What to Look For
Bicycle shorts offer padding where your butt meets the seat. Six-panel constructed shorts are cheaper than eight-panel constructed shorts. More panels provide better fit. Chamois padding absorbs some of the shock of road vibration and bumps. With higher cut backs, you do not have to worry about where your shorts ride while you are bent forward over the handle bars. Try them on and bend over to get the best idea of how a pair of cycling shorts really fits. Bellwether, Pearl Izumi, Louis Garneau, and Castelli are among the top ranked brands.
Lycra, the stretchy material dominating the cycling shorts market, comes in 6-oz. and 8-oz. weights. The 8-oz. lycra is a bit thicker and not as see-through as 6-oz. Some shorts sport elastic at the leg cuffs. Move around to make sure they do not ride up or squeeze uncomfortably.
Where to Buy
Bike shorts are available just about anywhere bikes are sold. Sporting goods and bicycle stores offer the most variety and price ranges. Department stores offer lower price points. Online stores tout many brands and varieties but you don't have the ability to try them on.
Low end shorts start around $20. Mid-range shorts, those sporting six-panel construction and some eight-panel construction, run $50 to $80. Top of the line shorts can cost $100 and up. The best shorts for your money are those that fit. Most $20 shorts last a season or two. Higher priced ones can last numerous cycling seasons.
The elastic should give without being loose. When bent over, the shorts should stay up without squeezing your stomach or riding down your butt. The leg openings should cling without strangling. Remember that the leg muscles tend to swell during a ride, so loose is better than too snug.
Cycling shorts are meant to be worn without undershorts. When trying them on, wear the thinnest pair of underwear to simulate nakedness.