A guide to choosing the best cycling shorts for your bike and body.

Ask Levi: What Cycling Shorts Do You Recommend?

Today’s question is about Lycra cycling shorts and chamois padding…

I was wondering what kind of bike pants/spandex you wear or recommend. I bought a pair of Pearl Izumi’s from my local bike shop. The fit felt perfect. It turns out that they were chaffing like crazy and actually cut my upper leg and crotch area even with my Assos Chamois cream which was not fun. I got a gift card for Christmas for my favorite bike shop. Price isn’t too much of an issue for me, since I want to be comfortable and don’t want to cut myself again, and get the cut infected.

Like saddle choice, chamois choice will be more of a personal preference, but I can tell you what has worked for me.

When I first started riding, I bought some of the cheapest shorts I could find. I specifically remember a couple pairs of Canari and Nashbar brand shorts (which I got for about $20 each, on sale.)

pearl izumi bibs

They weren’t the most comfortable shorts, but they didn’t cause any problems. I think that’s because the chamois was very plain – it was like a thin chamois rag, so it didn’t have weird seams or odd shapes. If there is a “one size fits all” chamois out there, it probably looks a lot like this one.

My first pair of expensive shorts were the Giordana Silverline bibs. They were extremely comfortable in every way, for years. And the chamois was still pretty plain. It was quite a bit thicker than the Nashbar chamois, and it had a Coolmax section for better ventilation, but it just looked “plain.”

I’ve also had shorts from BioRacer and Castelli with similar “plain” chamois that I liked quite a bit. However, I’ve had some shorts from Voler and De Marchi with funky looking chamois (probably like the one in your Pearl Izumi’s) that I liked, too.

My worst experience was with a pair of bibs from Threeface. The outer seam connecting the chamois to the shorts cut into my hips and butt. The chamois itself was fine, but the edges were terrible!

What I’d recommend is going to the bike shop and looking for a chamois that looks fairly plain, without a bunch of weird seams. Or at least find a chamois that’s different from the one that chafed you.

Personally I’d choose Giordana first, but there’s nothing wrong with Assos, Castelli, De Marchi, Voler, Descente, etc. Even a different model from Pearl Izumi (or the same model from a different year) could have a totally different chamois that works for you.

This is just one of those trial and error things. It might take some time and money to find the right one, but that’s just how it is.

One final tip: If you find a pair that you love, buy a few more! Like I touched on, shorts change all the time. So stock up on ones you like, because they might not exist next year!

To learn more about chaimois pads and chamois butter, and why cyclists use it, read Chamois Butter Exposed! A Guide to Cycling Shorts, Padding, and Creams.

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1 Comment
  1. I’ll second the Giordana pick…best bibs I own. I would also recomend actually getting bib shorts. Way better than just shorts

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