How many times have you cycled with all your vigour, broke a good sweat, but suffered from a sore butt later? I believe every cyclist can tick that checkbox.
Cycling is a great sport, but the discomfort that comes along makes us have second thoughts about going on a second round. This is mostly because we wear our usual clothes to practice. Think about what you wear when you cycle? A pair of trousers or gym leggings, right?
The bike's saddle isn't made to render comfort but to increase paddle efficiency. With the clothes not providing any more support to your hips, soreness in your pelvic area is very much expected.
A 2019 study focusing on 178 female cyclists reported 58% of women enduring genital numbness while 69% complained about pain.
Dr. Michele Olson, a Ph.D. and exercise physiologist, explains that proper padding through cycling is essential to soothe the sciatic nerve. Without proper padding, this nerve can be compressed, leading to pain. Some riders can experience this right after starting the exercise, while others might face it 30-60 minutes after cycling.
We have all felt the prickling pins or needles in our legs and butts if we sit on a chair for too long. It works the same way with the rigid saddle of a bike.
If you ride regularly, padded sports shorts can be the ultimate solution to all the pins and needles you face after cycling. This is irrespective of whether you are cycling indoors or outdoors. The classic fabric, perfect seaming, and compression can take your cycling experience up a notch.
Only when you are comfortable in the saddle can you pursue your fitness goals way more efficiently.
Padded Saddle Vs. Padded Shorts
Padded pants are a classic clothing gear for cyclists. They have everything you need for a comfortable cycling experience, but unfortunately, it comes with the baggage of fashion penalty. Many people consider these funny and tasteless, leading them to seek other alternatives. That's when padded saddles come in as a handy option.
When it comes to a pro cyclist, he will always go for the shorts. Padded shorts provide the cushioning precisely where it's needed. Namely, these places are around the sit bones.
On the other hand, an inexperienced cyclist will appeal to a soft and wide saddle that resembles a nice sofa chair. They consider it incredibly comfortable, which is the biggest deception there could be.
What's exceptionally significant to understand is that the more softness there is, the more friction it would generate and the more pain it is destined to cause you. A cycling seat is not supposed to be equivalent to the experience of a sofa but to support your sit bones. This is because they carry the most stress while you are sitting.
Why Wear a Padded Short
As explained above, your sit bones do not need softness but firmness and support. The softer the saddle is, the more your body sinks into it. As a result, your pelvic area will be augmented. This means your body is in contact with more friction, leading to skin irritations and bruises.
Padded shorts prevent this by putting an extra layer between your pelvic area and the saddle. Being a second layer to your skin, they do not move. Therefore, even though your skin is in direct contact with the shorts, it is not problematic for you.
Since there is no rubbing between the skin and padded pants, you do not suffer any irritations.
Cycling means riding in different positions that may or may not align with the bike saddle. Since the saddle is fixed, you can't gain the advantage of the seat once you are out of the position. This issue is exacerbated if you're covering a long distance.
However, padded biking pads are movable since they are attached to you. So, the moment you move out of position, they move with you to render support and comfort. Therefore, you never go out of alignment.
Padded bike shorts happen to be a perfect fit for you, which is a massive advantage. In comparison to saddles, they are designed with upright geometry. When chosen for aggressive riding, these can fight the original function of the bike. Evans Cycles explains in his video how padded shorts can be a massive help.
People who choose to go for wide saddles invite more problems. They believe it will render comfort, but it penetrates the thighs and irritates the skin.
None of this happens with a padded short as it only supports the required area without hindering your paddling technique.
Removes Pressure Points
Athletic shorts are mostly stitched with a seam running directly under your crotch, placed on the saddle when you sit, getting the most pressure.
As you move while cycling, the seam gets in touch with your skin, directly leading to chafing. Since these are sensitive areas, the irritation can be severe.
The padded bicycle pants are made up of stretchy spandex, with seams sewn into the fabric. It's light, breathable, and wicking, leaving no room for irritation.
Protects Your Body From Vibrations
When the hard rubber tires of the bike roll on the road's uneven surface, it generates a vibration called road shock. This vibration occurs even on a smooth surface. The frequency of the vibration moves from the tires into your body. If this shock is dispersed into your body, it could cause pain.
