Monday, August 1, 2011

Adventures with Padded Cycling Shorts

"Should I wear padded bicycle shorts?" is one question I get asked a lot by women, especially since photos occasionally reveal my wearing them. As with most comfort issues, there is no straight answer here. Everybody is different, and the best I can do is provide feedback about my own experience.

When I cycle casually or for transportation I do not wear cycling shorts. It is crucial to me that my transportation bikes be comfortable and upright enough to ride in regular clothing, and I do not ride them strenuously. I also do not find that padded shorts are a solution for saddle discomfort. If a saddle causes me pain, the shorts can at best mask it for a brief time, but the saddle itself will still need to be addressed.

I began wearing bicycle shorts when I got into roadcycling. In that context, I find them beneficial, in that they provide just the right amount of compression and cushioning. It is difficult to explain why this is necessary, until you yourself get to the point where it makes sense. For a while I rode wearing non-cycling-specific leggings, but ultimately did not find them sufficient. The tight, stretchy fabric of bicycle shorts - unflattering as it may be - makes the muscles in my legs feel better when I pedal vigorously. The slight padding (and minimalism is key here) creates just enough of a buffer zone between me and the saddle during active rides.

T-Warf, Rockport MA
I have owned several pairs of cycling shorts so far. The first one I bought was by Pearl Izumi. Everyone kept saying to me "But how do you know that you can't wear synthetics? These high-tech fabrics have come so far!" And so I tried. You won't see a picture of the Pearl Izumi shorts here, because they made my legs look like overstuffed sausages and it's just too traumatic for me to share that. But the bigger problem is that I really do have a sensitivity to polyester and wearing these things gave me a disgusting rash along the back of my legs. Also, despite Pearl Izumi's promises of being wicking and temperature regulating, they were nothing of the sort. Sweat pooled in every skin fold, and words can't describe what an unpleasant experience it was to wear this garment. I got rid of them a month later, struggled with my cotton leggings again for a bit, and then finally bit the bullet and bought a pair of wool Ibex cycling knickers.

Wellfleet, Sept 2010
I have been happily wearing the Ibex El Fito wool cycling knickers since last August, and have since also bought a pair of their Seree shorts. I think the version of the knickers I have is last year's model or older (I bought it from a discount retailer), because the currently produced version features a new pad design that is less noticeable from the back.  In both the new and the older design, the padding is minimalistic and feels comfortable. Overall, I am happy with the Ibex shorts and knickers, and I alternate between them depending on the weather and on which pair is clean.

1st Randonneur Test Ride
Now let's be honest: no cycling shorts are flattering unless you are super-slender with sinewy thigh muscles. But all in all, these are not nearly as horrific as other cycling shorts I've tried and the "sausaging" effect is very slight. At least I am willing to post pictures. A wider and softer waistband would make them more comfortable around the middle, but that is my only real complaint. The wool does not feel especially thin to the touch, but I can wear these things in 95F heat and they feel wonderful. No skin sensitivity, no pooled sweat.

Seven Axiom S, Lexington MA
More recently, I got a pair of Harlot Scarlet X Tech knickers via a trade with the manufacturer. These knickers are stretchy nylon and spandex (to which I am not sensitive), and are meant mostly for mountain biking. I thought they could work nicely for touring because of all the pockets and the relaxed tailoring.

Harlot Scarlet-X Knicker
The elasticised waistband is soft and comfortable and the styling is that of casual capri pants. They are formfitting throughout the hips and upper thighs and loose around the knees.

Harlot Scarlet-X Knicker
The padding is not visible. There is a meshy panel that runs along the inseam, providing ventilation. Decorative white piping runs along the outside seam (more pictures here).

While the Harlot knickers are well-made, flattering, and do a good job disguising the padding, I have not been wearing them much after the initial "Oh, neat" reaction. I think the reason is that I have no need for this particular style of cycling shorts. If I am going to wear something padded, then I am going to be roadcycling and I want the shorts to be tighter, more stretchy, less constricting, and without any extras such as pockets. Likewise, if I am commuting or just cycling with a friend in the park, then I don't need cycling-specific attire at all. But if you can use cycling shorts that are made like regular capri pants, only with padding, knickers such as these and the ones by Chrome I wrote about earlier, could work nicely.

