Cycling Shorts Buying Guide

Want to enjoy biking even more? Then get yourself a good pair of padded cycling shorts! In addition to having the right sized saddle on your bike – cycling shorts will dramatically increase your comfort on the bike seat.

We’ve put together this guide to help you find the perfect pair of bike shorts to keep your bum happy, whether you’re riding a few casual miles or a century!

And to make sure you are happy once you do buy cycling shorts, ERIK’S has a 30-Day Cycling Shorts Guarantee. If you don’t love the shorts you buy, within 30 days of purchase you can bring them back for store credit.

Why do I need padded cycling shorts?

Cycling Shorts and Cycling Bibs

If you’ve been biking without cycling shorts and you’ve found yourself here reading this blog – chances are your backside has been feeling a little sore post-ride. We get it! Even with a great saddle, it’s normal to feel the effects of sitting on a bike seat for any duration of time. That’s why you need padded cycling shorts. They put the pleasure back into your riding so you can keep going, day after day, in comfort.

Fitted cycling shorts are made to:

  • Easily move with your body (why spandex is often the fabric of choice)
  • Glide over the saddle with less friction
  • Hold the padding in place exactly where you need it most
  • Breathe and be moisture wicking
  • Provide essential protection to the nether regions with purposefully placed padding
  • Minimize chafing
inside of padded cycling shorts

The pad, which is referred to as a chamois (pronounced ‘shammy’), can vary greatly. The construction can utilize memory foam and other materials in different sizes, shapes, and thicknesses to maximize comfort. They are also designed to be gender specific (check out our men’s and women’s options) to accommodate anatomical differences.

cycling shorts padding

Is tight spandex cycling shorts my only option?

Going into public with spandex shorts not your thing? You’re not alone. Luckily there are lots of great alternative riding shorts that have a padded snug-fitting liner under a looser-fitting outer short. These casual-looking shorts transition easily from the bike to the coffee shop or brewpub after the ride (view our men and women styles).

baggy cycling shorts

You can also purchase liner shorts to wear like boxers under your favorite street clothes.

Are all cycling shorts basically the same?

From the materials to the construction, a good pair of cycling shorts will outlast and outperform a more basic pair.

When shopping is sure to examine the chamois to determine the quality level of the shorts you’re considering.

Here’s a quick way to do that:

  • Compress the chamois between your fingers
  • Pads that easily compress all the way down = less comfort
  • Denser or more substantial pads that allow less compression = more comfort
  • The more comforting the better – especially on long rides

How should cycling shorts fit?

You want your shorts to fit snugly. It’s important that they fit almost like a second skin so the chamois doesn’t move around. On the other hand, snug does not mean tight. You don’t want the fit to be overly restrictive. Size varies by brand and style so make sure to try them on at your local ERIK’S to find the pair that works best for you.

What should I wear under my cycling shorts?

Cycling shorts are designed to be worn commando.  No undies, please.

The shorts and chamois are designed to limit irritation and chafing. An extra layer of material effectively negates the benefits of padded cycling shorts. The material can bunch and the seams can irritate, both of which could cause saddle sores.

(Of course, no undies is not a rule. If you find more comfort in wearing them under your bike shorts, go for it! Just be aware if the fabric creates any uncomfortable irritation or chafing and make changes if needed.)

How should I care for my cycling shorts?

Cycling shorts need to be washed after every ride. This might seem obvious, but keeping your shorts clean feels better and helps to prevent saddle sores.

Here’s a few simple tips for washing your shorts:

  • Always read and follow the manufacturer’s washing directions for the best results
  • Wash them inside out to ensure you are really getting the chamois clean
  • Hang your shorts to dry; Lycra breaks down quickly from the heat of a dryer

Following these tips should help your shorts to last a long time.

Why would I want bib shorts?

Mannequin wearing cycling bib shorts

For those who have never worn bib shorts, the idea of tight lycra shorts with suspenders can be rather off-putting. But they have advantages and are the shorts of choice for any serious cyclist.

Benefits of wearing bib shorts:

  • Bibs stay put. They don’t migrate up or down while you are riding. There’s no pulling or adjusting
  • Bib shorts don’t have a tight-fitting waistband which makes them far more comfortable than traditional shorts
  • There’s no embarrassing gap between your shorts and your jersey

Unlike a wrestling singlet, cycling bib shorts are not a complete outfit. You should always wear a jersey over the suspenders. (Note: the photo above is to show bib shorts and not an example of how to wear them — keep your jersey zipped!)

Consider giving bib shorts a try.  ERIK’S has a 30-Day “Love’em or Leave’em Cycling Shorts Guarantee.” If you don’t love the shorts you buy, within 30 days of purchase you can bring them back for store credit. We find that cyclists who try bibs never want to go back to regular shorts.

What is chamois cream?

Originally cycling shorts were padded with a leather chamois. To keep it soft, pliable, and comfortable, you had to condition it with a cream. Fast forward to today and chamois cream is an antibacterial lotion, balm, or cream that riders use to prevent chafing or saddle sores. It is especially helpful for cyclists putting on lots of miles or riding in hot conditions. It helps to reduce friction and adds an extra layer of comfort to the saddle.

Use chamois cream sparingly. You only need a little bit.  It should be applied directly to key areas of contact between your body and the chamois. Some folks apply it directly to their skin before pulling their shorts on.  If you are riding with cycling shorts and experiencing chafing, consider chamois cream.

It’s possible for biking to be a truly comfortable and pleasurable experience.

Cycling shorts are a simple way to achieve this. Swing by an ERIK’S shop near you. Try on a few pairs to find the right fit for you. Or shop our entire cycling short selection for women here and men here. And then get ready to enjoy being on the saddle! Oh, and speaking of saddles – they can add to your riding comfort as well. Check out our Saddle Series: Part 1 (Get Comfortable), Part 2 (Find Your Size), and Part 3 (Shorts and Chamois Cream) to learn more!