The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

How We Tested Cycling Short for Women

By Rebecca Eckland ⋅ Review Editor
Friday August 9, 2019
We tested these Pearl Izumis  and all the shorts reviewed  in the most extreme conditions: heat  cold  rain  and blistering sun to find the absolute best in women's cycling shorts.
We tested these Pearl Izumis, and all the shorts reviewed, in the most extreme conditions: heat, cold, rain, and blistering sun to find the absolute best in women's cycling shorts.

In this newly updated review, we once again put cycling shorts through the roughest tests to see what shorts out-pace the competition. We tested the shorts on indoor and outdoor rides. We rode up mountain passes at dawn and in thunderstorms, we raced in criteriums, road races, and time trial hill climbs. We took the shorts on lonely highways across desert landscapes both during the heat of the day and during the chilly nights. We rose them on iconic, torturous rides like the 85-mile LeMond Loop made famous by past Tour de France winner Greg LeMond and the Death Ride, a.k.a.: "the 128-mile Tour of the California Alps." We crashed in them, we washed them repeatedly because they/we were sweaty, stinky, and dirty, we completely soaked them in tests to check their capacity to wick away moisture and we wore them to coffee houses, grocery stores, and Pilates classes because, hey, the life of a woman on a bike is a busy one.

Comfort & Fit


We hired Captain Obvious to write this section for us: we tested Comfort and Fit by repeatedly putting on the shorts, wearing them on rides, and assessing how we felt. Then, we washed the shorts and tried them on again. We asked ourselves: what, if anything, changed? We watched for bulges or unnecessary folding, or if a garment felt like it wasn't made for the unique body position of the road cyclist, which requires that the waist be higher on the back.

We rode in the saddle, out of the saddle, and (even once) we fell off the saddle, all the while keeping notes on how we felt in the short and how the short felt against our skin.

We measured Comfort and Fit by keeping careful notes after each activity in which we wore the shorts. Our top ranking shorts are  from left to right: the SUGOi RS Pro Bib  the Louis Garneau Fit Sensor 7.5 and the Shebeest Petunia Bib.
We measured Comfort and Fit by keeping careful notes after each activity in which we wore the shorts. Our top ranking shorts are, from left to right: the SUGOi RS Pro Bib, the Louis Garneau Fit Sensor 7.5 and the Shebeest Petunia Bib.

Padding & Protection


In the process of completing this review, we have formulated a Public Service Announcement (PSA) for every single person interested in purchasing a cycling short. Did you know that all quality cycling shorts are created equal up to approximately 40 miles or two hours in the saddle? This, much like your Aerobic Threshold, marks the territory between "it's all good" and "ouch!"

This is neither good nor bad news, but something to keep in mind: if you are a cyclist who will never spend more than two hours in the saddle, most of the shorts in this review will do. Take your pick: every single pair of shorts in this review will have you smiling and loving life for 40 miles.

Anything over that threshold, however, we found that things start to change. Shorts and bibs that passed the two-hour test will take your cycling adventures to the next level.

Breathability/Fabric


We tested the breathability and quality of the fabric by conducting what we call a "Soak Test," which is exactly what it sounds like: using a highly-calibrated garden hose, we soaked the shorts and then placed them on a drying rack, timing how long it takes the shorts to dry. While this doesn't exactly replicate experiencing a downpour on a bike, it does gesture to the short's hydrophobic qualities, and how well it will wick away sweat, keeping you high and dry on the ride.

Who knew we could have so much fun with a garden hose? In both versions of our soak tests  we drenched the shorts to maximum capacity and then checked them every ten minutes to see which had the most hydrophobic properties and which ones acted like a wet sponge.
Who knew we could have so much fun with a garden hose? In both versions of our soak tests, we drenched the shorts to maximum capacity and then checked them every ten minutes to see which had the most hydrophobic properties and which ones acted like a wet sponge.

Durability


To be blunt, we tested durability by riding in these shorts A LOT. If the day involved a bike somehow, the nine shorts included in this review went along for the ride.

The shorts were subjected to efficiency testing on a trainer calibrated to measure pedal stroke, power, and left/right balance. They went with us on one, two, three, four, five and even an 8.5-hour ride. Then, we scrutinized each short for signs of wear. We also took into consideration the manufacturer's warranty that accompanies each garment. If a seam comes loose or a logo de-lams, don't you want the peace of mind knowing that you can have the short repaired or replaced?

Despite several tests that involved long miles  the RS Pro Bib showed no signs of wear while maintaining an excellent performance that you would expect from the best in its class.
Despite several tests that involved long miles, the RS Pro Bib showed no signs of wear while maintaining an excellent performance that you would expect from the best in its class.

Style


Despite being rather subjective, we included this metric in our review to demonstrate that while "Style" might seem superficial and unrelated to a short's design or performance, it is, instead, a visual indicator of both of these things. The cut, fit, and style of each short makes a HUGE difference as to how the short will A) look on you and B) protect you during the ride.

What's even more interesting, however, is that the "look" of the short corresponds to how well it scored in other review metrics, such as Comfort & Fit, Fabric & Breathability, and Padding and Protection. In other words, if it looks unsightly, it probably feels just as bad, or worse.