Cycling Underwear Vs. Cycling Shorts

Cycling Shorts

If you are new to cycling, there are lots of questions about the clothes you should be wearing. One question many new cyclers have is in regards to their bottom half. Typically, we wear underwear under our shorts. Should you wear them when cycling?

When you’re wearing cycling shorts, you shouldn’t wear underwear. This is because most cycling shorts are built to act as underwear as well as shorts.

If you are already cycling and not wearing cycling-specific shorts, it’s time to consider them. Let’s take a look at some options for experienced riders and beginners alike.

Why Should I Wear Cycling Shorts?

Why Cycling Shorts

When you do a quick search of cycling shorts, a pair of Lycra shorts will most likely pop up. This is the standard, and is probably what a beginner cyclist will buy. Cycling shorts are designed to make your ride as comfortable as possible.

Typically, the shorts are made with padding called chamois. If you wear underwear, it will cancel out the effect of the materials used to get rid of friction and reduce moisture. The padding also helps to cushion the seat for a smoother ride.

Cycling shorts are tight-fitting and help keep friction at bay. The Lycra and Spandex they are made of help prevent your sweat from becoming an issue. Overall, you should be wearing cycling shorts for any cycling to make the experience more enjoyable.

Why Wear Cycling Underwear/Liners?

Cycling underwear

Since cycling shorts are usually built to act as underwear, you shouldn’t be wearing any underwear. Regular underwear will just get in the way. 

If you wear regular underwear, such as cotton, it will get in the way of moisture management and make your ride unpleasant. If you absolutely want to wear underwear with the shorts, try cycling liners specifically made for cycling.

When wearing baggy shorts, you’ll probably want to wear padded cycling underwear in place of tight-fitting cycling shorts. 

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03/11/2024 09:17 am GMT

Cycling underwear or cycling liners are to be worn under regular shorts. These liners go under your shorts, so no one knows you’re wearing them. They are just like cycling shorts and provide similar protection:

  • Wicking
  • Friction protection
  • Padding (sometimes less)

The reason to wear cycling underwear is that you can look as if you’re not wearing any cycling shorts, they generally cost less, and they can work well.

Some people prefer them for shorter distances, but if you have a good bike seat/saddle, then cycle liners, even if they don’t have thick padding, could work well for long distances.

It comes down to the materials used in the padding, how well they fit, the materials in the shorts, your bike saddle, how long you will be cycling, and the weather. Simple right?

In the end, you need to try out a pair of cycling shorts or cycling liners and see how they work for you. Usually, higher quality underwear or shorts will cost more, so look for shorts that have all the same attributes as the ones that get great reviews when buying them.

Types of Cycling Shorts

So, let’s look at some different types of cycling shorts and see what works. A good tip is to try out a few different types to see what you like best for riding, and what will keep you from getting chafing and saddle sores.

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03/11/2024 10:57 am GMT

Lycra (Spandex)

  • Cycling Shorts  Look up cycling shorts, and this is what you’re going to find. These shorts should be tight-fitting and they will have chamois sewn into them, thus eliminating the need for underwear. Remember, other fabrics will cancel out what the shorts are supposed to do!
  • Traditional Lycra cycling shorts come in all sorts of colors, styles, and lengths. You’ll be sure to find something you like.

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03/11/2024 10:32 am GMT
  • Baggie Shorts 
    • Usually used by mountain bikers, the baggie shorts are, well, a bit baggier than your traditional cycling shorts. If they don’t have built-in chamois, they should come with one that will attach separately. They will have a tight lining on the inside but have the look of regular shorts as opposed to tight-fitting shorts.
    • When baggie shorts do not come with chamois, this is a case when you would want to buy cycling padded underwear.

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  • Cycling Skirts  
    • Not seen as much these days, cycling skirts are also an option. They will also have a built-in chamois. If they don’t, you’ll buy the padded underwear to go with them. This option is a fun way to switch things up from the shorts, and you don’t see it too often.

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03/11/2024 08:33 am GMT
  • Bib Shorts
    • Bib shorts provide the most coverage out of all the options. They have straps that go over your shoulders to keep them in place, but can be kind of a pain to get on and off at rest stops.
    • This type of short will have chamois sewn in, so you shouldn’t have to worry about the padded underwear.

How to Wear Cycling Shorts Properly

Cycling Shorts Proper Fit

Well, now we know we shouldn’t wear underwear under our cycling shorts. It causes friction and keeps the shorts from doing their job. You won’t get any moisture management with a layer of fabric keeping the shorts from your body.

For traditional cycling shorts, you want to make sure they fit well. They should fit snuggly so no friction could cause chafing. If you choose the bib shorts, wear your top over them so the straps are covered.

For baggy shorts they are a common choice for bikers who will be getting off their bikes to go into establishments to stick out as a “biker” less. The great part about baggies is that they can come with a removable liner, so you can change them out for fresh ones daily instead of having to wash them frequently.

On that note, since you aren’t wearing underwear, treat your bike shorts like you would your underwear. They should only be worn once in between washes to keep them clean and to prevent bacterial growth.

Another tip for the beginner cyclist is that even if you’re wearing cycling shorts, you should take preventative measures to keep yourself in tip-top shape. There are chamois creams available to apply to double up on the protection from your padding to prevent saddle stores.

To sum it up, no, you should not wear regular underwear when cycling. Stick to garments made specifically for cycling, such as traditional cycling shorts or padded underwear. Your body will thank you for the care taken!

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