How Long Do Cycling Shorts Last: Which brands last the longest


It feels like cycling shorts or cycling bibs are now more expensive than ever. Given some pairs of cycling shorts can cost upwards of £100, I wanted to take a look into how long can you actually expect a pair of cycling shorts to last.

Cycling shorts lasted an average of 11,000 kilometers with the cyclists we spoke to. This would equate to around 550 hours of riding for the average cyclist. The main factor that impacts the lifespan of your cycling shorts is how often and in what way you are washing them.

So, we’ve established that the average pair of cycling shorts will last you for 11,000 kilometers, but which brands lasted the longest, and what steps can you take to make sure your shorts are being properly looked after?

How long do cycling bib shorts last?

When measuring how long cycling bibs last, the best measure of lifespan is kilometers or miles ridden. This is the most accurate way of comparing which shorts last the longest, as all of us ride at different speeds and for different durations.

We asked a large group of cyclists how long their cycling shorts lasted. A large proportion of this group did not measure this accurately, with the most common answer stating that they changed their cycling shorts “every couple of years”.

However, some group members had kept track of how long each pair of shorts had lasted them, either by keeping track over their years of cycling or through distance tracking apps like Komoot. Using these responses we’ve been able to look at many of the popular cycling short brands and see which lasts the longest in the actual distance of use.

A bar chart showing the average distance in kilometers before cycling shorts needed to be replaced

Overall the average distance that a pair of cycling shorts lasted our riders was 11,000 kilometers, with the majority of the shorts that people in our survey wore, lasting between 10,000 and 12,000 kilometers.

Endura shorts came out on top with an average distance of 20,000 kilometers (although this may be slightly skewed by one rider who had been wearing the same pair for 8 years). If you are looking for a pair of Endura bibbed cycling shorts, take a look at this pair I would recommend on amazon.

If we take a look at the average distance that cycling shorts last, we can make a rough estimate of how many hours of cycling these shorts should survive. Given the typical rider maintains an average speed of 20kmph (12mph) we can calculate that the average pair of shorts should last the average cyclist for 550 hours.

Given that I ride for around 6 hours per week, this would mean that the average pair of shorts should last me for around a year and a half (falling nicely in line with the “couple of years” that our other cyclists mentioned).

Cycling shorts should last for around 550 hours of cycling for the typical cyclist

Why do some cycling shorts last longer than others?

While we have established the average amount of time that cycling shorts will last, there are a number of different factors that will impact how long your individual pair of shorts will last you.

How well the shorts fit

How well your cycling shorts fit will impact how long they last. Cycling shorts that are too small or too large are more prone to rubbing. This will wear down the fabric faster than if they fit well.

What conditions you are riding in

Different riding conditions can impact how long your cycling bib shorts last. Riding in wet conditions will result in your cycling shorts wearing down more quickly, as will cycling in conditions where they are exposed to long periods of sunlight which can damage the elastic.

Apart from the weather conditions, the road surface you are cycling on and your riding style can impact the durability of you’re cycling shorts. Cycling on roads with lots of grit or bumps can damage the material (either through excess rubbing or cuts in the fabric).

How often and how you are washing them

One of the main factors that impacts the lifespan of a pair of cycling shorts is how often you are washing your shorts and how you are washing them.

You should ensure that you wash your cycling shorts after every ride as any sweat left on the fabric can result in bacteria build-up and the sweat itself can weaken the fabric.

On the other hand, each wash of a pair of cycling shorts will have an impact on the material. While washing your shorts is a necessity, making sure to wash them as instructed by the label on the shorts will be the best way to ensure they last as long as possible (For more advice on washing your shorts look at the section at the end of this article on how to make cycling shorts last longer).

How to know when your cycling shorts need replacing?

There are 2 main components of a pair of cycling shorts, the fabric (lycra) material making up the majority of the shorts, and the padding around the bottom area (called chamois padding). Each of these separate parts has its own signs of wear and tear.

How to know if the fabric is wearing out?

Obviously, it is important to check your shorts for any tears or holes that will result in you flashing passing cars, but before a rip actually forms, there are 3 key stages that you can look for in your cycling shorts. Once you see any of these stages of fabric wearing, it is likely time to start looking for some new shorts.

Stage 1Stage 2Stage 3
The fabric on the shorts will appear a lighter color and the material will feel looser and less “form-fitting” than it was initially.The lycra will become see-through as the elastic wears away.You will see the white elastic strands on the fabric as they have become worn down over time.

How long do cycling shorts chamois last?

Cycling shorts chamois (the padding bit around the bottom of your shorts) will show different signs of wear and tear to the fabric. The first thing to look for in the padding is if it is becoming thin, stiff, or uneven. These are signs that the padding will not work as well as it initially did.

It is also important to monitor the fabric that holds the padding in place. If the padding is able to move around, it will result in excess rubbing, again wearing away at the material.

Finally, a key thing to look out for is worsening saddle sores on your rides. If your pair of shorts appear normal but you are suffering from a worsening saddle sore, consider investing in a new pair of shorts.

How to make your cycling shorts last longer?

We’ve established how long cycling shorts typically last, as well as what factors make them wear down faster, so how do you actually increase the lifespan of your cycling bibs?

How to properly wash your cycling shorts

The most important step to think about with cycling shorts is washing. First of all, make sure to keep the shorts clean after a ride. All shorts need to be washed in between uses (no more fishing them out of the washing basket).

When you do wash them, make sure to follow the factory instructions. These often involve washing them at a lower temperature, leaving them to air dry rather than putting them in a tumble drier, and using non-biological washing powders.

If your washing machine has one, you can consider using a “delicate washing cycle” or using a mesh laundry bag. These bags are made to protect items in the washing machine and can help to avoid any shoulder straps from getting tangled up or stretched. If you don’t have one of these bags you can instead try turning the shorts inside out before washing.

Ensure your bike is properly fitted

Apart from washing, another key step you can take is to make sure you have a well-fitting bike. Any incorrect positioning, be that the handlebars or the saddle, may result in increased rubbing over time and lead to the material breaking down more quickly.

Overall

As you can see, cycling shorts have a range of different factors that impact how long they should last you. While it’s important to implement the steps we have covered here to make sure that your shorts last you as long as they can, I’m still not able to help you resist that nice new pair of shorts on sale at your local bike shop.

Mark Holmes

30-year-old doctor with an interest in cycling, bikepacking, and statistics.

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