Wellfleet, Sept 2010
As I see it, padded cycling shorts and knickers are one of those "If you need them, you'll know it" things. If you are comfortable without them, I think that's just fine and there is no need to question yourself just because other cyclists are wearing them. And while cycling shorts can look silly, they are designed that way (tight, padded) for a reason, and changing that design in order to make them look like regular pants can also reduce their functionality. That's my take on it at least, for the time being.

Do you wear padded cycling shorts? What kind and for what type of cycling? I am especially curious about any experiences with Smartwool, Icebreaker, and other wool cycling shorts - particularly for women.

58 comments:

  1. Hardware for the bike.....nice.

    Cycling clothes for me.....not so much anymore.

    Clydesdales don't look all that good in spandex!! :^()

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  2. I'm with you 100% on the wool shorts. It's just a shame there aren't more options available. Wool seems to be quite rare for performance clothing, though it seems to work best in many cases. I've got an Ibex short which is supremely comfortable. I just wish I could get it with a little less padding. If I were willing to go with a non-wool short there would be a million options but with wool there's so few that I don't get to be picky.

    I've also started using wool jerseys and T-shirts and they don't get sticky like my poly ones do. Bonus - they don't tend to get stinky in the hot weather either, at least not nearly as quickly.

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  3. Assos bib shorts for road cycling - expensive but worth every penny if you do a lot of miles. For touring I use Rapha's sadly no longer made Fixed shorts - they are very presentable looking off the bike and functional, on it. In winter Gore bib tights/

    These three brands have all served me extremely well over the years. I've no complains about any of them whatsoever - except that I wish they didn't cost so much! :-)

    Roff

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  4. Also cycling shorts + knee warmers = knickers, but with more thermal versatility. Gets hot? Off they go.

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  5. Synthetic fabric "wicking" is a marketing ploy. I sweat, and avoid Gore-tex and others of its ilk in shoes and garments. I think it HOLDS IN moisture.
    In the 1970's I was camp touring, and also regular 60 mile Saturdays, and padded shorts were not available to me. I sewed a chamois cloth into the crotch and seat of my riding shorts. When it got wet it squirmed around like rubber, but it saved my bottom.
    Good thick cotton for me now.

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  6. Cycling shorts aren't really meant to pad...the chamois is there for moisture control. Gotta agree Ibex is the best.

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  7. Keep on eye on Joneswares. Looks like they don't have the new product up yet, but are very well respected.

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  8. @Dave -- Gore-tex is NOT designed or marketed as a "wicking" fabric. It is a semi-breathable waterproof membrane designed for wear in wet conditions. It will not prevent sweat, and its breathability can be overwhelmed by an exercising cyclist, but it is far better than the common rain gear alternative of PU coated nylon, which does not breath at all. If you are using Gore-tex in non-rainy conditions believing it will "wick" you will indeed be gravely disappointed, and if anyone told you that is what it is for they were at best misinformed. There are any number of non-watertight synthetics that DO wick (I still prefer wool in sub 70-degree temps, and might above as if I could find a really lightweight construction) , but Gore-tesx is not and was never intended to be one of them.

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  9. Thanks so much for posting this. I'm really interested to hear what other women wear. I was actually about to email you, Velouria, to ask you about your Ibex knickers.

    I'm not allergic to synthetics, but I'm very picky about waistbands. I HATE narrow bands. I tried the El Fito knickers and liked the quality, but didn't like the waistband. I also wondered how well they would work in summer. Velouria, do you still wear yours when it's hot out? I might try them again, because I do need another pair of shorts/knickers.

