We often get asked if it’s a good idea to wear padded shorts on the Century Challenge.
And our answer is always YES!
Cyclists have long been ribbed for their form fitting lycra shorts – but they are wearing them for a very good reason. Padded shorts will make your ride a so much more comfortable and enjoyable experience. There is nothing worse than a numb or sore bum on a long ride, and once you begin to get uncomfortable it is very hard to relax and really enjoy your day. So we would always recommend that cyclists invest in a decent quality set of shorts.
The main purpose of cycling shorts are to protect and cushion your rear and genitals from the pressure of your own body weight pressing into the saddle and to cushion your sit bones. Let’s face it- some of those saddles are pretty small and hard and having a padded chamois will help provide extra support and reduce painful friction between your derriere and your saddle. Quality cycling shorts will have an integrated pad (also known as the chamois) that comprises of a foam or gel padding and a soft fabric cover that often has antimicrobial properties. These pads can vary in thickness and densities according to quality and preferences. The pad will sit against your crotch and bum and offer a decent level of protection against vibrations and chafing. You can also purchase and use specialist chamois creams that will also help reduce friction and rubbing. A thick coat around your nether regions can mean a comfortable day in the saddle and many are also antimicrobial, which will help avoid saddle sores and UTIs.
Lycra cycling shorts and cycling bib shorts (shorts that also have integral suspenders/braces instead of an elastic waistband – often used by amateurs and pros who don’t want tight waistbands) offer a greater level of comfort and are designed to hug your body and keep the chamois in place.
So while we would always say YES to a pair of padded shorts we would also say NO to wearing your underwear as well as padded shorts.
Why? Because the seams of your own underwear can rub and irritate and this can lead to painful chafing, which can be very uncomfortable on your rides. If the chafing continues, then this can contribute to painful saddle sores. Pads in cycling shorts are designed to absorb sweat and reduce rubbing. It’s all about friction control and moisture management. Wearing underwear can affect how well a pad can do this, which in some cases can lead to a greater chance of developing a urinary tract infection (UTI). So it is wise to invest in a quality pair of shorts and remember that you can get women’s and men’s specific shorts with panels designed to suit different body shapes and chamois pads designed to fit the different genitalia.
Lastly if you really just don’t like the tight fitting look of lycra shorts and you would prefer not to be stuffed in like a turkey, you can also buy baggy shorts. Mountain bike shorts are baggy and abrasion resistant on the outside and look like shorts you might wear anywhere. So invest in a pair of padded shorts and you should have a really comfortable day in the saddle.