Should women wear panties or thongs under padded bike shorts? That’s the question we received by email yesterday from a reader, Beth, who’ll be riding the 40-mile TD Five Boro Bike Tour in New York City on Sunday. For others, like Beth, who may be relatively new to wearing padded shorts for a long ride, here’s a quick primer on crotch and bottom comfort and protection:
Leave your panties behind: Wearing underwear beneath padded bike shorts may cause discomfort in the saddle. Underwear can chafe when seams or folds of fabric rub against the skin, leading to rawness and pain. In addition, panty lines under bike shorts brand you as a newbie among your fellow riders.
Lubricate to protect: To further minimize friction, many cyclists count on chamois cream. Bike shops sell different brands, which come in small jars. Before your ride, apply the cream liberally to your crotch and bottom and rub some into the pad inside the shorts. It may take some experimentation over time to find the formulation of chamois cream you like best.
Wiggle around: Moving occasionally on your saddle helps promote circulation. Remind yourself during your ride to slide forward and back or stand up briefly in the saddle to relieve pressure from sitting for long periods.
Get out fast: Remove your bike shorts as soon as you can after you’ve crossed the finish line. Warm, moist conditions, such as those found inside sweat-infused bike shorts, encourage the growth of bacteria, which can lead to infections. If you can’t change right away, clean up with a baby wipe.
Go commando: To further encourage healthful air circulation to the crotch area, some cyclists wear loose shorts (or skirts) without underwear for a while after the ride.
Wash up: Bike shorts should be laundered after every outing on your bike. If your longer-term plans call for wearing bike shorts frequently, invest in a second pair for easy rotation.
Getting into these habits can help keep long rides comfortable and carefree. Follow them and you’ll be sitting pretty – on and off the bike.