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.

 Photo: Asterix611

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13 Responses to 6 Tips for Crotch Comfort on the Long Ride

  1. Chris M says:

    and a fashion tip. wear a pair of good looking but loose shorts over your ugly but cofortable spandex padded bike shorts. or a skirt I suppose. I only wear the padded shorts if I’m riding 100 miles. Osloh makes some stylish jeans and shorts that have bike padding but look great every day.

    • Susi says:

      Chris, thanks for the great tips. For shorter trips, tri-shorts with a demi-pad can be a comfortable alternative to bike shorts. In addition, several makers, including Terry and My Alibi, offer padded briefs to wear beneath loose shorts or skirts.

  2. Raquel says:

    Been waiting on this article forever! My only question is: does this chamois cream work with synthetic padding as well? I have a pair of both!

    • Susi says:

      Raquel, thanks for reading. Yes, the chamois cream works with synthetic padding. I’ve had good results with the Assos brand, but, as noted, it may take a little experimentation to find the one that you like best.

  3. Janice Dougherty says:

    Just got back from the Bike Expo. My compliments to your lead in the women’s cycling discussion panel. My own trip to and from this event was 23 miles. I am 62 and still go commando. On the rare occasion necessary, I use Lanacane Anti-Chafing, anti friction gel to good effect. I have customized my seat with layers of gel pad, sweatshirt sleeve cut offs, and dish towels covered by a BikeCap seat cover. It’s all good!

    • Susi says:

      Janice, thank you for reading and for attending the panel at the Bike Expo. It’s all about comfort in the saddle, and it sounds like you’ve really worked out your system. Thanks for sharing the tip about the Lanacane, as well.

  4. Beth Mc. says:

    Thanks for answering my question in time for the 5 Boro Bike Tour. Going commando definitely helped make the 42.66 miles much easier!

  5. [...] – on and off the bike. Guest blogging from, you can read the original post here: Older post [...]

  6. Jaime Lopez says:

    I just move to NYC am riding a NEW bike to work and I love it, the problem is that my crotch fill like asleep with out any filling like anesthesia, I bough a crotch underwear for bike but it’s still the same. Might be that I HAVEN’T TO USE regular underwear under the bikes short? Plz heelp, before ai get useless myself.

    • Susi says:

      Hi Jamie. In answer to your question, wearing underwear under cycling shorts is not recommended. It can lead to chafing and discomfort. If you’re wearing padded shorts and are experiencing discomfort, you may need to try a different brand/design of shorts or possibly a bicycle seat that’s better suited to your anatomy. I hope that helps.

  7. DiAnn says:

    Jaime…it may well be that you need to have a bike fit from someone with good credentials. Often times, it can be a matter of seat post or saddle position that is the cause of numbness. Small adjustments by a professional can do wonders. I used to work for a well known physical therapist that gave bike fits to many people that had issues with pain or discomfort riding their bike. Good luck.

  8. ellie says:

    So glad I found this conversation, I’ve got a few big rides coming up and will definitely give the commando approach a go now. I’m going on an 8 day cycle trip across Europe and taking two pairs of shorts will have to wash them by hand each night thanks for the advise

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