    I also HATE the stuffed sausage effect I get with shorts. I think I have perfectly nice legs until I put bike shorts on. I've ended up with the Nishiki knickers. I don't think the quality is good - they feel cheaply made, anyway - but the waistband is perfect and I think they look nice enough. The padding is fairly light. However, after about twenty miles, I find that the padding starts to bunch up uncomfortably. I've noticed that gel padding seems to be stiffer and more segmented - presumably to prevent that bunching effect?

    Best padding so far... one day last spring I got hot and tied my wool sweater around my waist. I ended up sitting on it, more or less. So comfy!!

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  10. I highly recommend "bib" shorts if at all possible, the straps act as suspenders so you don't have to worry about the shorts sagging or pulling down. Also, you don't have waistbands at all with bibs.

    Wool is great stuff, I use it exclusively for jerseys/baselayers (Ibex). Have not yet tried wool bottoms because I don't know if they will hold up to more frequent washing (the chamois needs to be cleaned after every ride, I would think?).

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  11. A good pair of cycling shorts are key as far as I'm concerned, unless its a short commute, trip to the local market, or a beer run. Natural fabrics are REALLY nice, but well-constructed shorts with synthetics are fine for me and affordable. It makes such a huge difference for having some sustained level of comfort on long rides. The alternative can be rather harsh. Padded bib knickers are nice but I like regular padded shorts, with leg or knee warmers that can be peeled off as the day warms up, etc.

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  12. I was totally happy on my 1500 mile tour with regular athletic shorts. Way more breathable and comfortable, not to mention they only cost me ten bucks. No way I'm gonna pay an arm and a leg to wear clingy sausage casings with a built-in diaper. But, ya know, whatever works for you and your body. Just don't think that you should get them just because they exist.

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  13. melissatheragamuffinAugust 1, 2011 at 6:37 PM

    I wear cycling shorts without padding a lot and wear them around as regular shorts. I do have a pair of padded shorts which I wear on long rides. Sometimes I wear them under my blue jeans if I'm going to be a lot of transport riding. It provides a nice buffer between that center seam and my you-know-what.

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  14. I like Sheebeast knickers under running skirts for road cycling. I'm also kinda obsessed with SweetSpot skirts, but have yet to purchase one. I feel like knickers under skirts with wool jerseys reads more like a regular outfit, and less 'sport', which suits my personal style.

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  15. BIB SHORTS. Bibs are key! No waistband to dig in, no unflattering sausage effect as a result of said waistband. Super comfortable, plus you don't have to worry about them sliding down.

    I actually have a pair of Pearl Izumi bibs (women-specific) that I love, but then I don't have fabric sensitivities, and I'm not sure where you're getting sweat pooling but I don't seem to experience that either. The chamois is quite soft and keeps everything comfortable down below. Only downside is it can be hard to find bib shorts made for women (no idea why this is).

    I echo what others have said about knee/leg warmers (and arm warmers for that matter). Eliminates the need to buy multiple lengths.

    Bib shorts + a good chamois cream = bliss below the waist.

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  16. Like Duy said, it isn't a "pad", it is a chamois and its purpose is to move moisture away from your skin, not provide cushioning. Velo, I figured you would jump at the chance to use such an obscure, european sounding word like chamois in your blog. "Pad" just sounds so mundane.

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  17. Duy and Kyle - Well, it used to be chamois. The modern ones are pads, no matter how you spin it : )

    Duy - Interesting. In what way do the modern (synthetic) pads control moisture?

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  18. Re bib shorts for women... I have several anatomical questions about this!

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  19. "they made my legs look like overstuffed sausages"
    Hilarious!

    I seem to get by very fine with cotton.
    Of course, I do not road cycle, so not really helpful. But I tour around, up to 50km or more a day. Never needed any padding. What works for me: Yoga stuff, American Apparel, Lululemon etc.
    No bike specific clothing.

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  20. Uh, chamois = padding and wicks a bit. Chamois is the colloquial term, Kyle. Don't make it anything else.

    Old deerskin shammy is thick, effective for awhile but once it gets wet look out. When washed it takes til you're out of shape again for it to dry.

