Many of you having cycling in your regular fitness routine would eventually graduate to long-distance or endurance cycling, which requires long hours on the saddle. When that happens, in addition to upgrading the bicycle, you will need to buy cycling shorts (biker shorts) or cycling bib shorts, arguably behind in importance just to the bike and helmet.
Wearing cycling or bib shorts while pedalling offers two advantages to the cyclist. The padded shorts provide cushioning to the glutes, making the ride comfortable, and also act as a protective layer to the skin, preventing chafing and abrasion burns.
At the starting stage, most cyclists ride in normal sports shorts. However, once they step up the game, many would choose to wear cycling shorts, realising their importance.
How cycling shorts prevent skin rashes
Delhi-based businessman Ricky Sharma, 49, began his tryst with long-distance cycling in 2013. Initially, he used to wear regular sportswear while cycling. Result: post-cycling skin rashes, or chafing, after almost every ride.
“Initially, I would wear normal fitness clothes but there were multiple side-effects,” says Sharma. “I was left with skin rashes. Also, peddling with normal sportswear was not comfortable. We need to understand that the cycling shorts are not normal clothing but are prepared by experts after much research, so they are essential.”
Michael Vin, former national (India) cyclist and CEO of Be Positive Racing, says cycling shorts may not be required if you are just doing leisure riding. But once you step up, it is ideal to wear cycling bib shorts.
“During cycling a person is in a certain position for a long period of time, so the skin gets heated up, which results in skin rashes and allergy,” says Vin, who is based in Kochi, Kerala. “The shorts are scientifically designed to avoid this issue. If someone is cycling for a short duration, say for 30 minutes, or is doing it for leisure, then there is no need for these shorts. But if cycling is being done for a longer period, say for a few hours covering long distances, bib or biker shorts are a must.”
Benefits of gel padded cycling bib shorts
Though cycling shorts are available with either fabric or gel padding, the latter ones significantly aid performance during long rides.
A 2015 paper, for which the researchers studied nine club road cyclists riding on a simulator wearing cycling bib shorts with three different types of pads with varying thickness, establishes the advantage of thicker endurance pads (gel pads). It was found that the basic and intermediate thickness pads cushioned the glutes, but the endurance pads (gel pads) significantly decreased the pressure on the glutes while on the saddle.
“Wearing padded shorts provides the required cushioning for longer rides, making the ride more comfortable,” says Vin. “It also adds a feel-good factor to the ride. [But] to use gel padded or cotton padded shorts depends completely on the rider.”
Sharma, though, recommends gel padded cycling shorts over cotton padded ones. “The advantage with gel padded shorts is that they help in dealing with the sweat generated during cycling,” says Sharma. “They are important during mountain riding (MTB rides) as well, as they help in the absorption of jerks and shocks.”
- Gel padded cycling bib shorts provide support for the gluteal muscles during long-distance rides.
- Cycling shorts or biker shorts also help in preventing skin rashes, irritation and chafing.
- Biker bib shorts are not needed for short-distance, leisure cycling.