Because I was training for a transcontinental tour, I logged almost 500 hours of riding in the first 6 months of 2007. That’s about 25% more than usual, and the increased saddle time took a toll on my nether regions.
So in late winter I forsook my tried-and-true Pearl Izumi shorts and bought a pair of Specialized BG shorts. Prompting me were the good things I’d heard about their design, and I hoped that changing to a different chamois pattern would alleviate the chafing and soreness I was experiencing.
It worked. The Specialized chamois, padded with high-density foam, shielded my previously sore anatomy from the saddle’s insistent pounding and let me heal even as I increased my mileage.
Specialized’s BG Pro Chamois uses dual-density molded foam. Higher density padding in key pressure areas combines with thinner padding in low-pressure areas to allow unprecedented flexibility, ventilation, and light weight.
In addition to its useful padding, I found that the chamois is cut wide enough to protect the junction of the glutes with the upper hamstrings. On hard climbs, I tend to sit up a bit and move to the rear of the saddle. Most other shorts I’ve worn don’t have enough width, so this tender portion of my anatomy is sometimes sawed between the edge of the chamois and the rear edges of the saddle.
I have never liked thickly padded shorts but the BG models provide extra thickness without overdoing it. They don’t make me feel like I’m wearing a diaper, and the chamois doesn’t absorb excess moisture. As a bonus, the chamois’s surface is a bit “slippery” even when not treated with a lubricant. This allows it to slide on the skin slightly without raising the risk of abrasion.
I also like the silicon grippers that hold down the legs. No creeping tan lines with these shorts. They also grip leg warmers firmly. I did notice that in hot, humid conditions I’d sometimes have a red line around my thighs where the silicon band clutched my skin, but it never hurt or itched. I assume it was caused by the silicon’s inability to breathe. In any case, it Wasn’t a problem.
Highs and Lows
The inseam of size medium BG shorts is 8.5 inches, which is 1.5 inches shorter than Pearl Izumi shorts in the same size. I prefer the Pearl’s coverage but the shorter leg didn’t cause discomfort or ride up.
The shorts feature a wide (1.25-inch) elastic waistband. I thought it might feel too tight and restrict my breathing but it didn’t, and I soon appreciated the added security. The shorts are also cut slightly higher in the waist than some other brands, making it even less likely that you’ll flash a plumber’s crack to unfortunate cyclists on your wheel.
The Microsensor fabric — standard issue in many high-end shorts — seems to be slightly heavier than that used by some other brands. It has stood up to lots of riding on saddles of varying shapes. Interestingly, the fabric seems to show salt stains from heavy perspiration more than my Pearl shorts. Check this photo after 115 miles in 107F-degree heat in the California desert The BG shorts don’t feel hotter than other brands so I’m not sure why this happens.
Specialized recommends machine washing its shorts and bibs with non-additive detergent, then drying on the gentle cycle or clothesline. I routinely follow these instructions at home. On tour, I washed the shorts in the shower with shampoo, wrung them out in a toweland draped them outside over bushes or the bike’s top tube in the motel room. The stitching took this abuse without ripping and the shorts dried quickly.
I also bought the $165 BG Pro bib shorts. They have the same great fit as the regular shorts and the legs are an inch longer. The suspenders are long enough so that I don’t feel like I’m getting a snuggy when bent over riding in the drops, but they’re sized so that when I stand, the bibs didn’t seem too loose as sometimes happens with other brands.
I’ve viewed with alarm the rapid increase in price of high-end cycling shorts. Time was, $75 seemed like a major outlay for a piece of clothing that might get torn in a crash. But compared to other top-quality shorts and bibs, Specialized’s BG line seems, while not a bargain, at least a fair deal.
Coach Fred Matheny is an RBR co-founder who has four decades of road cycling and coaching experience. He has written 14 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach Fred Matheny, including the classic Complete Book of Road Bike Training, which includes 4 eBooks comprising 250 pages of timeless, detailed advice and training plans. The Complete Book is one of the many perks of an RBR Premium Membership. Click to read Fred’s full bio.