    Also paired with old wool shorts and nailed-in cleats it's a masochist's delight.

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  21. Chamois was European deerskin, except when it was cheap and then it was just sheepskin. They were difficult to maintain and every pair of shorts was a bit different, required slightly different handling, felt a little different.

    The purpose was and is to reduce saddlesores. The current crop of pads, however unaesthetic, works so well you probably don't even know what a saddlesore is. Minor irritation or discomfort is not a saddlesore. The real thing is an infected boil or cyst. Deep ones that do not respond to anything topical. You need a doctor and a knife. The infection can get into the bone.

    I'm as picky about pads as anyone. I don't understand gel or intricate bas-relief sculpture that feels like a diaper. And I hate synthetic. Except when I sit on the bike. Then I submit to petrochemicals and marketing and haven't given a thought to saddlesores in decades.

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  22. It is named after the original material used, but has evolved. The accepted name is chamois. Why would you choose to call it something else unless to confuse the issue? Calling a chamois a "pad" strikes me in the same way as when someone would come into my shop and ask for a "rim" when the meant wheel, or wanted their "top bracket" adjusted instead of the headset (makes sense to have a top bracket and a bottom bracket, right? Why do we need two different names?). It is what people who are ignorant of cycling vocabulary do. And there is nothing wrong with it. If you don't ride much or do not wish to learn about bikes and their functions, I fully understand why you would not know these terms and it has never bothered me to either correct you politely or just let it pass. But Velo is not one of these people. She likes bikes and knows the proper (commonly accepted) names for things. Therefore, the willful misuse of a term is annoying and pointless. Unless, of course, she has some rationale for why we should all be calling it a pad and not a chamois, which I would be happy to hear.

    Modern chamois wick quite well with respect to their predecessors. It will not keep you dry, but that isn't its purpose, it is only designed to move moisture off the surface of the skin and prevent chafing. I personally find a thin chamois to be more comfortable overall, but everyone is different. The key is to find one that can be stretched in all four directions. This allows it to move better with your body. A less flexible chamois is more likely to rub on the skin and cause discomfort, a common problem with inexpensive shorts.

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  23. Kyle - Hmm... I think your comparison to calling a headset a bracket and such is not accurate. Even manufacturers of cycling shorts often call them pads or inserts nowadays. See for instance here and here.

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  24. Kyle, I guess you're talking to me. Old roadies like me just say shammy or sham or not even talk about it. Vernacular only comes up on the web. Pad creeps in but is like a feminine hygiene product. Salt of the earth types, no pinkies in the air.

    I can't speak for V's usage of the term but it's just words, man.

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  25. "Therefore, the willful misuse of a term is annoying and pointless. Unless, of course, she has some rationale for why we should all be calling it a pad and not a chamois, which I would be happy to hear. "

    With all due respect, our host's name is Velouria. Pedantia is a cousin of hers.

    I actually had a pair of wool cycling shorts with a real chamois liner back in the early 80s.
    I switched to the synthetic equivalent as soon as I could scratch up the dough on a high-schooler's wages. And I haven't worn any kind of cycling shorts for probably 15 years.
    Going to look up the current issue wool ones from Ibex, though. They look pretty nice.

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  26. For sporty rides I wear padded shorts. I have ones from Pearl Izumi and Sheebeast that I wear most frequently. I also have a pair of Ibex shorts that were great the first time I wore them, but got misshapen/stretched out after washing.
    I purchased a pair of women's bib shorts on clearance, but haven't ridden in them yet. They seem comfortable (Velouria, the straps go along the outside of your breasts), but they have logos and such all over them so I've been too embarrassed to wear them because I think if you wear logos you're supposed to ride fast.

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  27. Karen V said...
    "...women's bib shorts... the straps go along the outside"


    How shall I put this... It doesn't work for me. I think I would prefer something like this system where the thing goes in the middle.

    How many times did you wash your Ibex shorts before they stretched out? Mine are okay after a year, but I most of the time I try to wash just the synthetic chamois pad (ha!) area in the sink and not the rest of the fabric.

