Bike shorts are now ubiquitous in the worlds of fitness and fashion. Whether you like to wear them while streaming a ride, prefer in-person spin classes, or rock them while logging real miles outside on the trails, this active staple has a place in every cycler's closet. "Bike shorts offer a layer of protection between your body and the saddle," says Kourtney Danielson, co-founder of Cinch Cycling. "Well-fitting cycling shorts will prevent chafing, numbness, and overall discomfort so you can ride harder and longer."
According to certified personal trainer Dianna Falzarano, the form-fitting design helps "increase the amount of oxygen your body is receiving by increasing pressure (compression) to your glutes and thighs." Plus, they make excellent athleisure wear.
We conducted hours of research on the best bike shorts, evaluating them on moisture-wicking abilities, fit and inclusivity of sizing, and how well they stay up, among other features. After consulting with a cycling expert, coach, and personal trainer, and considering dozens of options, we landed on these top-rated choices.
Aerie OFFLINE Real Me 7" Crossover Bike Short
When you're looking for a pair of bike shorts you can wear everywhere from the gym to running errands, you can't go wrong with this figure-flattering pair from Aerie featuring a v-shaped waistband. The crossover waist gives an hourglass effect, and in basic black, you can wear these again and again in a variety of ways, including for your workouts or underneath a dress. The fabric is lightweight and smooth against your skin, and yet these stay up through squats and lunges. They're also a relatively inexpensive option, so you can stock up with a few pairs.
Price at time of publish: $35
Material: 88% nylon, 12% elastane | Size Range: XXS–XXL | Colors: Black | Fit: True to size
TheMogan Mid Thigh Kite Cotton Biker Short Leggings
TheMogan proves you don't need to spend a lot to get a high-quality, functional pair of bike shorts. In an array of colors, this pair hits at mid-thigh and stays up through cycling, squats, and more. The lightweight cotton-spandex blend keeps you cool and holds up through endless washing.
Price at time of publish: $11
Material: 95% cotton, 5% spandex | Size Range: S-XL | Colors: Various | Fit: Runs small
Best Size Range
Girlfriend Collective High-Rise Bike Short
"Girlfriend Collective is an amazing option for bike shorts," Portland-based fitness instructor Jamaica Mehr tells Byrdie. Made from recycled water bottles and available in an admirable 11 sizes, the high-rise design promises to never ride up. Along with being sustainably made, it's also a long-lasting option that won't wear out or fade over time.
Price at time of publish: $48
Material: RPET (recycled polyethylene terephthalate), spandex | Size Range: XXS–6XL | Colors: Various | Fit: Runs small
Under Armour Women's HeatGear Armour Mid-Rise Middy Shorts
Looking for something that'll keep you dry on the road? You should definitely consider Under Armour's HeatGear Middy Shorts. The lightweight fabric provides superior compression for tummy control without constricting your core (similar to compression leggings), plus it draws sweat away from your body and dries impressively fast. The quality is great on this pair, ensuring the vibrant color shade won't fade in the wash.
Price at time of publish: $30
Material: Polyester, elastane | Size Range: S–XXL | Colors: Black, red, navy, royal blue, charcoal, gray | Fit: Runs large
Nike Women's Sportswear Essential Bike Shorts
This pair from Nike is perfect for those who prefer a mid-rise waistband. Made from a cotton-blend fabric, the Essential Bike Shorts are pleasantly stretchy and moisture-wicking to keep you dry, cool, and comfy on your ride.
Price at time of publish: $35
Material: Cotton, polyester, spandex | Size Range: XXS–XXL | Colors: Black, green, lilac, blue, heather gray | Fit: Runs small
Best for Biking Outdoors
P.E Nation Momentum Bike Shorts
For outdoor workouts or excursions, slip into a pair of Momentum Bike Shorts. Made from a blend of recycled nylon, elastane, and Lycra, they're engineered to move with your body while supporting speed and efficiency.
Price at time of publish: $75
Material: Recycled nylon, lycra, elastane | Size Range: XXS–XL | Colors: Multi | Fit: True to size
Best for Distance
Castelli Prima Short
"Castelli is a popular and sleek Italian brand that works well for me," says Danielson. Woven from high-quality Lycra and featuring a breathable, padded chamois, the Prima Short is designed to help you go the extra mile.
Price at time of publish: $100
Material: Lycra | Size Range: XS-XL | Colors: Black, navy, charcoal | Fit: True to size
Best for Indoor Cycling
Bandier All Access High Waisted Center Stage Biker Short
Whether you attend boutique spin classes or bike in your living room, Bandier's Center Stage Shorts have you covered on your next ride. The seamless design offers light sculpting, and the silky-smooth, quick-drying fabric feels incredible against your skin.
Price at time of publish: $80
Material: Nylon, spandex | Size Range: XXS–3XL | Colors: Black, pink | Fit: Runs small
Best for Cross-Training
Lululemon Wunder Train High-Rise Short 6"
Falzarano and Mehr both speak highly of Lululemon's Wunder Train Shorts, which are great for HIIT and other cross-training workouts. "They have good compression and have good options for lengths," notes Mehr. "I prefer an 8-inch or 6-inch, depending on the activity, and even wear them for daily lounging and activities."
