Skintight Lycra cycling shorts are the quintessential item of bike clothing, and they don't have to cost a fortune. We've rounded up 10 pairs of cheap cycling shorts that show you can be comfortable without dropping three figures on cycling shorts.
Most cheap cycling shorts still have a padded liner for comfort; it goes against your skin, without underwear
Bib shorts, probably the most comfortable design, can also be had cheaply, but many people prefer waist short because they don't look quite so silly
Don't fancy the skintight look? We've included some loose-fitting cheap cycling shorts too
You can turn any old shorts into cheap cycling shorts by adding padded undershorts, so we've included a couple of those too
"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 Road C 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.
French-based sport superstore chain Decathlon offers a wide range of well-priced shorts, including these which our reviewer found "extremely comfortable". He found the stretchy bib section offers unhampered movement, while the relatively thin panels do an excellent job of trafficking moisture from the skin.
The feature set is pretty standard with a lightweight polyamide/elastane fabric for most of the shorts and ventilating mesh for the bib and braces. The pad is comfortable whether "doing a sub-30 minute 10 on a TT bike or indulging in an 80-mile mixed terrain meander". You can choose the shorts with or without a side pocket on the leg.
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.
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.
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 £23, these baggy shorts look a bargain, though they might be a bit 'gnarly dude' for some tastes. The pockets are deep, the waist is elasticated and you can add a belt to cinch them up. For £13.99 the optional undershorts make for a full all-day shorts combo for under £40.
Altura's shorts are highly regarded at the £49.99 RRP, so they're even better with a few quid off here. You get a lightweight fabric shell with pockets, elasticated waistband and an Altura Comp 3D pad.
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Acknowledged by the Telegraph as a leading cycling journalist, John Stevenson has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.
He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.
Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc editor Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.
John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.
He joined road.cc in 2013 and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.