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Whether you’re a long distance rider, a weekend warrior or a die hard commuter, your ride will definitely be more comfortable with a great pair of bike shorts. I used to think padded bike shorts were just for the hardcore street racers out there, but as I spent more and more time on my bike I would often have a tender posterior for days after a long ride. Adding some padding down there not only makes for a comfier ride, but it also helps to prevent chafing and allows you to ride for longer without the lasting negative effects on your backside.
Padded bike shorts aren’t for everyone. Whether or not you need them depends on a few factors: what type of cycling you do, what kind of bike you have, and how often you ride and for how long.
The Best Padded Bike Shorts for Women
My top pick for the best padded bike shorts for women is the PEARL iZUMi Escape Quest Cycling Shorts:
Top 3 Best Padded Bike Shorts for Women at a Glance
We’ll break down our top picks in detail to help you choose. But first, let’s investigate whether padded bike shorts are the right choice for you.
Do I Need Padded Bike Shorts?
If you hop on your cruiser and head to the farmers’ market once a month, or if you enjoy occasional shorter rides around town, you may not feel the need for padded bike shorts. That being said, as someone with a particularly boney butt, I found that even short rides would lead to bruising and discomfort. If you ride with any regularity (or intend to) you’ll likely find padded bike shorts to be a necessity.
What Type of Cycling Do You Do?
If you’re a road cycler, you will definitely want padded shorts. Road bikes are rigid, with little to no suspension, and you will feel every bump and crack in the road. There’s a reason you see the teams of road cyclists whizzing by in their full spandex shorts getups. Road bikes are built for speed, not comfort. A little padding makes those hard and tiny seats far more tolerable, particularly for long rides or races.
Some mountain bikers favor padded shorts as well, typically layering them under looser shorts, baggy shorts, mountain bike shorts or even regular shorts, as the head-to-toe spandex look is not exactly their style. Mountain bikes have far more suspension than road bikes, absorbing some of the shock from the trails, so less padding is needed. But as with a road cyclist, padded shorts allow mountain bikers to ride comfortably for longer.
What To Consider When Shopping for Cycling Shorts
So you’ve decided to find yourself the perfect pair of cycling shorts. What now? If you’re style-conscious, there are tons of patterns, colors, and cuts to choose from. But the most important feature of your bike shorts is the fit. They should feel like a second skin, staying put and not bunching up, and not impeding your movement in any way.
You’ll also want to make sure the waistband sits in a comfortable position, neither too high nor too low. You’ll often find that most shorts are slightly lower in the front. This is an intentional design, and you’ll notice when in a riding stance they naturally adjust to a balanced position. Keep in mind that it’s recommended that you wear bike shorts without underwear to avoid bunching and chafing.
How much padding you need is a personal choice, but this will likely relate to how much suspension your bike has and the duration of your average ride. Less suspension and longer ride times typically necessitate more padding. You may also find that too much padding is actually less comfortable depending on your bike seat and configuration. Try on a few different styles and levels of padding to figure out what feels best for you.
Caring for Your Bike Shorts
You’ll want to wash your shorts after every ride if possible. Wash in cold water, with mild detergent, and hang to dry. Avoid washing with anything abrasive, such as denim, as this can damage the delicate material of your shorts. Use the gentle cycle to avoid stretching. You may want to consider tossing them in a delicates bag for extra protection.
The lifespan of your cycling shorts greatly depends on how often you use them and how well you care for them. It’s time to replace them if the padding starts to wear out, or if they get holes in them, or if you experience chafing.
Best Padded Bike Shorts for Women in Detail
There are tons of padded bike shorts on the market. Ultimately, you want the pair that feels just right. Here’s a roundup of our favorites currently on the market:
PEARL iZUMi Escape Quest Cycling Shorts – Best Overall
PEARL iZUMi’s entire lineup of bike shorts is impressive, but we love the Quest shorts in particular for their perfect combination of comfort, performance, and affordability. The Escape Quest Padded Cycling Shorts for women are super-comfortable, with a mixture of nylon and elastane which offers a four-way stretch and keeps these shorts nice and breathable.
The wide, flat waistband ensures your shorts will stay put, and the subtle silicone grips along the hem do their part as well. They even feature 50+ UPF to help protect you from any harsh rays and to help your shorts last longer. The Quest shorts do tend to run a bit small, so don’t be surprised if you need to size up. These shorts offer a nice amount of compression to help soothe sore muscles on longer rides, but if you go for marathon rides of 50 miles or more, you’ll likely want to upgrade to the Expedition or PRO line to get the extra padding and performance for ultra-long rides.
