Chamois Necessary For Long Tours: A Myth

Stefan Mikes

Well-Known Member
Region
Europe
City
Brwinów (PL)
Disclaimer: I only express my personal experience. Many EBR members may differ. End of Disclaimer.

Until recently, I have been totally sold on padded shorts/bibs, or chamois (have you noticed how many French terms are there in the cycling world?) Since 2013, I have been made to believe I needed to wear chamois for comfort of my backside. Yet, I went for a longer ride just several days ago just wearing jeans; to my surprise I felt so comfortable in my good and carefully fitted saddle. Indeed, I felt so much better without chamois that I repeated the attempt, going for a long ride in regular shorts. Guess what: It was for the first time in many years I could feel how comfortable my saddle has been; and I didn't need to stand on the pedals after some km ridden to allow my ass rest for a while :)

And think of it: I have suffered padded shorts for so many years without any real reason, just driven by marketing. Let me elaborate a little bit.

I strongly believe wearing padded shorts or bibs is justified in the case of road cycling, specifically racing. Road bike saddles are very narrow and elongated; the roadie takes aggressive forward riding position, riding in the hoods or in drops. His/her backside is located high, and the buttocks hang on both sides of the seat. Such riding position means the roadie is seated on their crotch. And that is how the padding is sewn into the shorts. It is thus understandable the crotch needs to be protected against hard seat. There is also sweating: sweat needs to be absorbed, and chamois is good for that. (I might also understand skinny riders who are missing tissue in their bottom).

The typical riding position of the rest of the cycling crowd is either moderate or relaxed. Buttocks often just rest on the seat. With such riding positions, chamois plays no role; instead, it is exerting pressure on the crotch (especially on the private parts), and can lead to skin sore, abrasion, and even to inflammation. So many bike seats are meticulously designed for ride comfort: ventilation, sophisticated shape, gel, springs or elastomer inserts, multiple layers etc. All these design features are negated once chamois is worn by the cyclist.

I say, it is about my personal experience. In my case: "No" to padded shorts for my future rides.
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It is perhaps a matter analogous to "clipless pedals/shoes". I think any competing roadie would ride clipless to get some edge in the race. For the rest of us, platform pedals are more convenient and safer...
 
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Rás Cnoic

Well-Known Member
I have padding on my Endura MTB three quarter length shorts, which I've worn all winter. But soon (if this infernal endless cold rain ever stops) I'll be switching to a pair of Swedish Sigr cycling shorts without padding- these look like normal everyday shorts but are designed for cycling & commuting and are very comfortable, love them. Basically my Spec saddle is o-k. But if I go over 30 miles I can feel it, padding or no padding. Below that distance I'm fine. I wear the padded shorts in winter just because the shorts came with a padded insert so I left it in and in the depths of winter they are good & I wear leggings/tights underneath as well. When I raced, chamois was a must for the reasons Stefan mentions above and I'd say for e bikes it will, like saddle choice, depend on the rider, the bike geometry, saddle design and type of riding. This summer I'll be doing longer rides (fingers crossed) so I'll be interested to see how I fare without padding with the Sigr shorts and as I'll be riding more, I should be more adjusted physically to do longer rides. Or I may change my mind and buy a better saddle and or new padded summer shorts!
 

fooferdoggie

Well-Known Member
I ride in a somewhat forward position so about 60 degrees. I can ride 5 days a week for 20 miles on my commute without shorts. but all riding after that I need padded shorts. I ride 30 to 50 miles a day 7 days a week. I got 225 miles last week. I watch people who don't want to puttee miles in to break in their rears get more and more padded seats. people get bikes that are for everyone that need thick seats because the position and fit is not good.
 

Rás Cnoic

Well-Known Member
I ride in a somewhat forward position so about 60 degrees. I can ride 5 days a week for 20 miles on my commute without shorts. but all riding after that I need padded shorts. I ride 30 to 50 miles a day 7 days a week. I got 225 miles last week. I watch people who don't want to puttee miles in to break in their rears get more and more padded seats. people get bikes that are for everyone that need thick seats because the position and fit is not good.
Yes position & fit is vital. Plus the changes to the body from regular cycling. The saddle my Vado SL came with was uncomfortable first few weeks, but I was also very unfit. As I improved & got fitter, the pain went away.
 

BEC111

Active Member
Yes position & fit is vital. Plus the changes to the body from regular cycling. The saddle my Vado SL came with was uncomfortable first few weeks, but I was also very unfit. As I improved & got fitter, the pain went away.
I agree, my Vado SL saddle has felt more comfortable this year. After raising the handlebar and adding a suspension seat post and moving the saddle slightly forward - less than a half inch. Now my sit bones are on the saddle more and I have less pressure on my perineum. Big differences because of small fit adjustments.
 
