Buyer's Guide to Lycra Shorts

There's one very good reason for wearing a pair of cycling shorts: comfort.

There's one very good reason for wearing a pair of cycling shorts: comfort. Anyone who's ever ridden a bike knows that time spent in the saddle wearing anything other than a pair of padded Lycra shorts will tear you to shreds. Tight yet unrestricted, the Lycra short is designed to keep padding where it's needed the most, while working with your body to move moisture.

There's absolutely no need to suffer in the saddle and from the basic to the race bred there's something available for every shape and type of rider Cycling shorts make riding a great deal more comfortable than wearing 'normal' clothes. The tight synthetic materials keep things smooth and free from bunching up while also being aerodynamic, sweat wicking and fast drying. They're meant to be worn without undies to minimise seams and excess where it might cause the most painful rubbing and chafing.

So that means you, the chamois (the padded bit sewn in) and your saddle can work together. Women's Lycra shorts generally have shorter leg lengths, narrower waists, larger leg openings and a slightly longer rise (the distance from the top-front of the shorts, under the crotch and up to the topback) than men's styles. The pads are also shaped differently - smaller overall, but proportionately wider at the rear and narrower in the centre. They also lack a bulky terry pad at the front.

Panels and fabric

The basic rule goes that the more panels the better the fit. Six is the accepted standard, with eight found on higher-end shorts. However, with the progression in fabric technology, manufacturers are now mixing panels of different fabrics and contouring their shape for improved fit and performance in the saddle

Stitching

Flat stitching will ensure comfort next to the skin. There should also be no stitching near areas like the inside of the leg. Contrast stitching also makes the shape of fancy panels stand out and look good

Bibs or shorts

A lot comes down to personal preference but bibs are best. They stay up, fit better than shorts and don't dig into your hips. They will also keep your kidneys covered and apart from more awkward loo stops, there's not a lot else that goes against them

Chamois

This is the heart of the shorts. The brushed leather chamois is long gone and these days the majority of chamois are made from synthetic materials. Chamois need to provide padding for comfort while wicking away moisture to keep you fresh and prevent soreness. Ribbed and contoured to fit the body's curves, most are now bonded into shape to eliminate the need for stitching around the delicate areas. A combination of wicking material and padding from gel and foams is often used to provide cushioning.

Leg grippers

Elastic is used to keep the shorts tight at the base. Many shorts use silicone grippers to maintain the hold of the elastic against the skin and prevent the hems from riding up.

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