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Best Cycling Shorts For Sportive Riders (And My Plans To Buy A Skinsuit)

Best Cycling Shorts For Sportive Riders (And My Plans To Buy A Skinsuit) post image

The novice cyclist’s journey towards cycling mastery involves progressively replacing each item of clothing in their wardrobe with the equivalent garment made out of Lycra (Spandex to our US brethren). Cycling shorts are generally first on the list.

In this post, I’ll explore the exciting world of padded gussets and elasticated waistbands, and then give a few recommended shorts for you to check out.

Why Are Cycling Shorts Important?

Well first, al fresco riding on your bottom half is both breezy and likely to get you arrested. I’ve been there. (I haven’t)

Secondly, as one of the key junctions between you and your bike (the other two being at the handlebars and the pedals), there’s likely to be a spot of… er, rubbing.

If you’re anything like me, you value your undercarriage quite highly. You want to show it the respect it deserves (“Respect my ar*e!”). Since it’s going to be sat on the saddle for up to, and north of, 2 hours a ride, you want to make it as comfortable as possible.

Oh yeah, something about reducing wind resistance by not having excess material flapping around whilst you’re riding. Whatever.

Types Of Cycling Shorts

In the Grimpeur’s almanac of all things road cycling there are essentially three different design of ‘short’:

  • ‘Short’ shorts – let’s be honest, these are glorified (and gloriously tight) underpants. They cover you from your waist down to a point on each leg between the middle of the thigh and the knee. They have elasticated waistbands to keep things nice and tight.
  • Bib shorts – these are like short shorts but with the addition of elasticated braces (UK) / suspenders (US) over your shoulders. The shoulder straps make the shorts stay in position whilst riding, and means that the elasticated waist band can be dispensed with. They also mean that going to the toilet becomes exponentially more difficult.
  • ‘3/4’ length – other almanac makers might be tempted to lump these in with cycling tights. Not me! To my mind, they’re shorts for which the manufacturer has seen fit to extend the legs to just below the knee. As we all know, 80% of body heat is lost through the knees. Three quarter length shorts can be bought in bib (with shoulder straps) and ‘non-bib’ format.

How Much Can You Expect To Pay

Now you’re asking. Oh right, you are.

[Monty fumbles with Google]

At the budget end, cycling shorts (without the bib straps) start from around £20 / $30.

At the top end, the likes of Castelli and Rapha charge £150-200 / $200-300. Which is a lot of money.

What Do You Get When You Pay More?

More marketing bumph. Ha, I jest.

As the price goes up, you tend to see higher quality materials being used. The lycra (spandex) is more robust, squeezing you into the optimal shape to minimise wind resistance on the bike (or something). The padding becomes more substantial and is perhaps more intricately-shaped.

You see features like elasticated (and slightly sticky) bands at the end of the legs to stop them from sliding up your thighs, or small zipped pockets at the bottom of your spine (obviously not right at the … bottom).

And a bit more money spent on marketing. I no jest.

Recommended Cycling Shorts For Sportive Riders

So which shorts should you buy? Here are three options: value, mid-range and top-end.

The first pair (the dhbs) I own a pair of and recommend highly from experience. The two more expensive examples are the shorts I would look to buy if I was interested in spending a bit more. The skinsuit? Well, I think that’s there for a bit of fun… (but don’t let me stop you…).

Note: The links below are affiliate links. If you click on one and buy something, I’ll get a small commission. You won’t pay any extra, but you will get an immediate happiness boost from knowing that you’ve supported this site.

Value choice: dhb Aeron Bib Shorts

dhb-Aeron-Bib-Shorts-Lycra-Cycling-Shorts-Black-RedI own these shorts. Not all of them. There’s still some left for you.

I bought a pair of the Aerons after having been impressed with a pair of dhb thermal tights that Wiggle sent me to review. I have not been disappointed.

Nay, I have been impressed. They look good. The lyrca is high quality and the cut seems flattering. The coloured bands at the end of each leg (I went for red), via the medium of optical illusion I confess, give the impression that my thighs are more muscular and cycle-pro-like than is really the case.

So these are a solid, no-nonsense pair of cycling shorts, available for a reasonable price (dhb is the ‘own brand’ belonging to online cycling retailer Wiggle, so the prices offer good value for money).

(And no, we do not want any nonsense from our shorts)

Click here for more information and to buy

Mid-range choice: Sportful Total Comfort Bib Shorts

Sportful-Total-Comfort-Bib-ShortsWho could wish for more than ‘total comfort’ from their cycling shorts when thinking about spending a long day in the saddle?

