It’s well known that cycling is an excellent way of getting fit. Unlike running, cycling is non-load bearing on our limbs and we need to take extra care of those bits that support body weight. That is, the areas that contact the bars, pedals and saddle. A proper pair of cycling shorts can help tremendously in the comfort stakes and a well fitting padded insert or chamois prevents chaffing and absorbs sweat too.
During a cycling session, heat and sweat levels increase quickly and can result in bacterial growth in the saddle region. If unchecked, this can lead to minor infections. This all sounds a bit dramatic but simple preventative measures are at hand, and having a breathable padded insert is the best first step. We favour sanitized and antibacterial inserts that are breathable and allow rapid sweat absorption, leaving the skin dry and cool.
Novice riders may benefit from greater padding and thicker or larger inserts. This provides more comfort in delicate areas and reduces pressure caused by time in the saddle. Experienced riders with more time in the saddle will tend to prefer a slim-line chamois or insert with more emphasis on a close fit and high wicking properties.
Anatomic and shaped inserts fit best without rubbing or folding, keeping a good contact with the saddle and allowing pedalling in comfort. More advanced inserts found on higher priced shorts have two or more panels with padding of varying thickness to give the best possible fit. Sugoi do a good range of shorts for men and women, we particularly like the Evolution and baggy styled Gusto, £53 and £79 respectively.
The traditional lycra cycling short is close fitting and designed for comfort and performance. These days however, there are a variety of styles that are more recreational and functional, so you don’t have to stick to tight black shorts anymore.
Although lycra shorts are the best bet for road riding and racing they tend not to have pockets or be practical for commuting or everyday use. Technical baggy shorts that look like casual shorts from the outside are a great compromise and many have padded liners too. These liners range from mesh shorts with a built-in padded insert to lightweight detachable internal shorts.
The detachable kind allow more versatility and can be used under tights or leggings in the winter and allow the outer short to be worn alone if required. Specialized do a woman specific short with removable liner – the Endura Women’s Short at £59.99.
Being a baggy cut it’s easy to design in pockets and detail as standard shorts have. This makes trips to the café or shops a much more respectable process. There’s no need to stand out as a cyclist with the range of casual shorts now on offer.
If you prefer a close fitting short, new fabrics allow a good fit without the need to stick to shiny black lycra. Cotton mix and Supplex fabrics with matt textures are widely available in a choice of colours to suit most riders. Coolmax fabric is great for summer use and wicks sweat well, whilst heavier windproof fabrics with a brushed thermal interior are ideal for winter days. The more panels the short has, the better the fit and higher performance. A 4-panel short is fine for commuting or weekend warriors but for serious training opt for 8+ panels for the ultimate fit.
Women specific shorts are commonplace now and are styled to suit a different anatomy. They have specific inserts, more variety on leg length, and waists are often higher – especially at the rear. Women tend to prefer wider waistbands and looser leg grips like those seen on the Corinne Dennis Ladies Colorado Shorts – £35.99. This is actually beneficial to both sexes for greater comfort in the riding position.
Whatever style of short you choose remember to always wear a clean pair and wash well after each ride. This will prevent sores, keeping your time in the saddle as comfortable and fun as possible.