Do Padded Bike Shorts Help?

Are padded bike shorts necessary? We find out the answer

I used to think that padded bike shorts were only something that professionals cyclists needed. You know, those guys (and gals) that you see hurtling along in a pack during the Tour de France, dressed from head to toe in spandex / lycra.

But then I’ve also always suffered from a bruised bum from cycling. (Note to my non-British readers: bum = butt)

Putting two and two together (or two butt cheeks and one pair of padded shorts) I noticed a massive difference in how comfortable cycling was. If you’re sat on the bike saddle in a standard pair of unpadded shorts, then you’ve got no protection for your butt from that hard seat. With padded shorts however you get some much-needed cushioning for your butt, perineum, and sit bones. Try a pair and I think you’ll be delighted.

I decided to do some research online to see what were the best padded bike shorts on the market today. I’ve also tracked down the answers to a few common questions folk have about bike seat pain, extra padded bike shorts, and even what to do when you have a sore bum after spin class. I didn’t want to let all this info gather dust on my laptop and I reckoned it might be useful for other people. So I thought I’d get it all written up in an article for you to check out. Shall we take a look?

Here’s the quick answer: Santic Men’s Loose Fit Padded Cycling Shorts


Mens vs womens padded bike shorts – is there a difference?

You might think that the only difference between shorts designed for ladies and gents is the color used for the ‘go faster’ stripes. However, there are usually three main differences, which take into account the anatomical differences between genders. Firstly the chamois padding tends to be larger for ladies as their hips are wider than men’s. Secondly, shorts for women will have a front inseam that is longer (women tend to be longer-waisted than men). Thirdly, women usually prefer a shorter leg length than men.
Larger female riders may actually find that men’s fit baggy padded cycling shorts (like the Santic ones above) tend to fit them better than women’s form-fitting shorts.


White cycling shorts bad idea?

Yes, yes yes. There’s just no excuse for white shorts. You see, the trouble is, white lycra is see-through at the best of times. If you get caught in wet weather, if they’re on the too-tight side, or if the fabric is a little thin and worn out….it will only make the situation worse.

Just don’t do it, okay? Go for dark shorts. Shiver…


Do you wear knickers under cycling shorts?

One of the reasons why you shouldn’t ever EVER wear white cycling shorts is because you shouldn’t wear underwear with cycling shorts.

It’s a simple equation: White Cycling Shorts + No Knickers = Everyone Seeing Your Junk.

So, why shouldn’t you wear knickers under your cycling shorts? Well, padded bike shorts are designed to be worn commando. There’s a few reasons for this. Firstly, it stops chafing. Cycling shorts are engineered to eliminate chafing, but the seams and edging of any underwear between your skin and your shorts will end up chafing you really badly.

This can cause anything from a mild rash and irritation to nasty cysts. It also helps to reduce infection. The padding in shorts is designed to breathe and wick sweat away from your skin. If you have an extra layer of material it will stop this from happening and you will get a build-up of moisture and bacteria.

Finally, I speak from bitter experience here, it is literally impossible to cycle with padded shorts and underwear and not get a massive wedgie. Trying to pull a wedgie out mid-ride is a physical impossibility and will only end with you face down on the road.

Knickers under cycling shorts? That’s a definite NO!


How to wear cycling shorts properly

The first step then is to take off your underwear. Slip the shorts on just like you would with swimming shorts, swimsuit, or leggings. Pull them all the way up so they sit comfortably around your thighs and waist.

Make sure that the chamois padding is positioned correctly. This should be snug against the parts of your body that go against the bike saddle i.e the perineum (which is a broad line going from behind the testicles or vagina, to the anus) and your sit bones (which are either side of the perineum). If your shorts are sized correctly, then the padding will stay in place throughout your cycle.


How tight should cycling shorts be?

Biking shorts are a snug fit for a good reason. If they’re much too large and loose, then the chamois padding will move around. Why is this a problem? Well, there are two reasons. If it moves, then it won’t be sitting in the correct position underneath you to cushion your body (perineum and sit bones) from the saddle. Also, because the chamois padding is designed to fit our anatomies, if it moves out of position then there is a chance of rubbing and irritation. Not good.

Form-fitting shorts are made of spandex / lycra that is very stretchy, and this also applies to baggy padded shorts as they will have a form-fitting liner that holds the chamois padding. Because they’re stretchy it means that you don’t have to get an exact fit on the shorts for them to be comfortable. A little too small or a little too large is generally not a problem for the fit.

Many padded cycling shorts also feature leg grippers. These are a type of leg compression that will be at the bottoms of each leg section. These are very useful as they stop the bottoms of the legs from riding up as you pedal. If they didn’t have the leg grippers, then the fabric of the shorts would bunch up around your thighs and be uncomfortable.