I have padding on my Endura MTB three quarter length shorts, which I've worn all winter. But soon (if this infernal endless cold rain ever stops) I'll be switching to a pair of Swedish Sigr cycling shorts without padding- these look like normal everyday shorts but are designed for cycling & commuting and are very comfortable, love them. Basically my Spec saddle is o-k. But if I go over 30 miles I can feel it, padding or no padding. Below that distance I'm fine. I wear the padded shorts in winter just because the shorts came with a padded insert so I left it in and in the depths of winter they are good & I wear leggings/tights underneath as well. When I raced, chamois was a must for the reasons Stefan mentions above and I'd say for e bikes it will, like saddle choice, depend on the rider, the bike geometry, saddle design and type of riding. This summer I'll be doing longer rides (fingers crossed) so I'll be interested to see how I fare without padding with the Sigr shorts and as I'll be riding more, I should be more adjusted physically to do longer rides. Or I may change my mind and buy a better saddle and or new padded summer shorts!
"I have padding on my Endura MTB three quarter length shorts,"
I have those as well and love them.
 

Mr. Coffee

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
City
A Demented Corner of the North Cascades
I agree with you in terms of padding, but I tend to like the very thinly "padded" mountain biking shorts or triathlon shorts. That's mostly because of the moisture wicking properties of the material, not the padding. A sweaty butt soon becomes a very sore butt.
 

J.R.

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
Disclaimer: I only express my personal experience. Many EBR members may differ. End of Disclaimer.

Until recently, I have been totally sold on padded shorts/bibs, or chamois (have you noticed how many French terms are there in the cycling world?) Since 2013, I have been made to believe I needed to wear chamois for comfort of my backside. Yet, I went for a longer ride just several days ago just wearing jeans; to my surprise I felt so comfortable in my good and carefully fitted saddle. Indeed, I felt so much better without chamois that I repeated the attempt, going for a long ride in regular shorts. Guess what: It was for the first time in many years I could feel how comfortable my saddle has been; and I didn't need to stand on the pedals after some km ridden to allow my ass rest for a while :)

And think of it: I have suffered padded shorts for so many years without any real reason, just driven by marketing. Let me elaborate a little bit.

I strongly believe wearing padded shorts or bibs is justified in the case of road cycling, specifically racing. Road bike saddles are very narrow and elongated; the roadie takes aggressive forward riding position, riding in the hoods or in drops. His/her backside is located high, and the buttocks hang on both sides of the seat. Such riding position means the roadie is seated on their crotch. And that is how the padding is sewn into the shorts. It is thus understandable the crotch needs to be protected against hard seat. There is also sweating: sweat needs to be absorbed, and chamois is good for that. (I might also understand skinny riders who are missing tissue in their bottom).

The typical riding position of the rest of the cycling crowd is either moderate or relaxed. Buttocks often just rest on the seat. With such riding positions, chamois plays no role; instead, it is exerting pressure on the crotch (especially on the private parts), and can lead to skin sore, abrasion, and even to inflammation. So many bike seats are meticulously designed for ride comfort: ventilation, sophisticated shape, gel, springs or elastomer inserts, multiple layers etc. All these design features are negated once chamois is worn by the cyclist.

I say, it is about my personal experience. In my case: "No" to padded shorts for my future rides.
-------------
It is perhaps a matter analogous to "clipless pedals/shoes". I think any competing roadie would ride clipless to get some edge in the race. For the rest of us, platform pedals are more convenient and safer...
When I ride a lot, for instance daily commuting 34 miles round trip, I don't need pads at all. I do have a boney butt and am on the thinner side, but even so when my butt is broken in I don't need the pads. I no longer ride that commute and as a result I take longer breaks between winter riding so the spring butt break-in has me using a padded liner. I agree with your assessment though.
 

Stefan Mikes

Well-Known Member
Region
Europe
City
Brwinów (PL)
I agree with you in terms of padding, but I tend to like the very thinly "padded" mountain biking shorts or triathlon shorts. That's mostly because of the moisture wicking properties of the material, not the padding. A sweaty butt soon becomes a very sore butt.
Perhaps I'm opinionated because I use Selle Royal Respiro seats on my e-bikes: These are well thought re ventilation. You have mentioned an interesting side of the problem!
 

Catalyzt

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
The original seat on my bike was a 400 gram 'comfort' seat; comfortable it was, but 400 grams is just obscene, no excuse for that much weight on an underpowered bike!

Recently switched to a 130 gram CF seat with minimal padding; it's a split design, and I'm having no problems with it at all without padded shorts (I have exactly one pair, they are probably a quarter century old, that tells you how often I have used them.) The seat is mounted well forward on the rails, and tilted forward just because I often like to ride very far back on the seat when I'm locked out and climbing long hills to get the most efficient pedaling angle.

I have noticed almost zero difference in comfort between the two seats even with no padded shorts, though I was prepared to break them out if needed. I say 'almost' because I do notice what others here have noticed: At about 22 miles, I become 'aware' that the seat feels a bit harder, though it's still not uncomfortable.

At 30 miles, perhaps it would start to be uncomfortable. I expect I have one very long ride in my future-- will try 28-32 miles in the next few weeks if the weather is cool enough for it-- but I doubt I'll ever go much further for geographic/terrain and medical reasons. 30 miles here, in any direction, could well mean 4,000 feet of vertical, mixed asphalt and trail, and for a 63-year-old with my medical history, cracking 30 miles would be a major accomplishment!
 

m@Robertson

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
This is just like asking which is the best saddle: It depends on which butt is doing time, coupled to smart choice of bike setup and equipment.

