Buyer's guide to baggy shorts

Pedal everyday and look good doing it

Cycling, especially road riding, is one of few niche sports participated amongst, and in plain sight of, those who are completely disinterested in it. Let's face it, unless you're super blessed with endless, car-free roads where no one lives chances are you're riding and training among the general, non-cycling population. 

While traditional road cycling dictates Lycra is optimal for comfort and performance while riding, there are plenty of occasions, basically when not seriously training or competing, where baggy shorts are more appropriate.

Whether you're mountain biking, cruising around town, or simply don't like a figure-hugging style emblazoned with obnoxious logos and gaudy colors, there are plenty of cycling-specific baggy shorts that will help you get out on the bike with confidence, and blend into the crowd when off the bike.

Although many baggy shorts are borrowed from the mountain biking scene, there are an increasing amount of urban-focused designs as well. These are ideal for commutes, whether that's to the office or the bar or for casual rides. Baggy shorts can be found with designs and colors ranging from screaming loud to stoic, reserved tones. 

From loud and bright to subtle and inconspicuous, all options are available
From loud and bright to subtle and inconspicuous, all options are available

Cut

It's a style thing: baggies are great for casual, low-key group rides, riding around town doing errands, and of course, commuting. While closer fitting cuts are better for road riding use, longer distances, and won't flap around in the wind, baggies are better for not standing out in "normal" society.

Leg lengths also vary; men's shorts tend to drop right at or just above the knee, while women's ones are often shorter. There are even shorts that aim to offer both a tight performance fit as well as a looser, more casual cut. 

These baggies do double duty, fitting tight or loose
These baggies do double duty, fitting tight or loose

Liner shorts

Some baggy shorts come with a liner short with a chamois. It's common for these liners to be constructed from a lightweight material, some are mesh so they have to be worn under outer shorts.

It's also unfortunately common that most of these liners tend to be substandard, but they're worth trying as everyone is different. The good news is almost all baggy liners are detachable from the outer shorts. That means you can slip on a chamois that you know works for you. 

Most liners are easily detached thanks to snaps or buttons
Most liners are easily detached thanks to snaps or buttons

Waistband

Most riding specific shorts have some sort of waist adjuster built in. Also the back panel typically has stretch or a rise to prevent the back of the shorts from slipping down while leaning forward on the bike. 

Waist size adjustments are common and often well executed
Waist size adjustments are common and often well executed

Material

In addition to the rear stretch panel, it's common for baggies to be constructed from stretchy material to help the shorts move with you on the bike.

The weight of the material can run the gamut from ultra lightweight, almost invisible to heavy-duty strong, and everywhere in between. Even weatherproof materials can be found in cycling shorts.

As with most things, the lighter the fabric, the less durable it will be. Urban-inspired wear may even be primarily cotton.

Pockets

Here's another instance where baggy shorts truly shine over Lycra. Riding-specific shorts have pockets that are designed to hold your gear while pedaling. Of course some do a better job than others keeping your smartphone from banging around. But no matter what, with baggies you can say "so long" to the days of fumbling around while twisting your arm and hand into a structureless pocket on your back to fish out some money.

Another bonus is some pockets feature venting when opened so they essentially have a double function. 

Stretch panels, pockets and venting are all built in
Stretch panels, pockets and venting are all built in

Worth a look

Every manufacturer has a different take on sizing, so we'd strongly recommend that you try before you buy — plus your own height or thigh length affects whether the shorts might show a little too much or not enough.

In short, there's an endless array of baggy cycling shorts ready to give you the boost in confidence or functionality that you need to get you riding more than ever! 

Russell Eich

Tech Writer
Russell fell head over heels in love with bikes in the '90s, and has been involved in the bike industry ever since. Between wrenching in bike shops, guiding professionally, and writing about bikes, Russell has honed an appreciation for what works, gained knowledge of what doesn't, and can barely contain his enthusiasm for what comes next. His two-wheeled passion continues in the Rocky Mountains high above Boulder, Colorado.
  • Discipline: Mountain, road, cyclocross
  • Preferred Terrain: High altitudes, forgotten singletracks, bike parks, roads without cars
  • Current Bikes: Custom Meriwether steel hardtail, Specialized S-Works Enduro 29, Kona Jake the Snake, Trek 69er, and a bunch more
  • Dream Bike: Yeti SB5c, Intense Tracer 275C, Black Cat custom road
  • Beer of Choice: Gin + Tonic
  • Location: Rollinsville, CO, USA

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