Best Cycling Shorts For Long Distance
When you’re cycling, you only have three points of contact between the soft bits of you and the hard bits of the bike.
Your feet are on the pedals, sheathed in fluffy sports socks and wrapped up in a comfy pair of sneakers, trainers, or bike shoes. Your hands are on the handlebars (which are covered in comfortable rubber grips, or cushiony rubberised bar tape) and you’ve slipped them into a pair of velvety smooth bike gloves with hi tech gel padding on the palms.
…and your butt? Well, you’ve got some really quite important bits just there, and right now it’s plonked down on an unyielding saddle that resembles a knife edge, with the weight of an adult human pressing down on it.
Hmm. Not exactly a recipe for comfort, is it?
Here’s the quick answer: Santic Men’s Padded Cycling Shorts
Do padded bike shorts help?
Because, if you don’t make yourself comfier, then the result will be swollen lumps, irritated skin and chafing. None of which are exactly dinner time topics of conversation.
If you’re going for a tour one of the key aspects of kit to get right is your choice of shorts.
On a long-distance tour, you’re likely to be in the saddle for many hours every day. Day after day. If you’ve got the wrong pair of shorts, that will be all you can think about (and the pain of the chafing).
If you’ve got the right pair of shorts, then you won’t think about them at all. Instead you’ll be able to concentrate on enjoying the moment, experiencing the great outdoors and reveling in the views.
I don’t know about you, but I’d rather spend some time choosing the best pair of shorts and having the last one.
Men’s vs Women’s padded bike shorts?
Today, we’re going to take a look at some of the fantastic options on the market for cycling shorts that are great for touring. I’ve included shorts designed for men, and also shorts for women. The reason is that men’s and women’s shorts are often cut differently and have a fit that is gender-specific.
I’ve pulled together a list of the best of the best. Pick the ones that you like most. Buy them. Pop them on. Then head out on your tour and forget about them completely.
Let’s take a look, shall we?
Best budget cycling shorts
Things to consider in choosing bike shorts for touring. There are four main areas to look at when choosing bike shorts for touring:
Bike shorts separate into 3 distinct lengths. You have standard shorts length, which goes from waist down to mid-thigh / just above the knee. Next you have waist down to just below the knee. For female shorts these are called capri pants, for gents these are called knickers. Finally you have tights, which go all the way down to your ankles.
The choice for you comes down to a few factors. The main being which one you like best and are most comfortable with. Do you find yourself happiest in long trousers day-to-day? Do you spend most of your time in short shorts? Or do you prefer to hide the knobbly knees (Ben holds his hand up).
There’s also the time of year to consider. If your tour is in warmer weather, then shorter is probably better. Although longer gives more protection from the sun. Equally, in colder wintery weather, you may prefer to wear longer shorts or tights.
Unless, that is, you’ve just read this book and are now cycling everywhere in the snow and rain whilst wearing just a skimpy pair of shorts in order to get the health benefits of cold exposure (Ben holds his hand up). Good book, by the way.
2 Baggy shorts for road cycling?
There are two choices when it comes to the material construction of the shorts: tight stretchy polyester with spandex or lycra. These are a form-fitting garment that will tend to be very lightweight, so good for touring, but aren’t to everyone’s taste.
The alternative is a baggy style of shorts that you’ll often see worn by mountain bikers. These are heavier weight but give a roomier and more forgiving fit. To be honest baggy shorts for road cycling and touring are my personal preference as they allow more air flow, which is great for a long bike ride. Also, I feel less stupid in the mountain cafés when I stop for coffee and cake…
3 Are padded bike shorts necessary?
I’ve included this one as more of a heads-up than an option. Because, on a long tour, I don’t think it’s really an option not to have padding.
Just to be clear, by padding, I mean the extra cushioning pad that is sewn into the inner lining of bike shorts. This covers an area that broadly stretches from the butt, along the perineum, and to the other important bits at the front.
Yes, you might look a bit silly when you’re walking round in the shorts off the bike. But when you’re on the bike, especially for long hours, then that padding is an absolute essential.
Other features to look out for with bike shorts are:
Extra pockets – generally only on baggy shorts, these are useful for all the little bits and bobs that you need to carry with you and keep handy: phone, credit card, energy gels, etc
High waist – when you’re leaning over the handlebars, standard (i.e. not bike-specific) shorts have a tendency to ride down at the back. This can give you a chilly or sunburnt spine, depending on the weather conditions. Dedicated bike shorts have a higher waist and/or waist adjustment to stop this from happening.
