So you’ve finally purchased a pair of padded bike shorts but now you’re left wondering what to wear underneath. Should you wear your normal underwear? Do they make special cycling-specific underwear? Or do you just go commando?
We’ll go into why most cyclists don’t wear anything under their shorts and what you can do to keep them in great condition for as long as possible.
We’ll also cover some other things you should avoid wearing when you bike.
Should You Wear Anything Under Your Cycling Shorts?
The short answer is no, you don’t need to wear anything under your padded cycling shorts. The chamois (padded portion) found in bike shorts are made to fit right against your skin in order to prevent chafing (Source).
The fabric of cycling shorts is typically made of moisture wicking material that is made to dry quickly, making for a comfortable ride. If you wear underwear under your shorts, you can end up trapping moisture which can lead to chafing. Underwear also has a tendency to get bunched up under tight bike shorts, which can ultimately lead to a less comfortable riding experience.
It’s important to make sure you’re buying bike shorts that are designed with cyclists in mind. They should fit snugly against your skin without being too tight (you don’t want to be cutting off circulation to your legs – or any part of your body, really). The chamois portion is also important. Many cheap or knock-off cycling shorts really skimp out on the padding, or use ineffective material.
What Should You Not Wear when Cycling?
In addition to forgoing underwear, there are some other things you should avoid wearing when you’re on your bike. While there aren’t official “rules” for what to wear when you’re cycling (unless you’re racing, of course), here are some general guidelines:
You don’t want to wear any baggy layers while you’re biking. Anything that isn’t close to your skin will catch the wind, which will ultimately slow you down. Baggy layers can also be dangerous. Pants can get stuck in chains and if you have to take off a jacket you may not have a safe place to store it. These items can get caught in the wheel of your bike, leading to some serious injuries.
Poor Fitting Helmet
You’ll want to make sure you have a properly fitted helmet. This is an expensive but crucial pice of gear, so it’s worth the investment. The padding on a helmet can degrade over time, so make sure you replace it regularly or after any major crash.
Cotton and Denim
Cotton and denim won’t wick moisture away from your body. Instead, they’ll become heavier as they get wet from sweat or rain, leading to possible chafing and overheating. You don’t have to shell out for an expensive jersey, though – any athletic performance clothing should work when you’re first getting started. (Source)
Why Do Cyclists Wear Black Shorts?
There are a few reasons why cyclists primarily wear black shorts. The first, and possibly most obvious, is to hide the dirt and grease that inevitably comes from riding a bike. Changing tires and chains can leave behind grease which then gets wiped on shorts.
Fortunately, wearing black shorts can hide the worst of it. While mud and dirt will still be visible on black shorts, it isn’t nearly as noticeable as it would be on lighter-colored shorts (and it’s less likely to stain).
In addition, it used to be a requirement for professional cyclists to wear black shorts when racing (Source). This is no longer the case, but it may have set the standard for cycling shorts that lingers today.
Black is also the most commonly sold color for cycling shorts. It’s hard to say whether that’s primarily a supply or demand issue, but it can be harder to find cycling shorts in different patterns or colors. Finally, black ultimately provides more coverage than other colors of shorts, which is especially beneficial when riding in a group.
For more on this, we recommend that you check out our post Why Are Cycling Shorts Black? Why Some Are See-Through!
How Do You Wash Cycling Shorts?
There are a lot of special athletic detergents on the market right now, but you can use any standard detergent you have on hand. Many companies have designed their shorts with the understanding that customers will just use what they already own (Source).
Make sure you don’t use too much detergent, though, as this can lead to build up on the fabric.
Don’t let your shorts sit in a hamper for days before you throw them in the washer. They are likely damp with sweat and won’t be able to dry out if they’re left in a pile, which can lead to bacterial growth. It’s better to wash them right away if you can. Throw them in with like colors in order to prevent any dye from bleeding.
While it’s tempting to toss your shorts right into the washer, it’s best to take a minute to get them ready. Flip them inside out and make sure all pockets are closed. If you’ve had an especially muddy right, you should pre-rinse your shorts to prevent the dirt from grinding against your clothes.
Keep it Cool
Wash your shorts in cool water on a gentle cycle. Hot water can melt the fibers in the fabric, which limits their wicking ability. High temperatures can also ruin any gripping material on your shorts. Add an extra rinse option if you have it.
Skip the Dryer
It’s best to hang dry your shorts after you wash them. The temperatures in a dryer can damage the shorts and can reinforce any odors that are remaining in the fabric. It will take longer to air dry, but you’ll save tons of money in the long run.
More to Consider
Finding the right pair of cycling shorts can be a challenge and it’s worth investing in the style that works best for you.
Because you won’t be wearing anything under the shorts, it’s important to wash them early and often.
The better you take care of your shorts, the longer they’ll last you, and the more comfortable they’ll be against your skin.
Also, check out our post “Do You Wear Underwear With Running Shorts? (Why The Liner!)“