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Shorts that are subtle enough to be suitable both on and off the bike

Sometimes you want the comfort and performance of cycling shorts but without the Lycra look, and here are 10 pairs that fit the bill.

Lycra shorts may be functional but they're not always suitable. Maybe you want to commute into work in clothing you can wear all day, or you want to ride around town spending time off the bike as well as on it but not look like a bike gimp in a pub or cafe. Australians call these shorts 'shy shorts' for obvious reasons.

Loose-fit or baggy cycling shorts are cut to fit while you're riding bike, with a higher back than regular shorts, and often with a gusset design that moves the seams so you're not sitting on them while riding. Unlike most Lycra shorts they have pockets too.

Here are some of the best options out there. Clicking on a heading will take you to an online retailer.

Gore Wear C3 Trail Shorts — £79.99

Gore-Wear-C3-Trail-Shorts-Baggy-Shorts-Black-SS19-100047990006

Known for waterproof gear, Gore Wear also makes a huge range of general cycling kit, including these popular and well-regarded shorts. They have loads of poskets for carrying your stuff, and reflective details so you'll stand out in headlights.

Find a Gore Wear dealer

Chrome Folsom Shorts 2.0 — £110

Chrome Folsom short.jpg

These Chrome Folsom shorts are really well designed, solidly made and pack some cool features although the price tag is quite hefty.

Go to our shorts reviews

They're made from a reasonably heavy duty Everest four-way stretch material that is water resistant, with reinforced seams and crotch. Despite the feeling of durability, they're light and breezy with a full-length seamless double layer crotch ensuring they're comfortable on the saddle.

Read our review of the Chrome Folsom 2.0 Shorts

Velocity Women's Climber Capris — £90

velocity_womens_cycling_capris.jpg

These mid-weight, smart-casual Velocity Climber Capris are bike-friendly yet will segue seamlessly to the office. The cycle-specific features – such as the diamond gusset and reflective accents – are subtly hidden, but the low-rise waist might not suit everyone and the price tag is pretty hefty, especially compared to non-bike-friendly high street offerings that are very similar in appearance.

That said, the quality of the fabric and construction are excellent.

Read our review of the Velocity Women's Climber Capris

Madison Flux Men's Shorts — £69.99

Madison Flux men's shorts

The Flux mountain bike shorts don't have the tailored appearance of some here – they look sporty – but they're sturdy and lightweight and will appeal to anyone who doesn't want a built-in pad.

Check out 11 of the best cheap cycling shorts

They're made from a lightweight 4-way stretch fabric with a DWR (durable water repellent) coating so rain and spray rolls off. Super-thick Velcro adjusters allow you to get the fit just right around the waist, and four pockets give plenty of storage options.

Read our review of the women's Madison Flux Shorts

dhb MTB Women's Trail Baggy Shorts — £40.00

dhb MTB Women's Baggy Trail Shorts-1

These shorts are designed for ruff 'n' tuff all-mountain riding so they're built to be durable. The material used is a nylon and polypropylene two-face fabric which is pretty heavy, so although strong these do get a little hot on summer rides. The fabric has a denim look to it which, along with the belt loops, silver snap popper fastenings, zip fly and open front hand pockets, contributes to a relaxed look.

The attention to detail is high, with a silicone strip around the waistband to help keep the shorts in place and elastic waist adjuster tabs which not only work well but lie neatly and flat.

There's a men's version too for the same price.

Read our review of the dhb MTB Women's Trail Baggy Shorts 

Rapha Randonnee Shorts — £90

Rapha Randonnee

Rapha's slim-fitting Randonnee Shorts are designed specifically for cycling in the city. They're made from a lightweight and stretchy fabric that's breathable and quick to dry.

The best casual cycling commuter wear

The back is cut high to avoid a gap while the hi-vis tab and hi-vis trim inside the legs can be hidden away when not riding.

Vulpine Men's Gravel Shorts — £39.99

Vulpine Mens Gravel Shorts

Made from a stretchy, breathable fabric that's designed to keep you comfortable while riding, the Gravel Shorts have quite a wide cut so they don't look out of place when you're off the bike.

These shorts are designed with a diamond shaped panel where you sit to avoid any discomfort from seams.

Giro Women's Arc Shorts — £48.99

Giro Women's Arc shorts

Giro's Arc shorts – available in both men's and women's versions – are a simple and unfussy design intended for summer trail riding, but there's no reason why you can't wear them around town.

