Cycling shorts are not just a fashion statement because they have a chamois to help disburse road vibrations. Additionally, this vital piece of sportswear can help prevent chaffing and take some of the pressure off of your nerve endings for a comfortable ride, especially over long distances.
Are cycling shorts necessary? Read on, and I will explain everything you need to know to decide if you need to wear cycling shorts on your next ride.
While cycling shorts are not necessary to ride a bike, they are important for road bike users, especially those who travel long distances. Since the saddle on a road bike is narrow and made from hard plastic, it causes discomfort over time. Cycling shorts have a chamois in the groin and seat to help provide padding for comfort.
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Are Padded Cycling Shorts Necessary
If you ride a road bike, then padded cycling shorts are necessary. Some hybrid, touring, and commuter cyclists should also wear bike shorts.
However, riders who opt for BMX, MTBs, cruisers, ebikes, and comfort bikes typically have a more padded seat, or they spend very little time resting the sits bones, so it matters a lot less.
Do You Need Padded Shorts For Cycling
You may need padded shorts for cycling. A good rule of thumb is to buy padded cycling shorts if you have a narrow, rigid plastic saddle.
All road bike users should own bike shorts with chamois, but other styles of bicycles are more flexible.
However, some road bikes come with a ‘comfort’ seat. If you ride this type of road bike over shorter distances, 1-5 miles at most, you can skip the chamois shorts.
Any further or longer in the saddle, you will want that padding.
What Is Special About Cycling Shorts
Padded cycling shorts come in waist-shorts and ‘bib’ style. One stops at your waist like regular shorts, and the other has an integrated shoulder strap like overalls.
However, the two seemingly different types share some other unique features.
Stitching on bike shorts is designed to prevent any friction rubbing as you ride. Additionally, there’s the chamois.
This unique piece can be integrated or removable, but it functions as extra padding between your body and the saddle. Regular shorts don’t have the chamois or thoughtful seams.
What Is A Chamois In Bike Shorts
The chamois is sometimes mistakenly used as a name for bike shorts, but that’s incorrect.
This unique feature is one vital component, but it’s not your whole shorts. These inserts or integrated pads are typically made from dense, soft, textured foam.
Cycling Weekly describes a chamois as “… a synthetic padded insert that is sewn into your bib shorts and bib tights; it is strategically placed to support and protect your delicate undercarriage while riding.”
If you want a quick explanation of what a chamois is with a visual guide, I recommend watching this short videofrom Bicycling Hub. They show you exactly what it is and where it goes.
Can I Wear Normal Shorts While Cycling
Although you can wear normal shorts while cycling, it’s a terrible idea. Regular everyday shorts have two features that are absent in bike shorts.
First, they’re baggy or loose most of the time. Secondly, regular shorts have easy-to-feel internal seams.
A baggy short will catch more air than necessary. This slows you down and creates added friction as you move, making you work harder as you ride and increasing fatigue.
Meanwhile, those little seemingly unimportant internal seams will rub over your skin thousands of times per hour, leaving you raw and possibly blistered or bleeding.
Please don’t wear normal shorts while cycling.
Do People Still Wear Bike Shorts
Specialty sportswear will never go out of style for participants in the sport because it exists to protect you or keep you comfortable.
However, as a fashion statement, bike shorts are also a ‘thing.’ Do people still wear bike shorts?
Often mistakenly called ‘biker’ shorts, the non-padded bike short is still a part of summer fashion culture.
This style, typically without the chamois, was trendy in the 1990s and is still seen on many people today.
The form-fitting shorts are a great alternative to jeans and other baggy gear, even when you aren’t worried about friction.
As Her Style Code points out, it’s easy to bring your sporty gear into your daily wear if you know how. “And a pair of bike shorts is great for layering under the ultra-short tennis skirts in the shops, ready for summer wear. Or you can wear biker shorts beneath a simple slip-dress, and just tuck in one small section of the dress to the side of the waistband to create an asymmetrical look!”
Why Are Cycling Shorts Important
Bicycle seats, particularly the thinner styles made for road bikes and other fast, aerodynamic bicycles, are not made for sitting on with your full weight.
You are only supposed to rest your sits bones on them. Cycling shorts are essential because they provide additional padding on otherwise tender areas.
Using integrated padding instead of a wider seat helps prevent chaffing without interfering with smooth leg motion.
Do Cycling Shorts Make A Difference
Cycling shorts do make a difference. Not only will they keep you more comfortable, but the chamois can help prevent damage to your groin area on long rides.
Plus, cycling shorts keep you from getting chafing from the seams on regular clothing.
Do I Need Cycling Shorts For Road Bike
If you ride a road bike, you do need cycling shorts. More than any other style, riders on road bikes tend to pedal fast and consistently over long distances.
Road bikes always have narrow, relatively hard saddles even when they have the ‘comfort’ seats, which have a little additional padding.
Resultantly, you are more likely to suffer from chafing, nerve pressure, and road vibrations.
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Better still, the integrated chamois has moisture-wicking antibacterial fabric.
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How To Wear Cycling Shorts Properly
Cycling shorts are not hard to wear. Although the chamois can take a little getting used to, you’ll be grateful to have it.
Below I’ve created a list of six vital tips to ensure you are wearing your cycling shorts properly.
- Don’t wear anything under your cycling shorts. Even a pair of underwear will cause unnecessary chafing. However, female riders who need the added protection for some weeks should seek out seamless underwear.
- If you have a removable chamois, put this in first.
- Shorts should feel a little snug when you first put them on, but they should never squeeze enough to impair circulation.
- Ensure that the fabric stays in place and doesn’t shift around on your body.
- Your chamois should fit right against your skin with no gaps.
- If you opt for bibs, the straps go under your jersey.
Helpful Tips To Know If Cycling Shorts Are Necessary
Cycling shorts are necessary if you plan to ride regularly, especially as a road bike enthusiast. For casual and occasional riders, it’s not as big of a deal.
Here are a few more helpful tips to know if cycling shorts are necessary.
- Constructing a proper chamois takes serious sewing knowledge. According to Made How, “The chamois liner’s layers are cut out according to pattern specifications before being bonded or laminated together. After assembly, they are stitched along the outer edges to prevent fraying. Sometimes, a special thread similar to a “soft floss” is used to prevent chafing. The finished product will have a molded look… Several manufacturers have developed a one-piece chamois that does not require any seams and avoids any overlapping of material.”
- A chamois is pronounced ‘shammy’ and rhymes with Sammy. A jersey is simply the top you are wearing, typically a form-fitting t-shirt or long-sleeved shirt made for cycling.
- The term bike ‘seat’ only applies to some styles with more padding, even though it’s often used as a blanket term. Their proper name is bike ‘saddle.’ Cycling shorts help create padding when a bike ‘seat’ doesn’t have any because it’s a saddle.
Anyone who spends a lot of time on their bike can benefit from padded bike shorts.
However, cycling shorts are only truly necessary for road bikes and other bicycle styles that share the narrow, hard plastic saddles that cause more than average discomfort over time.
The added padding in the groin and rear of your bike shorts helps reduce friction, vibrations, and nerve pain.
Ultimately it’s up to you to decide whether you need cycling shorts based on your bike, how you ride, and how much time you spend in the saddle.
If you are uncomfortable after a long raid and your bike is adjusted correctly, you probably need good, high-quality bike shorts.