(Presumably those who hanker for Super Total Comfort…)

Sportful, despite having a distinctly un-Italian name, are in fact Italian. And Italians just seem to do cycling clothing. And do it well.

Sportful sponsors (i.e. supplies the kit to) the professional cycling team, Tinkoff Sport.

Whilst ‘marketing guff 101’ will play up the importance of kit having been tested and improved by professional riders, we can at least hope it meets a minimum build and comfort standard such that doesn’t risk a pro rider’s ability to win. So it’s going to be good enough for me and thee.

(Just count yourself lucky that the ‘Total Comforts’ are a touch less garish than Tinkoff’s flouro-fest of a kit).

You can buy yourself total comfort (and find out a little more about what makes the shorts so comfortable) by clicking this link here.

Top-end choice: Castelli Free Aero Race Bib Shorts

Castelli-Free-Aero-Race-Bib-ShortsNo list of cycling clothing would be complete without something showing up from Castelli. And usually that ‘something’ shows at the more expensive end of the price scale.

And far be it from me to buck a time-honed tradition. So I give you the Castelli Free Aero Race bib shorts.

Apparently these beauties ‘revolutionized cycling shorts’ in 2007. I don’t recall a revolution in 2007 (I guess all eyes were on the rapidly-deteriorating global financial system). But we are told that a revolution occurred, and it manifested itself in a bib short that provided ‘incredible feeling[s] of freedom’.

And all good revolutions should do that.

As we move into the upper echelons of what you might pay for a pair of bib shorts, you are getting the result of Castelli’s research into muscle support and blood flow (it seems ‘incredible freedom’ is not provided without a little support) and some quality time spent meditating in a wind tunnel (the side panels have aerodynamic dimples).

The shorts also contain the ‘Progetto X2 Air’ seatpad, which according to Castelli has a new softer surface and a double V construction that ‘keeps everything in place’. Though, one assumes, not without an incredible level of freedom at the same time.

Of course, I jest about Castelli (and the company’s marketing bumf) but I seriously covet their clothing. It looks great and is very high quality (Castelli is also a pro cycling team sponsor). If I was looking to pay slightly more for a pair of ‘deluxe’ cycling shorts (with phenomenal amounts of freedom), the Free Aero Race bib shorts would be top of my list.

Click here to find out more and to buy

Finally, If You’re Insane: Castelli Body Paint 3.0 Long Sleeve Speed Suit

Castelli-Body-Paint-3-0-Long-Sleeve-Speed-Suit Brilliant, just brilliant. I’m off to order one now…

(If this floats your boat, you can find out more here)

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{ 17 comments… add one }
  • paul k March 3, 2014, 6:40 pm

    I use the budget range from decathlon.
    They come in different padding for time in saddle.
    Worked great for me.

  • ron mahoney March 6, 2014, 8:00 am

    I splashed out on castelli aero bib shorts as my rear end was getting sore and uncomfortable on the longer rides,now I wont buy any other it has to be castelli for me(as long as it has that world famous pad)I can ride all day and there worth every penny.(no I don’t work for castelli)just enjoy riding in comfort.well theres my 2 pence worth

  • Tomás Metcalfe March 15, 2014, 1:42 pm

    Shorts (and the chamois specially) make a huge difference: Saddle sores are no joke. the stitching and position of the chamois are important as we as the tightness round the thigh; too loose and they ride up, chamois moves and starts chafing in sensitive areas. Another important aspect is how effectively they wick away sweat: While the shorts can be fine while dry, they can chafe horrible when wet. Best I’ve ever had were ‘body glove’ by Giordana. Think they make shorts for several other brands (like Vermarke for example).

  • Sandy April 3, 2016, 11:59 am

    What about assos

  • James April 3, 2016, 10:54 pm

    Nice article, as usual Monty. And those dhb Aerons look pretty sharp.

    Sportful makes some cheaper bib shorts that I find pretty comfortable — Gruppetto and Body Fit. And I admit that I have a couple of sets of the garish Tinkoff-Saxo kit from last year (cars, and everybody else, see me, which may be good or bad, depending… 🙂

    I’ve never tried Castelli bibs, but this winter I purchased a couple of their tights (Ergo, and Meno Wind) and was really impressed, so will probably look into their bibs in the future.

    If you ride long enough, no matter how good the chamois, you may need some chamois creme. But perhaps that’s a subject for another blog.

  • alston28 September 27, 2016, 6:44 pm

    Can’t wear bibs. What short shorts do you recommend?

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