Years ago when I first started cycling I swore that I would never wear the infamous tight black shorts. I thought they looked goofy, and didn’t want to pedal around in skin tight gear. Now years later I can’t imagine going on a long ride without wearing my cycling shorts. Once I discovered the benefits of cycling shorts I couldn’t go back to wearing anything else.
So what are the benefits of cycling shorts? Cycling shorts benefit your booty by providing comfort while riding. Bicycling shorts are designed to include padding in the right spots to keep you comfortable. They also block wind, are breathable, and allow you to pedal without being restricted.
Cycling shorts aren’t for every ride or every person. On most of my commutes to work I choose to wear pants or regular shorts, because it’s not a far distance and I don’t want to have to carry my clothes to work. The times when I wear cycling shorts are when I’m riding for exercise, going for a long ride, or whenever I want to go as fast as possible. In the rest of this article I’ll explain in more detail how you can benefit from wearing cycling shorts.
The Benefit of the Chamois. What’s a Chamois?
In the 1930’s cyclists wore regular clothes while riding. Most cyclists chose to wear clothing made of wool as that’s what everyone was doing. Riding 10, 20 or 100 miles in wool shorts was terribly uncomfortable, and riders experienced chaffed and bloody thighs from the friction. To reduce the friction cyclists began sewing leather into the contact areas of their shorts for comfort. The leather that they used was from an antelope-goat that’s native to the mountains of Europe. This antelope-goat is called a chamois. Initially, these chamois (pronounced shammy) weren’t padded but only pieces of leather to reduce the friction. Thankfully over the years, cycling shorts have developed so that the chamois is no longer made of leather. Most chamois now are made of synthetic material and filled with gel or foam. They continue to reduce friction between your legs, but also give padding for comfort and support.
The first benefit of cycling shorts is that they provide comfort to your nether regions. They provide support to your genitals, and protect your sensitive areas from the shock, impact, and vibrations from the bike. If you’ve ever gone on a long ride without cycling shorts you know what it feels like to be sore down there. A good padded chamois will alleviate pressure from your perineum which is the sensitive area between your buttocks and genitals. The difference between wearing cycling shorts and not is noticeable.
The chamois in shorts come in different shapes and sizes. It is also important to note that chamois are different between men and women, because of the differences in anatomy. Usually men’s chamois have an inlet in the middle while women’s chamois are wider. When searching for the right cycling shorts make sure to choose one that fits you well and will give you the support you need.
Cycling Shorts Wick Away Sweat
If you’re like me most of the time that I ride my bike I sweat. On a hotter day that I’m pedaling hard I sweat A LOT. Regular pants and shorts can trap and soak in the sweat your body produces. One of the benefits of cycling shorts is that they’ll allow your body to breathe. They are made of moisture wicking technical fabric (Lycra, spandex, nylon and polyester) that will help pull the moisture from your skin. This will help prevent chafing, rashes, and keep you nice and cool.
They Keep Your Muscles Compressed
Cycling shorts can compress your muscles. Runners, weight lifters, and other athletes wear compression clothing, because they know its benefits. They benefit athletes by reducing muscle soreness and fatigue while you are cycling, but also after the workout. This will result in faster and longer rides that don’t leave you feeling quite as tired compared to the times you didn’t wear cycling shorts.
Allow for Full Range of Motion
One of the benefits of cycling shorts is their flexibility. They’ll allow you to quickly pump your legs as you pedal without any hindrance. You will have the full range of motion, and won’t need to worry about pants getting caught up in the bike chain. This might not seem like a big deal, but you’ll immediately feel the difference if you normally wear regular shorts or pants while cycling.
Skin Tight Shorts Make You Aerodynamic
Cycling shorts are skin tight, and they’ll give you a slight advantage by allowing you to be more aerodynamic. Skin-tight shorts allow serious racing cyclists an edge by reducing their wind resistance. This means they’ll need to use slightly less energy to go the same distance. It’s been said that on a flat road anywhere from 70% to 90% of the resistance a cyclist is up against is from aerodynamic drag. This is why cyclists will do anything they can to minimize the resistance and streamline their body and bicycles. Wearing cycling shorts might not seem like it will help that much, but it truly will.
Tips for Choosing the Right Cycling Shorts
- Price – Cycling shorts can range from $20 to $250. The price generally correlates with the quality of the product. More expensive shorts are made of better fabric and materials, and have a better chamois. I’ve only used shorts in the $50 range and found them to be comfortable and work well. If I bought $200 cycling shorts than they better make me feel like I am sitting on a cloud.
