Outside of your bike and its key components, and of course your helmet to protect your head, cycling shorts might be most important bike gear purchase you make.
We always suggest prioritizing “contact points” when thinking about upgrading your bike. What more important contact point than where your backside meets your bike seat?
Cycling shorts are critical to anyone who spends much time on a bike. A good pair of cycling shorts will prevent saddle sores, reduce chafing, and make the overall cycling experience much more comfortable. Additionally, having the right quality cycling gear will help you be more responsive and safer on the bike, reducing the distractions caused by discomfort and allowing you to focus on the road or trail ahead of you.
Cycling shorts, triathlon shorts, and compression shorts share some similarities — they are like cousins. However, they are fundamentally different in a few important respects. First and most importantly, cycling shorts have the obvious padding in the seat and are built with excess space to house that padding, allowing you to ride your bike for hours. Second, cycling shorts give up some of the compression engineering in favor of comfort, particularly in the crotch and on the thighs. A good pair of cycling shorts allows the rider to be comfortable after even 100 miles – or as comfortable as one can be after 100 miles.
KEY FEATURES OF THE BEST BIKE SHORTS
Cycling shorts come in all varieties – ranging from low-end and basic shorts meant for shorter rides and entry-level riders, to high-end shorts that are meant for serious excursions and training and reflect years of engineering. While there is not a one-size-fits-all answer for cycling shorts, especially when factoring in the range of potential budget you might be working with, there are a few key concepts to consider when shopping for your cycling shorts. We will get to some specific shorts recommendations a little later in this article.
Construction Quality. Build quality is important in all of your cycling gear, and that goes for your cycling shorts as well. A good pair of cycling shorts will be made of reliably tough material that is suited for your intended use. The shorts will have strong stitching that should last through many, many wash/wear cycles, but the stitching should be flat against your skin.
Seat Pad. Seat pads are woven into the saddle area of the shorts, and usually made of chamois. Chamois is a napped cotton-flannel blend that acts kind of like moleskin on your bottom, making sure that any friction between your body and the bike seat is minimized. Outside of a proper bike fit, the chamois pad could perhaps play the most important role in keeping you comfortable on a long ride. A good seat paid will have as few seams as possible, seamless stitching into the pants, and just enough cushion to keep you comfortable. Some cyclists apply a cream — chamois cream — to their shorts to reduce friction even more. We suggest not taking that gooey step unless you really need to. Most cyclists don’t. Just be sure that your seat bad gives you the comfort you need on long rides. Besides having major comfort benefits, studies have shown that a good seat pad, along with a quality bike seat, can reduce worries about certain health issues and function in male cyclists.