You know the old adage – “there is no bad weather, only bad clothing”? You don't know that adage? Well have no fear, we will explain!
Even on a perfectly sunny day, you need to dress appropriately for cycling. The #1 article of apparel for a cyclist is the padded cycling short. The humble cycling short has evolved over the past century – from wool to hi-tech materials, but its essential mission is to provide a smooth interface between your most sensitive parts and the bicycle saddle. A good cycling short excels in smoothing out the bumps in the road, reducing friction and heat, and wicking away sweat. It is also the perfect canvas for advertising your shop, ride club, or sponsor.
The Short Shorts History (see what we did there?)
Although the bicycle craze began in the mid 1800’s, and there was professional bicycle racing prior to WW1, a padded short did not come into use until the early 1940’s. Commonly the short itself was made of wool, and the crotch area was lined with a piece of leather cut into the ‘figure 8’ shape that we know today. French glove makers traditionally used a particular leather from goatskin, notably the high-altitude species of goat called: a chamois. Chamois leather tanned in cod oil produces a very porous, soft and pliable material that is excellent protection for your skin. However, there was no extra padding per se, just the benefit of an ‘extra skin’ between you and the leather bicycle saddle. You could, at least, sew in a new leather piece if worn out, or attempt to build more thickness into one area with small sections of thin leather.
Lycra entered cycling apparel in the 1960’s, yet still featured the unpadded leather chamois sewn into the short. Not until the 1980’s did we see the introduction of ‘microfiber’ or synthetic foams sewn into the lycra short – still keeping the moniker of ‘chamois’, although no goats were involved. Further advancements in anti-microbial treatments, flat bonded seams (instead of rough stitching), or gel pads have enhanced our interface with the saddle. Some of the latest shorts will incorporate compression material, hydrophobic elements or crash protection panels within the lycra.
While the traditional fully-padded bicycle chamois may be the best thing for a pure cyclist, for the triathlete there is one big problem: you can’t run with that big ol’ diaper in your pants! The triathlon short, probably created out of desperation (or improvisation), actually brings us back to the classic days of the chamois. It will feature minimal padding, or at least, no seams down the crotch area, that allows you to wear it thru the entire event. Wear it under your wetsuit, ride your distance, then hop off and run to the finish.
Trying to improve your transition time? Then the one-piece triathlon suit would be your ideal. Some people just don’t care about that – they want to be comfortable! Many people wear a full, padded cycling short, especially for the longer distances. Will it take a few extra seconds to change into your running shorts? Perhaps, but balance that out with comfort on the bike as well as getting into a fresh pair of shorts for the run.