Daily I receive a good amount of email questions from the Ask a Question form. As I find frequently asked or interesting questions I will be answering them from the Mailbox.

Mailbox Question

I have decided to begin to ride a bike to lose weight and get fit. I am currently a size 18/20.

I want some gel bike shorts but not only can I not find any big enough but also none that are big enough for my chunky thighs. I don’t want saddle soreness to put me off so can you suggest any answers? The bike gel seats that you can buy to go over the saddle seem to be made for small mountain bike saddles and mine is a normal wide sprung saddle.

My Opinion

There are two parts I want to address, the first is finding a pair of shorts that fit.

Many manufactures have women’s XX-Large shorts that fit much like an 18/20. Also, I’ve had great success with women over size 14 wearing men’s shorts or bibs. I highly suggest trying a bib short on (it will feel weird in the dressing room but amazing on your bike) as the spandex is removed from your waist and pulls everything together under your jersey.

You mentioned gel short and saddle. I try to push folks away from gel under your rear as much as possible. The first reason is that gel compresses after some saddle time and causes more pressure in areas you don’t want. The second reason is that it wears out/moves and breaks down rather quickly. If your handlebar and saddle are in proper height you shouldn’t feel any extra pressure that you wouldn’t when seated on a wooden chair.


Pearl Izumi has a good Select In-R-Cool short that goes up to 2x if a shop doesn’t have anything near you. If there’s a good shop near you try on things, don’t be scared of the guys. When you are trying on, use underwear but no after you buy them!

Disclaimer: I work for Pearl Izumi but those are awesome shorts.



  1. Terry is a good source for true plus sizes in cycling gear. Sometimes XXL of a brand that doesn’t carry plus sizes is simply a larger version of their smaller sizes which doesn’t always account for the different shapes (proportionally thicker thighs and/or waist) of some larger woman.

  2. SheBeest & Terry offer real womens plus sizes in shorts & jerseys. Pearl Izumi 2x is nice, but I prefer the SheBeest & Sugois 2x (if they’re not in the laundry). I feel SheBeest has the best padding.

  3. Being a thick, chunky-legged rider myself, there are options before resorting to menswear. Not a ton, but they’re out there for sure. I have found Terry shorts fit well, and usually (@ least for non-compression shorts), I can go down 1-3 sizes, depending on the specific short and they fit well. Aerotek also offers many larger options, though the buyer may need to do some back and forth with mail exchanging. My best thought would be to just keep trying on until you find one that works.

  4. My favorite larger sized shorts (18-20) were Sheila Moon’s Athena shorts! Great fit, lasts forever and looked good! I avoid gel shorts, they just don’t last! The gel breaks down and the shorts life is about 1/2 of plain pads. Good Luck!

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