The Best Bike Shorts of 2023: Staff Picks

Find the perfect pair of shorts for your next cycling adventure.

Heather Balogh Rochfort|Updated March 22, 2023

19 reviews with an average rating of 3.3 out of 5 stars
Fire lookout perched atop rocky outcrop with evergreen trees in foreground


Consider this: Your bike shorts are the last line of defense between your nether regions and the harsh, cold reality of your bike saddle. That’s why so much care and thought goes into the design; you’ll see a range of styles in terms of padding, storage options, length and sweat-wicking fabric, all brought to you for a comfy, bunch-free ride. Bottom line: A quality pair of bike shorts helps protects your bottom line.

But once you know you’re ready to move beyond your gym shorts, how do you know which to choose? Easy: You ask us. We’ve rounded up our staffers’ favorite bike shorts available at REI. With nods to cyclists in both the road and trail world, we’re sure you’ll find a pair that suits your needs—and keeps that tush happy.

Staff Picks
Check out our top picks here or scroll down for in-depth reviews.
Best Bike Shorts for Shorter Rides
Terry Metro Lite/Relaxed Cycling Shorts - Women's
Best Bike Shorts for Road Biking
REI Co-op Junction Bike Shorts
Best Mountain Biking Shorts - Women's
Wild Rye Kaweah Bike Shorts - Women's


Best Bike Shorts for Shorter Rides

It’s rare for a cycling kit to check the “around town” box, but the Terry Metro Lites are the shorts our staff reaches for on quick jaunts through the neighborhood and beyond. The Metro Lites have a removable liner with light padding that easily slides under other clothes. Plus, the liner is easy to pack away if you choose to wear the shorts without padding. Two hand pockets, one zippered security pocket and one cargo pocket with magnetic closure offer plenty of storage for a cellphone, keys and credit card. Pro tip: Terry designed one of their best-selling bottoms with generous room in the hips and thighs. “Love the fit!” says a customer reviewer—but you may want to size down.

Best Road Biking Shorts

Stuck in a sea of indecision between bibs and shorts? Try the PEARL iZUMi Expedition shorts, a happy medium that provides the comfort of shorts without the logistics of bibs. A high waist prevents the wide waistband from digging into your belly or pinching extra skin, yet there aren’t any straps to worry about when nature calls. Like the Junction shorts, dual thigh pockets mean you won’t have to worry about a jersey with pockets—you've got all the cargo space needed. “I can easily do 75-110 miles in these without any issues,” says one customer reviewer.

Best Bike Shorts for Road Biking

Settle in for the long haul because the REI Co-op Junction shorts will help get you there. Thanks to drop-in stretch pockets on both thighs, it’s easy for riders to pack a cellphone, small snacks or a credit card without losing anything while on the move. The 9-inch inseam is relatively standard for road biking shorts, but gripper tapes line the leg holes so that your inseam stays put. “The grippy leg cuffs keep the shorts in place no matter how much you move around, on or off the bike,” raves one customer reviewer. Fit note: The Junction run a bit larger than other road cycling shorts, so be sure to consult the sizing guide.

Best Bib Shorts

Here’s the secret to cycling bibs: They don’t dig into your belly when you’re hunched over the handlebars. The Rapha Core bibs use a fabric with 18% elastane, which offers a super stretchy fit that works for a variety of body types. And the silicone leg grippers prevent thigh creep: “I love how you put them on and don't have to worry about making any adjustments while riding,” says one customer reviewer. While the fit is a highlight, we’re truly stoked on the chamois; it’s easily one of the most comfortable out there. Still, bibs may not work for everyone; some customer reviewers noted that the shoulder straps were too short or tight.

Best Mountain Biking Shorts - Men's

You get a lot for a little when it comes to the Flowline. Not only does Troy Lee Designs offer two deep hand pockets and a waist adjuster to accommodate various sizes, but these shorts also boast a removeable liner. One REI photographer and avid mountain biker owns two pairs and says he appreciates that they’re lightweight with “just enough length to overlap with knee pads." Pro tip: Some customer reviewers noted that the liner flaunts a funky fit and most complaints about these shorts are about the fit and feel of the liners, so be sure to consult the sizing chart before buying. Thanks to the polyester and spandex fabric, the Flowline flows well, though, with enough stretch to accommodate a variety of body types.

