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Shorts that are subtle enough to be suitable both on and off the bike

Sometimes you want the comfort and performance of cycling shorts but without the Lycra look, and here are 10 pairs that fit the bill. 

Lycra shorts are 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 and spend time off the bike as well as on it.

Here are some of the best options out there. Clicking on a heading will take you to an online retailer.

Chrome Folsom Short 2.0 £110

Chrome Folsom short.jpg

These Chrome Folsom shorts are really well designed, solidly made and pack some cool features although the price tag is quite hefty.

Go to our shorts reviews

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.

Read our review 

Velocity Women's Climber Capris £90 

velocity_womens_cycling_capris.jpg

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.

Read our review 

Madison Flux Men's Shorts £69.99

Madison Flux men's shorts

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.

Check out 11 of the best cheap cycling shorts

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. 

Read our review of the women's version 

dhb MTB Women's Trail Baggy Shorts £37.50

dhb MTB Women's Baggy Trail Shorts-1

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.

Read off.road.cc's review 

Rapha Randonnee Shorts £90 

Rapha Randonnee

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 best casual cycling commuter wear

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. 

Find out more 

Vulpine Men's Gravel Shorts £70 

Vulpine Mens Gravel Shorts

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.

Find out more 

Giro Women's Arc Shorts £59.99 

Giro Women's Arc shorts

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.

Read off.road.cc's review  

Endura Hummvee Chino Short with Liner £56.99 

Endura Hummvee Chino Short

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.

Find out more 

Specialized Andorra Comp Shorts £32.50

Specialized Womens Andorra Comp Shorts-3

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. 

Read off.road.cc's review 

Morvelo Selector Men's Overland Shorts £90 

Morvelo mens Overland Shorts

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.   

Find out more 

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Road.cc buyer's guides are maintained and updated by John Stevenson. Email John with comments, corrections or queries.

Mat has worked for loads of bike magazines over 20+ years, and been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. He's been road.cc technical editor for eight years, 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 past winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer.

10 comments

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xerxes [41 posts] 2 months ago
3 likes

My favourite cycling "baggies": https://www.gaynors.co.uk/mens-c4/shorts-c232/craghoppers-mens-kiwi-pro-...

These are better than any of the cycling specific baggy shorts I've tried, and as a bonus,  generally less expensive.

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itchieritchie [8 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes

 

Wow. Great recommendation xerxes. Currently £20.33. Seriously tempted to pull the trigger....

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nick h. [43 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes

Would any of these be as good as proper cycling shorts for big mileage on a hot day? It would be good to wear something low key when touring foreign parts. Especially when you go to a cafe and the locals think you are some sort of S&M freak and hastily drag their children away from you.

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griffly16 [7 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes

The vulpine ones are great but unfortunately after only wearing them for a week or two in Portugal and a couple of washes the colour fades badly. I should have returned them really but never got round to it

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griffly16 [7 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes
xerxes wrote:

My favourite cycling "baggies": https://www.gaynors.co.uk/mens-c4/shorts-c232/craghoppers-mens-kiwi-pro-...

These are better than any of the cycling specific baggy shorts I've tried, and as a bonus,  generally less expensive.

 

Agree, these are really good. Can wear bib shorts underneath too

Avatar
BertYardbrush [62 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes
nick h. wrote:

Would any of these be as good as proper cycling shorts for big mileage on a hot day? It would be good to wear something low key when touring foreign parts. Especially when you go to a cafe and the locals think you are some sort of S&M freak and hastily drag their children away from you.

Have a look at Endura Trekkit shorts. The stone colour are on offer at Wiggle £15.

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aegisdesign [141 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes

Thirded for the reccomendation for Craghoppers Kiwi shorts. Cheap, stretchy, durable and for touring they wash well and dry quickly.

Other reccomendation from me is Rohan Escaper shorts (£65 but often in sales) https://www.rohan.co.uk/mens-travel-and-outdoor-shorts-Escaper-Shorts-SS...

These seem to be the only thing that remains of Rohan's foray into cycle clothing a few years back. They're cut with a higher waist at the back and the material is very light. Pockets have loads of mesh in so they're cooler than the kiwis.

Either is fine for big mileage though not as good as just lycra shorts. The locals can think what they want as far as I'm concerned - that's their hangup, not mine.

 

 

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Giles Pargiter [82 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes

I'am afraid I find it concerning that all these shorts are made of various forms of plastic. This has the massive weak point (apart from environmental concerns) that they are extremely fire vulnerable. When one is sitting round a communal cooking fire or such, enjoying the crack they are extremely vulnerable to hot sparks burning little holes in them. I find this reduces their life span considerably. Whatever happened to Merino wool and cotton or clever mixtures of such fabrics?

I cycle all day in non-padded shorts, but concentrate on having a comfortable saddle in the first place. Ones body adjusts to this use over time.

I find the older type (?) of Endura Humvee shorts particularly versatile - with the above proviso.

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ConcordeCX [1158 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes
nick h. wrote:

Would any of these be as good as proper cycling shorts for big mileage on a hot day? It would be good to wear something low key when touring foreign parts. Especially when you go to a cafe and the locals think you are some sort of S&M freak and hastily drag their children away from you.

I used to tour in cotton not-cycling (i.e. normal) shorts even on hot days, with a Brooks leather saddle, and they were fine - nobody ever dragged their children away.

When eventually I tried lycra bibs they were a revelation in comfort and I would not go back to touring the old way. Still nobody drags their children away from me.

You could try riding in lycra, and put on decent shorts when you go to a cafe. If the locals still drag their children away from you you'll know it's not because of the shorts.

 

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Ratfink [221 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes

My personal choice is https://www.mountainwarehouse.com/mountain-2-in-1-mens-bike-shorts-p1585...

The pictures don't really do them justice but without the liner i wear them as everyday shorts all the time and they look quite smart and have a nice bit of stretch in them and are very quick drying.

With the liner they are very comfy on the bike but i've only ever worn them for the commute or a run around the forest on the mtb.