How Should Padded Cycling Shorts Fit? Men’s And Women’s Guide

By Troy Stamps •  Updated: 05/01/18 •  8 min read

It’s doesn’t matter how long or how short you ride, you’re going to want cycling shorts to make the ride more comfortable. Your butt will thank you for it! You may only be starting out with short distances at first but as you venture out to more challenging rides, the extra padding helps prevent saddle sores. You may still feel some discomfort down there but at least cycling shorts we give you more protection than riding without padded cycling shorts.

How should padded cycling shorts fit? Cycling shorts should be snug against your body with the chamois running smoothly across your private areas without any bunching. The shorts work best when it’s close to the skin, not baggy, which helps protect the rider. The materials of the cycling shorts need to be breathable and flexible enough to move with the cyclist and avoid friction.

How Should Padded Cycling Shorts Fit


It cannot be emphasized enough that you Do Not wear underwear under cycling shorts as this will take away from the friction reduction that cycling shorts provide.

Cycling shorts should be snug against your body with the chamois running smoothly across your private areas without any bunching. The shorts work best when it’s close to the skin, not baggy, which helps protect the rider. The materials of the cycling shorts need to be breathable and flexible enough to move with the cyclist and avoid friction.

Some cycling shorts have elastic bands sown at the edges of the cycling shorts to prevent it from riding up the leg. The grip of the leg elastics helps keep the shorts in place while still allowing the legs and muscles to flex freely.


The cycling shorts should also fit snug for women but not too tight, especially around the waist area. Some women have wide hips so having elastic waistbands on the cycling shorts can be uncomfortable. Now various styles of woman shorts come with a non-elastic yoga waistband that provides better comfort.

Some shorts have drawstring waistbands to allow women to customize their waist fit. These may be great for those with wider hips too, but then you may also have to worry about the shorts sitting lower on the backside.

Similar to men’s cycling shorts, women’s legs should be able to flex and move freely while riding. If the legs feel restricted then they cycling shorts are maybe too small. The key is that you want a comfortable ride but also have the protection and support needed for your body to endure distances on the saddle.

Tip: When buying padded cycling shorts, it’s more important how they protect your sitting bones on the saddle than how thick the material is.

What Are Padded Cycling Shorts Made Of

The term used for the inner padding of cycling shorts is called chamois (pronounced, sham-wa or shammy). This use to be made of a leather drying material that was very absorbent and actually worked with you than against you. For example, think of the towel used to clean and dry your car or windows called a “shammy”.

Chamois for cycling shorts are usually made up of synthetic material with a gel-filled pad. The mixture of these two materials is of open-and-close cell foam with gel fill in. This helps reduce chafing – making something sore by rubbing against it, and road noise – the vibrations that travel from the road to your seat.

Pretty much all cycling gear manufacturers make cycling shorts or bibs with synthetic materials. The padding varies from being made of foam to fleece or gel. The padding is sometimes dense and come layered either thick or then. Also, chamois is cut and styled to fit either men or women.

The invention of adding pads to cycling shorts was the best thing ever made for endurance cyclists and even more beneficial for the beginner cyclist. With properly placed padded cycling shorts, you’ll be amazed by the comfort and added improvement in your rides.

Should You Wear Padded Bib Cycling Shorts

Some will see bib cycling shorts as embarrassing fitness apparel nothing short of a Richard Simmons flashback. But you have to admit Simmons was a great fitness celebrity.

Real benefits come with wearing cycling bib shorts. They are designed to keep the chamois in the place where it should be. It also does not have a waistband so you don’t have to worry about uncomfortable waist compression.

Another benefit is that they fit very comfortably and help to cover the back area when wearing a cycling jersey. If you plan to go the bib shorts route, you may or may not be satisfied. It will really come down to personal preference especially considering some of the cons.

The cons that come with wearing bib shorts is that they are one piece and can be difficult to remove when you really have to go to the bathroom. There is no zipper in the front or flap in the back for easy departure. Also since they are made differently than regular cycling shorts they tend to be more on the expensive side.

Should I Use Chamois Cream With Padded Cycling Shorts

Chamois cream is a substance that is applied to the skin as further prevention of friction between your skin and clothing. This is also good for preventing chafing that occurs during a ride.

The forms that this substance can take are cream, balm, and powder. The idea is to keep your areas in contact with the saddle dry and friction-free as possible. But if you find yourself developing a saddle sore still, this cream may help eliminate symptoms from getting worse.

Most chamois creams or balms contain petroleum or lanolin. If you’re worried that these might ruin your cycling shorts, you’ll be right on. Over time this substance can build-up leaving the cycling shorts baggy and greasy. You might want to use them sparingly or just on long rides.

How Should You Care For Your Padded Cycling Shorts

It is important to take note of how cycling shorts should be cared for. These specials shorts are made of unique fabric and should be taken care of delicately.

You should not wash your cycling shorts or clothes with other clothing. It’s advised to wash them separately on a gentle cycle and under cold water. Then you may want to use a mild laundry detergent that is free of perfumes or dyes. If you sweat a lot though, using arm & hammer odor reducer detergent may be preferable.

Just as you separate colors from whites, you will want to wash dark colored cycling shorts/clothes separate from light-colored cycling clothing.

Tips: For added protection against wash machines, always zip up any zippered cycling gear and use a mesh laundry bag to keep them from getting damaged.

Since cycling shorts are worn on bare skin, where air and ventilation rarely meet, it’s likely to harbor some bad bacteria. So you’ll want to wash these with each use. If using a washing machine is too much of a waste and hassle with just one outfit, try using a smaller alternative like Wonderwash.

Lastly, cycling clothing has quick drying material so putting cycling shorts/clothing in the dry can ruin your investment. It is better to hang dry the cycling shorts and allow them to dry overnight.

How Much Should I Spend On Padded Cycling Shorts

You want to be sure to have a comfortable ride in the saddle and purchasing good quality cycling shorts or bibs will provide that for you.

It really depends on your budget and how much you want to spend on cycling shorts. It really does matter as cheaper shorts may be made with cheaper materials. The cheaper they shorts are the more you’ll have to replace them due to wearing easily.

Purchasing cycling shorts that cost a little more expensive than let’s say $50, might award you with a quality product. Don’t break the budget though as there are some pretty inexpensive cycling shorts you may find on Amazon or eBay at a great quality. Cycling shorts or clothing does not have to cost an arm & a leg if you shop smart and pay attention to deals.

Are Padded Cycling Shorts Really Necessary

Ok, so here is the honest truth; you really don’t need padded cycling shorts to cycle. To add to that you really don’t need any cycling gear to ride with if you choose not to. Cycling shorts are an added benefit to riding comfortably and like with anything extra you have a choice.

Many choose to go without the traditional cycling gear for a more casual or urban style. Some may wear baggy shorts or mountain bike shorts which are loose fitted and comfortable.

The fact is that you may choose to style your cycling apparel however you may like. I get it that wearing tight-fitting cycling gear can be intimidating at times and somewhat unflattering, to say the least. But the pros and cons are definitely worth considering.

Troy Stamps

Troy Stamps is an avid cyclist based out of California. Road cycling is his passion which he's been doing his whole life and he has even competed in some local races. He loves getting new people into the sport and teaching them how to change their life through cycling.

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