Best Cycling Shorts: Form, Function or Just Fashion?

Best Cycling Shorts
Jerry Mueller
Written by Jerry Mueller

Whether you’re engaged in competitive road, mountain bike racing, use your bike as a mode of transport, or simply bike to keep fit while also enjoying the outdoors, you’ll have to agree with us that cycling is becoming more and more popular. Not only is there a race to make the lightest bikes, but cycling apparel design is equally competitive, and the race is on to produce the best cycling shorts.

There can be no denying that pressure and friction on our hands and feet is a distant second when compared to that which gradually builds between our buttocks and the bicycle seat as we ride. But that’s why having the best pair can take away your problems. They’re padded in just the right areas to ensure that you’re still comfortable, even after a long ride. Choosing the right pair might be an overwhelming task, but don’t worry – we are here to help!

Mountain biking shorts

In this article we will guide you into making the right choice. First we’ll take a look at some of the most important features you need to know about. Later, you will see reviews of the top models that will definitely catch your interest!

Our top picks

Product NameType of StretchFabricZippersSpecific FeaturesPrice
Pearl Izumi4 wayNylon, spandexYesSnap fasteners, comfortableCheck price on Amazon
Troy Lee Ruckus2 wayPolyester, spandexYesWaist adjusted, single snap fastenCheck price on Amazon
Zoic Ether4 wayNylon, spandexYesSnap fasten, lots of pocketsCheck price on Amazon
Dakine Boundary4 wayPolyester, spandexYesWaist adjust, lightCheck price on Amazon
Fox Head Ranger2 wayPolyesterYesSnap fasten, adjustableCheck price on Amazon
Endura Hummvee4 wayNylonYesHeavy duty, ruggedCheck price on Amazon

Features to Consider Before Buying

It is really important to consider the features of cycling shorts before you buy them. You want a good, durable pair, but you don’t want to spend too much. Check out the features below so you know what to look out for.


Whilst the overall fabric and design features are important, nothing is more important than the padding, and many would be surprised by the amount of resources which are dedicated to improving the padding design. The purpose of the padding is threefold:

  • Pressure – Pressure points (also referred to as hotspots) develop where the bones inside your buttocks that you sit on meet the seat. The padding should cushion your sit bones and spread the pressure over as wide an area as possible, so that the soft tissue of your nether regions can be protected.
  • Moisture – Wicking is the capillary-like action of drawing water away from the surface of the skin and allowing it to evaporate. This is an important objective of padding, as moist skin which is subjected to pressure and chaffing will cause saddle sores.
  • Friction – Clearly, the quickest way to cause chaffing, combined with moisture and pressure, will harm the skin surface before long. The challenge here is to ensure that the padding is not only molded to follow the curves and shape of your body, but is also held firmly against your body. This will essentially transfer the movement away from the skin and to the outer surface of your clothing.

Cycling shorts padding

Having said this, not all cycling shorts have an integrated chamois. In fact, serious cyclists often prefer not to have an integrated chamois, and will wear a pair of tight fit shorts beneath there cycle shorts instead.


Choosing a pair of cycling shorts means that you want to be comfortable, but you won’t get that if you buy the wrong size. In particular, the inseam should be the most important measurement to consider, as this is where you’re going to have the most chafing if it’s not fitted properly.

Another measurement to keep in mind is the leg cuffs. Most cuffs either have silicone grippers on the insides of the bands to keep them in place, or compression cuffs are used. Either way, you should ensure that they don’t pull on your skin or leg hair to add more discomfort.

Cycling Shorts features

However, you can’t really tell how a pair is going to feel just by trying them on. If you’re buying your shorts from a cycle shop, be sure to ask if you can try them out while sitting on a bike to ensure that they’re going to comfortable throughout.


The majority of cycling shorts are designed to wick away moisture from the body. This is why they are made from either Lycra or nylon, or a combination of both.

Some cycling shorts do the job better than others, due to their own trademarked materials, but you’re guaranteed to have a cool and sweat-free ride no matter what you pick. However, your choice should depend on which material you feel the most comfortable with. Is it pure nylon? Or perhaps just Lycra? Make sure you inform yourself about the material the model you plan on buying is made of.


Some cycling shorts come equipped with small pockets, which some people may not find necessary. However, it’s better to have that extra storage capacity for your house key or energy gel just in case, than to be without.

Cycling shorts pockets

Also, besides the number of pockets, you should also check to see if the sizes of pockets will suit your needs because if a certain shorts comes with, let’s say, 5 or 6 pockets, but they are all small, you won’t have that much use for them if you always carry your smartphone or some other bulkier things.

UV Protection

In addition to preventing chafing, a good pair of cycling shorts should protect you from the elements, including the sun. Damage from the sun increases the longer you’re out riding, and you could prevent that by applying some sunscreen to get the job done.

However, having an article of clothing that can block sunlight entirely is worth investing in. Why? Well, the main reason is that you won’t need to take frequent breaks for applying the sun protection if the day is cloud free.

