Can Cycling Shorts Be Used For Swimming – Bicycles In Motion

Can Cycling Shorts Be Used For Swimming

Can Cycling Shorts Be Used For Swimming

Jammers are swimsuits that look like bike shorts, but they’re not exactly the same as your cycling gear. The most obvious difference is that swim trunks never have a chamois regardless of the style.

The added material that keeps you comfortable on a long ride would only get in the way as you paddle through the water. Can cycling shorts be used for swimming?

It isn’t recommended to use cycling shorts for swimming because they aren’t designed to handle water, especially if it’s salty or chlorinated. Cycling shorts are made to wick away sweat and can’t handle that level of saturation. Salt from the ocean and chemicals from a pool will damage the material and chamois, causing them to break down faster.

Recommended Gear

To see all of my up-to-date recommendations for bikes and cycling gear, check out this resource that I made for you!

Can You Swim In Cycling Shorts

Cycling shorts are not swim trunks. Although you can technically swim in them, it’s a terrible idea.

It would be best if you did not swim in bike shorts because it will cause problems with the material, and the chamois will absorb water which will weigh you down and cause other issues when you get on your bike later.

Will Swimming In Cycling Shorts Damage Them

Swimming in cycling shorts will damage them. However, it may not be immediately apparent.

Getting soaked once or twice with rainwater isn’t the same as putting chemicals or minerals into the fabric and foam.

Between friction from riding and the inclusions in most swimming water, your shorts fibers will lose their elasticity and other vital qualities.

High-quality cycling shorts have good stitching, but the thread isn’t always made from the same material as the clothing it’s sewn into. The discrepancy means your seams are especially vulnerable.

What Happens If I Swim In Cycling Shorts

If you swim in cycling shorts, you’re going to damage your shorts and possibly rub your skin raw with the wet fabric.

Lycra breathes well when you sweat, but it’s not designed for swimming levels of saturation.

Even if you have no chamois, it will be uncomfortable, but most bike bibs, shorts, and even tights have them integrated for the padding they provide.

As Active points out in their article about triathlons,”…bike shorts give you have some extra padding for the ride, but that padding takes extra time to dry out after the swim, and any sweat from the bike ride collects in that pad as well. By the time you hit the run, you’ll be contending with jelly legs and diaper rash.”

Pros and Cons Of Swimming In Cycling Shorts

There are always two sides to a story, but this is one of the least balanced pro and con lists I have ever written.

If you want shorts that double as riding and swim trunks, you should look into triathlon clothing instead of wrecking your cycling shorts.

I tried to find any reason you should swim in cycling shorts, and ‘it’s an emergency and I had no choice’ was all I could find.


There are no distinct benefits of swimming in cycling shorts. It may seem like it wouldn’t make a difference if they get wet, especially since bike shorts get submerged when you wash them.

However, most swimming is done in pools or the ocean rather than purified tap water mixed with cleaning solutions.


  • Discomfort – A sodden, soggy pair of bike shorts is uncomfortable to walk or ride in. Discomfort isn’t a huge issue, but it’s a good reason to avoid swimming.
  • Saltwater – Salt isn’t such a big deal when it’s dissolved and disbursed in water, but anyone who ever forgot to shower after going in the ocean can tell you it’s bad news once it dries. Not only will you be itchy, but the crystals that form will saw at the fibers in your fabric. Even when you wash them later, small amounts of damage will still add to the deterioration. Plus, you’ll be miserable from drying off in salty shorts.
  • Chlorine – We all know chlorine turns hair green and makes it more brittle. While it probably won’t discolor your shorts too badly, the chemical will certainly make the fibers in your lycra shorts more brittle as well.
  • Thinning Material – If you damage your cycling shorts lycra, the material will thin faster. Since these shorts are never meant to have a layer underneath, this can lead to some unexpectedly embarrassing situations.
  • Chamois – Some chamois are removable, in which case you can avoid this issue. However, modern foam isn’t super resistant to chlorine and salt. You can end up ruining an expensive pair of cycling shorts.
  • Fading – Although it’s not as serious as other issues, chlorine or salt will cause the colors on your cycling shorts to fade more quickly. There are two problems with fading. If you’ve been riding for long, you’ve probably noticed that most cyclists take pride in wearing their often brightly colored cycling shorts. While looking drab isn’t great for your ego, there’s a second, more significant problem with dull colors. If you ride on the road you blend in better. That can contribute to accidents.
  • Waste – No one likes to throw away money, so wasting good cycling shorts is a bad plan. Worse than the money waste is the fabric waste. As the BBC points out, “The average American has been estimated to throw away around 37kg of clothes every year. And globally, an estimated 92 million tons of textiles waste is created each year and the equivalent to a rubbish truck full of clothes ends up on landfill sites every second.”

Helpful Tips To Know If Cycling Shorts Can Be Used For Swimming

Your favorite bike shorts are not made for swimming. Unless your goal is to ruin an expensive set of cycling shorts intentionally then swimming in them is a terrible plan.

Here are a few helpful tips to know if cycling shorts can be used for swimming.

  • Whenever possible, you should avoid riding in wet clothing. The water adds weight. Moreover, it can contribute to rust and decay on your bicycle. Plus, it will make you uncomfortable.
  • Cycling jerseys and shorts are cut and sewn to fit the body close, but it may surprise you to learn they are also cut for a specific posture. Although most people are used to off-the-rack style clothing with its generic fit, cycling gear is made to fit a body leaning forward in a road-bike cycling position. As a result, the full-body-extended-horizontally swimming position will make cycling garments fit wrong. Even if there were no other reasons to avoid wearing them in the water, it would still be a bad plan because of the tailoring.
  • If you need a set of shorts that you can bike and swim in, then you’re looking for ‘tri shorts.’ This style is created for triathletes who do multiple sports as a single event. For more information on the differences between tri shorts and cycling shorts, check out this video.

Final Thoughts

Do not swim in cycling shorts. The only thing you’ll do is ruin your shorts or, at best, have an incredibly uncomfortable ride.

Repeatedly taking a dip in chlorine or saltwater will fade the fabric and slowly eat away at the fibers causing thinning and damage.

Meanwhile, the chamois is foam with a cover to wick moisture away from your body and the padding because neither one should remain damp for too long.

A soaked chamois will also break down, plus it will weigh you down if you ride after your swim. There’s no positive outcome from swimming in bike shorts.

Brian Smith

Brian is the founder of Bicycles In Motion and an avid cyclist for 17 years. On the weekends, he enjoys exploring new bike trails and countryside roads to enjoy the outdoors.

Recent Posts