I'm not sitting static. I'm always pedaling and in motion. For me saddle choice is an integral part of the decision. But once that's taken care of, the shorts are a part of the deal regardless of distance traveled. Since my legs are pumping away, the need for padding isn't the driving factor: I need panel seams out of the way of my leg motion. Flat seams, and cloth that sticks to one spot. As in no rubbing. With just street shorts, and the repetitive motion of pedaling,I have a much shorter time allowable in the saddle, but not because of the padding. The pad is a nice bump but the seam placement is the real deal.

And since the world is not ready for my awesomeness in spandex, I wear the shorts as underoos and have never felt a need to change back to the olden days where I wore them alone. Conventional wisdom says outer shorts are bad over lycra but its been fine.
 

fooferdoggie

Well-Known Member
I have the padded underwear and bibs. in winter I need something over so I wear the underwear and thermal tights or such over. or in summer shorts over them. but bibs alone feel the best and yes look bad. but when doing lots of miles comfort is more important then then looking like the model I am.
 

Stefan Mikes

Well-Known Member
Region
Europe
City
Brwinów (PL)
I have the padded underwear and bibs. in winter I need something over so I wear the underwear and thermal tights or such over
Winter is hard. For temperatures above the freezing point, I still intend to wear padded bibs over thermal base layer. However, I started wearing advanced skiing suit (very warm, wind-resistant, truly waterproof, and breathable) for frosty weather; no need for any padding there.
 

theemartymac

Well-Known Member
I have thoroughly comparison tested my own ass so-to-speak (a sizeable test I'll admit 🤓 ), and I definitely prefer padded shorts 'most' of the time. I have many pairs, from the thin '1 hour' style that simply provide some good moisture wicking and minimal padding, up to the '3 hour' gel diapers. The 3 hour gel boxer-brief style being my preferred choice for my work commute, and I commute 25kms each way on a mid-sized but comfy gel seat and suspension post. I only ride 2-3 days a week generally (I'm a 4 on-4 off shift worker), and can often miss a week due to west coast storm cycles, so I don't always have the luxury of keeping my butt hardened to the conditions. With this combo, it simply doesn't matter.

But I also have a big massive cruiser seat on my other bike, and shorts are completely redundant. I still tend to wear the 1 hour boxer style if I'm planning to be riding for extended periods, but that is just for the wicking properties. It really does help reduce or eliminate swamp butt and prevents any visible sweat line on my shorts when I get off the bike at the grocery store or cafe. If I'm just running errands or short jaunts around town, there is no benefit to the shorts, and I find a nice breezy pair of soccer shorts do just as well, provided the gentlemen receive adequate support.😁

I have some premium traditional saddles on my MTB's and older conventional bikes, and even when I was younger and much thinner and an almost daily rider, they never reached the same level of comfort as a good pair of shorts and a softer seat. But sometimes the performance of a slimmer profile is much more important than comfort, so you learn to live with it.

And I have learned through my own experience that ergonomics are so personal, that there is never going to be a universal 'best' solution. Only YOUR best solution. 🍺
 

Stefan Mikes

Well-Known Member
Region
Europe
City
Brwinów (PL)
The experiences we all are sharing here are valuable. For instance, I was not aware shorts with different level of padding were available. I could consider thinly padded shorts for my Summer rides indeed.
 

theemartymac

Well-Known Member
This page explains the differences and the whens and whys for most folks. Just a starting point as there are so many individual factors and material/quality.

 

Stefan Mikes

Well-Known Member
Region
Europe
City
Brwinów (PL)
This page explains the differences and the whens and whys for most folks. Just a starting point as there are so many individual factors and material/quality.

Thank you!
 

RabH

Well-Known Member
I am skinny and a roadie so padded shorts are a must for me, I tried without them once and it was a painful experience! I remember years ago my older brother wanted to go for a short 15 mile ride in the Scottish hills around 60 miles from home! He told me there would be a short river crossing (he didn't tell me how deep the river crossing was) and I decided to just wear my jeans! It was a lovely day when we left home and when we arrived at our destination it was still nice! Half way up a massive climb (so steep we had to walk the bikes) the weather started to turn and I could feel rain in the air, not long after we came across a very wet cyclist who was going in the opposite direction and he told us the weather was really nasty at the top of the hill!

By now it was closing in where we were anyway so we decided to continue, soon we were in a cloud burst and we were soaked to the skin! You can imagine how heavy my jeans were now, biggest mistake ever haha! 🤣 Then we reached the river crossing, it was insane!!! It was only about 20 feet across but it was about 4 feet deep from the water running off the hills...we had no choice but to push the bikes through it! The moral is never wear jeans to go cycling, Stefan!:p The 60 mile drive home was no fun believe me as I had no change of clothes! 🤣 That was my last ride with my brother, back to the roads in proper clothes for me!;)