June 6, 2013
[This article is followed by New to Cycling: Bike Jerseys – July 2013]
If you are reading this article, then you must have recently bought a bike or have found yourself new to the fun and exhilarating sport of cycling. In either case, we’d like to say congratulations! Cycling is a great way to get and stay in shape, meet interesting people, see the countryside in an all-new way and have a ton of fun.
But you might be wondering about the silly outfits cyclists wear…namely the skintight shorts and jerseys.
To be honest, just about every cyclist has been where you are. We’ve all looked at all guys and girls on the road or trail in Lycra and wondered if we could ever succumb to wearing something like that. But the fact of the matter is that you’ve come to really love the time you spend on your bike and the problem isn’t that you don’t feel cool in your baggy cargo shorts…it’s how bad your butt hurts! Even after relatively short rides!
The primary purpose of cycling shorts is to provide comfort. Designed specifically for men and women, cycling shorts make sure that padding is in the right places and seams are strategically placed to reduce chaffing, especially on rides in excess of 10 miles. Tight-fitting, flexible materials like Lycra and spandex are used to decrease air resistance and allow a full range of motion on your bike. Higher-end cycling shorts use complex, technical sports materials that increase breathability, reduce heat absorption and help block the rays of the sun and the chilling effect of the wind.
The most important features of properly constructed cycling shorts include a lack of seams in the crotch and extra padding to reduce chaffing and discomfort while riding. While there are a variety of pads, also known as chamois, the best come from providers like the Italian manufacturer Cytech, which is known all over the world for their incredible Elastic Interface® Technology (read more about Riding Positions Pressure Points).
Once you try cycling shorts, it’s not likely that you will want to ride without them again. A properly placed chamois in a well constructed cycling short will be the one “must-have” in your bike closet or drawer. Not only will you be able to ride longer, but you’ll feel stronger in your saddle (seat) because of the rejuvenating effect of the technical fabrics and performance enhancing design. (Seriously! We wouldn’t make this stuff up!)
Tips to Consider for Your First Pair of Cycling Shorts
- Underwear. Cycling shorts are meant to be worn without underwear.
- Budget. Cycling shorts can range from $20 to $100, so try to set a budget before you shop based on how you intend to ride. The higher the price, the more technical the fabrics and better the chamois.
- Tight or Baggy. Tight-fitting shorts are best if you are primarily cycling on a road bike and/or for long distances. They offer the most comfort and aerodynamic fit. If you spend time off the bike, touring or commuting by bicycle, need pockets, or are more concerned with the look of the shorts than your speed on the bike, then “baggy” Mountain Bike shorts with an inner liner may be your best choice.
- Padding. Padding ranges from thick to thin, with triathlete shorts having the thinnest pad so athletes can swim, bike and run in the same shorts. Spending a few extra bucks for a better chamois is never a waste of money, since the difference in quality, durability and comfort may increase exponentially with each dollar spent. But, always read the customer reviews to make sure your money is well spent before you make an upgrade commitment. Properly designed cycling shorts will always have chamois that are designed specifically for men and women, so you should never buy a unisex cycling short. You’ll be sorry you did.
- Panel Construction. Less expensive shorts usually have fewer panels of fabric, while the more technically designed and form-fitting bike shorts can have up to eight panels. Just being aware of the construction of the short will help you to have an expectation of the comfort and performance.
- Waist Band or Bib. Bib shorts that offer shoulder straps, rather than an elastic waist band, are the choice of nearly all professional and elite cyclists. They decrease binding and discomfort around the midsection and will never feel as if they are moving or shifting (sliding down) while you are riding. While some people prefer bib shorts, other choose regular shorts. It’s completely up to the individual and their preference. Women that choose traditional cycling shorts may want to try those with a yoga-style waistband, which are designed to be cooler and less binding.
- Inseam. Cycling shorts come in a variety of inseam lengths. The shorter shorts work great for spin class, triathlons and a good tan, but most cyclists like an inseam that is just above the knee. Longer inseams stay in place better and prevent chaffing of the inner thigh on the saddle.
- Color. You’ll likely see cycling shorts in just about every color, pattern and design imaginable. Select what appeals to you based on your individual personality. Black shorts, however, are always a great place to start since they 1) match any jersey you might want to wear and 2) have a slimming effect.
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About the Author
Tony Kelsey has nearly 20 years marketing experience, previously serving as global vice president of creative for an international, $1B IT solutions consultancy. Although a self-proclaimed “mediocre” racer in high school, his intense passion for cycling and bicycles in general has never waned. Today he is marketing director at Pactimo and frequently writes about cycling as a sport and hobby. @tonykelsey