Reviews You Can Rely On

How We Tested Cycling Short for Women

By Rebecca Eckland ⋅ Review Editor
Tuesday June 29, 2021

In this ever-updated review, we once again put cycling shorts through the roughest tests to see which models out-pace the competition. We tested them 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 wore 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 with a hose 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.

We tested these Pearl Izumis, and all the shorts reviewed, in the...
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.
Photo: Rich Staley

Comfort & Fit

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 (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...
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.
Photo: Rich Staley

Padding & Protection

In the process of completing this review, we have formulated a Public Service Announcement (PSA) for every single person interested in purchasing cycling shorts. 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 suffice. 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, and 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.


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 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 demonstrate 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...
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.


We tested durability by riding in these shorts A LOT. If the day involved a bike somehow, at least one of the ten 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 them repaired or replaced?

Despite several tests that involved long miles, the RS Pro Bib...
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.
Photo: Rich Staley


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.