If you want the comfort and performance of cycling shorts but without the Lycra look, then you need baggy cycling shorts. Baggy cycling shorts are comfortable on the bike thanks to their cut and shape, but look like regular shorts off the bike.
These are baggy cycling shorts in comparison to skin-tight Lycra shorts; many of them are actually fairly close-fitting so you don't look like you've just stepped out of the Wonderstuff circa 1988
Some baggy cycling shorts come with a liner, or are compatible with the manufacturer's own insert; others are intended to be worn over bib shorts or just regular underwear
Most baggy cycling shorts have pockets, but for on-bike comfort you should resist the temptation to load them up too much
Look for a high waistband, no seams in the crotch, and fabrics with a degree of stretch so thgey move with you on the bike
Baggy cycling shorts start at RRPs around £50
Lycra cycling shorts may be functional but they're not always suitable. Maybe you want to commute into work in clothing you can wear all day, or you want to ride around town spending time off the bike as well as on it but not look like a bike gimp in a pub or cafe. Australians call these shorts 'shy shorts' for obvious reasons.
Loose-fit or baggy cycling shorts are cut to fit while you're riding bike, with a higher back than regular shorts, and often with a gusset design that moves the seams so you're not sitting on them while riding. Unlike most Lycra shorts they have pockets too.
Here are some of the best options out there. Clicking on a heading will take you to an online retailer.
The Specialized RBX Adventure Over-Shorts are good quality touring/adventure shorts that are ideal for riding and general larking about. They're comfy on the bike, neutrally styled off it, and work well with Lycra.
These shorts are a fairly classic length and style: with an 11in inseam they sit just above the knee, and they're constructed from a twill-weave cotton/nylon fabric that has 8% Spandex in the mix for a bit of stretch.
There's a seat panel that stops all the seams meeting where you're sitting on the saddle, and the leg hems are welded rather than sewn so they don't catch or rub on your legs when riding.
The Alpkit Strada women’s bikepacking and touring shorts are a good choice for long adventure rides or regular gravel blasts. The well-designed legs are tapered to prevent snags, but there’s no waist adjustment unless you like wearing a belt.
Built for long adventure rides, the Stradas are a hot or mild weather shorts that are super comfortable to ride in, with a casual style that doesn’t look out of place at café, pub or shop stops.
It's a simple design, featuring a two-popper waist, a zip fly and belt loops. If you're not keen on riding in a belt, make sure they fit before buying.
Known for waterproof gear, Gore Wear also makes a huge range of general cycling kit, including these popular and well-regarded shorts. They have loads of poskets for carrying your stuff, and reflective details so you'll stand out in headlights.
These Chrome Folsom shorts are really well designed, solidly made and pack some cool features although the price tag is quite hefty.
They're made from a reasonably heavy duty Everest four-way stretch material that is water resistant, with reinforced seams and crotch. Despite the feeling of durability, they're light and breezy with a full-length seamless double layer crotch ensuring they're comfortable on the saddle.
These mid-weight, smart-casual Velocity Climber Capris are bike-friendly yet will segue seamlessly to the office. The cycle-specific features – such as the diamond gusset and reflective accents – are subtly hidden, but the low-rise waist might not suit everyone and the price tag is pretty hefty, especially compared to non-bike-friendly high street offerings that are very similar in appearance.
That said, the quality of the fabric and construction are excellent.
The Flux mountain bike shorts don't have the tailored appearance of some here – they look sporty – but they're sturdy and lightweight and will appeal to anyone who doesn't want a built-in pad.
They're made from a lightweight 4-way stretch fabric with a DWR (durable water repellent) coating so rain and spray rolls off. Super-thick Velcro adjusters allow you to get the fit just right around the waist, and four pockets give plenty of storage options.
These shorts are designed for ruff 'n' tuff all-mountain riding so they're built to be durable. The material used is a nylon and polypropylene two-face fabric which is pretty heavy, so although strong these do get a little hot on summer rides. The fabric has a denim look to it which, along with the belt loops, silver snap popper fastenings, zip fly and open front hand pockets, contributes to a relaxed look.
The attention to detail is high, with a silicone strip around the waistband to help keep the shorts in place and elastic waist adjuster tabs which not only work well but lie neatly and flat.
Rapha's slim-fitting Randonnee Shorts are designed specifically for cycling in the city. They're made from a lightweight and stretchy fabric that's breathable and quick to dry.
The back is cut high to avoid a gap while the hi-vis tab and hi-vis trim inside the legs can be hidden away when not riding.
Made from a stretchy, breathable fabric that's designed to keep you comfortable while riding, the Gravel Shorts have quite a wide cut so they don't look out of place when you're off the bike.
These shorts are designed with a diamond shaped panel where you sit to avoid any discomfort from seams.
Giro's Arc shorts – available in both men's and women's versions – are a simple and unfussy design intended for summer trail riding, but there's no reason why you can't wear them around town.
The rip stop fabric is really light and has a DWR coating. Although there is no stretch in it, the shorts proved comfortable enough.
The Arcs are made in a casual style with open hand pocket and belt loops. There are also waist adjusters on each hip.
Unlike the other shorts here, the Hummvee comes with a padded liner for extra comfort in the saddle. The liner is detachable so you could take it out once you get to work, say.
The fabric of the external shorts is a cotton mix that's designed to be tough without looking out of place when you're off the bike.
The Andorra Comp women's shorts are a neatly designed and workmanlike pair of mountain bike shorts. These are understated, built with function in mind.
The shorts are cool and comfortable with quite a lot of 'give' so it's easy to move about in them. There are no seams at the gusset and they dry quickly, adding to the overall comfort factor. The fabric is water repellent although heavy spray or consistent rain will find its way through.
Although Morvelo's new shorts look fairly casual, they have several bike-friendly features. They're made from a stretchy nylon/Lycra fabric with a water repellent treatment and they aren't cut too baggy. You get three discreet zipped pockets along with hidden waist adjusters and reflective print that is hardly noticeable until light shines on it at night.
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Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been road.cc technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now pushing 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.