"Bicycle shorts. Are you ready for the switch?"
Making the switch from regular shorts is a milestone for many people. B.S. (before shorts) riders are usually convinced that the shorts really can 't make that much difference. Generally they believe the "spandex" crowd are silly and are just wanna be bike racers. Some of these people will never move past this and are just content to remain B.S. people.
The A.S.(after shorts) riders find a new level of comfort and distance opens up to them.
But just what is it about bicycle shorts that makes the difference? I'll explain that to you here and give you some suggestions on what shorts I have found work for me and the guys that I ride with as well as our fellow tandem riders as well.
Comfortable bicycle shorts are a must have for tandem rides. It seems that you spend more time in the saddle on a tandem than on a single bike. Standing takes more communication and forethought on a tandem (unless you ride a Davinci like I do) so riders tend to stay in the saddle more.
You need to look for some common features in bicycle shorts no matter whether you decide to go with bib style or classic style shorts.
They should be slim but not constricting. The compression offered by the fabric will hold your muscles in place and make your riding more comfortable and less fatiguing. If it is too tight, you can get pinching and binding, never a fun thing.
Your shorts should have elastic grippers at the legs, silicone backing is even better for a solid grip against your skin to keep the shorts from riding up on your legs.
Multiple panels with flat stitching is found in the higher quality shorts to increase comfort and reduce the chances of irritation from the seams.
Some shorts are now beginning to incorporate exotic material like silver and carbon fiber into the fabrics that reduces bacterial buildup. This is a good thing when you consider how long and where the fabric of these shorts spends its day.
You have two basic types of shorts, those with bibs and those without. Let's look at the bib style first.
Bib Style Bicycle Shorts
Whether your are flush with cash or just getting by, there is a comfortable pair of bib style bicycle shorts out there for you. A leading brand in the high-end arena is from the manufacturer Assos. Assos revolutionized the cycling shorts industry with the introduction of the F1 chamois system in their shorts. The Assos FI Cycling Bib Short is what I personally find the most comfortable for long distance rides on both the single bike and tandem. I don't use different shorts for road or mountain biking but that is just me.
The F1 used a special type of "foam" chamois system that would both provide then unmatched comfort yet disappear when you were riding. Hot spots were a thing of the past and 100 mile rides brought on a new level of comfort. They were expensive at around $200 but I felt it was worth it.
Many riders also like the "girdle effect" that a bib style bicycle short will impart. Most are cut low enough that you can still easily use the restroom without removing your jersey to lower the braces.
Another thing that I personally like about bib shorts is your back is never exposed when you are in the drops so you don't get a small strip of skin exposed and potentially sunburned. This can happen with a very form fitting jersey. In cold weather it also gives you just a little more protection from the elements in front.
A drawback to bib style bicycle shorts is if you forget to put on your heart rate strap it can be a pain to put it on when you thread it through the braces.
Watch for wide braces on your bibs. The narrow braces can cause chafing and irritation. This is a definite no-no on a bike ride. Another area to watch is where the braces attach to the shorts panel themselves. I have found some of the Garneau bibs rub right on your nipples, not a good thing if you are male or female.
Non Bib Type Bicycle Shorts
The other side of the spectrum on bicycle shorts are the plain shorts without braces. These are what you'll see many riders wearing.
The basic design and features you'll like in a bib short is what you'll want in a non bib short. The flat seams, high quality chamois and multiple panels for a custom type fit.
There are men and women specific shorts so you'll want to be sure the shorts you buy are the correct gender.
While this might seem a silly statement, I have seen women's shorts on the men's rack and visa versa. The cuts of the fabric are different so be sure your getting the right thing.
Giordana makes very nice shorts. The picture above is of their Men's Silverline bicycle shorts
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