Bike shorts often bear the brunt of skepticism from spectators. But if you’re new to cycling or just reevaluating if you really need to pull on a pair of skintight, chamois-stuffed shorts, we’re here to assure you that wearing bike shorts is one of the best cycling decisions you can make. After half an hour or more in the saddle, your backside will thank you, and you’ll find yourself able to clock more miles in the saddle. Bike shorts give you an aerodynamic edge and are designed to fit with your saddle to provide you optimal comfort. But we get it, bike shorts aren’t the most confidence-inducing clothing for everyone, so here’s our cycling short style guide for those who want to know how to wear bike shorts like a pro.
Types of bike shorts
Bike shorts come in different types of fits for a particular purpose or to suit different preferences. To choose the right pair for you, think about what type of riding you plan to do and what is most comfortable for you.
- Cycling waist shorts start at the waist and stop above the knee. They’re made to fit tightly to prevent the fabric from bunching and chafing. They’re easy to put on and pull off and have an elastic-grip waist that holds them in place while cycling.
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- Bib shorts are very popular among professional cyclists. They have suspender-like straps that hold your shorts and chamois in place while you pedal and eliminate the discomfort of a restrictive waistline. Cycling waist shorts and bib shorts are both great for all types of cycling–you have to evaluate the pros and cons of bike shorts vs. bib shorts and pick whichever one is most comfortable for you.
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- Baggies: These shorts are loose in fit and best for mountain biking or leisure riding. They aren’t aerodynamic, which is a concern for road cyclists but not MTB cyclists. But even baggies have stretchy shorts underneath for comfort and moisture-wicking benefits.
What to look for in bike shorts
- The chamois: Every type of bike short should have a chamois. The chamois is a bike short’s selling point. It provides a layer of shock absorption between you and your saddle. It’s designed to fit your saddle and your body like a glove. The chamois is gender-specific and shaped to fit the anatomy and specific saddle contact points of a male or female. Bike shorts are made of moisture-wicking lycra that keeps sweat and outdoor moisture out. Most other non-cycling short materials, like cotton, trap moisture, stretch, bunch, and cause chafing. For road cycling long distances, the best chamois are dense but not diaper-thick.
- Leg and waist grippers: While riding, the last things you’d want are your short legs riding up or your waistline riding down. Beyond feeling irritating, bunched shorts create chafing that leads to painful saddle sores.
- Panels: Great bike shorts are constructed with lycra panels stitched together. Each additional panel is positioned to give you a closer and more comfortable custom-feeling fit.
The right size and fit are crucial to finding the best bike shorts for you. Follow our bike short size and style guide to find your next favorite pair.
Bike shorts for indoor vs. outdoor cycling
There is a difference between bike shorts designed for indoor and outdoor cycling. The differences may seem slight, but they might make you more comfortable. When cycling indoors, you don’t receive the same amount of airflow as you would from a breeze or moving fast forward rather than pedaling stationary. So temperature management is extra important, and you’ll likely sweat more indoors. Indoor bike shorts have additional breathable, moisture-wicking mesh and no bib to help reduce your core temperature. There’s no harm in wearing your outdoor bike shorts inside–just do whatever makes you cool and comfortable.
What to wear with bike shorts
Choosing what to wear with bike shorts isn’t all about fashion. Sure, we like to look great while we ride, but, more importantly, cyclists make certain clothing choices to improve performance and get the most out of their rides.
Do you wear underwear with bike shorts?
No, underwear is definitely a “do not wear.” It makes the chamois ineffective, which negates the point of wearing bike shorts. The chamois is designed to form to your body, and underwear creates a barrier that restricts your comfort, eliminates the moisture-wicking benefits of the chamois, and increases your likelihood of chafing with the extra material. Padded cycling underwear exists, but it only works well for pants or baggies without a chamois.
Can you wear shorts over bike shorts?
Wearing shorts over bike shorts can be ok, but we don’t recommend it. More layers can lead to more chafing, so the extra shorts aren’t a good idea for long rides. The excess material with an additional pair of shorts slows you down and reduces the moisture-wicking benefits of the bike shorts by trapping sweat. Shorts over bike shorts are best worn if aerodynamics and speed are not concerns or if you don’t plan to ride for a long duration. And if wearing both shorts is what makes you most comfortable, then that’s always a good reason.
How should you style your bike shorts?
Here are a few general guidelines to follow for cycling with style:
- If you want to look like the pros, make sure your cycling jersey and shorts look uniform, or at least that they coordinate with each other.
- All or most of your bike shorts should be dark-colored. This makes it clear that you are indeed wearing shorts.
- If you’re wearing bib shorts, remember that your jersey goes on top and that a cycling baselayer is worn underneath.
Bike shorts and bike saddles work together to give you a comfortable ride. If your rides are uncomfortable, your shorts may not be the culprit. A properly sized saddle may make all the difference. First, learn how to measure your sit bone width for your saddle size, and then choose from our selection of 10 of the best road bike saddles to see if any are the perfect fit for you.
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