Serious cyclists have a word for people who don’t conform to the current cycling fashion standards, like choosing to wear the wrong type of shorts or putting anything underneath them.
If someone on a road bike calls you a “Fred” when you’re riding, it’s an insult aimed at your wardrobe. Female Freds are called Doris. Can you wear tights under cycling shorts?
You shouldn’t wear tights under cycling shorts because the padded chamois will cause the seam on your tights to rub your skin, causing pain and possible damage. Cycling shorts are made to be a single layer that is worn by itself. However, if you are concerned about getting cold, you should wear cycling tights over your shorts.
To see all of my up-to-date recommendations for bikes and cycling gear, check out this resource that I made for you!
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Should You Wear Tights Over or Under Cycling Shorts
You should not wear anything under your cycling shorts. If you need the extra layer, then, by all means, pull those tights on over your cycling shorts, or opt for leg warmers.
By doing this, you will look less like you’re dressing as a bicycle-themed superhero, and it will help you stay warm.
There is a correct way to get dressed when wearing cycling clothing which is listed below.
- Put on your base layer if you have one. This generally applies only to those wearing a specific base layer for under your bib-style shorts with arm straps.
- Add your leg and knee warmers. These are not tights but rather warmers specific to certain leg areas. Doctors may recommend knee warmers in any weather under fifty-five degrees Fahrenheit because the fluid in your knees doesn’t function properly when it gets cold. Meanwhile, leg warmers are a cyclist’s solution to cold legs.
- Now add bib shorts or waist shorts. This is also the step where you would add tights if you planned to wear those instead of shorts.
- If you need tights over your shorts, they come next.
- After your leg layers, put on any arm warmers you might need for colder climates.
- Finally, you add a jersey and a jacket on top of that. The design and thickness of your coat depend on the weather.
You may have noticed that underwater was not on that list anywhere. For female cyclists, a sports bra would go on with the base layer, and underwear may occasionally be necessary to accommodate feminine hygiene products.
Otherwise, the only things you should add to your riding outfit are socks and shoes, which go on last anyhow.
Can You Wear Tights Under Shorts
There are two reasons you might choose to wear tights under your cycling shorts. First, some tights are padded, and some shorts are not.
If you need the padding and the seams are set up so that they won’t rub your skin, then the padded clothing would go on underneath your un-padded, typically loose-fitting cycling shorts.
The other reason to wear tights under bike shorts is a personal choice. Comfort is either not an issue for some people, or they genuinely find tights under bike shorts more comfortable.
Although I recommend sticking to the proven and accepted system for cycling clothing, your clothing is yours to wear as you please, and not everyone cares about what other pro cyclists and designers think.
Tights vs Leggings
The issue of tights versus leggings can confuse new riders, so I’ll explain briefly here. In everyday civilian clothing, tights are sheer or semi-sheer and often worn under skirts and dresses.
Meanwhile, leggings are thicker and not see-through at all. This legging style is similar to a bike short because it’s worn alone or preferably with seamless underwear to avoid the dreaded ‘panty line.’
In cycling, there are only tights. The not-see-through skin-tight pants you see some bicyclists wearing are called cycling tights.
These stretchy spandex or lycra pants are typically just like bike shorts but with longer legs, because they are meant to be worn without shorts or underwear beneath as an only layer.
What To Wear Under Cycling Tights
When you wear cycling tights, you generally don’t wear anything underneath.
However, if you anticipate a significant change in weather, such as you’d experience riding down a mountain going from a colder high altitude to a warm day closer to sea level, you may want shorts.
Whenever possible, I suggest planning a stop somewhere you can easily and quickly change, but if this isn’t feasible, toss those cycling shorts on underneath instead.
Do You Wear Briefs Under Cycling Shorts
Do not wear briefs under your cycling shorts. Although we are used to wearing underwear with everything, cycling shorts are designed to have nothing underneath.
They should be comfortable and offer the padding and coverage you need without any additional layers.
Furthermore, fitted cycling shorts over your briefs can cause chaffing around the waist and leg holes even if no other seams cause friction.
Compression Shorts Under Cycling Shorts
Some cyclists opt to wear compression shorts under their cycling shorts to prevent chaffing around the chamois or for basic compression to aid in circulation.
However, you can get these qualities from better-quality cycling shorts. Rather than doing twice the laundry and spending twice the money, I recommend investing in a more fitted pair of compression cycling shorts.
Helpful Tips To Know If You Can Wear Tights Under Cycling Shorts
You shouldn’t need to wear anything under a good pair of cycling shorts. A whole wardrobe is specifically designed to keep bicyclists comfortable in different weather conditions. Your shorts are always a bottom layer.
Here are more helpful tips to know if you can wear tights under cycling shorts.
- Cycling shorts are typically looser than compression shorts or cycling tights, but they come in a wide variety of styles. You can find combination compression shorts and riding shorts with an integrated chamois.
- Not all cycling shorts have a chamois, but even those without are meant to be a bottom or only layer. As Giro explains, “The chamois pad is made of cushioning foam of varying densities, with a top surface that helps to wick moisture and provide a soft feel against your skin. The chamois pad alleviates pressure in your nether regions when you sit on the saddle, reduces friction and chaffing, and often has antimicrobial properties that reduce odor and bacteria, too.”
- Both bibs and waist shorts are referred to as cycling shorts. The difference is that a bib has straps like overalls, so it never slips and doesn’t cut into your waist as you ride.
Cycling shorts are not meant to have anything under them, including tights and underwear. The chamois present in some shorts will make the seams in tights incredibly uncomfortable and can cause them to rub you raw as you ride.
Naturally, your cycling shorts aren’t great by themselves in cooler weather. When the temperatures drop, you may want to trade those shorts for cycling tights.
Alternately you can wear the tights over your shorts. There’s no reason to be cold.
However, wearing shorts over tights like a superhero is not the way to go because, in addition to possibly causing pain in places no one wants to hurt, it looks silly and may even get you mocked by other riders.
Don’t be a Fred. Wear your bike shorts alone or as the bottom layer.