Price at time of publish: $64
Material: Nylon, lycra, elastane, polyester | Size Range: 0–20 | Colors: Various | Fit: Runs small
Beach Riot Bike Shorts
Partial to prints? You can't go wrong with a pair of Beach Riot Bike Shorts. The polyester-spandex fabric offers light compression and comes in a handful of pretty patterns, like daisies, clouds, and leopard.
Price at time of publish: $84
Material: Polyester, spandex | Size Range: XS-XL | Colors: Various prints | Fit: True to size
Best for Comfort
Beyond Yoga High Waist Biker Shorts
Whether you're running errands, beginning your yoga practice, powering through a strength-training circuit, or hanging out at home, Beyond Yoga Biker Shorts will keep you feeling comfy and looking cool. With an extra-high waistband and a generous inseam, they're flattering on all body types, supportive in all the right places, and never constricting.
Price at time of publish: $70
Material: Polyester, spandex | Size Range: XXS–XXL | Colors: Orange, pink, blush, beige, silver, green, black | Fit: True to size
Thinx Cycle Shorts
You'll be glad to have a pair of Thinx Cycle Shorts on hand when Aunt Flo is in town. Like the brand's beloved period underwear, these bike shorts boast an absorbent, leak-free lining. Plus, they help wick away sweat and keep odors at bay.
Price at time of publish: $38
Material: Polyester, elastane, cotton, breathable PUL | Size Range: XS–4XL | Colors: Black, gray | Fit: Runs large
For an all-around excellent pair that's suitable for outdoor biking, indoor cycling, circuit training, and everyday wear, Aerie OFFLINE Real Me Crossover 7" Bike Shorts are your best bet. They're breathable and quick-drying with a smoothing v-shaped waistband. However, if you want a basic pair of bike shorts, you also can't go wrong with TheMogan's Mid Thigh Kite Cotton Bike Short Leggings. They also come in many colors other than standard neutrals.
Meet the Expert
- Kourtney Danielson is the co-owner and president of Cinch Cycling in Colorado, which offers coaching for recreational and competitive cyclists. She is also the co-author of Cycling On Form: A Pro Method of Riding Faster and Stronger.
- Dianna Falzarano is a certified personal trainer and the owner of Dynamic Fitness LLC. She earned her personal training certification through the National Council of Strength and Fitness (NCSF).
- Jamaica Rylin Mehr, RN, BSN, CEN, is a fitness coach and pediatric emergency nurse based in Portland, Oregon.
What to Look For in Bike Shorts
When it comes to bike shorts, the material is one of the most important considerations. You'll want something breathable, moisture-wicking, and stretchy with a thick enough weave to offer gentle compression. Synthetic fabrics are usually best, such as polyester, spandex, Lycra, nylon, and elastane, though cotton blends offer a little more breathability. Nike Women's Sportswear Essential Bike Shorts are made with a blend of cotton, polyester, and spandex, so they're stretchy yet breathable.
When browsing bike shorts, you'll see they come in varying lengths. While this is mostly a matter of preference, longer inseams are typically better for cyclists. "I do prefer a longer bike short style," says Mehr. "It seems the longer they are, the less likely they are to ride up on your thigh." Most styles hit at mid-thigh or closer to the knee, but Under Armour Women's HeatGear Armour Mid-Rise Middy Shorts are a shorter option.
Bike shorts often have a chamois (pronounced sha-mē). It's sewn into the groin area for added cushioning and is usually made of lightweight foam. Danielson explains that this extra cushioning can help prevent chafing and saddle sores on longer rides. The Castelli Prima Short has a chamois and is an excellent choice if you're going to be cycling in your bike shorts.
What are the benefits of wearing bike shorts?
According to Danielson, form-fitting bike shorts protect your body while cycling, helping to prevent numbness, chafing, and general discomfort on the saddle. "They are also made from moisture-wicking fabric that will keep that area dry, which is crucial for us women," she adds.
Additionally, the compressive nature of cycling shorts can increase the flow of oxygen to your thighs and glutes. "They can help your muscles function better, increase your athletic performance and reduce muscle fatigue," Falzarano explains.
Should you wear underwear with bike shorts?
Cycling shorts are traditionally meant to be worn without underwear because the material is designed to control friction and reduce moisture when right up against your skin. However, if you're wearing bike shorts as athleisure wear, you might opt to put something on underneath. All that said, you should do whatever's most comfortable.
How tight should bike shorts be?
Depending on your level of movement and type of workout you'll be doing, you'll probably want the light to moderate compression that most bike shorts provide. Since most are made with spandex or elastane, they typically have a great deal of stretch to them and won't feel too constricting. But be sure to check the sizing and size up if the brand runs small, as you don't want your shorts to be so tight they cause discomfort. They should feel snug without digging into your skin or leaving marks.
Why Trust Byrdie
Theresa Holland is a freelance commerce writer with a background in lifestyle and fitness. For this story, she spoke to multiple fitness experts, including a cycling coach, combed through user reviews, researched key features, and considered dozens of bike shorts from various brands before selecting the final styles. Theresa has been contributing to Byrdie since 2020, where she covers self-care products, workout apparel, and exercise equipment.
According to our Diversity Pledge, 15% of products in our newly-published market roundups will feature Black-owned and/or Black-founded brands. At the time of publishing, we were not able to find any bike shorts from a Black-owned and/or Black-founded business. If you know of one we should consider, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will evaluate the product ASAP.