Padded shorts provide maximum protection to your body, shielding it from vibration.
A cyclist would do anything to reduce the wind resistance and streamline their body to cover a long distance in a short time. Well, padded pants allow you that advantage. They are skintight, which allows you to be more aerodynamic.
Since you are fighting the air resistance more, you will be consuming slightly less energy to cover the same distance.
These long-distance cycling shorts keep your muscles compressed. The compression mitigates soreness and fatigue while you are cycling. The best part is that the effects stay long after you are done cycling.
Due to less fatigue, you will be able to cover longer distances and go much faster than without padded shorts.
We all sweat when we ride a bike, but it doubles when you're riding on a hotter day. Regular shorts can soak in all the sweat produced. But the padded bicycle shorts allow your body to breathe.
These shorts can wick away sweat from your body. Since they are made of wicking fabric, they pull the sweat away from the moisture, preventing irritation and chafing. As a result, you stay fresh and ready for another round.
Since sweating while cycling is bound to happen, keeping yourself hydrated is essential. Make sure to keep a bottle attached to your bike, especially on long routes. Shaker Bottle by DMoose allows steady grip and easy fit to keep you hydrated.
You can't rule out injuries when riding a bicycle, especially when you have to travel on all sorts of rugged platforms. In that case, the padded bicycle shorts act as a shield.
They are made up of shock-absorbing EVA foam, which minimizes the impact of any accident that you may come across. They aim to make your sporting experience hazard-free.
Factors to Consider While Buying a Padded Short
When purchasing a padded bicycle short, you must have a criteria at hand to know what factors would render value and durability to mark an excellent purchase. Here's what you need to consider before spending cash:
Every cycling short has a different inseam. Most cyclists choose to go for short inseams that fit right above the knee. This protects your thighs from the sun and keeps them from chaffing. These will also dry much quicker.
On the other hand, longer inseams are better to keep your shorts in place. Athletes who use padded shorts for riding, swimming, or running prefer longer inseams.
Chamois, commonly known as padding, are not always made equal. They vary in fabric, size, and shape. They are designed differently for men and women. So, when purchasing a padded short, make sure to pick one that fits you perfectly, provides maximum comfort, and is skin-friendly.
Paying attention to the waistband is super important. You need to make sure that the shorts fit tight enough at your waist and are not constricting. A poor quality short will put you in a lot of pain.
You must check if the padded shorts you are buying are shock absorbent. A standard cosmetic designed short is not going to prevent you from vibrations or mitigate the effect of an accident.
A shock-absorbent padded short will protect you from all sorts of injuries that you may encounter during outdoor sports.
There are many other tips, other than padded shorts, that can help you with a safe long-distance ride. These include testing your bike, making repairs, wearing padded gloves, keeping yourself hydrated, obeying traffic rules, and breaking your distance into smaller goals. This will all help you throughout your journey.
Riding a bike can be a thrilling experience but making it comfortable is very important. A long-distance ride on an uncomfortable saddle can result in pain and soreness. Padded bike shorts will help support your pelvic area, render comfort, and protect you from injuries. The breathable and stretchable fabric of the padded shorts prevent chafing and allows you to cover longer distances with lesser fatigue.
- Greenberg, Daniel R., et al. “Genital Pain and Numbness and Female Sexual Dysfunction in Adult Bicyclists.” The Journal of Sexual Medicine, vol. 16, no. 9, Sept. 2019, pp. 1381–89. PubMed, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsxm.2019.06.017.
- Marcolin, Giuseppe, et al. “Biomechanical Comparison of Shorts With Different Pads.” Medicine, vol. 94, no. 29, July 2015, p. e1186. PubMed Central, https://doi.org/10.1097/MD.0000000000001186.
- Thompson, Matthew J., and Frederick P. Rivara. “Bicycle-Related Injuries.” American Family Physician, vol. 63, no. 10, May 2001, p. 2007. www.aafp.org, https://www.aafp.org/afp/2001/0515/p2007.html.