The rip stop fabric is really light and has a DWR coating. Although there is no stretch in it, the shorts proved comfortable enough.

The Arcs are made in a casual style with open hand pocket and belt loops. There are also waist adjusters on each hip.

Read our review of the Giro Women's Arc Shorts

Endura Hummvee Chino Short with Liner — £59.99

Endura Hummvee Chino Short

Unlike the other shorts here, the Hummvee comes with a padded liner for extra comfort in the saddle. The liner is detachable so you could take it out once you get to work, say.

The fabric of the external shorts is a cotton mix that's designed to be tough without looking out of place when you're off the bike.

Specialized Andorra Comp Shorts — £32.50

Specialized Womens Andorra Comp Shorts-3

The Andorra Comp women's shorts are a neatly designed and workmanlike pair of mountain bike shorts. These are understated, built with function in mind.

The shorts are cool and comfortable with quite a lot of 'give' so it's easy to move about in them. There are no seams at the gusset and they dry quickly, adding to the overall comfort factor. The fabric is water repellent although heavy spray or consistent rain will find its way through.

Read our review of the Specialized Andorra Comp Shorts

Morvelo Men's Overland Shorts — £80

Morvelo mens Overland Shorts

Although Morvelo's new shorts look fairly casual, they have several bike-friendly features. They're made from a stretchy nylon/Lycra fabric with a water repellent treatment and they aren't cut too baggy. You get three discreet zipped pockets along with hidden waist adjusters and reflective print that is hardly noticeable until light shines on it at night.

Read more: Morvelo launches Overland gravel and bikepacking clothing range

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Mat has in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been road.cc technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now pushing 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.

18 comments

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xerxes [55 posts] 4 months ago
3 likes

My favourite cycling "baggies": https://www.gaynors.co.uk/mens-c4/shorts-c232/craghoppers-mens-kiwi-pro-...

These are better than any of the cycling specific baggy shorts I've tried, and as a bonus,  generally less expensive.

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itchieritchie [8 posts] 4 months ago
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Wow. Great recommendation xerxes. Currently £20.33. Seriously tempted to pull the trigger....

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nick h. [45 posts] 4 months ago
0 likes

Would any of these be as good as proper cycling shorts for big mileage on a hot day? It would be good to wear something low key when touring foreign parts. Especially when you go to a cafe and the locals think you are some sort of S&M freak and hastily drag their children away from you.

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griffly16 [7 posts] 4 months ago
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The vulpine ones are great but unfortunately after only wearing them for a week or two in Portugal and a couple of washes the colour fades badly. I should have returned them really but never got round to it

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griffly16 [7 posts] 4 months ago
0 likes
xerxes wrote:

My favourite cycling "baggies": https://www.gaynors.co.uk/mens-c4/shorts-c232/craghoppers-mens-kiwi-pro-...

These are better than any of the cycling specific baggy shorts I've tried, and as a bonus,  generally less expensive.

 

Agree, these are really good. Can wear bib shorts underneath too

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BertYardbrush [62 posts] 4 months ago
0 likes
nick h. wrote:

Would any of these be as good as proper cycling shorts for big mileage on a hot day? It would be good to wear something low key when touring foreign parts. Especially when you go to a cafe and the locals think you are some sort of S&M freak and hastily drag their children away from you.

Have a look at Endura Trekkit shorts. The stone colour are on offer at Wiggle £15.

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aegisdesign [142 posts] 4 months ago
1 like

Thirded for the reccomendation for Craghoppers Kiwi shorts. Cheap, stretchy, durable and for touring they wash well and dry quickly.

Other reccomendation from me is Rohan Escaper shorts (£65 but often in sales) https://www.rohan.co.uk/mens-travel-and-outdoor-shorts-Escaper-Shorts-SS...

These seem to be the only thing that remains of Rohan's foray into cycle clothing a few years back. They're cut with a higher waist at the back and the material is very light. Pockets have loads of mesh in so they're cooler than the kiwis.

Either is fine for big mileage though not as good as just lycra shorts. The locals can think what they want as far as I'm concerned - that's their hangup, not mine.

 

 

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Giles Pargiter [83 posts] 4 months ago
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I'am afraid I find it concerning that all these shorts are made of various forms of plastic. This has the massive weak point (apart from environmental concerns) that they are extremely fire vulnerable. When one is sitting round a communal cooking fire or such, enjoying the crack they are extremely vulnerable to hot sparks burning little holes in them. I find this reduces their life span considerably. Whatever happened to Merino wool and cotton or clever mixtures of such fabrics?