Top Products on Today’s Market

With all of that in mind, here is a short list of some of the products that customers are raving about. Keep in mind that this is only a list that is designed to help you find the right pair of cycling shorts you’re looking for, and shouldn’t be the only products that you consider.

Pearl Izumi Elevate ShortsPearl Izumi Elevate Shorts

Price: Approx. $40

Weight: 12.2 oz

Fabric: 95% nylon and 5% spandex

Specific features: 4 way stretch fabric, 3 zippered pockets, snap fasteners, zip fly

Best use: Cycling

Description: Pearl Izumi have been innovators and industry leaders in the production of cycling apparel, particularly cycling shorts for several decades. In fact, they are claimed to be the first manufacturer of the integrated synthetic chamois.

The Pearl Izumi Elevate Shorts is made from nylon and spandex blend and provides a 4 way stretch, rip-stop material, making it ideal for pedaling. The leg openings are sufficient to accommodate knee pads. Snap fasteners, and zip fly make comfort breaks a breeze.

In addition to the two zippered side pockets, there is also another pocket (also zippered) at the back.

These shorts are water resistant with a Durable Water Repellent as well as made of mostly nylon with 5% elastin. You can find these in standard black, as well as Monument Green, Eclipse Blue, and more. Comfortable and affordable, you will find these shorts easy to cycle in, which makes the hobby more fun.


  • Comfortable, 4 way stretch
  • DWR treated
  • Snag free material


  • These are a longer leg short, whereas some prefer shorter
  • Not waterproof

Related: If you don’t already have a hydration pack, this is a fantastic aid to mountain bikers, and apart from its primary use of holding water, or energy drink of your choice, they make the ideal carrier for spare tubes, lube, etc. Ospreys’s Raptor 10 Hydration Pack is a great example.

Check the price on Amazon

Troy Lee Designs Ruck ShortsTroy Lee Designs Ruckus Ripstop

Price: Approx. $120

Weight: 16 oz

Fabric: 92% polyester and 8% spandex

Specific features: 2 way stretch fabric, zippered pockets, Velcro waist adjusters

Best use: Biking

Description: The Troy Lee Designs Ruckus Shorts is the model of choice for America’s Curtis Keene, and that is high praise indeed for the Ruckus shorts.

For those multi day event riders, the ability to remove and wash the inner liner between rides, whilst still able to wear these stylish shorts is practical, and they certainly look good.

The 92% polyester and 8% spandex blend incorporates a single snap fastener and zip fly, and the hip-high Velcro waist adjusters are particularly effective. One side zippered pocket, one open access pocket and rear zippered pocket provides ample carry options.

Overall, these are some pretty comfortable bicycle shorts that you can cycle or even BMX ride in with ease. While a bit heavier than some shorts, these are durable, tough, and they look great. We know they are a little on the pricier side, but they are definitely a great pair of shorts.


  • Tough
  • Locks of pocket space
  • Stylish, practical


  • Very expensive
  • Comes in only black

Related: In addition to very well made mountain biking shorts, Troy Lee offers a number of other cycling apparel items including the A-1 Helmet. This helmet is affordable, durable, and looks good while wearing it. Stay safe out there!

Check the price on Amazon

Zoic Ether ShortsZOIC Men's Ether Cycling Shorts

Price: Approx. $55

Weight: 12.8 oz

Fabric: 95% nylon and 5% spandex

Specific features: multiple pockets, 3 zippered pockets, snap fasteners, zip fly

Best use: Mountain biking

Description: If pockets are your thing, the Zoic Ether Shorts will not disappoint you, Zoic have placed pockets on every panel, some of which are zippered, made from air mesh, and some are open.

If there is anything to criticize, it could be the chamois, which is a little on the light side.

Having said this, many riders prefer a thinner chamois, as opposed to the diaper feeling created by thick chamois. The benefits of removal liners are well known, and Ether shorts also have hip-high Velcro adjustable extenders on either side.

Coming in many colors, these polyester and spandex shorts come down to the knee at 12 inches, and have a Duraflex stretch fabric on the outside for durability. We like the elastic back waist and the Velcro adjuster tabs too.

Here, you have a great pair of shorts that includes a tech pocket for your phone, that fit comfortably and have a little stretch to them.


  • Comfortable, 12 inch seam
  • Interchangeable padded liner
  • Many color options


  • Zippers can break
  • Too much padding in the liner
  • Can tear

Related: Apart from the option of including an additional liner, saving you having to wash and wear during multi day use, the Zoic Essential Liner is a good choice. It’s durable and overall a great pick when you need something for outdoors if you will be riding a while.

Check the price on Amazon

Dakine Boundary ShortDakine Boundary Short

Price: Approx. $100

Weight: 7.2 oz

Fabric: 85% polyester and 15% spandex

Specific features: 4 way stretch fabric, very light weight, concealed waist adjuster

Best use: Cycling

Description: For cyclists that enjoy a slimmer looking and fitting cycling shorts, Dakine Boundary Shorts is the option for you. Although it is made from a 4-way stretch nylon, polyester, and spandex blend, it remains a fairly loose fit.

