Your cycling wardrobe is something that will increase in size, style and use over time. The more you ride, the more kit you require and the more you learn, the more you will begin to consider more carefully what is best suited for your style of riding.
With plenty of choices in material, chamois, fit and style, your shorts are one of the most important purchases you’ll make. Comfort of course is essential, but with most cycling related decisions, looks can be just as important!
Price plays an important part with any potential purchase and it is true to say that in most cases, you get what you pay for. If you invest in a decent pair of shorts from the outset, your backside will thank you in the long run. An inexpensive pair of shorts with a token chamois will be fine for the quick run to the shops, but if you’re serious about putting the miles in, then you need to spend accordingly.
Bibs are regarded as the most comfortable option, with no elastic to dig into your waste when in the riding position and they keep your back warmer on colder days too. Women especially tend to shy away from these as ‘comfort breaks’ can be a bit of a logistical nightmare, but certain manufacturers have recently developed ways to make nipping behind the farmers fence easier. For men, once you’ve mastered the bib shorts comfort break, its plain sailing from there on in.
Fabrics have come a long way since the invention of Lycra. No longer are you forced to wear a material that doesn’t breathe and holds moisture like a Bounty paper towel. Now Lycra is much more breathable and offers great muscle support. Gore Bike Wear offer state of the art material in their Xenon 2.0 Bib Shorts made with breathable fabric that has excellent compression properties to help reduce muscle fatigue.
Anatomical fit plays an important part in the comfort and performance of a set of shorts as well, with specially designed and positioned panels in the body helping to frame your figure better. This means that you’ll experience less restriction when moving, so you can perform better. When you can move better, you can generally ride faster. Some may be sceptical about the idea that a pair of bib shorts can improve your overall finishing time when racing, but if it wasn’t true then why would professional cycling teams spend years developing their kit? Shaving seconds off a riders can time can mean a Grand Tour Win. The Colnago C59 Racing Bib Shorts are a great example of how construction and fit work for the long distance rider or those racing for the finish.
Generally as we get fitter, we go further. Putting the miles in requires a comfortable chamois. Whether it’s a gel or foam pad, with varying levels of thickness, a chamois is not only very important, but it can also be a very personal choice. Many brands use either a gel or foam padding in their shorts and most now use an antibacterial finish to keep them a bit fresher. The padding is really a personal choice; a good gel based chamois as used in the Altura Progel Comp Bib Shorts, are an excellent entry level pair of shorts that are packed with features punching way above their weight.
Leg grippers on shorts are an important feature that if designed properly, will keep the shorts firmly in place, so you don’t see the shorts riding up your leg when you put the power down. Look for shorts that offer an elastic or silicone gripper and if you’re racing or really putting in the power down, a silicone gripper is better as it really holds to the skin well. Café riders and those of us not looking for podium finishes can get away with a good elastic gripper as they will hold well and are generally less expensive.
Whatever your style there is plenty of designs to choose from and with such a varied price range, anyone can afford a good set of shorts. If you look after them properly they should last a few seasons and when you find a brand or padding you really like, you will notice a big difference. The greatest thing about buying a new set of shorts is that it’s a great excuse to get out and ride your bike more to thoroughly test them out!