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  28. Emily - That's fantastic! Where did you go on the 1500 mile tour?

    CJ - I very much wear my wool shorts and jerseys when it's hot out; can't wear anything else. I think that all of this wicking stuff might not be a black and white issue, but a matter of body chemistry. The synthetic fabrics might truly work for some people, with wool working better for others. That's my theory at least after hearing so much conflicting feedback.

    BTW ladies: One brand of cycling shorts I found flattering and not sausage-like (but alas, synthetic) is Capo. They have not only wide waistbands, but also wide bands around the thighs, eliminating those lovely bulges of fat above the knees.

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  29. Kyle: Hop off that pedestal. Your view from up there is very annoying, and incorrect. I've been cycling since bike shorts had chamois in them, but said natural material has long since disappeared into the dustbin of history, and so has the term. I have not heard "chamois" uttered in at least a decade.

    As for bibs, they are all I have worn for 20 years, for all the reasons mentioned above. I alternate between the Ibex wool and Hincapie in "modern" materials. I know quite a few women who wear them, too, including at least one Race Across America winner.

    BTW, I wash my Ibex wool in the washing machine, on cold, with wool-specific detergent after every ride. They get wear holes long before they stretch.

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  30. Oh, and while it is potentially misleading, our host is not actually made of, nor from Velour.

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  31. Wool really is an amazing material. I'll check out the El Fito again. I like the idea of a comfy year-around option. Don't think the bib short would work for me, although I'm intrigued by the idea. I hadn't even considered them as a solution to the waistband dilemma. I might try a pair on, though it would probably have to be the style Velouria linked to. Velouria, I looked up the Capo shorts, and I do like the look of that waistband. Thanks for the suggestions and info.

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  32. Of the many, many things I owe to Grant Petersen one of the biggest is that I don't have to wear all the "necessary" clothing. Cycling undershorts with a pad a titch thicker than a millimeter, regular shorts over that, and a shirt to suit the weather with my Converse shoes and I'm good to go. Twenty-five mile round trip commute, hundred and something mile day trips, overnighters, whatever.

    I tried everything in the quest for comfort, one of the things I found is that I can't tolerate very much padding at all. It seems to bunch, forming creases...let's just say I know what real saddle sores are! Bib shorts? Never in life did I imagine the day when I would be placing bandages on my nipples, or writing about it! Some of the various lotions to be applied to the chamois (there, I said it!) contain lanolin, which happens to be a common allergen. So said the doctor when he saw...let's just say, lesson learned!

    Velouria, your mentioning the importance of the saddle is important. Two further things to add to that for me. My Brooks must be laced (the tensioning bolt is the road to ruin!) and a two bolt seat post clamp allows for subtle adjustments, I'm talking about a quarter turn of each bolt, which is the difference between nagging discomfort and bliss.

    After many years of experimentation, and learning from others, I think I've finally found my happy place when it come to cycling comfort.

    Oh yes, one thing I've noticed about Pearl Izumi shorts: some of their models, in very bright sun become somewhat translucent. Yikes! Which leads to a quandry Miss Manners doesn't address: does one tell the cyclist so afflicted?

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  33. I dunno about anyone else, but I'd rather deal with a tight waistband than bib shorts. Seriously, how the fuck do you PEE in those? Especially if you're wearing long sleeves? If I'm cycling in cold weather, I have a long-sleeved top covered by a zip-up jacket. I don't want to get totally undressed to pee, thank you.

    ANYWAY.

    As a general rule I've hated padded shorts. That diaper-y feel is awful, plus they just always put more pressure on my genitals, even when I had a saddle with a cut-out.

    I've been touring with shorts given to me by a friend, who had them custom-made in the 1980's. (OLD SHORTS.) They're just stretchy fabric (I'm not even sure what it is) with a couple of fleecy layers of polyestery fabric serged into them.

    They've worked fine in the past, but by the end of my first century-long day of riding, they were starting to feel like sandpaper on some really delicate places.