The inner thigh vents are great to keep your legs cool, and the concealed waist adjuster keeps all loose ends from snagging on bushes. The slim look does come with a drawback, and that is the lack of adequate pockets, there is just one inside zippered pocket.

You can find these in black, red and blue, and they truly do keep your legs cool while you are cycling. The fly is zippered with a dual snap closure, and they can be adjusted at the waist. While a little on the pricier side, these are comfortable pants by a company that knows shorts well.

Great for all mountain riding, you will find that these shorts perform well in rugged terrain.


  • Rugged, durable
  • 4 way stretch
  • Light, increased mobility


  • Pricey
  • Few color options
  • Zippers can stick

Related: Stay hydrated on the trail with the CamelBak Podium Big Chill Insulated Water Bottle which holds 25 oz of water. It’s insulated, has a secured lockout on the cap and is BPS and BPA free.

Check the price on Amazon

Fox Head Ranger ShortsFox Head Men's Ranger 12-Inch Cargo Shorts

Price: Approx. $40

Weight: 16 oz

Fabric: 100% polyester

Specific features: 2-way stretch fabric, multiple pockets, snap fasteners, zip fly

Best use: Biking

Description: You would be forgiven for thinking that Fox Head Ranger Shorts is a pair of regular cargo shorts, at first glance, but this belies what is really a great mountain biking option. The detachable inner liner is particularly good with a high quality Evo chamois.

You get two flap-close cargo pockets, which can carry loads of accessories and two side (and more rearward) zippered pockets. You are also likely to get the perfect fit thanks to the inside-adjustable waist band.

Choose from bright and rarely seen short colors like Florescent Orange and Acid Green.. But don’t worry, there is still the standard Black Green and Charcoal colors for those who don’t want to stand out too much. Fairly affordable, we love these 12 inch shorts that make biking a breeze!


  • Cool color options
  • Cargo pockets
  • Durable, all polyester


  • Snaps can come off
  • Faulty zipper
  • Material is too thin

Related: Fox is a well-known and trusted brand, and has an option for almost every product category from a wide range of sports including moto X, freestyle riding and mountain biking. And if black is your color, then the Fox Ranger Jersey will complement your gear perfectly.

Check the price on Amazon

Endura Hummvee ShortsEndura Hummvee Baggy Cycling Shorts

Price: Approx. $55

Weight: 16 oz

Fabric: 100% nylon

Specific features: 4 way stretch fabric, 3 zippered pockets, snap fasteners, zip fly

Best use: Mountain biking

Description: As its name suggests, the Endura Hummvee Shorts provides a particularly rugged pair of mountain biking shorts, for those who are looking for durability as their primary requirement.

The Humvee does not score well for weight, and comfort on the trail, given its non-stretch heavy duty fabric. There are pockets a plenty, and apart from the two rear pockets, which could well catch your seat, the others are well positioned and secure.

The liner is easily removed, and is a stretch mesh liner, with an integrated foam chamois. The waist is adjusted via a center buckle unit.

All of the 4 color choices are dark colors like Black and Charcoal, but they do have style and comfort to them and look good as you cycle down a road or hit the trail. They have some bagginess to them, which is great for those who don’t like tight biking shorts.


  • Mesh click fastliner
  • Stylish and comfortable
  • Large pockets


  • Fit small
  • Pockets can catch onto things like branches
  • Middle of the road pricing

Related: Freestyle and urban riders are likely to find these shorts appealing, and will endure considerable abuse from scrapes and scratches. Speaking of freestyle riding, you may want to consider a pair of Five Ten Freerider Bike Shoes.

Check the price on Amazon

Wrap Up

Let’s re-visit the question “are cycling shorts for form, function or just fashion”, and it seems the answer: all of it. The shorts that we have reviewed offer a really good form and function, and as far as looks go, they are great.

It is worth bearing in mind that not all shorts come with an inner liner, either detachable or fixed, and it is well worth ensuring that if they don’t, you should select a compatible inner liner. Take special care to read the washing instructions.

Choose your cycling shorts

Most will recommend hand washing, and almost all will warn against machine drying; this is largely due to the amount of synthetic materials that are used in their construction.  Thankfully, their synthetic material make-up does mean that they will dry pretty quickly in most environments.

Mountain bike shorts are less concerned about the form as far as the chamois is concerned, and if the chamois is an important component of your cycling shorts, you may want to find your ideal inner liner, and then select your preferred pair shorts without the inner liner.

We would be really interested to know which shorts you have found to be best for your specific cycle sporting code. Leave us a comment below!


Jerry Mueller

Jerry Mueller

Jerry ‘Boy Scout’ Mueller spends 99% of his time camping or teaching others how to live in the wild. He became an Eagle Scout which is the highest rank attainable in the Boy Scouting division when he was 17 and after that he still lives the scout life. Jerry always plans neatly every trip, takes leadership very seriously and if you listen to his tips and stories, you can learn tons of useful things.