Review: Women’s cycling shorts

Corinne Dennis, Endura and Rapha women’s cycling shorts (L to R)
Finding good-quality, affordable women’s cycling shorts can be a challenge. Cycling UK’s campaigns and policy co-ordinator Cherry Allan tested three pairs that lived up to her expectations

Over summer and into autumn, I have been busy testing women’s cycling shorts. I deliberately sought out shorts in the mid-price range, with the ultimate goal of finding quality and affordable prices.

Before looking at each short in turn, here are some comments that apply to all of them. Each was well made, easy to wash and dry, and comfortable enough for me to cycle for miles and completely forget that I was wearing something I was supposed to be reviewing.

I also need to state the obvious: we all sit on our saddles differently, and our shapes are unique. To put my review in context, I’m 5ft and a size eight, so what made me happy or not so happy won’t necessarily be the case for you. For example, a tall colleague tells me that shoulder straps are never long enough for her, so bib shorts might cause problems.

Endura FS260 Pro-bibshort £89.99

I haven’t tried bib shorts before, but now see why people like them: no chilly, irritating gaps form between top and short, and the waist wasn’t a pinch-point. What’s more, the shoulder straps (on me at least) didn’t squash any other part of my anatomy.

I’ve heard people say that they don’t like bib shorts because you have to take them almost completely off for a trip to the loo. On these, however, the delicately named ‘drop seat’, with its extensive and smoothly functioning zip, means that the shorts never put you through such annoyance. There’s no need for any anxiety about the wisdom of ordering another cup of tea at pit-stops.

The only downside was that the grippers around the legs made it look like some balloon modelling had been going on with my upper thighs. This might not happen to lucky women with taut, sinewy legs, of course, and it wasn’t that the grippers dug in, but it did make me reluctant to make public appearances in the shorts without something over them.

I also have a personal preference for black rather than startling pink pads (not that I don’t like pink).

Overall, even though no cycle wear would ever have the power to make me ride like a professional, I rather liked the professional look these mid-range shorts lent me (or probably imagined they lent me). I’m not at all surprised that they have attracted good reviews elsewhere, plus a number of awards.

Corinne Dennis Women’s Double Comfort Shorts £54.99

These were, very definitely, the odd short out, but in a good way.

When they arrived, the joy of opening parcels from an affectionate aunt who often sent me jumpers in the post all came flooding back. These shorts, from a small company in Cornwall whose products are mostly handmade in Britain, are clearly the result of exemplary consideration for the wearer.

The material throughout is soft and almost cuddly, while the wide waistband and high waist adds to the sense of comfort (although the waistband did come up a bit far on me). Only when I read the blurb did I realise the shorts are cut higher at the back and lower at the front.

This is to reduce bulk round the waist when leaning forward on the bike; it was such a naturally comfortable feature that I didn’t even notice it. The pocket on the lower leg is another thoughtful touch.

As far as the leg cuffs are concerned, I have no complaints. The shorts didn’t ride up, but neither did they gather all the flesh on my upper thighs into big blobs either. Talking of flattering looks, the material is non-shiny and less likely to emphasise anything about you that you’d rather it didn’t.

The most endearing aspect of these shorts, though, was the fleece-like padding. This wasn’t at all bulky, and needs no special treatments or washing care. It was also black, as I prefer.

These are the sort of shorts that I’d be most inclined to wear while commuting in the cold, although I can’t see why they wouldn’t be fine on longer summer rides, too.

Rapha Women’s Core Shorts £70

I’ve never bought any Rapha cycle clothing for myself, but the love that many cyclists I know entertain for it has always intrigued me. Thanks to this review, I have now experienced nothing more sensational than one of the company’s basic-range products, but I have to say that I’m now rather passionate about Rapha, too.

Firstly, these shorts were exceptionally comfortable, and the fit smooth. The seams were hardly noticeable to the eye and entirely unnoticeable to the body, while the panels were exactly where I wanted them to be.

Happily, the legs, which seemed to be slightly longer on me than those of the Endura shorts, didn’t make my thighs look like pythons each digesting a goat. This was probably because the grippers were in the form of a soft, wide silicone band, and kindly let my legs keep their natural shape.

The pad (black) looked and felt quite substantial when I first put the shorts on, but didn’t draw attention to itself in any way once I was on the bike. This is, of course, exactly as it should be.

Altogether, these shorts are classy in their all-black simplicity and with their unobtrusive but tactile ‘Rapha’. I love them and already wear them a lot.

If you’re looking for cycling jerseys to go with your shorts, then check out our accompanying article which looks at a range of the season’s short-sleeved tops.

All information correct at time of publishing.

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At Cycling UK and Cycle magazine, we are proudly independent. There’s no pressure to please advertisers as we’re funded by our members. Our product reviews aren’t press releases; they’re written by experienced cyclists after thorough testing.