Bike shorts: what are they and why do I need to wear them? Good question. We've got the answers. Here are our favorite tips if you're looking to get your first pair of padded chamois bike shorts.
1. Go with women’s specific
Women’s bike shorts are not just about smaller sizes and more attractive colors. These shorts are actually made anatomically correct for our lady bits! There is no question about it, men and women are different when it comes to how we sit on the saddle of our bikes. The contact points change because, well, there is different stuff down there. The chamois is made specifically to provide cushion for your sit bones (which are generally set slightly wider than men’s) and support through the perineal area without bulkiness. In addition, the seams and cut of the short is made differently, usually with a shorter inseam, wider hip area and a tapered waistband.
2. Get shorts that fit like a glove
It is all about fit! Just like your saddle, bike shorts are a very personal decision. One short may fit you better than another, based on how your body is shaped. Buying a pair of padded bike shorts off the rack without trying them on would be like buying a pair of jeans without trying them on! They should fit your body like a second skin. If your shorts are too big, they will move around while riding and cause chaffing issues.
3. Tri Shorts Vs. Cycling Shorts
There are many different kinds of chamois out there. If you're riding a variety of distances, using your bike for different things (like commuting or training for a triathlon), or if you ride different bikes (like a mountain bike and a road bike), you may find yourself needing a couple different pairs of bike shorts. Some cycling shorts will have a thicker chamois pad, made for keeping your undercarriage comfy while being seated for long distances. This might sound appealing, but if you're competing in a triathlon or mountain biking, sometimes thicker padding just gets in the way. For mountain biking, you can opt for a thinner chamois, or even try out some triathlon shorts! Tri shorts tend to have a much thinner chamois pad that is made specifically to wick water away from your body quickly after the swim, keep you from chaffing on the bike ride and not feel like a soggy diaper while you are running.
4. Don’t Wear your Undies!
Padded shorts (whether tri shorts or cycling shorts) are made to be like a second skin. Therefore, you should not be adding a layer between your skin and the shorts! Putting on undergarments before putting on your bike shorts creates another seam and another opportunity for chaffing. Additionally, the extra layer prevents your shorts from doing one of their main jobs: wicking away moisture.
5. Use Chamois Cream!
Don’t be embarrassed to buy chamois cream or ask questions to your local bike dealer about the differences among the vast array of brands. Almost every cyclist (especially those roadies that go long distances) uses chamois cream on almost EVERY ride. Chamois cream is a solution to a problem. If you have been chaffed in the past—and maybe even been sidelined from riding for a few days because of it—then you need chamois cream!
Chamois cream is called “chamois cream” because you used to put it on leather chamois back in the day to keep them soft. It should be called “underside cream” because that’s where you put it. Rub your favorite cream anywhere your skin touches the saddle, or where seams in your shorts rub your skin.
During a triathlon, put chamois cream on before you put on your tri shorts. Use a generous amount, as some of the ingredients are water soluble. Regardless of losing a small amount during the swim, this step will surely keep you comfortable during the bike and run.