There are more riders than ever before out on the roads and trails. If you’re newer to biking or stepping up your riding game, you may be wondering about cycling shorts, or shorts that include a chamois (pronounced shammy). Are they really necessary? Lycra shorts, bibs, or baggies? Here is some information about cycling shorts.
Originally, biking shorts were stretchy, tight fitting Lycra made for roadies. They are aerodynamic and extremely comfortable with seaming and panels placed for the best possible fit. Most importantly, these Lycra shorts include padding that works with your saddle to keep you comfortable on your bike. The chamois is soft, wicking, and prevents bacterial growth. It supports your anatomy, provides cushioning in sensitive areas, and prevents friction that can cause chafing or saddle sores. There are many different types of chamois with different thickness, firmness, seaming and channels.
Bibs are Lycra shorts with suspenders. Bibs offer all of the features of a Lycra short, and since there is no elastic at the waist and a higher rise, the bibs offer a super-comfortable fit around the waistline with no bunching or restriction.
The other type of short is called a baggy or a mountain bike short (don’t worry if you prefer Lycra, plenty of riders go without baggies on the trail). Baggies either have an included padded liner (like a thinner version of a lycra short) that sometimes can be detached or are the outer shell only (you can add your own liner or lycra short underneath). Baggies have become popular for both mountain biking and commuting. The outer shell protects your more delicate liner from branches, scrapes, and tears. They also look more casual so you won’t look like a roadie when you stop for a coffee mid-ride.
You can also get padded liners to wear under your baggies or any shorts you may have. Liners are available in briefs, shorts, and bibs. They are usually fabricated from a mesh or more technical fabric that breathes and wicks moisture more easily than a regular Lycra short.
Short sizing varies between different manufacturers, and everyone’s anatomy is a bit different, so choosing the right short or bib for you can take some time. Make sure the shorts you choose don’t bunch or chafe and the level of padding is appropriate for the amount of time you spend in the saddle. Hint: usually more panels (8) means more comfort and/or a higher-end short. The fabric shouldn’t shift around, and the elastic shouldn’t pinch your midsection or legs.
Should I wear underwear under my Lycra or liner? Cycling shorts are made to be worn without underwear. That chamois needs to be next to your skin to prevent chafing. Underwear can hold in moisture and heat, resulting in more bacterial growth and discomfort. Also, the seams in your underwear can cause pressure and pain. It’s best to stick with just the short so it can function the way it was meant to.
What the heck is chamois cream? Originally, chamois cream was rubbed into a short’s padding to make sure it stayed soft and flexible. These days, chamois are created from highly technical fabrics and materials. Now, chamois creams like Chamois Butt’r help moisturize and protect delicate skin as well as eliminate the friction that can create painful saddle sores. If you decide to try a chamois cream out, make sure to use one designed specifically for cycling as other lotions may contain substances that can break down your chamois or even irritate your skin while cycling.
We think cycling shorts make for a great ride! They are definitely more comfortable (on the bike, of course, maybe not at the coffee shop) and offer more technical features than your average short. If you have questions or need more help choosing an option that is right for you and how you ride. Give us a call or stop by the shop.