Group test: Men’s touring shorts

1 Corinne Dennis Traditional Style Touring Shorts; 2 Rapha Men’s Trail Shorts; 3 Altura All Roads Men’s Repel Cycling Shorts; 4 Endura Singletrack Lite Short
Lycra shorts are de rigueur for racing but only optional for touring. Cycle magazine’s technical editor Richard Hallett tests four baggy alternatives

Summer cycle touring means shorts, and for many tourists that means shorts that are a looser fit than the skin-tight clothing worn by competitive cyclists. Baggy shorts suit more leisured cycling and go unnoticed when off the bike.

Designs range from the very baggy, long shorts favoured by mountain bikers through to more sober designs with a lineage stretching back to the cycle touring boom of the 1920s.

Leg length is critical for cycling shorts, since the hems ride up when pedalling and shorts that look fine when walking can look alarmingly brief in the saddle.

Pockets are a good idea and are invaluable off the bike, but bulky objects placed in front pockets can prove troublesome on a ride, while those in pockets on the outer thighs can cause chafing. It may be worth transferring items such as a wallet or phone from the shorts to, say, a bar bag during the ride itself.

Fabric choice is also hugely important. Some sort of lightweight, technical fabric with sweat-wicking capability and at least some stretch will prove much more comfortable than the stiff, usually cotton-based cloth used for non-cycling shorts.

A removable liner, whether padded or not, can add comfort and can usually be washed and dried more easily than the shorts. Two or more such liners can be carried on a longer tour at a small cost in weight and bulk.

1. Corinne Dennis Traditional Style Touring Shorts

£55.99. Available from Corinne Dennis.

With four pockets, a non-padded integral ‘comfort’ liner, and a stretch waistband with belt loops, these shorts live up to their name: the look and specification are as traditional as you could imagine. They have a pleasing mix of fit and length and are loose enough for comfortable pedalling without flapping.

The belt loops might be superfluous, as the shorts have an elasticated waistband, but the thin, integral liner is useful with or without a padded addition. The four pockets provide plenty of storage in a garment constructed in a crease-resistant, minimally stretchy ‘poly-Lycra’ cloth.

Sizes S-XXXL. Navy or grey. Nearest women’s equivalent is the Ladies Baggy 3/4 Capris (£53.99).

Verdict: Conservatively styled, well specced, and comfortable.

2. Rapha Men’s Trail Shorts

£130. Available from Rapha.

Rapha’s Men’s Trail Shorts may be designed for ‘the trail’ but will work just as well on a road tour thanks to their reserved styling and tailored fit.

The cinch-strap closure is not elasticated and must be adjusted for in-ride comfort but if you forget to do so there’s little chance of a good lunch over-taxing the high-tech Italian slide-button closure. Belt loops are provided for even greater reassurance. The two front pockets are open, with zippers closing the downwards-angled thigh-side pockets.

The shorts are designed to be worn with Rapha’s Bib Trail Liner and the two can be bought as a bundle at a discount.

Sizes XS-XXL. Five sober colour options. A women’s version is available.

Verdict: Sophisticated shorts for use off road but equally good on.

3. Altura All Roads Men’s Repel Cycling Shorts

£65. Available from Altura.

Built to last from a heavy-duty stretch fabric, Altura’s shorts should appeal to gravel riders and bikepackers looking for durable, all-roads performance.

Pocket provision is sparse – the two side pockets are deep and zippered, but the third hidden pocket is difficult even to find. Slightly stretchy for ease of movement, the fabric has a shower-resistant coating.

Details include reflective patches on the sides and rear and an interesting inseam arrangement with an extra inner thigh panel. The shorts have a removable padded liner and a non-extensible waistband with popper and steel button closure and belt loops.

Sizes XS-3XL. Colour: ‘navy’ (it’s grey). Women’s version available.

Verdict: Durable and unobtrusive but the waistband is restrictive.

4. Endura Singletrack Lite Short

£74.99. Available from Endura.

The Singletrack Lite Short is of a length (there’s also a short-leg option) and style that shouts ‘off road’. That said, there’s plenty to like for the more sedate, road-orientated rider, from the super-light but durable four-way-stretch fabric, with its perforated breathable panels, to the Velcro-adjustable, elasticated, wicking waistband.

The two capacious front pockets are zippered, as is the right-cheek rear one. A zippered fly completes the twin-poppered waist closure, which also has four triple-popper Clickfast™ attachment points for Endura’s removable padded liner.

Sizes S-XXL. Six bright colour options. Women’s version available.

Verdict: Adventurous styling and detailing, and very lightweight.

Overall verdict

Loose-fitting shorts designed for cycling can contribute greatly to riding enjoyment, and all four tested here will do just that.

Altura’s shorts are the weightiest and most robust, but with little give in the waistband you need to get your sizing right. Endura’s shorts are the opposite: almost evanescent, and ideal for a really hot day on the trail or on tour.

Both Rapha and Corinne Dennis offer attractively lightweight, sober shorts. The Corinne Dennis ones, as the name says, are the more traditional of the two.

The Rapha shorts are a do-anything design equally at home on road or off thanks to subtle styling and technical sophistication.

First published in Cycle magazine, April/May 2023 issue. All information correct at time of publishing.

Our test promise

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.

Details: What to look for

1. Fabric

Thicker is likely to be more durable but may feel restrictive on the bike. Lighter-weight, quick-drying fabrics with a degree of stretch tend to be most comfortable.

2. Length

Shorts ending below the knee can feel draggy, especially on a longer ride. Bagginess is also a factor: too much can cause flapping in the wind and chafing. 

3. Pockets

Desirable, but objects stashed in conventional front pockets can impede pedalling. Items can fall out of any unzipped pockets.

4. Waistband

Elasticated or easily adjustable preferred, as a fixed circumference can be constricting when riding. The waistband fastening should be robust enough to withstand unanticipated tension when breathing hard.

5. Liner

Some shorts come with or have an optional padded liner, which many cyclists prefer. Any shorts can be worn on top of padded cycling underwear or Lycra shorts.