All About cycling shorts
Cycling shorts are an absolute must have if you plan to ride a road bike or any of its subcategories. If you are new to cycling and have ever wondered how people ride a bicycle with a narrow seat for hours, the secret is lycra tights, though a lot of people know about this secret. Often referred to as cycling tights, padded shorts, road tights and a few others; none are wrong because they are all the above, except they are not exclusively for riding a road bike. In general, if you're researching a pair for yourself the names and what they look like are as follows
Lengths & Styles
Cycling shorts are the most popular and commonly seen but they are available in different lengths and styles. Cycling tights are available in shorts, shorter shorts (women specific), knickers, and full length Bibs are also available in shorts, knickers and full length tights. Full length cycling tights are not inherently designed for riding in the cold; cycling gear is meant to be breathable to help manage heat and sweat when riding in the summer so keep this in mind when shopping for your cycling gear. There is no qualitative difference between shorts, knickers and full length tights; but additional features become available with knickers and tights. Knickers, tights, bib knickers and bib tights have winter variations available to keep you warm for winter riding. Below I want to outline the noticeable differences between different model cycling tights to educate you before you make your purchases.
The primary function of cycling shorts is that they add comfort and protection for you while you ride. This is accomplished via the Chamois (sha-mmy) that is built into the shorts, specifically the area covering the part of your body that contacts the saddle. The smooth outer material of the shorts reduce friction between you and the saddle, this reduction in friction reduces the possibility of you chaffing. Lycra shorts should feel like an extra layer of skin, form fitting but not restrictive; for comparison they should feel similar to compression shorts.
If you are using cycling tights for the first time you will experience cycling comfort like you never have before, but it is worth mentioning that there are “better” tights. Most brands will have different levels of gear. The differences between entry level and top level are the improved chamois and materials which affect breathability, moisture absorption and fit.
[Image of different chamois possibly side view to show thickness]
The built in chamois is the star of the show, it makes your riding experience comfortable. Entry level shorts will have functional chamois that get the job done. But better shorts will have better chamois, the main differences being the thickness of the chamois and how firm it is. An example would be a pillow that is too soft will support your head and allow you to laydown comfortably, but a pillow that has some firmness to it will offer better support and allow you to laydown comfortably longer.
Materials / breathability /moisture absorption
[image of mesh-y bib with none meshy bib]
The materials used on entry level tights are comfortable and will improve your riding experience, but better-quality gear leads to a better-quality ride. Higher level tights will be made of material that has mesh like qualities which is more breathable or have better thermal material (winter tights) to keep you warmer. The better material will be more efficient in moisture wicking, meaning allows you to sweat more efficiently by allowing the moisture to leave your body and out of the material more easily.
Panels / Fit
[image of panels]
the most direct difference from entry level and higher-level cycling shorts is the number of panels used in the construction. All cycling tights are stretchy and form fitting, but higher-level cycling tights will be made of more panels of stretchy materials woven together to give them more or less stretch in specific areas. This allows the tights to contour to your unique curvature more precisely in turn making the tights more comfortable and feel like a extra layer of skin.
Men vs women’s
There are few differences between men’s and women's cycling tights. The main difference is that women’s shorts tapers up to a narrower wast, women's shorts have smaller waistbands and a more tapered fit just above the hips. In general, women are also longer waisted than men. So, most companies cut the front inseam longer in women's shorts. Keep in mind that the primary function of all cycling shorts is to make your ride comfortable, with that don’t shy away from any shorts that will make you more comfortable just because the label states a specific gender.
- DO NOT WEAR UNDERWEAR UNDER YOUR TIGHTS, this will create significant friction, likely damage your underwear and create a sweat sponge you never thought possible
- You can wear your tights under what ever clothing you prefer, the tights are designed to be aero dynamic but don’t let that stop you from styling while riding.