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Why You Need Bike Shorts

Essential Cycling Apparel

One of the easiest things you can do to improve your cycling comfort is getting a good pair of bicycling shorts. These simple-looking pants are actually high-tech apparel with impressive features such as an anatomic fit, moisture-wicking fabrics and prevention against chafing and bacteria. Good shorts eliminate discomfort and are a virtually indispensable part of a cyclist's wardrobe.

Features To Consider

Today, hundreds of companies manufacture bicycle shorts. Multiply this by the number of models each offers and you can see that there are thousands of bike shorts to choose from. Although all may look the same at first, there can be significant differences between models. Learn more about selecting the shorts or bibs that are right for you.

Lycra or Baggy?

Not too long ago, if you wanted to make your cycling more comfortable by wearing bicycle shorts, you had to purchase tight-fitting Lycra models. These offer excellent comfort and give the rider a sleek, aerodynamic profile. The other option of cycling shorts is called a "baggy," which features all the function and comfort of Lycra shorts while offering the casual fit and earth tones of hiking and walking shorts. Both offer the same level of comfort technology, but each serves different purposes. Lycra is great for road cycling and races, while Baggies are great for mountain biking or daily commutes.


Bike shorts are constructed of panels to contour the garment to fit the body in the cycling position. The more panels the shorts have, the more curvature they have, too. Baggy shorts are constructed this way, as well. They have a contoured interior with a baggy exterior short. As a general rule, higher-end shorts are usually 8-panel designs and less expensive shorts are usually 6-panel designs. Use of 4-panel designs is usually limited to workout clothing in which cyclists ride in a more upright position. 


Price points for cycling shorts are usually based on the fabric and pad that's used. Better materials usually cost more raising the price of the short. Nylon spandex, the base for most cycling-short fabrics has great stretch and durability. However, nylon spandex does not have the ability to wick moisture (a major benefit when you're sweating) and breathe until a finish is applied, or until the fabric is knitted a special way.  Most Baggy liners are made of mesh or a technical fabric that wicks moisture and breathes.


Shorts typically include pads (sometimes called a chamois; say: "shammy"), too. This is sewn into the crotch of the short to add a little softness, eliminate chafing, wick moisture and prevent bacteria growth. The way that the pad is sewn into the liner varies substantially among manufacturers. So, when looking at shorts, make sure the pad adds comfort and doesn't bunch or chafe. If it doesn't feel comfortable, it's probably not right for your anatomy and you should try on a different short.


As with all clothing, bike-short sizing varies from one company to the next. So, we recommend trying on several different shorts before buying. Fabrics and construction will cause each short to fit differently. When you come in to try on shorts, be sure to assume the cycling position, too, so you can feel how the different shorts will fit when you're on the bike. And when you've got them on, move around a good bit to see if they provide enough freedom of movement for your riding style.

Final Tips

Remember that cycling shorts are made to be worn without underwear. The pad inside the shorts fights bacteria so the shorts are actually more sanitary when worn alone. Equally important, when you wear underwear with your cycling shorts, you end up sitting on the seams in the underwear, which can cause numbness, chafing, and pain -- the very things the shorts are trying to eliminate! And, the extra clothing prevents the short's cooling feature's from working, which means you're hotter and less comfortable

Additionally, if you ride regularly, you'll probably find that it's best to have at least two pairs of riding shorts because it'll ensure that you always have a clean pair to ride in. If you have any questions at all, be sure to ask!

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