    I wish I had the cash for those wool shorts. And! When I was looking at knickers for my tour, I looked at the Harlot ones but the pictures weren't promising, and now I wish I'd got them--they look super-cute! Damn!

    I did try on those Chrome knickers once. The rise on them is so low, I have no idea how they stay on *anybody*. For serious. How do they not flash ass-crack?

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  34. Rebecca (she with the Surly CC, Puch mixte & Brompton, who can never log in these days...)August 2, 2011 at 6:57 AM

    +1 on the Ibex 3/4 El Fito knickers. I've had mine about a year and they're my hands down favourite BY MILES (sorry for any mixed metaphors there). I'm not at all precious with mine (or any of my merino jerseys either). They get worn 2-3 times a week, anywhere from 10-75 miles per ride, thrown in the washing machine with other cycling kit made of whatever fabric, 30C degree normal wash cycle, hang dry (on clip-top skirt hangers). No signs at all of stretching or thinning of fabric. A little bobbling or snagging but not much. I've heard you shouldn't use fabric softener on merino, and I don't, but I do use Calgon water softener (as limescale is unbelievably bad here in the UK) and often Napisan (a powdered in-wash sanitiser, enzyme-based I believe) as well.

    As for fit - my body shape is about the opposite of Velouria's and the El Fito are just about perfect. The stretchy inserts over the knees are not quite centred on me (I am very knock-kneed) and yes, when I think about it, a wider waistband would be nice. But I'm very picky about waistbands and have yet to find any (on any garment at all, from jeans to dressy trousers to skirts) that do not roll/fold on me. The El Fito waistband rolls a bit but I don't find it uncomfortable, even after 100 miles in an aggressive roadbike position.

    Oh and yes, I wear mine all year round. Merino head to toe is my preferred fabric choice on the bike, in any weather. I've worn the El Fito knickers on a 130km audax in 25C heat (which isn't all that hot, to be honest) - one time I wore them with a "normal" short-sleeve cycling jersey and wished I'd worn merino instead, so the next time I did - a long-sleeve zip-to-the-chin base layer - which was indeed better.

    This week, temps are running about 27C in the heat of the day and my god it's humid. London air is filthy, grimy and sticky. Wore the El Fito's into work this morning plus my brand new Ibex U-Sixty t-shirt. Perfect!

    So for me, yes, it's merino all the way baby! :)

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  35. I have two pair of padded shorts, one from Pearl Izumi and another house-brand from the UK that I got on steep discount. I actually prefer the latter, as the fit is better. But I do enjoy the moisture control of the padding. After a 50+ mile ride I don't feel sweaty "down there" at all. I haven't pulled the trigger on wool shorts just yet since these have been working well for me, but I do love the light weight and excellent temperature control of the wool leggings that I use in winter.

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  36. I wear lycra and I love it. I also were normal clothes on my bicycle. For both I recommend anything Sugoi. I love Sugoi, they cut for a woman and their clothes work. In the heat of the Summer I find it great to slip on my padded bicycle shorts under a skirt before I head out for two reasons - my rear is more comfortable, and they absorb the sweat (I don't show up with the back of my clothes showing wet rings). Embrace lycra and padding for what it does for you, not what others may perceive it to be.

    http://myhyggelig.blogspot.com/2009/12/fall-back.html

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  37. I own one pair of padded cycling shorts. They are also wool from Ibex. I've used them only once a year, but I love them, as far as padded bike shorts go. Comfortable, not too terrible looking, and breathable.

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  38. MelissatheRagamuffinAugust 2, 2011 at 10:21 AM

    Ha! Ha! I'm with April on the bib-shorts and peeing issue! Stopping to pee on a long bike ride can be complicated enough without having to basically strip.

    This has nothing to do with shorts: Does having a front rack effect steering? I saw a picture of a Surly LHT with the same handle bars as mine that had a front rack on it. That got me wondering if a front rack would cure my basket problems.

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  39. Melissa - a basket mounted on a front rack (as opposed to higher on the bike) should improve handling.

