Skintight Lycra cycling shorts are the quintessential item of bike clothing, and they don't have to cost a fortune. We've rounded up 12 pairs of the best 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 £50, 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 Essential Bibless Cycling Shorts are designed for short distance and recreational riding. 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 RC100 stablemates but the Essential 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 literally thousands of 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.
Generally favourable reviews suggest these very inexpensive bibs are surprisingly good for the money, though as one reviewer points out, they're not Gore Wear quality.
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.
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.
For autumn and spring days in the saddle, three-quarter-length cycling tights come into their own, and Decathlon has a budget pair in its Van Rysel range, designed to deliver premium comfort in cooler conditions.
These tights deliver on fit, feel and performance at a competitive price. The bulky pad might not suit everyone, but if you're looking for sporty legwear at a pleasing price, they have a lot to offer.
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.
These well-reviewed baggies look like good value for money at just £35, and the price includes a padded liner. And you can get them in red too.
For £36, these baggy shorts with undershorts 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.
Funkier stuff is generally decent so while we haven't tested them we're going to stick our editorial neck out and include these baggies which even come with a liner, making them very good value for money.
The aim of road.cc buyer's guides is to give you the most, authoritative, objective and up-to-date buying advice. We continuously update and republish our guides, checking prices, availability and looking for the best deals.
Our guides include links to websites where you can buy the featured products. Like most sites we make a small amount of money if you buy something after clicking on one of those links. We want you to be happy with what you buy, so we only include a product in a if we think it's one of the best of its kind.
As far as possible that means recommending equipment that we have actually reviewed, but we also include products that are popular, highly-regarded benchmarks in their categories.
Road.cc buyer's guides are maintained and updated by Mildred Locke. Email Mildred with comments, corrections or queries.
John 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 founder Tony Farrelly, 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. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.