Since lockdown started more people have been cycling and it has been great to see – my local bike shop was telling my husband and I they have had so many people in buying bikes during this time and if you want a turbo trainer well they are a bit like gold dust right now. What I have also noticed in online groups and on social media are questions from people asking about comfort (you know in the downstairs area) and it sparks the debate on what is the best cycling short, chamois cream, saddle etc. I wrote a blog post about being sore down there – its a thing and its good to question it! You can read more about that here.
For me I would say things that can help with ensuring you have a comfortable ride fall into a few categories as follows:
- saddle fit – a little bug bear of mine and almost always overlooked. In a lot of groups I am on in facebook, particularly for women’s cycling, there are several questions on a weekly basis asking for recommendations for saddles and it’s one of those things that I will admit I roll my eyes at as it is personal and what works for one may not necessarily work for another. A lot of people are simply unaware that a saddle fit is something that is done along with a lot of bike shops offering test saddles to try. This is hugely valuable to ensure you get the right size as sit bones are measured so will be more specific to you and avoids a lot of cost and discomfort trying out various saddles on the market. I ride with a Specialized Mimic saddle and was measured at the Chelmsford Concept store before purchasing.
- cycling shorts – I always wear padded bib shorts when cycling (I personally prefer the bib style) and these have a chamois pad in them, which is intended to reduce pressure from points of contact with the saddle, prevent chafing as you pedal whilst riding and help with vibrations you may feel on the road when riding. If you are unsure about what chamois even is then it is basically the padded part in the crotch of the shorts. Also the fit of the shorts is important here – they should be tight but not so much so that they are restrictive, too big and you could get chaffing.
- chamois cream – perhaps a little controversial here but I use chamois cream when riding outside or on the turbo but I do know many who do not and are fine. Chamois cream is designed to eliminate bacteria build up and friction between your skin and clothing (yes its true cycling shorts are not designed to be worn with underwear). However, I do believe from my experience once you start with chamois cream it is hard to go back to not using it! I have recently move to using Assos Chamois Creme for women.
- bike fit – important not just for cycling outside but also for indoor training to ensure your bike set up is correct, can help avoid injury and from personal experience the smallest of changes can make the biggest of differences! You can read more about the importance of a bike fit here.
So in this post I am talking about my favourite 5 cycling bib shorts (in no particular order):
- BioRacer – I am a huge fan of all kit from this brand and have numerous items from off the shelf, club kit and my own custom kit, all of which are different styles and designs from the standard style bibs to those with drop seat style (zip up the back for easy access) which I did a full review on and you can read here. I also have a mix of some older shorts with elasticated finish to the legs and some that are laser cut. I have said before but I have items from BioRacer that I am still wearing that I have had for 4/5 years and they are still going strong showing the quality. BioRacer have developed their own chamois pad and on their website you can read more about that.
- Foher – I am an ambassador for Foher but continue to be impressed by the kit and know from experience I can put them on and go straight for a longer ride (my last pair were worn first time on the turbo to complete the Alpe du Zwift climb) with no issues. Super comfortable, great designs (for me the brighter the better), washes like new and because they are an Australian brand I am yet to find many people in the UK with the same kit and like to be a little different!
- Stomp The Pedal – I actually wrote a full kit review for these shorts that you can read here, but after speaking to the founder and all round lovely who created the STP brand, Tarsh, I needed to try these shorts and I am pleased I did! As I mention in the review Tarsh does a LOT of turbo training and at a bike show talk from Casquette about saddle sore we got into talks about her bibs. Now one thing I really want to stress about Tarsh (and those that know her and her brand will know this and wholeheartedly agree) is that she is her brand. I don’t mean that in a corny way but that whatever product she puts to market will only be done so following her approval and testing from valued clients who take part in the sporting discipline the item is intended for and that is invaluable in my opinion and I have huge respect for her.
- Specialized SL Pro – one of my closest friends is an ambassador for this brand and I will admit that despite riding a Specialized bike I had very little of their kit until recently purchasing new road and MTB shoes but I now have two jerseys and bib shorts and they are great! I really like the rear magnetic closure on the bib straps so I don’t need to take them off completely if I need to stop for a convenience break – when I first used this feature I was unsure how easy I would be able to get the fastening done back up again but it was super easy.
- DHB – these are the cheapest bib shorts I own but prove that price doesn’t always mean they are better/worse as these are great and I have had for 2 seasons now. I have two pairs and they do have the elasticated finish on the legs, where I do prefer the laser cut wide leg grip style but otherwise they are a great buy for the price.
What I would say (and apologies for repeating myself as I feel I say this a lot but I believe it to be true) is that like most things when it comes to kit is that you need to find what works for you. I am noting my favourites but individual preference goes a long way. I have friends who do hours on the turbo and take part in triathlon and prefer a thinner tri style chamois pad like you would find in a tri suit and I have others who prefer the more padding the better.
What I would note though is that don’t believe every brand to have a different chamois pad – this is not true and in fact on this link you can see that many brands in fact use the chamois pad developed by Elastic Interface (EIT pads), including some of those I have mentioned above.
Some of the items mentioned in this post were gifted, but all opinions are my own.