QUESTION: I’m new to road cycling and have only ridden mountain bikes up until now, with baggies. I’m not so sure about riding around in those spandex shorts. Do padded cycling shorts really make a difference? – Dan C.
RBR ANSWER: Almost all of us have faced this same issue as we first took up the sport of road cycling. Cycling shorts are really tight. They make a strong fashion statement — and not necessarily in a good way.
But the truth is that padded cycling shorts make cycling much more comfortable and efficient, and help you ride faster and longer. If you’re going to get serious about road riding, you’ll want to wear them.
Once you get over the initial horror of how they look, you’ll find that cycling shorts are very comfortable to wear, and are immediately more comfortable on your bike saddle. The padding helps keep pressure off the points of contact with your saddle, and also helps absorb the vibrations from your bike tires on the asphalt. They also help prevent any chafing from the constant movement of your legs against the saddle when you are pedaling your bike.
The tight spandex material is also significantly more aerodynamic than loose shorts or pants, which makes a real difference when you get up to speed on the road.
The good news is that although it’s initially uncomfortable to be seen in cycling shorts, you’ll quickly get used to it and soon it will become second nature. Serious road cyclists will even find it weird-looking if you show up to a group ride without them.
After you ride them for a while, I suspect you’ll be telling all your mountain biking buddies how they should be riding with them too. Padded cycling shorts are also quite useful on the trail, and increase your comfort and pedaling efficiency there too. In fact, if you ask around, you’ll probably find that quite a few mountain bikers are already wearing them under their baggy shorts.