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  40. April - What size are you? You can have my Harlot shorts if they fit you.

    Bib shorts and peeing... I *think* that men are supposed to pee without taking the straps off, just by pulling down on the stretchy waist area. But women? Maybe using a funnel...

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  41. The products discussed here ain't cheap.

    Best wool shorts I had were Vittore Gianni - basically a tailor's shop.

    Best lycra shorts were Japanese Pearl Izumi - back when Pearl was an independent tailor's shop.

    Close second on lycra shorts were Carl Pruitt's, made on his back porch here in Chicago. I think Carl could have matched Pearl, but he didn't have access to small lots of the special fabrics Pearl used.

    The downfall of a lot of the older brands was that their products were used mainly by racers, who are cheapskates. The market is much wider now. Those who read and post here are willing to open their purse or wallet for something good. Assos and Castelli are definitely at price points where a tailor could play. Then you just tell your tailor where the straps go and the type waistband you require. Why such services are not available beats me. If you ever encounter such a product or service please support them. And tell us.

    Pulling down on the stretchy waist area of men's bibs just barely works on possibly one design in three. Many ripped seams, popped stitches, social embarrassments have resulted. Shorts solve the problem.

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  42. Velouria, really? That would be awesome! I'm about a 4 to a 7 depending on the brand/cut. I'm fairly thin with a butt and boobs. And I think I'm probably shorter than you. (I'm 5'2")

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  43. Yeah, the peeing issue is what keeps me from trying bibs. That's a lot of stuff to remove just to pee.

    So, the ibex El Fito knickers aren't too hot in the summer? I 'felt them up' once at a local retailer and the fabric was heavy so I didn't try them on.

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  44. I do not wear padded shorts, and cannot really wear anything synthetic.
    I did have a pair of synthetic cycling shorts at one time because I thought I should. They were horrible, sweaty, diaperish, lumpy and uncomfortable! I'd been biking for years without them with no consequence and do not find I need them now. If I had a fast road bike and was doing specific road cycling I would look into a pair of wool padded shorts. I can see their value and necessity for that kind of riding. My icebreaker leggings are great for cold days.
    I often see people cycling to the store or short errands with padded shorts on. I see them look at me with wonder, and wish I could just say, no you don't need to wear them for short rides!
    Those bib shorts are very very creepy.

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  45. Anon 7:39 here again. Re: bibs:

    These are the kind I have: http://www.teamestrogen.com/prodPI_11211110.html

    Pearl Izumi drop-tail bib shorts. They have a clip in the middle that fastens the straps across your bust if you so choose. I use this option. I am, ahem, very well endowed in this region and they fit like a glove. I was worried about this issue with bibs, but with the center fasten, it's no problem at all. There's a little bit of a gap below my bust where the straps don't contact my skin, but it's very minor. I fasten the straps over my sports bra.

    The genius part of these shorts is the drop-tail bit. It has an opening at the back (with a panel of fabric that extends below on the inside, so no gaping), so when you have to do your business, you just pull the flap down and voila. I speak from experience, it works like a charm.

    (I swear I don't work for the company.)

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  46. I gotta try this wool stuff V. is talking about.

    For anything other than a very short ride, I always wear padded biking shorts. I wear loose fitting mountain biking shorts, even when road biking; the tight lycra fit is way TMI with men, as for as I'm concerned. I haven't thought about it for awhile but such shorts don't show off the padding very much, if at all, so you can blend into a normal civilian look when you're walking around, which is usually my preference.

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  47. April - email me at filigreevelo at yahoo!

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  48. I always wear padded shorts, whether its just tooling around the neighborhood on an old Raleigh or road riding. I've got two pair of Suginos that I love, but also a pair of Pearl Izumis that are regular shorts with a padded (removable) insert. To ride without padded shorts now feels strange to me. I would though like to look into the wool options. Thanks to all for the tips.

