Biking Tips

How Should Bike Shorts Fit?

There is no point in owning any type of gear that doesn’t fit you right. Given the importance of bike shorts, the fit becomes even more significant. Bike shorts are not just a piece of clothing you have to wear because you can’t ride around with no pants. They are not just a fashion statement either. Bike shorts serve an important purpose during riding. They have been developed to provide riders with a comfortable riding experience and prevent saddle sores and a couple of other potential medical problems. Bike shorts can only perform their function if they fit right, otherwise, they are a waste of money and closet space.

In this article, we will discuss how bike shorts should fit.

Why Use Bike Shorts?

Bike shorts are purpose-built to provide comfort and unrestricted movement on a bike.  They provide protection from bicycle seat neuropathy. With all the body weight on a small surface, the crotch comes under a lot of pressure.  This pressure causes vascular or neurological damage to the pelvic pudendal nerve or both. Bike shorts relieve this pressure by providing padding under the crotch and the ischial bones (sit bones).

The chamois is a padded area sewn between the legs and is the defining part of bike shorts. It comes in various shapes and sizes to suit different body types and is gender specific. Male chamois have padding at the front to protect the male genitals. Female chamois are wider at the back because females have wider ischial bones.

The chamois can be thick or thin and made of either gel or foam or both. The chamois protects the skin from rubbing against the saddle. Without this protection, the saddle can cause chaffing and abrasion on the skin which leads to saddle sores. The chamois also wicks moisture so that sweat buildup doesn’t cause any irritation on the skin. You won’t be able to ride for long without a chamois in your shorts.

Bike shorts also provide compression which is another important feature. Compression prevents disruption in blood flow during fast leg movement by helping the muscles retain their shape. The flexible fabric is a blend of polyester or nylon with spandex/Lycra. The flexibility allows the shorts to move with the legs allowing free movement. The elastic waistbands on the legs stop the shorts from creeping up.

The tight fit of the shorts makes the rider more aerodynamic and increases pedaling efficiency. The tight fit also doesn’t allow the fabric to crunch up under the crotch. When the fabric crunches up under the crotch it causes friction leading to chaffing and abrasion. Another benefit of the fabric sticking to the skin is that it reduces the chances of the fabric getting caught in the moving parts of the bike. It is common for loose hanging clothes to get caught in the chainring, the pedals, or the crank arms, and cause a crash.

What If The Bike Shorts Are Too Tight?

Since the fit of the bike shorts is tight, it is common for beginner riders to get shorts that are too tight. Even experienced riders make that mistake when they buy a pair of shorts other than their usual. Bike shorts that are too tight cause extreme discomfort. The waistband digs into the stomach when you lean forward and can cause pressure sores on the waist. The shorts restrict movement as well as blood flow compromising performance and causing numbness in the lower body. It’s like you are riding or walking around with a wedgie. If you feel pressure or a pinching feeling after wearing your bike shorts, consider sizing up.

What If The Bike Shorts Are Loose?

Bike shorts that are too loose are not exactly uncomfortable as they are when they are too tight. But the discomfort caused by loose bike shorts is because they are annoying. Shorts too loose don’t keep the chamois in place. Riding with a chamois that shifts places between your legs becomes annoying quickly and the chamois isn’t able to provide the protection it should. The inseams are also loose and the shorts creep up the legs while riding.

Usually, it is hard to get bike shorts that are too loose because in most cases, the waist won’t fit and you would know that the shorts are loose. But if the waist doesn’t hint at the shorts being loose, then see if the chamois remains firmly in place. If your bike shorts fail to keep the chamois in place, then size down or try a different pair.

How To Get The Perfectly Fitting Bike Shorts?

The overall fit of bike shorts should be snug with light compression to support the quads, hamstrings, and glutes. The waistband should feel comfortable and there should be no restrictions when moving the legs. The chamois should stay in place and shouldn’t move about and should also provide the comfort you require. When buying bike shorts, keep the following in mind:

The Waist

The waist is mostly a non-adjustable elastic. Some looser-fitting shorts for MTBs like the Vayager’s MTB shorts have drawstrings as well. Many modern women’s styles like the Heathyoga’s Women’s Biker shorts have non-elastic yoga waistbands. Waistbands should be at the natural waistline with slightly more height at the back to provide coverage when leaning forward.

Many riders who are annoyed by a high waist lower it by rolling it down. If you have a problem with the waistband, you can switch to bibs. Bibs are becoming popular because of their comfort factor. You would find bibs dominating the premium and high-performance market. Most lists of the best bike shorts are overwhelmed by bibs. Athletes are also frequently using bibs because they provide a more secure and comfortable fit.

The Legs

Leg length is a personal preference. Leg Length ranges from 5 inches all the way up to 11 inches. Many riders prefer short lengths to avoid tan lines. 7 to 9 inches is the regular length for inseams. Women’s bike shorts are usually in shorter styles while athletes use long inseams due to thicker thighs so that the shorts don’t creep up.

Almost all premium shorts have leg grippers to stop the shorts from creeping up. But if you have problems with leg grippers, then some budget shorts don’t have them. But it’s hard to find shorts these days without leg grippers. Although, you can choose from different types of grippers to better suit yourself. If your shorts fit you perfectly but you think that the inseam is too long then you can fold or cut it.

The Chamois

As mentioned earlier, chamois is the defining part of bike shorts. They are essential for comfort. Chamois have varying thicknesses and shapes and it takes some trial and error to find the right one. The shape of the chamois also depends on the riding style. For example, chamois for an upright position are thicker at the back while chamois for aerodynamic positions are thicker at the front.

Do Bike Shorts Stretch Over Time?

Bike shorts feel a bit tight when you first put them on. This causes confusion among many riders who put up with tighter shorts in the hopes that the shorts will stretch. But bike shorts don’t stretch much because they shouldn’t. They only stretch a little in the beginning for the rider to feel comfortable. Bike shorts stretch after a long time as the fabric starts to deteriorate and loses compression. But if the shorts stretch too much in the beginning then there is something wrong, perhaps, a problem with quality control.

Final Thoughts

Bike shorts are essential as they provide comfort for long riding periods. The chamois is a defining part of bike shorts and protects from chaffing and abrasion caused by the rubbing of the skin against the saddle. The fit of bike shorts is the most important factor so that the shorts can provide the required comfort. If bike shorts are too tight, they can restrict movement as well as blood flow affecting performance and causing numbness in the lower body. If the shorts are too loose, the chamois will move about between the legs, and the legs will creep up. Make sure that your shorts have a snug fit with light compression to support the quads, hamstrings, and glutes. If you think your shorts are tight, don’t wait for them to stretch and get a new pair.