I cycle all day in non-padded shorts, but concentrate on having a comfortable saddle in the first place. Ones body adjusts to this use over time.

I find the older type (?) of Endura Humvee shorts particularly versatile - with the above proviso.

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ConcordeCX [1176 posts] 4 months ago
0 likes
nick h. wrote:

Would any of these be as good as proper cycling shorts for big mileage on a hot day? It would be good to wear something low key when touring foreign parts. Especially when you go to a cafe and the locals think you are some sort of S&M freak and hastily drag their children away from you.

I used to tour in cotton not-cycling (i.e. normal) shorts even on hot days, with a Brooks leather saddle, and they were fine - nobody ever dragged their children away.

When eventually I tried lycra bibs they were a revelation in comfort and I would not go back to touring the old way. Still nobody drags their children away from me.

You could try riding in lycra, and put on decent shorts when you go to a cafe. If the locals still drag their children away from you you'll know it's not because of the shorts.

 

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Ratfink [222 posts] 4 months ago
0 likes

My personal choice is https://www.mountainwarehouse.com/mountain-2-in-1-mens-bike-shorts-p1585...

The pictures don't really do them justice but without the liner i wear them as everyday shorts all the time and they look quite smart and have a nice bit of stretch in them and are very quick drying.

With the liner they are very comfy on the bike but i've only ever worn them for the commute or a run around the forest on the mtb.

 

 

 

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LastBoyScout [638 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes

Bought a pair of Louis Garneau "Leeway" baggy shorts from Evans a couple of years ago.

They were a really nice colour and fit, but I stupidly returned them as the liner was absolute rubbish. Having realised I should have kept them and just binned the liner in favour of a better one, I tried to buy them again, but they'd run out of my size  2

Generally, I've found the dedicated cycling baggies to be terrible for me - either the liner fits or the shorts fit, but not both. I tried one pair which were really good, but had a mesh stretch panel at the back, which meant that any mud or rain thrown up by the back wheel just went straight through.

As a result, I just wear a normal pair of cycling shorts (bib or waist) with a pair of ordinary baggies over the top - the Montane Dyno shorts are really good for this, although a little low cut at the back for cycling in.

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kil0ran [1690 posts] 1 month ago
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B'Twin Rockrider 500s are excellent, particularly for £30. Stretchy and roomy for the larger rider. The latest version includes padded removable liner shorts. Not too keen on the pocket placement on the latest version, not least because they've made the phone pocket too small for a typical 5.5" screen phone plus case. Come in a subtle blue or stealthy black.

https://www.decathlon.com/collections/mountain-bike-shorts-tights/produc...

They have a 500 & a 900 version that's currently the same price, I think the 900 doesn't have the liner shorts. Definitely subtle enough to wear off the bike.

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ktache [2125 posts] 1 month ago
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I really like my Endura Zymes, I have 2 pairs of shorts and 1 of 3/4 for the winter.  They don't make them at the moment, but seem to every so often.  I get on well with their click in liner too.

They just work really well with lots of good pockets.

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Bmblbzzz [346 posts] 1 month ago
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What I'd like is a men's version of the capris shown.  By which I mean something coming to just below the knee, for these autumn days and evenings, but cut with a closer fit than the baggy mtb-style Humvees and so on. Not necessarily in puce and preferably rather less than £90. Can't find anything though. 

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kil0ran [1690 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes
Bmblbzzz wrote:

What I'd like is a men's version of the capris shown.  By which I mean something coming to just below the knee, for these autumn days and evenings, but cut with a closer fit than the baggy mtb-style Humvees and so on. Not necessarily in puce and preferably rather less than £90. Can't find anything though. 

Agreed, I've had a summer of horsefly bites and a couple of ticks due to hike-a-bike sections on my regular off-road rides. Capris would go part of the way to solving that issue I think.

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Bmblbzzz [346 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes

Decathlon to the reasonably priced but decently made rescue, as so often. Maybe. 

https://www.decathlon.co.uk/nh500-men-grey-id_8355904.html

Though they probably have seams in all the wrong places for cycling... 

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earth [448 posts] 1 month ago
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I want my non lycra shorts to have a tapered leg.  Why do they have to be baggy?

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brooksby [5024 posts] 1 month ago
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Best ones I ever owned were Altura Metro 3/4.

Unfortunately, they got discontinued...