo Bib Shorts
Morvelo are known for their awesome patterns and styles, and we love the edgy design on the Unity Evo bibs. It's not all about fashion though, these use an Italian chamois to ensure comfort, with a durable lycra. These are another more 'Euro style' long leg option and the gripper band is wide enough not to cause discomfort whilst still holding the shorts in place.
The bib strap design is a little different to the other options here, and takes a little bit more 'climbing in and out of' but it's a good option for those that don't like having something either side of the boobs.
We hope there's something in there you'll like! For the next couple of months, you'll probably want to team your shorts with leg warmers to take the edge off the slight spring chill. Check out these shoulder season riding essentials for more ideas on accessories to make summer kit work through spring and autumn.