Wednesday, August 15, 2012

To Chamois or Not to Chamois

With all the riding taking place these days, I have found myself pondering the idea of cycling shorts or pants with some sort of padding. In the last six years, I have tried padded shorts only one time, and swore that I would never ride in them again because they were doing more harm than good.  However, when putting more time in on the saddle, even the best of leather saddles cannot seem to protect me from saddle sores and discomfort.
*Image from Ibex
Typically, I ride in lycra/nylon blend capri's or shorts, and these normally work just fine for trips under 20ish miles. The longer rides taking place have brought about new sorts of pain though, and while my saddle is very comfortable, extended mileage can still cause me to recall that I had similar inclinations to purchase padded cycling gear last year when miles on the bicycle increased.
*Image from Team Estrogen

I'm concerned that perhaps it's a bit too close to the ride to make this sort of decision, however, I am curious about what others have found helpful. I haven't decided yet what I plan to do, but part of me thinks this might be worth a try. While I understand that much of this is a personal opinion/decision kind of item, when you ride longer distances, do you wear some sort of chamois or padding, or do you find that going without this works just fine? If you don't wear cycling specific bottoms, do you do anything else to assist with discomfort on long rides? Your thoughts are very much welcomed and appreciated.

16 comments:

  1. As you said, it's really an individual thing, so it's hard to know if my experiences apply. I found that my sit bones start hurting around 20-30 miles, and that is what drove me to buy shorts with chamois. For shorter rides (under 30 miles) I can sometimes get away with a thin pad. After a while, these tend to bunch up and chafe my "soft tissues." For longer rides, I need a chamois like the Team Estrogen one above. The sections seem to keep it from bunching up and it chafes less. I do need some kind of chamois cream, though, for rides over 30 miles. I wear a Terry Bella short for hot days. Otherwise, I usually wear my Ibex El Fito knickers.

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    1. CJ, This is what I am thinking for myself as well. I seem to have problems around the same length of ride (between 20-30). I have done the 33 mile ride for this event without any kind of padding and survived, but, I'm fairly certain that any longer will do me in. I did take a look at Ibex' knickers, too, but I am questioning whether they will actually fit me. I thought perhaps trying the mens version might work, but then I think that the padding is probably shaped differently and may do more harm than good. I'm not entirely sure, but I will keep looking. Thanks so much for your ideas and thoughts. :O)

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  2. GOT to have padded shorts, G.E. But the short OVER the padding makes all the difference. I cannot wear shorts that break above the knee. I wear knickers. There are loose cut padded shorts, too, that are very comfortable. Terry has padded undershorts that you can wear under your regular clothes, too.

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    1. Thanks, Marsha. I am kind of feeling that it is going to be a necessity for this length of ride, and I also agree with you about the shorts. I typically wear more of a knicker/capri length pant, and I think it would be uncomfortable to attempt a short. I will take a look at Terry and see what might work.

      Thanks, again!

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  3. I actually wear mountain bike paded capri's(mostly for modesty and comfort). that works well for me. On longer rides I tend to also use Chamois Butt'r (or something similar) and that helps.

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    1. Makes sense. I have a cart full of stuff at the moment on Team Estrogen... just attempting to figure out what will work without being able to try it all on first. :O) Perhaps a trip to Dick's or Sport's Authority is in order.

      On a side note, I've missed seeing you this summer! Even though we're both at FM, it seems we're never there at the same time. I hope all is going great and that you're doing well.

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  4. This is a really tough one, but it may be worth trying (maybe even something local). I know they work, as everyone uses them, unless they are all in pain?

    The real issue is "fit", because I think they need to be very snug. When I had tried it before, they were built into shorts, and I tend to wear shorts that are a bit larger, hence my foray into roadside cutting.

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    1. Well, I will find out soon. I'm going for a ride this afternoon (really, I am going to ride... even though it's getting later, and I'm doing my best to find things to avoid going), and hopefully it will be a good test of what may work. I will perhaps even wear bike gloves {Gasp!}

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  5. First I tried it and hated it. Then I resisted for 2 years before finally succumbing to padded shorts. The only thing I can besides the usual YMMV disclaimer, is that all shorts are not equal. I like Ibex, Rapha, Hincapie and Capo shorts, in that order. Other brands I've tried so far have been unwearable. Experiment, swallow the cost, and hopefully in the end learn what works for you. Sigh.

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    1. I'm hoping that the right fit is the answer and that my initial adventure into the world of padded pants/shorts isn't the way they will all feel. The cost, I think, is the biggest difficulty to swallow... knowing that the first try won't necessarily be the best answer is frustrating, but I also understand that it kind of comes with the territory. I have a pair of Ibex on order, and I ordered a pair of Terry knickers as well. I'll look into your other suggestions. I'm ready to learn from others, certainly (though, I do understand we are all different).

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    2. My only caveat about the Ibex shorts is that the elastic at the waist seems to run a size smaller than the rest of the short. I keep meaning to refit mine with an elastic band that is a bit more forgiving (which is easy enough), but haven't gotten to it yet. Otherwise no complaints. They even keep me very comfortable, even in 100F heat and humidity.

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    3. I will keep that in mind... thanks for the advice, again.

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    4. I second V's note about the Ibex elastic being a little small, and I too haven't gotten around to fixing mine. I don't like how it feels when I first put the knickers on, but it doesn't bother me once I start riding, hence my procrastination. But, I do love how solid and supportive the Ibex fabric feels.

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  6. I've had good luck with a useful heuristic: if the shorts MSRP is <$100, they will not be comfortable. I also avoid anything with a short (sub 7") inseam. I like Voler, Performance, and Castelli shorts that meet the 2 search hueristics. and haven't tried most of the others mentioned above. I find that shorts with a "flattering" low waist become incredibly uncomfortable when bent over on a bicycle.

    Chamois cream is an incredibly useful tool, and I wouldn't want to ride in chamois without it. Also, I find that some times I have to size-down because in some fancy-pants shorts, the size of the chamois appears to change with the size of the shorts-- I don't know if this is apparent (due to extra fabric in the hip reducing the overall stretch) or real -- and if I purchase shorts based upon my actual waist measurement, the chamois bunches, which is worse than no chamois at all -- I would rather have a tight waistband than too large of a chamois.

    Good luck finding something that will work (it's out there!)

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    1. Interesting that you've not had luck with sub-$100 shorts. I'm sure it must have to do with the costs to manufacture the garments? I suppose that makes the most sense.

      I've had a couple of other individuals state that sizing down is the way to go, so I definitely appreciate this thought as well... it's nice to have at least some information before making a purchase.

      Thanks so much for all the info! :O)

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    2. I think that's kind of the magic price point where fabric/notion choices, sewing technique, and chamois design have some kind of quality involved. The budget options seem to be designed more for short casual rides or spin classes and are not as up to the challenge of a long endurance ride. Every time I try on a cheap pair of shorts hoping they will work, I quickly realize the fabric choice and seams etc won't work for me. Not every expensive pair will work, but more often than not, they are much more comfortable than their cheap counterparts. I try on shorts even when I'm not in the market for them; make note of shorts that I like, and then when its time to buy a new pair, I just look for the style that I like on sale....

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