The Best Cycling Shorts for Every Type of Rider

The Best Cycling Shorts for Every Type of Rider

The Best Cycling Shorts for Every Type of Rider

The next time you’re struggling through the middle of a ride that feels like it will never end, take heart in one simple fact: You’re not wearing hand-knit wool shorts while you’re doing it. Prior to a synthetic-fabric revolution in the Sixties, the average cycling shorts had more in common with trousers from Sobike Row than they did with the multiple-panel, computer-designed, high-tech-material-padded miracles that today’s riders take for granted.

The right shorts (or cycling bibs) can make the difference between a ride to remember and one you’d just as soon forget. The key, of course, is finding the clothing that matches both your style and your ride.

It’s (Almost) All About the Chamois

The name “chamois” comes from a leather made from European mountain goats, but since the 1980s virtually all chamois pads built into cycling shorts have been constructed of synthetics. And a good one is among the most critical pieces of bike gear. A chamois adds some padding to make rides more comfortable and is engineered to pull moisture away from your body while reducing chafing on sensitive areas. Less irritation and bacteria build-up help prevent dreaded saddle sore.

Most chamois have a padded inner wrapped in low-friction, anti-microbial fabric. The better ones have fewer or smoother seams and more anatomical cuts to prevent bunching so you feel like you’re wearing high-performance cycling gear and not a soggy diaper.

Shorts vs. Bibs: Pros and Cons

There’s no right or wrong choice when it comes to shorts versus bibs. It comes down to personal preference. How do they fit? What type of riding do you do? Does one work better than the other with your body shape and size? It’s best to try both and remain loyal to the one that’s most comfortable for you.

Shorts are more convenient than bibs when nature. But because shorts often have a snug waistband to hold them in place, they can cause irritation, especially if they’re too tight. Some shorts, however, have a wider, more loose-fitting waistband that doesn’t cinch around your midsection. Another downside to shorts is that gap between the top of the waistband and the bottom of your jersey. If your jersey rides up, your skin can be exposed—unless you’re wearing a base layer tucked into the shorts.

Bibs use shoulder straps, rather than a constricting waistband, to hold the shorts up and in place. No waistband means less pressure around your stomach. Most bibs have a higher panel front and back that not only eliminates your chances for exposed skin but also holds in your stomach for a more flattering look. But not everyone is able to adapt to the downward pressure, however slight, that bib straps can put on your shoulders. And some folks don’t appreciate that straps are visible under lighter-colored jerseys. The biggest complaint with bib shorts? Unless yours are designed with a drop tail or super-stretchy straps (which so many these days are), bathroom stops can be a real pain in the butt. Generally speaking, you’ll find better quality and fit with bibs than you will with shorts.