Pearson Guide: Cycling Shorts 

Finding a great pair of cycling shorts to suit your body doesn’t always come easy. It can take a cyclist years of sore backsides and an almost limitless budget. Here’s our guide for what we think you’ll need to consider when purchasing your next pair of shorts, something that fits well, offers increased saddle support, helps you to ride faster, longer and in much greater comfort. 

Any pair of shorts can be broken down into five main parts: the padded insert, the fabric, the cut, the shoulder straps and the hems. Here’s what to look for in each of these sections


Padded Insert

A padded insert is sewn into position to the base of the shorts. It sits directly between you and your seat and helps to mediate friction between your delicate areas and your comparatively less delicate saddle.

To find a quality pad, you should pay attention to three distinct areas: thickness, density and shape. Ideally, the pad should be around 5-10mm thick, but also reasonably firm and spring back into place quickly when pressed firmly with the thumb and index finger. Though often overlooked, the placement and shape of the chamois are also vital for comfort. The chamois should spread across your body’s contact area, roughly matching the broadest points of your saddle, with the thickest area of padding meeting your sit bones squarely. The pad itself should also have an anatomical fit, and be able to place itself firmly against your skin throughout the ride.

Fabric

The main fabric of the shorts dramatically affects the durability of the garment, and how well they’re suited to the riding conditions. While synthetic materials such as elastane, nylon polyimide and polyester typically form the primary composites of most pairs of bib-shorts, the combination of these materials can differ significantly, depending on cost, manufacturer, intended use and intended user.

If you are looking for a pair of quality summer shorts, then the garment should have a high nylon polyimide construction because of the particularly breathable nature and comparative lightweight of this fabric. If you’re after a high-quality pair of winter shorts or tights, on the other hand, the garment should include a relatively high polyester percentage, due to the naturally hydrophobic and insulative properties of this material.

The elastane composite also needs to be considered to ensure proper fit and durability. As a broad rule of thumb, and regardless of the other materials used, bib-shorts should contain at least 15% of elastane to offer enough stretch and secure fit, but no more than 25% to ensure sufficient durability and ability to maintain cut and shape. 

Cut

When considering the cut of your bib-shorts, there are two main areas which you should pay attention to, the length of the leg and the tightness of the material against the skin.

While some prefer the shorts to finish half way up their thigh; others like the hem placed closer to their knee. We think the length of the short leg is totally down to personal preference; your selection should entirely depend on what makes you feel most comfortable on the bike.  

The tautness of the fabric and how close the shorts should sit to your skin, however, is less negotiable. To guarantee maximum comfort, there should be no loose fabric whatsoever. In a certain sense, a great pair of bib-shorts should almost act as another layer of skin, clinging firmly to your body and remaining tight when in motion to avoid discomfort and reduce the potential for chaffing.

 

Shoulder Straps

Well-cut anatomical bib-straps are critical for ensuring complete garment stability and effective load distribution across the shoulders.

The width of the strap on the top shoulder should measure between 4cm and 6cm, to offer the optimal stability and comfort, without risking bunching or bulkiness under the jersey. Similar to the main body of material on the shorts, the fabric construction of the shoulder strap will depend significantly upon the weather conditions. If you intend to use the shorts during summer, the straps should be constructed from a meshed nylon polyimide to maximise breathability and lightweight. Conversely, shorts designed for colder conditions should have a thicker, thermal polyester bib section for increased insulation and warmth.

Hems

The leg hem is probably one of the more frequently overlooked areas when buying a new pair of shorts. A quality hem can make a tremendous difference to the fit, comfort and durability at the lower section of the shorts. Ideally, the hem should have an internal silicone gripper section to maintain the position of the short on the lower leg, and avoid the potential of bunching or riding up the thigh when in motion.

 

Like most things worth having in life, a great pair of bib-shorts don’t come easy, but if you know what you’re looking for you’ll be much better equipped to find a pair that’ll help you ride further, fast and in better comfort. We have a selection of quality, well-designed shorts for men and women available both on our website and in our stores. If you need any more information, please send an email through to sales@pearsoncycles.co.uk or give us a ring on 0208 642 2095, we’ll be happy to answer all of your questions.