- Inseam – The inseam for cycling shorts will vary. Generally cyclists go for shorts that fit right above the knee. This keeps your white thighs away from the sun and keeps your thighs from chaffing. The longer inseam also keeps the shorts in place better than shorter inseams. Triathletes choose to wear cycling shorts with a shorter inseam, because they allow them to ride, swim, and run in them. In addition, shorter inseam will dry much quicker than longer shorts would.
- Chamois – Not all chamois (padding) is made equal. They’re made of different materials, and vary in shape and sizing. Chamois are also different between men and women’s shorts, and so make sure you’re purchasing a pair that will work well with you.
- Waist Band – If you decide to purchase cycling shorts and not a cycling bib than you’ll need to pay attention to the waist band. Try the shorts on and make sure that the band is tight enough that they’ll stay around your waist, but at the same time not constricting. Poor quality shorts can have a waist band that feels like they are going to cut you in half.
- The Right Color – Black is the color of most cycling shorts. If you’re feeling spicy you can get a pair in another color, but remember that black works well with a variety of colors if you want to match your kit! Colored shorts are usually a little more pricey than the generic black.
- Panels – While searching for the right cycling shorts you may notice different brands talking about the panels of the shorts. Cycling shorts are made of multiple panels of fabric that will fit around your body. Cheaper shorts usually have less panels, while more expensive shorts have more. More panels will not only fit your body better, but also have more curvature to nicely fit your legs. You can find cycling shorts made of only 4 panels and all the way up to 12 panels.
What’s the difference between cycling shorts and a cycling bib?
The major difference between cycling shorts and a bib is that the bib has shoulder straps on it. The advantage of a cycling bib is that it will keep the chamois exactly where it should. Cycling shorts can give the chamois a bit more freedom to move which isn’t a good thing. Another advantage to using a bib is that they don’t have a waistband so there is no elastic pressing into your side.
In the end it comes down to preference. I have worn both cycling shorts and bibs, and found the bib to be more comfortable. While it may look slightly goofy I don’t care. I want to be as comfortable as possible while riding so I can ride to my best potential. While some people argue that bibs are difficult to get out of compared to shorts, it’s not that difficult. If you need to pee it takes a few extra moments to slip the bands off your shoulders and than you’re free to take them off. Most of the professional cyclists in the world choose to wear cycling bibs over shorts.
Should you wear underwear while wearing cycling shorts? You don’t need to wear underwear while wearing cycling shorts. In fact, cycling shorts are made to be worn without wearing underwear. The chamois in your cycling shorts are crafted to help that area breathe, remove moisture, and prevent bacteria. The chamois is also made to press right against your body. Using underwear will not only interfere with the chamois, but can also increase the chance of you chafing or feeling pressure down there. All this to say, wear your cycling shorts without underwear.
How long do cycling shorts last? It’s hard to give a specific mileage or time until your shorts will expire. This is because cycling shorts vary in quality, fabric, design, etc.. If you get 5,000 miles out of a pair of cycling shorts than you’re doing good. Crashing in shorts can lead to a shorter life. You’ll know that it is time to retire your cycling shorts when they begin to lose their stretchiness, feel loose, or the fabric begins to be see through.
Once you’ve put heavy mileage on a pair of shorts they will begin to lose their stretch and start to feel loose on your body. This can cause the chamois to not sit in its proper spot. If you take care of your cycling shorts and wash them properly than they can last a long time.
How do I try on cycling shorts? Imagine this – you’re at the local bike shop or sporting store and you’d like to buy cycling shorts, but you want to know if they’ll fit you properly. You find a pair and they seem like the right size, but the only way to really know is by trying them on. Are you allowed to try them on? Do strip naked to try them on? Here’s what you do. Wear your tightest underwear to the store, and keep them on while you trying the cycling shorts on. The alternative would be too terrible to consider.
Should you use Chamois Cream? Chamois cream is a substance that will reduce the friction between your skin and clothing. It’s anti-bacterial and comes in balms, creams, and powder. It can make things a lot more comfortable for riders, and reduce chafing substantially.
Unfortunately, some cyclists deal regularly with chafing, saddle sores, and even abscesses. By eliminating the friction chamois cream can help cyclists avoid these issues. You can apply a small amount of this product to the areas on yourself and the chamois. It’s important that you wash your shorts as soon as you’re done with a ride to avoid any type of build up.
If you’ve never used chamois cream than check out Chamois Butt’r on Amazon. It’s a favorite among cyclists as it is non-greasy and does a great job.
Do cycling shorts make a difference? Hopefully if you’ve made it this far down the article you realize that cycling shorts can make a difference. They don’t need to be worn on every single bike ride, but for longer rides they can increase your performance and comfort. If you’ve never worn cycling shorts perhaps its time you bought a pair and gave them a try! I think you’ll be surprised how good they feel when you’re out for a ride.