clothing · fitness

Product review: around-town cycling shorts

As anyone who ever lays tush to saddle knows, having the right cycling shorts makes the difference between a distressed derriere and a blissful bum.  And, apart from general brand quality advice, it’s hard to rely on others’ recommendations about which shorts are right for you, partly because cyclists differ about all sorts of features of bike shorts.

We vary in our preferences for thickness and material of the chamois, leg length (I prefer longer shorts and my friend Pata really likes shorter ones), waistband design, bibs or not (although I came out strongly in favor of bibs here) you name it.  We are a fussy lot, we cyclists, and it really comes out in our very particular shorts preferences.

However, this summer I purchased a pair of around-town cycling shorts that I just looove.  Sam suggested I do a product review.  So here it is:  The Terry cruiser short.

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This is a bike short that is not meant for super-long rides, at least in my view.  It has what Terry calls an urban chamois, which means (to them) that it’s wider and thinner, meant for riding more upright.  I find it perfectly comfortable for riding any of my bikes (commuter, cross, road, mtbike), although I wouldn’t wear it on a long road ride (mainly because I bow to cycling fashion convention and wear my bibs instead).

I like it because it is smooth and form-fitting, and also stretchy but not super-tight like spandex.  It looks like shorts that are worn around town, and it even has a jaunty little zipper pocket on the side.  It reminds me of my favorite Athleta pants, called Bettona classic pants.  I like them for the same reasons– they are smooth fitting but not too tight, they have a few nice details, and they are easy to wear in lots of different situations.

But there’s another reason why I like these:  they fit me.  Women who are a US size 14+ (like me) often have trouble finding shorts that fit and feel comfortable, and look good, with enough coverage and the right fabric feel.  These shorts have enough length to make me feel well-covered, fabric that stretches and is smooth, and sizing in the legs and elsewhere to feel comfortable.  And, the size L (14-16)  fits me.  Yay.  They also come in  XL, which will definitely work for women sizes 18-20.

This shorts design is proof positive that clothing manufacturers can indeed design attractive and well-fitting clothing for women who are size 14 and up.  I’ve blogged here about the nonsense we have to put up with in trying to find pretty clothing in larger sizes, and Sam and others have written about similar troubles with athletic clothing (finding the right sports bra is a quest in itself).  Terry is one of the athletic clothing manufacturers that sells 1X–3X sizes.  Good for them.

However, they don’t make this short in 1x–3x.  Why not?

I have no idea.  Terry’s selection of 1X–3X shorts and tops is a very small fraction of  the range and variety they have in smaller sizes.  It’s not true that there’s no market for them– the average American woman is a size 14, which means lots of women are larger than size 14 (because math).  It’s also not true that they can’t figure out how to make this clothing for larger-sized women, because they already figured out how to make shorts, tops, skirts, etc.  They should just make more of them, using the same styles and fabrics as they do for sizes 2–14.

Yes, there are some specialty manufacturers of larger-sized athletic clothing; through the wonder of the internet, we can find them.  But 1) they tend to be more expensive, sometimes lower in quality and often limited in fabric options; and 2) we often have to put up with cutesy, euphemistic, or even downright mocking brand names.  Witness this brand– Fat Lass at the Back.  Sam has blogged about them here.  In all fairness, they are an equal-opportunity mocking brand, as they sell Fat Lad at the Back cycling wear, too.  I guess this is supposed to be good-naturedly ribbing, but:


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Okay, I guess this was a combo product review and rant.  So, to summarize:

These shorts are comfy and cute.

They fit really well.

They should come in lots of bigger sizes too.

Of course, one can simply opt out of the whole what-to-wear problem entirely (by the way, this is Victoria Pendleton, who’s a jockey and former track cyclist).

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In lieu of going au naturel, readers, what are your recommendations for around-town cycling wear?  Do you wear cycling shorts under a skirt?  Do you wear special cycling-casual clothing?  Are you super-tough and wear jean cutoffs on your fixed gear bike?  Let us know.


5 thoughts on “Product review: around-town cycling shorts

  1. I find cycling in jeans uncomfortable. Besides the jeans I buy are $100.00 /pr. So not interested in wearing them out faster on saddle.

    I wear walking shorts (some long, some short) or simply light spandex.

    None have any chamois. And I cycle a hybrid bike, in a slightly more upright position. In fact, I’ve cycled this way for long distance cycle touring with weighted panniers…for several wks.-long trip out of town.

    Occasionally I wear a skort. It’s cut for cycling but not padded shorts. I do notice that other cyclists seem to notice me…probably because of flying black skirt hemline in the wind, etc.

    My lifestyle is cycling oriented…I also bike to shop, errands and often to events after work. I’m here, from grocery shopping:

    Incredible as this may sound, but I don’t wear padded cycling shorts at all. I haven’t …for the past 3 decades.

    When we go to Europe in a few months, I plan to cycle there in a skort or walking shorts. Or simply a long tights. It’s enough I wear a helmet and cycling jacket to draw enough attention that I’m a “tourist” since cycling gear is less worn by locals, in France, Spain and Germany. Not in the big cities nor in little villages.

  2. While I understand your rage about sizing, as a data scientist I always cringe when people say “The average women is a size 14 therefore this company should make larger sizes”. The problem is the average women may not be the demographic that wants this product. While I have no doubt that some size 1x-3x women want great bike shorts, I often wonder if the demand would be enough to justify the production of the shorts. If you want to prove to terry they should be making more 1x-3x products get a bunch of women of that size to write in saying they would 100% purchase that item, I have no doubt that when you show them the money they will be happy to produce the item.

    1. Hi– yes, it’s an empirical claim that 1X–3X women will buy bike shorts. However, there is evidence (which I didn’t include in the article) that they want to buy them. Furthermore, Terry already sells a few models of 1X–3X shorts, so I argued that they CAN (not should) sell others. Some manufacturers have claimed that larger size clothing is too hard to design and make, but since Terry already does this, they can’t make this claim.

  3. Thanks for this review (& rant that I agree with) – I think these would work great for me. Did you buy these in Canada? I went on the Terry site but would prefer not to have to pay $30 for shipping (+ possibly duty).

    1. Hi– I bought the shorts in the US, and they were worth $69, but probably not $99 (well, not for me). Bummer– what about that NAFTA thing? Why doesn’t that help our neighbors to the north? 🙂

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