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When I started cycling back in the prehistoric days, 1980’s to be exact, the choice was wool shorts with a leather chamois. Not bad, you might think, but we are not talking Ibex brand performance wool. The wool of the day was wool, not a Lycra blend with plenty of stretch; it shrunk and got stiff after the first washing. The chamois was leather and may or may not have had a little bit of cheap foam underneath, No antimicrobial moisture wicking fabrics. This was the Perfect breeding ground for saddle sores.
Fast forward to current day, with high tech wool blends, Lycra, anti-microbial and moisture wicking fabric. There are many choices available and styles of riding shorts, so which is right for me?
Starting with fabric, most are made of some type of Lycra blend, have a fabric chamois and come in a variety of lengths. I can’t stress enough the importance of fit; they should be fitted but not constricting. The chamois should fit comfortably to your bottom and nether region without moving around too much when walking or sitting. I prefer a longer short for less friction on the saddle when pedaling but there are a variety of lengths available, I leave the 5” for the younger generation. You also have the option of shorts or bibs. I prefer bibs because they don’t have a waist band, and after hours on the bike it is more comfortable. But Lynn, How do I pee when I have those on? Here is my two cents; I spend the majority of my time pedaling my bike not peeing(even though I’m over 55) so I go for on bike comfort over an extra two minutes to remove my jersey and drop my bibs. There is an alternative which I will cover in a bit.
When looking at the chamois, there is a direct correlation between price and quality of that chamois. Most companies have a price tier starting about $ 40-50 and moving up to $60-80 and then up to the $100+ range and bibs come in a bit higher. The chamois in the bottom tier will probably feel plush and have some anti- microbial treatment which may wash out over time. As you progress up to the next level you will get a bit firmer chamois with denser foam and the fabric will have an anti-microbial fabric with higher longevity. In the upper tier you will get a chamois with thin, but super dense foam and their highest tech moisture wicking, anti-microbial fabric. So the more time in the saddle the more you should expect to pay for your shorts, and the less it will feel like you’re wearing your grandson’s diaper.
Here are a couple of Companies that cater to women and don’t just “pink it and shrink it”, which really just means unisex.
Pearl Izumi- They offers a variety of fits and also the Drop Tail Bibs. An awesome choice if you want bibs but the ease of peeing too. They have a trap door in the back with a mesh tail that tucks in to keep you covered.
Terry- This is a women specific company tailored to women’s cycling apparel and saddles. They also have a variety of styles and lengths.
SheBeest- This too is a women specific cycling apparel company, and they sell the only arm warmers I have ever owned that did not slip down, and I have about 5 pair from different companies.
And Colleen’s Favorite is Dude Girl!!! They have cute kits (matching shorts and jerseys) with DOTS!! https://www.dudegirl.com/
Lynn moved to Colorado 34 years ago to chase her dream of being a ski bum; she discovered cycling as a means of rehab, after her first of three knee injuries. She bought her first bike and her dream was altered forever.
Riding the bikes was just not enough, however, she had to know how to maintain the bikes, fix the bikes and then build the bikes from the ground up. She began racing bikes at the age of 45 and currently races age group road races. She has participated in several editions of the LOTOJA which is a 206mile, one day, road race from Logan Utah to Jackson Wyoming. She has also done several multi day, self-supported, mountain bike tours, in Colorado and Utah.
She retired from the airline industry, in 2010 and began working for REI, the outdoor retailer. She currently works as a bike tech, a master bike fitter and teaches maintenance classes at REI. In her spare time she also enjoys making custom silver jewelry in her home studio. Her passion for riding and teaching cycling skills is apparent and she loves being a mentor to other woman.