Cycling shorts are sleek and sporty, and the people who wear them appear obviously devoted to their sport. However, the garments aren't about looks. Cycling shorts are vital pieces of equipment that give the rider several advantages over regular street clothes. They're a necessity any time you want to hop on a bike and hit the road.
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Cycling shorts are designed to fit and support your body when you're in a cycling position. For this reason, they are made from eight to 12 vertical panels, providing extra curvature. Their flat seams don't press into your skin when you ride, unlike regular shorts' seams. Cycling shorts have grippers at the bottom of each leg to keep them from riding upward. Men's cycling shorts typically have a shorter rise and a wider waistband. Women's cycling shorts typically have a longer rise and a smaller waist. Don't worry about wearing gender-specific shorts, however. Go for the shorts that fit best.
Because cycling shorts should fit your riding shape, they are made of stretchy fabrics. Stretchy fabrics have a compression effect that supports your muscles and stimulates blood flow. Another big advantage is that the fabrics have high-tech fibers that wick away moisture and allow your skin to breathe. Look for shorts made of nylon spandex with a polyester yarn woven throughout.
Cycling shorts come with a padded liner called a chamois, which protects your groin area from chafing and friction and helps to cushion your ride. This is vital because sitting on a bike saddle puts pressure on your perineum, the junction of major nerves and arteries in the area between your buttocks and genitals. A padded chamois also protects against bacteria build-up. Look for a chamois made of open cell foam. A chamois can come in varying shapes and sizes. Choose the one that fits your body best.
While the most frequently seen style of bike shorts is the traditional slim cut, the industry now has several styles. This is an advantage because the shorts look like street clothes but they have the vital protection and function of cycling shorts concealed inside. Styles include baggies, which look like hiking shorts but have cycling shorts inside, and skorts for women, with a skirt hiding the cycling shorts underneath. Some cyclists opt for bib shorts, which look like traditional cycling shorts with suspenders attached.
Cycling shorts are designed to make your ride more comfortable and to protect you from irritation and chafing. Because the shorts have bacteria-fighting crotch liners and flat seams, you are supposed to wear the shorts without underwear. Underwear will add seams that can cause skin irritation and fabric that will keep you wet. Forego the skivvies and wear the cycling shorts, which should fit like a glove.