- maximum comfort
- stay in place
- UPF protection
- good compression
- not great for ultra-long rides
Baleaf Women’s 4D Padded Cycling Shorts – Best Shorts With Extra Padding
If you’re like me and you need a bit of extra padding to experience a truly comfortable ride, check out the Baleaf 4D Padded Shorts. They have the most padding of any pair on the list, yet they still offer a sleek and comfortable fit.
The flatlock stitching adds to the comfort of the Baleaf 4D shorts, and the flexible and wide waistband offers great security without a tight squeeze. Between the extra padding and great compression, these shorts are great for both short- and long-distance riding.
- extra padding
- comfortable waistband
- flatlock stitching
- great compression
- good fit
- might be a bit bulky for some
Beroy 3D Gel Cycling Shorts – Best Value Shorts
The Beroy 3D Gel Cycling Shorts are the most price-conscious of the bunch. They don’t have some of the extra comforts of the slightly pricier options, but they’re a great place to start for a beginner cyclist or for a female cyclist who just enjoys shorter or more occasional summer rides.
These cheap cycling shorts have just enough padding for that added comfort, and mesh panels along the side make for great breathability. They’ve got a great stretch and a nice, snug fit. The silicone leg grippers on the hem are a nice touch, although they tend to dig in a bit on longer rides. I also found the waistband a bit narrow for my liking. It doesn’t offer quite the same support and comfort as others on the list. But for the price point, it’s hard to beat these shorts.
- nice amount of padding
- breathable shorts
- good fit
- narrow waistband
- leg grip digs in
PEARL iZUMi Expedition Bib Shorts – Best Cycling Bib Shorts
Padded bib shorts are always going to be a bit more expensive than non-bib, for obvious reasons. But if you prefer the comfort and versatility of bib shorts, it’s hard to beat the PEARL iZUMi Expedition Bib Shorts.
I love these shorts for several reasons. For one, they’re designed by a woman. The thoughtful design includes a drop tail to make bathroom breaks much more convenient. They’re made with recycled nylon and elastane, an environmental touch that I love and that also contributes to the great stretch and soft feel. The straps can be a bit finicky to get into place, but once you get them dialed in, they stay put, as do the legs thanks to the subtle silicone grips. There are even two cargo pockets for stashing all your goods.
- recycled fabric
- great fit
- very comfortable
- drop tail
- designed by a woman
- two cargo pockets
- a bit pricey
- straps can be finicky
NOOYME Women’s 3D Bike Shorts – Best for Mountain Biking
If you’re a mountain biker, you’ll love the slim fit of the NOOYME Women’s 3D Bike Shorts. They’re soft and comfortable and absolutely feel like a second skin. They’ll easily fit under baggier shorts for your mountain adventures, and they have just enough padding to help absorb bumps on the roughest roads and trails. Flatlock seams contribute to the silky, streamlined feel. They offer great compression for longer days on the mountain. The silicone leg grips keep them in place all day long.
- soft and silky
- great compression
- good leg grips
- not enough padding for road cycling
Eco-Daily Women’s Bike Shorts – Best Shorter Style
If you prefer a shorter style of sleek cycling shorts, you’ll love the Eco-Daily Women’s Bike Shorts. They’ve got thicker padding in both the front and back, which can be hard to find. With a mix of spandex and polyamide, they’ve got great stretch and excellent breathability. The flatlock seams help to prevent chafing, and they even have reflective strips on the back of the thighs for extra visibility when riding at night. The price tag doesn’t disappoint either.
- padding in front and back
- shorter style
- great fit
- reflective strips
- may be too much padding for some
- may be too short for some
Terry Bike Bermuda Shorts – Best Shorts for Extra Storage
If you’re looking for quality padded bike shorts that also allow you to stash a few essentials, the Terry Bike Bermuda Shorts have got you covered. Given their rather long and high-rise style, these shorts are best worn on their own. The large and well-designed pocket can easily hold your phone or a few other essentials such as a power bar for when it’s snack time on those longer bike rides. The nylon and spandex mix gives them a great stretch. These soft shorts are very comfortable.
- great fit
- awesome pocket
- may be too long and heavy for some
As you can see, there are pairs of shorts for every rider out there. If you feel overwhelmed by all the options, try asking a riding pal about their favorite pair and go from there. Most bike shops have knowledgeable staff that will be happy to guide you through the process. Hopefully these tips and recommendations get you on your way to the smoothest, comfiest ride!
After you’ve selected some padded bike shorts, consider investing in a bike helmet for ponytails to make yourself even more comfortable without sacrificing safety.