If you are new to cycling and have been experiencing discomfort, a pair of cycling knicks could mean the difference between a good ride and a very bad experience. To be fair if you have just started cycling it is not uncommon to get some discomfort as your body gets used to spending time in the saddle. Good cycling knicks will definitely help to ease any pain but it should be said that if you have the wrong saddle nothing will help. Our suggestion is if you are getting allot of pain within the first 20 minutes you probably need to change you saddle to something that is going to serve you better. That said a bit of paddle down under will help once you've bedded in your backside.
First, the padding in the shorts provides a little extra cushion between your own, um, "seat" and the seat of the bike. The padded area provides a smooth interface, as opposed to regular pants and even many athletic shorts, which have a seam running right down the middle, which makes for a lumpy and incomfortable interface. The padding is referred to as the "chamois," because it used to be made of chamois material.
Second, cycling shorts reduce friction, by providing a snug-fitting fabric that moves with you as you pedal, rather than rubbing against your skin.
Third, cycling shorts provide moisture management. The Lycra and other technical fabrics used in cycling shorts promote the movement and evaporation of sweat away from your skin. Cotton used in blue jeans and other "regular" pants and shorts tend to trap moisture and hold it next to your skin, which can cause excess heat, rash, and promotes the growth of bacteria.
Cycling shorts come in many varieties. The most basic type comes up to your waist, and goes down to just above your knees. For a little extra protection from the sun and cooler weather, you can opt for "knickers," or "3/4 shorts," which are a bit longer and come down to below the knees.
The "bib shorts" continue up above your waist, and have overall-like straps that go over your shoulders. Although these look a little odd at first to some people, once they try them, the comfort over regular shorts is amazing, because you don't have worry about the shorts sliding down or the waistband bunching up. They are a little more inconvenient during mid-ride bathroom breaks, however.
The knicker-length shorts with the bib-style uppers are referred to as "bib knickers."
Cycling shorts come in women's-specific styles to better fit a woman's shape. Basic shorts for women sometimes come in shorter lengths that come to about mid-thigh, which some women prefer. Bib shorts, knickers, and bib knickers are all available in women's-specific sizes. Some bib shorts for women have buttons that allow the straps to be undone, to make those bathroom breaks a little easier
A good pair of knicks can be quite an investment with some costing hundreds of dollars. If you are going to spend the money we recommend trying on a few different options to see what fits best. Every brand is different and will fit differently depending on your body shape. You may also have a specific preference for the type of chamios you need, again you need to be able to touch and feel in order to know what it will be like. Buying online ca be cheaper but it is often a gamble as to if it will work or not.
For sanitary reasons, wear your underwear when trying on cycling shorts (men - go with briefs that day instead of boxers).
Try several models at different price points to find the best combination of performance and value. What's the difference between a cheap cycling short and an expensive one? Most of the cheaper shorts use a basic fabric, with a basic cut and a one-piece sewn-in chamois. Better shorts use more exotic fabrics that optimises fit and moisture-wicking properties. Some shorts have flat-stitched seams on the inside for more comfort and utilitize strategically-shaped fabric panels for better fit and motion. Some chamois have anti-bacterial treatment and multiple layers of foam in varying densities in specific places for optimal fit and comfort.
Rule #1 - you do NOT wear your underwear under cycling shorts. Having a pair of cotton underwear inside your cycling shorts negates all of the benefits provided (friction control, moisture management).
If you have bib shorts or bib knickers, your cycling jersey goes OVER the bib straps, not under. Thus, if you're wearing them properly, nobody should ever know you're wearing bibs if they see you during a ride.
Although cycling shorts go a long way on their own to enhancing the comfort of your ride, applying a cream to the inside of the chamois can further help to reduce friction and chafing during especially long rides.
After your ride, change out of your cycling shorts and shower or bathe as soon as possible. Despite the moisture-wicking ability of even the best shorts, a chamois after a long day's ride becomes a breeding ground for bacteria, which can lead to saddle sores and other unpleasant issues.
Check the product label for proper care instructions, but in most cases, you'll be fine if you wash your cycling shorts in cold water on the delicate cycle, and hang or lay them flat to dry. Harsh detergents and bleach will shorten the life of the fabric, and fabric softeners will "clog" the material and hamper its moisture-wicking ability.