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Road Cycling Shorts and Tights for Speed Demons and Time Trialists

The landscape just flies past you; it's just you and your road bike. In order to fully enjoy this feeling on longer rides, a suitable pair of road shorts or tights is indispensable. It doesn't matter whether you are a professional cyclist or an ambitious recreational cyclist. Available as road bike shorts for warm or road bike trousers for cool days, as well as special styles for women and men. But what makes e. g. road bib shorts perfect for cycling and what should you look out for when buying them? If you want to learn more about them, read on here: Read more

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Cycling shorts or tights are one of the essential basics you need in your wardrobe as a road cyclist. Find out here what makes them so special and why we definitely recommend wearing cycling trousers or shorts when you’re out on your bike. 

What Are the Special Features of Road Cycling Shorts and Trousers?

No matter whether you are a professional or amateur cyclist: the right cycling shorts or pants for your cycling discipline are indispensable. The particular requirements of the various kinds of cycling are taken into account – it’s important that your trousers achieve what you need them to do for your best performance. Lots of bike riding shorts are designed specifically for road cyclists and their training and competitions on race bikes, on the road or track.

  • Unlike MTB trousers, road cycling short or trousers are cut very close to the body so that they fit like a second skin. This means there is no uncomfortable folding or fluttering of the fabric, which would reduce the desired aerodynamics. The clothing’s air resistance is therefore reduced to a minimum.
  • Furthermore, no parts of the trousers can get snagged on components of the bike.
  • The close fit also benefits breathability, allowing the material to function at its best.
  • Due to their material composition and body-hugging fit, road bike shorts and tights offer maximum freedom of movement.
  • In addition, road cycling trousers have an integrated seat pad, which we will look at in more detail below.
  • Seams are reduced to avoid possible pressure points. To achieve this, innovative cuts have been developed so that road shorts or tights consist of as few individual parts needing to be joined together as possible.
  • They have practical features such as zips on the leg cuffs of long trousers (making them easier to put on and take off), silicone cuffs on shorts (so they don't ride up) or reflective elements for high visibility on the road.

Some models are also equipped with compression zones. These are intended to stimulate blood circulation and thus increase transport of oxygen to the muscles. Boosted performance as well as faster recovery after training/competition are results that, although not scientifically proven, are accepted as such by many cyclists and endurance athletes. Nevertheless, one thing is clear: high-quality, perfectly fitting cycling shorts increase your performance, comfort and thus the fun of cycling!

As women's cycling trousers differ from men's in terms of fit, seat padding and design, we strongly advise you to always choose road cycling shorts or tights designed specifically for your gender. The anatomical differences and special features are already taken into account by the manufacturers during development. Only the right cycling shorts for you will allow you to properly enjoy their benefits.

Comfort, function and of course aerodynamics are the main requirements that road cyclists place on their clothing. Of course, this applies not only to cycling trousers, but also to jerseys or road cycling shoes to complete the outfit. 

Road Cycling Bib Shorts or Bibless Shorts?

Cycling shorts in both men's and women's styles are available as waist shorts (without straps) or as bib shorts or bib tights (with straps). Road bike bib shorts are mainly worn by ambitious road cyclists, as they have several advantages over bibless shorts. Bib shorts stay in place thanks to their straps – nothing can slip, even when changing positions on the bike. The waistband is cut a little higher due to the ‘bib’ so it won’t cut uncomfortably into your stomach even when you’re bent low over the handlebars. The straps also pull the rear area of the trousers up slightly and thus reliably protect the sensitive kidney area from the cold or wind. The straps should be made of light mesh fabric so that the ventilation under the jersey still works well. The disadvantage of bib shorts only really becomes apparent during the cycling break, when it's time to go to the toilet. Men can usually manage standing up, but women have to take off their jersey and jacket first. Some manufacturers have therefore equipped their women's models with an all-round zip or halterneck straps.

In the end, it is up to your individual preference whether you prefer classic cycling shorts or bib shorts.

What Materials Are Used?

High demands are placed on cycling pants and their material. This must be stretchy to ensure maximum freedom of movement. At the same time, it must be robust to last as long as possible. In addition, the fabric’s breathability plays a major role, as the heat balance needs to be optimally regulated even during sweaty training or on cool days. The racer must not overheat or cool down too much. Most trousers, including the winter versions, have UV protection. Since winter sun is not to be underestimated, you should always pay attention to this feature. 

The most commonly used materials for road bike trousers, for both men's and women's styles, are polyethylene, Lycra and spandex. The fabrics are usually finished with an antibacterial effect, increased abrasion resistance and weather protection (e.g. DWR coatings for water repellency). 

