STCC Bike Month Facts #9 Cycling Shorts

Cycling Shorts

Do you know why cycling shorts have historically been black? If you’ve ever been out on the road with a flat or other mechanical problem and walk away with grease, oil and dirt all over your hands – that should be a clue. Wipe your hands on your cycling shorts and you’ll see the black color hides the mess.

If you are going to have a conversation about any of your cycling gear that becomes uncomfortable, its probably about your shorts. Once you get over the idea that bike shorts are "meant" to be worn without underwear, you'll be well on your way.  Wearing the wrong cycling shorts can cause chafing and may even result in some longer term medical issues that can keep you off the bike. Men and women have very “gender specific” concerns when selecting the right cycling shorts. Ask fellow club members for advice.

Soon after the introduction of the bicycle, cycling specific clothing began to appear. Originally, cycling shorts were simply modified wool knickers. Talk about chafing, with the bunching of the wool shorts.

Bike shorts are essential and the tight fit is designed for comfort on long rides. Modern cycling shorts are often made of spandex (Lycra) with a synthetic chamois lining. In the mid-1970s, Swiss engineer Toni Maier-Moussa (founder and chairman of ASSOS S.A.) developed the first Lycra cycling shorts, replacing the standard heavy wool and knit kit.

The chamois lining came to be a standard part of gear in the early 1900s to prevent chafing when rubbing sensitive areas of the cyclist with the seat. Originally, the chamois was made of leather and was applied with multiple panels to prevent issues. The use of leather necessitated the chamois creams that you still see sold today. Real leather has a tendency to dry and stiffen after repeated use and washings. The cream was required to maintain the soft texture.

In 1986 Dupont introduced its COOLMAX material, a wicking material of a polyester blend designed for greater comfort. Very quickly, this and other synthetics replaced the standard leather chamois, and are still used in many forms today.

In recent times, several companies have introduced lines of cycling clothing that are more casual to the eye, but provide all the essentials for a good ride. Baggy shorts are popular with commuters and Mountain Bikers. Companies offer sport skirts for women. Both the baggy shorts and skirts are equipped with a chamois.

History of Cycling Clothing

How to Avoid Chafing and Rash Caused by Your Bike Shorts


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