[This article was last updated on January 29, 2018]
"My arse is very happy," says Amazon reviewer Simon Parnell about Baleaf's padded cycling undershorts. Keeping your arse happy is the idea of cycling shorts and you don't have to spend a fortune to get a beatific bum.
You can pay over £200 for professional quality cycling shorts, but you can get very good shorts for under £40, so we've — arbitrarily — set that as our definition of 'cheap'. Here's our guide to some of the best choices in inexpensive cycling shorts.
You might also find this useful: Cycling shorts — everything you need to know.
BTwin's 300 Cycling Shorts are apparently designed for short distance and recreational riding – 13 miles is their suggested, unusually precise, optimum (translated from 20km, we suspect). As the price suggests, they're not the most high-spec, but there are no nasty surprises with this cheap and cheerful offering.
For general, longer distance riding we'd go for their 500 stablemates but the 300 Cycling Shorts do exactly what they promise and represent excellent value.
If all you want is to make riding in your normal clothes a bit more comfortable, then all you need is undershorts such as these from Baleaf. They've got a couple of hundred favourable Amazon reviews, so while we've not tested them, we think it's a good bet that they do the job.
They're made from a 90/10 Polyester & Nylon/Lycra blend with a shaped, ventilated pad for comfort.
These get overwhelmingly positive reviews on Amazon and our own experience of Tenn Outdoors shorts has been good too. For a mere 15 quid you can't go wrong.
You get eight-panel construction, a padded liner, curved 'anatomical' shaping, high-density Nylon/Lycra fabric and leg grippers.
French-based sport superstore chain Decathlon offers a wide range of well-priced shorts, including these which our reviewer found "offered ample support in all the right places". He added that they're "easily the best budget bib shorts I've ever worn."
The feature set is pretty standard with a lightweight Polyester/Lycra fabric for most of the shorts and ventilating mesh for the bib and braces. The pad is comfortable enough for 50+ mile rides and if coordination is your thing there's a matching 500-series jersey for £19.99.
Women's shorts have to be carefully designed to fit properly fit. Liv's Mossa shorts look good for the money, with wide waistband and leg grips and a single layer, 4-way stretch pad.
Inexpensive women's bib shorts are harder to find, but Wiggle's £13 Essentials Women's Cycle Padded Bib Shorts must be worth a punt and their dhb women's bibs are just £30. Decathlon also offers a couple of models of women's bib shorts.
Wiggle's in-house clothing brand dhb has built a solid reputation for decent gear at very competitive prices and these bib shorts look to be no exception. They feature a lining by Cytech, probably the world's top maker of shorts pads, and Italian Miti fabric, plus a silicone gripper round the legs to hold them in place. Some users report 100-mile rides in comfort with these shorts.
Coming in bang on our threshold, these shorts from mail-order giant Wiggle are good quality bibs with the added bonus of big reflective patches on the sides to help keep you visible if your rides extend past dusk.
The fabric is a fairly standard stretchy 80/20 Nylon/Lycra blend with grippers to keep the legs in place. The pad is fairly light, intended for middling-length rides rather than epics, but that means it won't feel as much like wearing a nappy as some shorts.
The Caratti Sport Bib Shorts are the budget offering from the UK company, but perform far better than their price tag might suggest. They manage to combine an effective pad, really good fit throughout and an excellent cut.
When you first step into the bib shorts, the first thing you notice is that the cut and quality of the Cooldry fabric material used is unexpected on such a relatively inexpensive pair of shorts. The fit is good, with no excess material or tightness anywhere around the legs or straps.
Caratti have used a material that allows for four way stretch, which genuinely provides a really forgiving fit. They have minimalist branding with a simple brand name written in white up the leg, this combined with the cut make them look like they are far more expensive than they are.
Because baggy shorts are effectively two shorts in one they tend to be more expensive than regular cycling shorts: you pay a premium for modesty. Our focus on road cycling means we've not reviewed many baggies, so here are three that are worth a look based on the manufacturer's reputation and favourable user reviews.
You'll need a liner with these shorts if you're planning longer rides, but they're still good value if you pair them with the Baleaf undershorts above.
For just £20, these baggy shorts look a bargain, though they might be a bit 'gnarly dude' for some tastes.
The pockets have zips, the waist is elasticated and they'll work with Tenn's Coolflo padded undershorts if you want improved comfort for longer rides.
Altura's shorts are highly regarded at the £49.99 RRP, so they're even better with a few quid off here, especially as most size are £33. You get a lightweight fabric shell with pockets, elasticated waistband and an Altura Comp 3D pad.
Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.
Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.
Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.
The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.