If you’re about to buy a new pair of cycling shorts, or purchase specialist bike kit for the first time, it’s worth doing a little preparation first to understand what it is that best suits your needs.

Local sports and cycling shops now stock a bewildering array of different cycling shorts, from casual to baggy, lycra for the brave, triathlon for the specialists and cycling tights for those who prefer greater coverage. Added to this, a huge range of brands, technical features and materials, all presented in a range of prices and it can be hard to know where to start.

One of the first basic decisions most cyclists will make is whether they prefer baggy or lycra shorts. The baggy variety offers extra padding which can be built in, or detachable. This can be vaulable for long distance or rougher surfaces. Short distance cyclists tend to prefer not to have padding, but a good half way option is to elect for cycling shorts with detachable padded linings. Baggy shorts are also generally preferred for their casual look, especially if an onward journey is required post-cycling.

Lycra shorts aren’t always popular with less confident cyclists, but for pro bikers they offer excellent speed benefits, thanks to their aerodynamic styling. They tend to be warmer too and offer good support. Not ideal for casual wear however!

Triathlon shorts aren’t strictly ‘shorts’, as they tend to form part of an upper suit. They are great for the key three triathlon activities of swimming, cycling and running and will generally only be bought for these purposes.

Regardless of which style you do decide to pick, there are a few key basics to bear in mind when selecting your cycling shorts. Seams are important – good quality shorts will have flat-locked finishes and seams to avoid any chafing. This is vital for longer rides and will avoid real discomfort. Materials are also important, so go for the high-tech man made fibres where you can, such as rayon, lycra and polyester and look for names such as ‘clima-cool’ for sweat-wicking and temperature regulating properties. These materials help sweat and moisture to evaporate from you and keep you cool and dry. Avoid regular walk shorts as their cotton content isn’t suitable for cycling. Also, pick cycling shorts suitable for your gender, as specialist types and sizes exist for men and women, with smaller sizes for children.

With brands, look for the classics, including DHB, Nike, Altura, Fox, Gore Tex, Helly Hansen, Northwave, Bogner, Endura and RaceFace. Look for collaborations with pro cyclists and with this type of kit, it is actually worth shelling out for the brand, as the materials and technical credentials are generally worth the extra spend. There are also some good online retailer brands and it’s worth doing some research beforehand to see which might be best for you. Speak to other cyclists, read cycling magazines and join a forum as there’s a wealth of information out there for picking the correct cycling shorts and other sports items.