Castelli (above) offer a huge range of shorts and bibs
Padded cycling shorts are the gateway to a smooth, comfortable, efficient ride. Fitted, worn and cared for correctly, your shorts will allow you to enjoy miles upon miles of pain-free cycling.
We share the well-known tips and some of the less obvious ones to ensure you've got the know-how to get the best out of your chamois padded cycling shorts.
1. Don't Scrimp on Shorts
Remember that your shorts are the hardest working bit of kit in your cycling wardrobe. They are what protect your bottom - the biggest contact point with your bike - from pain and chafing.
With this in mind, our advice would be to avoid just buying any old pair because they are the cheapest. But, by the same token don't think you have to spend a fortune. It's a question of finding the right ones for you.
Take the time to find a pair that has durable, technical fabrics and panelling to ensure you get the best fit possible.
2. Don’t Wear Knickers
Obvious when you're in the know, but whether you wear knickers under padded cycling shorts is still one of the most asked questions we get at VeloVixen.
We ask that you have faith in your padded cycling shorts and ditch your knickers as they're specifically designed to be worn commando.
In fact, we're so passionate about spreading the word that we've written a blog on why you shouldn't cycle wearing knickers.
3. Follow the Washing Instructions
If, like me, you chuck bras in the washing machine without a thought and then complain when they come out with the underwire poking through the side, then this advice is for you.
Take the time to wash your cycling shorts correctly. That means turning them inside out so the pad - with all its grime, chamois cream and what not - gets a proper chance to be washed off.
We also recommend popping them in a washing bag net so the Lycra doesn't get snagged by any rogue bits of velcro or hooks.
The same goes for drying, make sure your pad is bone dry before putting away. The last thing you need to start out on a ride with is a moist, bacteria-laden chamois. Trust us.
4. Be Mindful of What Works For You
My preference of chamois padding has varied over the years, mainly because my riding style has changed. Since having my children I sit more upright in my saddle, so I like my padding in different places from when I used to live on the drops.
When seeking advice from friends as to what padding works for them, be mindful that their anatomy is more than likely different from yours and take into consideration their style of riding and position on the bike.
It's like finding your perfect pair of jeans, all we recommend is that you have an open mind and go off your own gut as to whether they feel comfortable on you.
Our current favourite cycling shorts
5. More Padding Doesn't Necessarily Make For a Comfier Ride
Admittedly this is counter-intuitive. Most non-cyclists would argue the squidgier the pad, the more comfortable you're going to be in the saddle.
If anything it's the density that is key to a good chamois. Spongy, foamy padding will compress over time and leave the parts in most need of cushioning suffering under the pressure.
Look for a multi-density chamois pad that offer various levels of padding according to where you need the extra cushioning.
ASSOS (above) are seen by many as the doyens of cycling shorts
6. Lube Up
Friction is your foe on the bike. Chamois creams aim to eliminate this by preventing any chafing.
Female-specific chamois creams have come a long way over the past few years. No longer do we have to suffer the eye-watering tingle from menthol-based creams thanks to the wide array of female-specific options on the market now.
No more discomfort!
7. Lube Up Correctly
If chamois cream is used incorrectly you could cause more problems than you're trying to solve.
Try not to cake your chamois cream on. First, because you’ll suffocate your vulva and promote the growth of bacteria; and second, you’ll end up with so much on that you'll slip slide all over the place and end up chafing in places you didn't think was possible.
Less is more when it comes to chamois cream.
You can apply it to either your nether regions or the pad itself. My preference is the former as it allows me to get more accurate positioning and coverage.
8. Don’t Wear Them Until They’re Threadbare
For everyone’s sake including your own. In time - depending on how much you ride and how well you take care of them - you will have to replace your cycling shorts.
It's best to replace them before they get past their best as you could end up suffering unneccesarily. When your chamois pad is simply not giving you the cushioning you need then it's time to invest again.
The padding becomes compressed and flattened over time. So rather than being soft and padded, your worn chamois offers no more than an extra layer of material to sit on between yourself and your saddle. Utterly useless.
9. Bib Straps to Match Your Outfit
This is perhaps my personal preference. As I'm a bib shorts advocate and a wearer of light coloured jerseys I like to make sure I have straps to match my jerseys. White bib straps under lighter-coloured jerseys and black bibs under everything else.
Much like matching white/nude bras to light coloured t-shirts. As I said, minor point, but one that I thought I'd mention. It won't make you any more comfortable, unfortunately.
As a parting comment, if you do end up opting for padded cycling bib shorts, don't get put off by them feeling tight when you try them on. Remember that they're designed to be worn in the riding position so when you're stood upright they're at full stretch.
Bend down and assume the bike riding position and they should feel snug but not constricted in the crotch area.
Need any extra advice about your cycling kit?
Our current favourite cycling tights
Kirsty was instrumental in setting up Total Women's Cycling in 2012 and moved to join us at VeloVixen in 2014 until she began to produce vixen cubs who needed her full attention! This was all preceded by cycling the entire coastline of the UK. She knows her stuff!