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  49. Admittedly too lazy to read through all the comments, but wanted to chime in. I'm a woman who wears the typical padded & synthetic bike shorts. I wear bike shorts for almost every ride that I do. I will wear them under other pants/shorts if I really don't want to look like a "cyclist". Part of this is that I don't find jeans - what I normally wear - to be comfortable while biking both because they restrict my movement too much AND when the weather is warmer, jeans get hot very fast.

    Lately I've found that Pearl Izumi's Quest shorts actually work really well for me. My biggest problem with shorts tends to be that often the waist is too loose vs hip size, followed closely by the "legs look like sausages" problem. (I have large hips relative to my waist size. This causes me problems finding bottoms that fit for any purpose; athletic clothing tends to be even less likely to cater to curves.)

    Sausage-leg is really just a matter of finding the right shorts with the right leg opening for you. Ideally, the leg opening shouldn't be too much smaller than your leg size; for me at least this tends to mean longer shorts. (Which of course give me rather unfortunate tan lines!) When I first started trying on biking shorts, I had a hard time convincing myself to try on the larger sizes that I really should have been wearing; I imagine many women have the same problem or have difficulty finding sizes large enough.

    Another thing I've noticed is that chamois size really matters. I've gone down a size in PI's Quest shorts since I purchased my first pair last year. Now, the larger size (that originally fit really well) fits fine everywhere except the rear; the chamois is starting to shift a bit while I ride. The next smaller size feels almost identical except for how the chamois fits against my body.

    A lot of the newer bike short models have "wide soft waistbands" which should be helpful to some of your readers who posted in the first few comments that I actually read ;) Unfortunately for me, the wide waistbands usually preclude having a drawstring, which means most of those shorts outright won't fit.

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  50. "When I first started trying on biking shorts, I had a hard time convincing myself to try on the larger sizes that I really should have been wearing; I imagine many women have the same problem or have difficulty finding sizes large enough."

    Don't get me started on sizes. It is insane. I am an XS-L depending on the make and model. With cycling shorts, I've found that it's best to swallow my pride and go tighter and surrender to the sausaging, or else then can snag on the nose of the saddle if too loose.

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  51. My wife tried several brands of cycling shorts. For the past 7 years she has been a diehard Assos bibshort fan. Nearly all of the ladies (8 - 12) that take part in our Saturday 40-50 mile group rides are wearing Assos. Taken care of they last quite a long time. My wife has one pair that is 4 years old. The only issue we've had is the thin material can make reveal your tush if you hook the saddle horn. She's lost one pair to this but keeps them for cooler weather when she wears tights and the vertical smile is coverd.

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  52. Anonymous 4:40, thanks for the link to the drop tail bibs. Those are clever!

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  53. Peppy (the amazing cycling cat)August 3, 2011 at 9:03 PM

    It's good to drop tail and then lick under there to clean up. That's what we're talking about, right?

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  54. Louis Garneau Neo Power. No sausage effect, really comfy chamois, no elastic waistband, no leg grippers. Perfection. They run small, but because they actually look good, I don't care. Gimme that large!

    I just checked the label, and it looks like the back side of the chamois is polyester, but other than that, they're Nylon and Lycra.

    Red

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  55. I get cycling-specific junk mail from Asia and elsewhere directed at my blog. It often seems to be about real products. Recently I got a bizarre one from Slider International which is supposedly in Pakistan and makes "Caycling Wears" - mostly lycra going by the images. Ironically, one of the photos they chose was of you (Lovely Bike blogger)! (They also include photos of other random people on bikes, either in lycra or just in ordinary street clothes.)

    Maybe you could ask for royalties.

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  56. I meant to post the url for Slider Int. or Slider Textile, whatever they're called: http://slider-international.com/

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  57. Grrr yeah, I hate it when businesses steal images. I keep mine low-res, but even that doesn't stop some of them. I am not affiliated with this Slider company, did not give permission for them to use the photo, and, as far as I know, am not wearing anything that is sold by them in the image they used.

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  58. Where can I find shorts like this? I went shopping for cycling gear in algonquin il, but I didn't find anything like this. Thanks for sharing!

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