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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.
Scroll down to check out the best bike shorts for every activity.
Best Overall: Zella Live In High Waist Pocket Bike Shorts
Smooth flatlock seams
Limited color options
When it comes to performance apparel you can rock almost anywhere, Zella is a staple—so it's no wonder the brand makes the best bike shorts for women in our book. The breathable polyester-spandex fabric keeps you cool by wicking away sweat and drying super fast.
Thanks to a high-rise waistband and extra-smooth flatlock seams, these shorts won't rub or irritate your skin. We also like that they feature side pockets for your phone, keys, credit card, or ID. Choose from two neutral hues that'll match with anything and everything.
Material: Polyester, spandex | Size Range: XXS–XL | Colors: Black, gray
Best Budget: BP. High Waist Bike Shorts
Lots of color options
Looking for something a little more affordable? No sweat. These high-rise bike shorts from Nordstrom's exclusive BP. line are made from a breathable, moisture-wicking blend of cotton and spandex. In addition to go-with-everything black, they come in a few cute prints, too, like leopard and tie-dye.
Material: Cotton, spandex | Size Range: XXS–XL | Colors: Various
Best Size Range: Girlfriend Collective High Rise Bike Short
Inclusive size range
Made from recycled water bottles
Doesn't ride up
"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.
Material: RPET (recycled polyethylene terephthalate), spandex | Size Range: XXS–6XL | Colors: Various
Best Sweat-Wicking: Under Armour Women's HeatGear Armour Mid-Rise Middy Shorts
Legs ride up
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 without constricting your core, plus it draws sweat away from your body and dries impressively fast.
Material: Polyester, elastane | Size Range: S–XXL | Colors: Black, red, navy, royal blue, charcoal, gray
Best Waistband: Enavant Active Koa Biker Short
When it comes to bike shorts, a good waistband is key. That's why we're loving this pair from Enavant Active. Made of an ultra-soft and stretchy fabric with a wide hidden band around the waist, the Koa offers gentle support while sculpting and smoothing your core.
Material: Nylon, polyester, spandex | Size Range: XS–L | Colors: Navy, brown, olive, orange
Best Mid-Rise: Nike Women's Sportswear Essential Bike Shorts
Inclusive size range
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.
Material: Cotton, polyester, spandex | Size Range: XXS–XXL | Colors: Black, green, lilac, blue, heather gray
Best for Biking Outdoors: P.E Nation Momentum Bike Shorts
Good for biking
Made from recycled materials
For outdoor 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.
Material: Recycled nylon, lycra, elastane | Size Range: XXS–XL | Colors: Multi
Best for Distance: Castelli Prima Short
Breathable, padded chamois
"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.
Material: Lycra | Size Range: XS-XL | Colors: Black, navy, charcoal
Best for Indoor Cycling: Bandier All Access High Waisted Center Stage Biker Short
Good for indoor cycling
Inclusive size range
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.
Material: Nylon, spandex | Size Range: XXS–3XL | Colors: Black, pink
Best for Cross-Training: Lululemon Wunder Train High-Rise Short 6"
Good for cross-training
Inclusive size range
Three lengths available
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."
Material: Nylon, lycra, elastane, polyester | Size Range: 0–20 | Colors: Various
Best Shiny: Sweaty Betty High-Shine High-Waisted Bike Shorts
Passes squat test
There's something about a shiny short that makes us want to hop on the saddle and ride like there's no tomorrow. Sweaty Betty's High-Shine Bike Shorts check all the boxes, offering a stunning sheen with plenty of stretch and breathability—extra points for passing the squat test.
Material: Polyamide, elastane | Size Range: XXS–XXL | Colors: Black, blue
Best Printed: Beach Riot Bike Shorts
Limited size range
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.
Material: Polyester, spandex | Size Range: XS-XL | Colors: Various prints
Best Athleisure: Beyond Yoga High Waist Biker Shorts
Suitable for various activities
Whether you're running errands, practicing yoga, 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.
Material: Polyester, spandex | Size Range: XXS–XXL | Colors: Orange, pink, blush, beige, silver, green, black
Best Loungewear: Good American Essential Bike Short
Inclusive size range
It didn't take long for Khloé Kardashian's Good American jeans to gain a cult following. If you're unfamiliar with the brand's loungewear line, say hello to your new favorite shorts. Woven from a heavyweight cotton blend with a stretchy waist, the wear-anywhere style is universally flattering and endlessly comfortable.
Material: Cotton, elastane | Size Range: XS–4XL | Colors: Black, heather gray, dark brown, taupe
Best Period-Proof: Thinx Cycle Shorts
Inclusive size range
Front pocket for heating pad
Not ideal for heavy flows
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.
Material: Polyester, elastane, cotton, breathable PUL | Size Range: XS–4XL | Colors: Black, gray
For an all-around excellent pair that's suitable for outdoor biking, indoor cycling, circuit training, and everyday wear, Zella Live In High Waist Pocket Bike Shorts are your best bet. They're breathable, moisture-wicking, and quick-drying with a smoothing high-rise waistband and handy side pockets. However, if you want something designed specifically for competitive or long-distance bicycling, go with the Castelli Prima Short.
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.
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."
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.
What are the benefits of 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.
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.