Cycling bibs vs shorts

You may well have seen that there are a couple of different types of form-fitting bike shorts – standard shorts and ‘bibs’. Bib shorts are essentially just bike shorts that have shoulder straps or suspenders. Having the suspenders means that they don’t need to have the elasticated waist. They can be a bit on the intimidating side for new cyclists, but they’re not just for pro riders. Many people find them more comfortable than regular shorts. You don’t need to tie the drawstring tight to keep them in place or keep hauling them up at the back when you’re bent over the handlebars. They come in women’s and men’s versions, although shoulder straps like these can be tricky to maneuver at toilet stops for ladies.


Do you wear anything over bike shorts?

We’ve already seen that you don’t wear anything UNDER your cycling shorts (Chafing!) But what about over the top?

There’s no need to wear anything over the top of form-fitting bike shorts. They’re designed to be your sole item of clothing in that spot, acting as underwear and outerwear. However, for modesty purposes, if I’m going on a bike tour or commuting to work, then I will often pop another pair of baggier (non-padded) shorts over the top. In Australia, they’re called ‘shy shorts’, which I really like.

An alternative is to try a pair of bike shorts like these, which are baggy shorts with a removable padded inner. Great on and off the bike.


Best budget cycling shorts

If you’re choosing cycling clothes for beginners or experts, then I believe that the first item you should buy (after a good quality helmet) is always a pair of padded bike shorts. They don’t have to be expensive. There are many fantastic pairs of cycling shorts available, in different styles, lengths, colors, and fit. Let’s take a look at some of the best options I’ve found.


Unisex baggy padded shorts

If you’re just getting into cycling, then these are a great beginner pair of padded shorts from Santic. They’re billed as a men’s short, but because they are baggy, they fit equally well for men and women. My wife has a pair of these and is a big fan.

They’ve got two great deep zipped pockets, which are handy for stashing money, cell phone, multi-tool, etc. They’ve also got a useful drawstring waist to ensure they continue to sit comfortably around your middle where they should be throughout your cycle.


Form-fitting shorts

Beroy have produced an excellent pair of women’s bike shorts here.

Lots of different colors to choose from and all in a range of sizes from XS to 3XL.

There’s another excellent pair of shorts here in a men’s fit, also from Santic.

These are the style of shorts that you see pro riders wearing. Because they are form-fitting they are more aerodynamic than the style of shorts above. Many amateur riders also prefer this style of short as well as they don’t snag or flap about as you ride.


Men’s full-length bike pants

In the wintertime, I prefer to ride with my legs fully covered, but still have the benefit of the butt padding that you get with cycling shorts. That’s when I reach for long compression bike pants like these.

There’s also a women’s style here of full length padded leggings.

These are fantastic for keeping you comfy on the saddle and warm and toasty in the chillier winter months. If you’re anything like me you’ll find that, as the mercury drops, my leg muscles will start to get strained and tired if they’re not covered up.


Plus size padded bike capris

When I was doing my research, I spotted these excellent women’s padded cycling capri pants.

They come in a really extensive range of sizing from US XS to 3XL (Asian 5XL) so are great for larger female riders who are getting some miles in under their wheels.


Mens cycling shorts with pouch

It’s not every day that you see form-fitting bike shorts with pockets. Why I don’t know. I certainly take plenty of snacks, tools, and money with me when I head out for a cycle.

Anyway, I saw these cycling shorts that come with two useful side pockets and I thought I would include them in this article for you.

There’s also a pair of shorts with pockets in a women’s fit here.

One of the best uses that I find for side pockets like these is to pack a couple of energy gels in. When you’re out cycling for a long time you need to make sure that you continue to take on liquids and calories. You don’t necessarily want to be stopping every few minutes to do that though! Having gels stashed handily in these pockets makes them easy to reach whilst you’re still cycling.


Cycling bibs

If you’re looking to give cycling bibs a tryout, then these are an excellent starter set from Przewalski. The straps keep the shorts part and the all-important padding snugly in the correct place, without a tight waistband. These are a men’s fit. There are women’s bib shorts available…but…I’m reliably informed that shoulder straps and bathroom stops are not exactly a match made in heaven. If you’d like a recommendation, just drop me a note on the Contact page and I’ll send you the links.


Are padded bike shorts necessary?

I used to think so, but now I wouldn’t cycle without them. I noticed a big difference in comfort levels the first time I tried them out. If you’re sat on the bike saddle in a standard pair of unpadded shorts, then you’ve got no protection for your butt from that hard seat. With padded shorts however you get some much-needed cushioning for your butt, perineum, and sit bones. Try a pair and I think you’ll be delighted.

I hope you’ve found the results of my research useful and it’s helped answer a few questions for you? Remember: NO UNDERWEAR!

Santic Loose-Fit Padded Bike Shorts

If you’re just getting into cycling, then these are a great beginner pair of padded shorts from Santic. They’re billed as a men’s short, but because they are baggy, they fit equally well for men and women. My wife has a pair of these and is a big fan.

They’ve got two great deep zipped pockets, which are handy for stashing money, cell phone, multi-tool, etc. They’ve also got a useful drawstring waist to ensure they continue to sit comfortably around your middle where they should be throughout your cycle.

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