Flick on the TV coverage of your favourite pro-cycling race and you’ll see that every single rider in the peloton is wearing the same thing; helmet, a pair of sport sunglasses, lycra jersey and lycra shorts with a padded section on the bottom. But why do they do this? They can’t all be simply hopeless followers of fashion, there’s got to be a reason for their lack of originality.
It’s tempting to answer the question "why do I need a padded biking short" with a simple, "you try riding a bicycle 20 miles without them", but that wouldn’t be especially helpful nor illuminating. In fact padded bicycle shorts offer several benefits over a regular pair of exercise shorts and most of these do relate to comfort, whether that be during the ride or in the hours and days immediately after, but there are other advantages too.
If you regularly ride any further than the end of your street then a good pair of padded cycling shorts is going to be essential. Here are five reasons why:
The padding in a pair of cycling shorts is there to make your ride as comfortable as possible, plain and simple. You’ll discover if you’ve ever ridden anywhere in jeans or underwear with stitched seams that the joins between different pieces of fabric will bunch up, move around and generally rub the skin of your ‘sensitive areas’ until it’s extremely sore! The padded section in a pair of shorts is known as the chamois and is designed specifically with boosting comfort in mind. In fact, the quality of a pair of padded shorts can almost always be judged on the quality of the chamois.
Padded bike shorts last longer because they’re designed with the purpose of cycling in mind, unlike many other types of exercise gear that you might be tempted to try and wear on a ride. When you go out on the roads or trails, you’ll be moving around in the saddle a great deal – whether thats standing up to get more power on the climbs, or simply moving around to check the position of other road users. All that movement takes it’s toll on your clothing and can lead to a worn out seat on your favourite pair of jeans or shorts – which is why it’s best to stick with something that’s made for the bon at hand!
If you’re heading out on the mountain bike or even for a fairly bumpy ride on your road bike you’ll definitely appreciate some extra padding. The shock-absorbing properties of a padded bike short not only make the general ride quality better, but they actually protect your bones too from repeated impacts – all the way from your ‘sit-bones’ and hips, up your spine to your shoulders and neck.
4) Temperature control
Keeping cool while you’re cycling is vital, not just for your performance but for your overall enjoyment too. Padded bike shorts with a technical chamois pad will contribute to this by helping to move moisture away from the body. A modern chamois is made with performance fabrics that have a lot of the same effects of pro cycling gear – including extremely breathable outer layers to keep air circulating close to your body throughout the ride.
5) Going commando
This last one is not so much a benefit as something you absolutely should be doing if you’re wearing cycling shorts. As we’ve already mentioned above, one of the greatest strengths of padded bike shorts is the elimination of chafing or rubbing from the stitched seams you’ll find in regular clothing or exercise gear – so to wear underwear between your shorts and skin is going to completely eliminate any such benefits and take you right back to square one! It might feel a little bit odd to begin with, but trust us, once you get used to it you’ll be infinitely more comfortable.