Best Mountain Biking Shorts - Women's

No muss, no fuss, and enough stretch for your next singletrack ride. That’s the sorcery behind the Kaweah, shorts by Wild Rye that feature lightweight polyester and spandex. The polyester helps the Kaweah breathe well during hot days and the small amount of spandex provides enough movement during climbs. “These shorts feel just as comfortable on the bike as off, and the fun, bright prints make them easy to wear off trail, too,” reports one of our editors. These shorts don’t come with a liner (we recommend snagging this pair), but they do include a single zippered pocket that’s large enough to hold a cellphone. A note on sizing: The Kaweah style runs straighter and slimmer so size up if you're not sure; if you prefer a short that offers more stretch, look to another staff favorite, the Wild Rye Freel

Best Kids' Bike Shorts

Groms can rip, and the Ether Jr. shorts do a great job at keeping up. Kids need decent features too, so Zoic  built in two unzippered hip pockets, two zippered thigh pockets and mesh paneling beneath the back waistbelt that upticks breathability in the Ether shorts. And the waistbelt itself is versatile: Elastic runs around the backside and hook-and-loop closures cinch a personalized fit on either side of the waist. One customer described it as having a “Super adjustable waist but still comfortable!” Like other bike shorts on this list, the polyester and spandex fabric wicks moisture for those extra-sweaty rides.

Buying Advice

It may feel tempting to snag an old pair of gym shorts before hopping on your bike, but we wouldn’t recommend it. In addition to high-tech fabrics, carefully designed pockets and all-around moisture management, biking shorts also offer beau coup protection and cushioning for your delicate bits. They also sport a precise fit that best accommodates your cycling needs to prevent chafing and other uncomfortable ailments. Bottom line: Commit to a quality pair and you’ll be happier!

When selecting a pair of bike shorts, here are a few factors to consider.

What type of biking will you be doing?

While it may initially look like all biking shorts are the same, there are key differences between shorts meant for road biking and shorts meant for mountain biking. Road cycling shorts (like the REI Co-op Junction Shorts) are stretchy and very snug—think spandex—to create an aerodynamic fit that cuts down wind resistance.

Mountain biking shorts (like the Wild Rye KaweahTroy Lee Designs FlowlineZoic Ether Jr.) look like everyday fitness apparel with a baggier, looser fit. The material is typically more durable in order to withstand errant branches and scrapes and they often have a longer inseam to protect your legs from the same scratches. Mountain biking shorts can be purchased with or without a padded liner. If you prefer a pair with no padding but want the protection, you can purchase one like the REI Co-op Link Liner separately.

Do you want a pair of shorts you can use for a variety of biking activities? Consider recreational cycling shorts like the Terry Metro Lite/Relaxed Cycling Short. Similar to mountain biking shorts, these shorts have a relaxed fit with a little more style and versatility better suited to everyday activities.

Do you want bibs or shorts?

Road cyclists have two options: shorts or bibs. Like standard road biking shorts, bibs (like the Rapha Core Cycling bibs) have a snug fit, but come up higher on your stomach and back, attaching at the shoulders via straps. This prevents the shorts from digging into your stomach when you’re curved over the handlebars. Often, cyclists fall in love after trying them for the first time, but there is a tradeoff: price. Bibs usually cost more than standard shorts, so be sure you enjoy the sport before investing. 

If you’re taller or have a longer torso, be sure to consult the fit chart since most bibs don’t have adjustable straps. 

How much padding do you need?

More padding is always going to be more comfortable, but can feel bulky. Experienced riders are often satisfied with a standard chamois since their seat and crotch are familiar with the hardships caused by a bike seat. However, if you’re a beginner, we recommend the thickest padding you can find. This will make your early experiences more comfortable and set you up for future success.

In general, there are two types of chamois padding: standard foam or gel. Standard foam padding often feels thicker in your hands and is less expensive, but compresses over time. A gel chamois feels thinner and firmer than foam, but it’s also more dampening. Because of this, we recommend a gel chamois for riders who spend long hours in the saddle and head out multiple times every week. Tradeoff: Gel is more expensive than a standard chamois.


We asked REI Co-op members, staff and customers to share their favorite bike shorts with us. They shared their top choices for long rides, singletrack mountain bike trails, and even neighborhood jaunts. The shorts included in this list are currently available at REI.

About the Author

Heather Balogh Rochfort

Heather is a freelance writer and author specializing in the outdoors and adventure travel, particularly as they apply to women and families. Her organization WildKind educates and empowers families to find their wild. REI member since 2008.