It’s a question I get asked all the time in hushed whispers: “Do you wear underwear with bike shorts?”
The answer is a resounding NO!, but don’t worry, this is a mistake that most of us made when we were brand new to cycling.
In this article, I explain why you shouldn’t wear underwear with your bike shorts (with a couple exceptions), and also share a few other tips about how to wear bicycle shorts.
Say No To Normal Underwear, But Say Yes To Padded Undies
You shouldn’t wear underwear with bike shorts; but why? It’s because most bike shorts have been designed to be worn without underwear for maximum comfort.
Cycling shorts usually have built-in padding, also known as a chamois. Wearing underwear with them negates the benefits of the shorts–namely friction reduction and moisture management.
You undies can cause weird pressure points and collect sweat–both of which contribute to saddle sores.
The only exception to this rule are padded underwear specifically designed for cycling. These undies can be worn with baggie bike shorts (without padding) or even regular shorts or pants. They can be styled like briefs or little boxer briefs.
You just don’t want to wear them under shorts that have built-in padding.
Try A Couple Types Of Bike Shorts To See What Works Best For YOU
While most people tend to think of “bike shorts” as a pair of black lycra shorts, there are actually lots of different options. And you might want to try a few different kinds to see what works best for you.
Also consider that some bike shorts have lots of padding, while others have a thin, minimalist chamois. Which is best is often a matter of personal preference and trying different things over time.
Traditional Lycra Cycling Shorts
This is probably what you’re envisioning when you think of bike shorts. These are usually black, but can be any color.
They are made of stretchy lycra and have a chamois (padding) sewn in. The inseam length varies, so they can be short or long.
Bib shorts are usually used by professional road racers and serious cyclists thanks to the extra comfort and coverage they provide.
The great thing about bibs is that they provide extra coverage. You no longer have to worry about your jersey riding up and showing off your plumber crack or belly button.
Bib shorts also place less pressure around your waist which can be nice, especially if you get chafing or discomfort from the waistband on regular shorts.
Baggie shorts are usually worn by mountain bikers, but can be used on the road as well. (Conversely, mountain bikers can wear lycra shorts).
Baggie shorts can come either with a chamois built in or with a separate chamois. If it comes with a separate chamois, there will usually be snaps or buttons to connect the two pieces.
If the baggies don’t come with a chamois, you will likely want to wear a pair of chamois briefs. Which brings us to the next option.
Padded underwear, or cycling briefs, are simply a chamois that comes separately from bike shorts. You don’t want to wear these with a pair of shorts with a built-in chamois, but you can wear them with a pair of baggy bike shorts OR even under a pair of regular shorts or pants.
Another less common option, but one that a lot of ladies like, is a cycling skirt. These are great for women who want to look feminine on the bike, or who want to look stylish when they stop mid-ride for an espresso.
Some come with a built-in chamois, others don’t.
Place Bib Straps UNDER Your Jersey
If you choose bib shorts, wear the bib straps UNDERNEATH your jersey not over. Not only does it look nicer, it keeps you from having to figure out how to tuck your jersey into the bibs which isn’t so comfortable.
How To Pee In Bib Shorts
One of the biggest confusions for bib short newbies is how to pee with bib shorts on. Do you have to get all of the way undressed?
We recommend looking for bib shorts than unsnap or have a halter design, so you can slip them off without removing your jersey.
Another option (that I haven’t tried) but that other women recommend is a pStyle. This can fit easily in your saddle bag.
Use Chamois Cream
Bike shorts were traditionally made with a leather chamois that required “chamois cream” to help soften and condition them. While modern chamois don’t require any treatment, chamois cream can still be a good option to help with your comfort on the bike.
Chamois cream helps reduce friction between your nether regions and your shorts and saddle. If you suffer from chafing or saddle sores after riding, try some chamois cream and see if you like it!
Take Your Bike Shorts Off As Soon As Your Ride Is Over
Bike shorts are meant to be worn on the bike–not afterward at the coffee shop or picking up groceries. And no, this isn’t a fashion thing, it’s about comfort and hygiene.
We tend to sweat a bunch when riding. All that moisture can end up causing yeast infections, rashes, chafing, saddle sores, and other bacterial infections.
As soon as your ride is over, wipe down with a baby wipe and change it to a pair of dry, clean undies and bottoms.
Other Frequently Asked Questions
Can I wear shorts OVER cycling shorts?
You *can* but I wouldn’t recommend it. The more material you start layering, the more likely you are to end up with saddle sores.
Instead, if you just don’t like the look of lycra shorts OR you want a little more coverage, opt for a pair of baggy mountain bike shorts instead. Another option is a pair of padded cycling underwear and regular shorts over those.
Do pro cyclists wear padded shorts?
You bet they do! Most pro cyclist prefer padded bib shorts.
Why should I wear bike shorts?
Bike shorts provide built in padding, also known as a chamois. This helps keep your bum comfortable on the bike, and helps prevent saddle sores and bruising.
The other reason to wear bike shorts rather than normal shorts is that bike shorts are sewn to avoid awkward seams in the crotch area. This also helps with comfort.
Finally, bike shorts–especially more expensive bike shorts–offer compression. This provides support to your leg muscles while on the bike.
Do padded cycling shorts make a difference?
If you’ve been experiencing discomfort on the bike, heck yes, get yourself a pair of padded bike shorts ASAP! This can make a huge difference in your comfort level.
That said, cycling shorts don’t always fix the problem on their own. You may need a different saddle. A saddle that’s the appropriate width, firmness, and shape can make an even bigger difference than a pair of shorts.
How are bike shorts supposed to fit?
Bike shorts should be tight to your skin. That said, you shouldn’t have any pinching or discomfort at the waist band or leg bands.
If those are digging into your skin, then you need a bigger pair. On the other hand, if you have a gap between your leg bands and are your legs, the shorts are too big.
More Helpful Info
- Cycling For Beginners: Everything You Need To Know
- 9 Best Women’s Cycling Jerseys You’ll Love
- 5 Stylish Bike Helmets That Are Actually Cute
About The Author
Kristen Bonkoski is the founder and owner of Femme Cyclist.
An avid cyclist for a few decades now, she took to cycling during her late teen years — a time when she needed something to help boost her self-esteem and confidence.
Mission accomplished, the sport has become an important part of her life. Kristen’s favorite disciplines are mountain biking and bike commuting, although you can also find her cranking out a century on her road bike and touring with her husband and son. If it has to do with two wheels, she enjoys doing it.
Kristen is a certified USA Cycling coach, and she runs Rascal Rides, a website about biking with kids.