Padded Cycling Shorts - A Good Gear Guide
Padded cycling shorts are the final step in admitting to your friends and family that you actually do take this cycling lark pretty seriously. Finding the right chamois for your sit bones can improve your experience in the saddle no end, but, confronted with bibs, liners and tights for the first time, the world of bike shorts seems a seedy and inaccessible place to the outsider.
Much in the same way you um-ed and ah-ed over which bike to buy, the first thing to consider in choosing your cycling shorts is 'what sort of cycling do I want to be doing?' If downhill is your deal, you're probably not going to be listing toward Lycra bib tights. Similarly, if you're planning on time trialling, you might want to think twice about donning a pair of 3/4 length jeans...
So, let's start with bib shorts - the staple of the road rider's wardrobe. Designed to maximise comfort whilst maintaining a clutter free, close fit, the bib short is a happy aesthetic marriage of suspenders and speedos. Yes, it's a bold look, but nothing a brazen road rider can't style out, and everything has it's reason. By use of shoulder straps and silicon or elastic leg banding at the thigh, these shorts stay firmly in place even at race pace, making them perfect for those long days in the saddle.
Not everyone though, has a burning desire to blast it around the roads like a spandex bullet, and often, cycling is a practical consideration. To this end, city cyclists and commuters often prefer to arrive at the café with their dignity neatly concealed in a pair of liner shorts. These provide the same comfort and coverage as a pair of bib shorts, but, sit next to the skin as sort of underwear, allowing you to wear those jeans or that favourite pair of shorts over the top and claim that flat white without shame or self-loathing.
Touring cyclists, after telling you that it's all about the saddle, will often opt for a sturdy but stretchy pair of bike shorts worn over the top of a pair of padded leggings, liner shorts, or bike boxers (read close fitting-pants) depending on the season. This gives them the flexibility of stopping for a bag of chips without ridicule when the weather turns, but also prevents any chaffing and discomfort when you're in for the long haul. The added practicality of actually having pockets is also greatly appreciated if you're out camping and needing a place to keep that lighter close to hand.
The key thing with all padded cycling shorts however, is comfort. The best tip is to research the type and quality of each chamois pad offered in the shorts you're considering, because taking the plunge on padded cycling shorts is an investment in your time on the bike. Get the choice right, and you'll be sitting pretty for a long while to come.