The Crucial Part of Road Bike Trousers: The Seat Pad

The contact point on the saddle is the central connection between biker and bike. So it’s no surprise that the majority of the body weight (depending on the sitting position) rests on this point. Road bike saddles are usually designed quite minimally in order to achieve better aerodynamics and weight reduction in the saddle area without restricting the movement of the legs in any way. In a seated race position, a large part of the body weight rests on this small contact surface. In order to minimise friction points and pressure at this point, the seat pad – the chamois – is located in the crotch or seat zone of padded road shorts or tights and provides important support both during short sprints and on long tours. In the past, this area of the rorad cycling trousers was equipped with leather inserts (chamois leather), as these were particularly robust yet soft. Nowadays, foam or gel padding as well as hardwearing synthetic fibres are used to provide maximum comfort and support. These are permanently elastic, squeeze down when subjected to pressure and return to their original position when released. This memory function ensures that the chamois’ comfort and adaptability is maintained even when the seating position is changed. Thin layers of fabric on the sides of the pad are designed to enable literally frictionless pedalling. 

This small, inconspicuous seat cushion manages to achieve a multitude of tasks. 

A chamois is designed to …

  • reduce pressure from body weight
  • cushion sensitive soft tissues
  • minimise vibrations from the ground
  • prevent pressure points and friction caused by saddle contact points
  • promote blood circulation while preventing numbness
  • relieve pressure on the sit bones

This crucial part of the road cycling shorts and tights, the integrated seat pad, should therefore be given special attention. The manufacturers are aware of this and continuously test different materials, seams, foam density and different seat pad zones to develop them further and perfect them. 

The seat pads of high-quality road bike trousers consist of different zones, which are characterised by different foam thicknesses/densities. The padding is thicker, especially in the rear area, where the sit bones need cushioning, and at other central pressure points. A denser foam is also usually used here. Additional ventilation channels or perforations in the padding support the absolutely essential breathability. The seat pad is sewn or glued to the inside of the outer material, although modern manufacturing techniques also allow seamless joining. However, some manufacturers only attach the pad by its corner points so that it can better follow all of the cyclist's movements. 

As already mentioned, cycling shorts and tights for men and women differ primarily in terms of fit and seat padding. The seat cushion is adapted to each gender’s respective anatomical characteristics. When it comes to road bike trousers, for example, women’s slightly wider sit bone distance as well as their smaller body size and body weight are taken into account. So women's seat pads are usually cut a little shorter and wider. Their pressure points also differ from those in men’s padding.

And What Do You Wear Underneath?

Road bike trousers are usually worn next to the skin – so you don't wear anything underneath. Most seat pads are antibacterial and designed for direct skin contact. This is the only way that it can fit perfectly, prevent chafing on irritating seams and fulfil its above-mentioned tasks perfectly. Optimal breathability can also only be guaranteed if you wear your road bike trousers without additional underwear (which may not be breathable). Some riders prefer a seat cream between themselves and the cycling tights. This is applied directly to the skin or the seat pad, especially on longer rides. This moisturising skin care prevents chafing and reduces friction between skin and material.

Summer or Winter – Trousers for Every Temperature

The wide range of road cycling short and tights means you can complete your training in all seasons in the utmost comfort. There are specific trouser styles for warm as well as for cold or rainy days. On changeable days in spring or autumn, a combination of cycling shorts or bib shorts with leg warmers is an option. These can be conveniently stowed in the jersey pocket and quickly pulled over in cool wind or drizzle.

Road Bike Shorts for Summer

As soon as the first rays of sunshine warm your face and the trees start to turn green, it's time to end winter training. To get rid of excess energy on a road bike in summer or to train for the next competition, bib shorts or cycling shorts for men and women are the way to go. Lightweight summer trousers are particularly thin and therefore ideal for warmer days. As a rule, the summer versions do not have waterproof or water-repellent properties, but instead offer excellent breathability.

Road Bike Trousers for Winter

In winter, the bike stays in the garage! Why is that? With winter road cycling bib tights with a thermal function, your muscles will stay nice and warm even on winter stages. If you ride your road bike in fog, rain or cooler temperatures, you should always pay attention to your road cycling leggings’ weather protection and temperature rating. Long road bike trousers or bib tights are sometimes even designed for sub-zero temperatures. So there is no reason to interrupt outdoor training in winter. Special winter cycling trousers are usually equipped with reinforced wind protection in the front area as well as water-repellent or waterproof material properties. An additional inner lining in many winter styles also provides cosy warmth from the inside without overheating. In poor visibility in autumn or winter, as well as in the city, hi-vis cycling clothing is particularly suitable, as signal colours and additional reflective elements provide the necessary visibility.

Winter cycling still not for you? No problem! Just train on an exercise bike or spin bike. For indoor training, however, you should opt for summer trousers even in winter. 

Care and Storage

Modern road bike trousers are extremely easy to care for as they can be easily cleaned in the washing machine. It is recommended to wash them after every ride – but please always follow the manufacturer's instructions for the temperature and wash cycle. These can be found on the care label. For cleaning, you should use special textile care for sportswear, as this is particularly gentle on the material. After washing, it is important not to wring out the chamois while wet, but to squeeze it out gently at most. As road cycling trousers dry quickly due to their material composition, they will soon be ready for use again. And if you do take a longer break or store your spare styles in your wardrobe, make sure that the seat pads do not get crumpled or compressed during storage.