My Top Recommendations to avoid a bruised bum from cycling
Okay, let’s take a look at each of the recommendations in a bit more detail.
First up we have a great pair of men’s padded bike shorts. These are the figure-hugging stretchy type that I mentioned earlier. Advantages of these are that they’re lightweight and pack up small, which is important when you’re considering luggage space for a tour. They’re also highly breathable and you don’t get any issues of bunching round the knees, as you can do with 3/4er length shorts.
Disadvantages? Well, you either love or hate form-fitting clothes. For me, I prefer a looser baggy fit. But, if you’ve got legs like Arnie, then these are an excellent choice.
These are the ladies equivalent of the Santic shorts above.
A great price for a great piece of bike apparel.
They’ve got a nice smooth wide waistband, which is really comfy and won’t move around when you’re riding. They also have two really handy pockets for credit cards, cash, etc.
These are the style of shorts that I do most of my touring in.
They’re a loose relaxed style of fit which is very comfortable. The sizing is great and they go up to a 3XL, plus there’s a drawstring waist which is very handy if you feel the need for that extra slice of yummyness at the mountain café.
They’re great value touring shorts and are made from a stretchy fabric and are baggy in all the right areas – knees, thighs, butt, etc.
An excellent pair of loose mountain bike shorts with a more structured cut than the above shorts from Santic.
These shorts come with a removable padded inner layer. Which is a great feature as you can wear them with the liner when you’re cycling and then without the liner when you’re off the bike, for a less bulky feel.
They’re made from a lightweight and breathable material, so are useful for summer / warm weather touring. And also have a water repellent finish, so they’re useful if you happen to be on a summer tour of Scotland 😉
Adjustable Velcro tabs for the waist and zipped pockets add to a very strong pair of touring shorts.
These are a women’s equivalent to the Ally men’s shorts above. There are 3 colours to choose from. Bear in mind that the Black shorts come with a padded liner, whilst Dark grey and Turquoise don’t. Not a problem, as you can team those shorts up with padded bike underwear, like these.
Lots of deep pockets and an elasticated waistband add to the long list of features on these shorts.
Moving down the leg we arrive at 3/4er length ‘shorts’, also known as knickers for the gents and capri pants for the ladies. These are shorts that go from waist to just below the knee or to mid-calf.
Aero Tech always produce great cycling gear and these are no exception. Made from a stretch fabric and with a loose cut all down the leg, these are very comfortable for cycling in. There are lots of pockets (6 in total) so you can fit everything in you might possibly need. Plus there’s a belt to make sure that, when you’ve stuffed all those pockets full, you’re not going to show everyone your underwear.
Useful trousers for when the weather is starting to turn cooler, and if you want to hide knobbly knees.
These capri pants are cut for women and have a form-fitting stretch design.
They move as you move and won’t snag or bunch up. Plus they keep you warm down to your calves, so are useful for keeping muscles toasty in cold conditions.
There’s also sewn-in padding at the seat to keep you comfortable on the saddle.
These final two recommended ‘shorts’ are really stretching the definition a little bit, I know. It would be fairer to call them bike pants or cycling tights.
Either way, they’re a fantastic choice for chillier days. There is a range of colour choice and sizes ranging up to 3XL. So there’s something for everyone.
There’s a zipped pocket at the back, plus zips at the ankles (for getting the pants on). There’s also a high comfy waistband, which helps keep the pants from drooping down as you ride, and also helps tuck the tummy in.
These pants from Sponeed are very similar in construction to the ladies pants above. More manly colours, obviously!
They also have a soft fleece inner lining to the fabric. This is a massive benefit on winter tours in keeping your legs warm and your muscles working properly.
Final word on best bike shorts for touring
You want your lasting memories of a bike tour to be all about the places you visited, the sights you saw, the experiences you had, and the people you met.
You do not want your memories to be all about pain. Particularly pain in the butt area caused by wearing the wrong type of shorts.
Because, frankly, that would be a pain in the butt.
Go back through the list of bike shorts. Decide which ones are best for you. Buy them and then forget you’re wearing them and enjoy the journey.