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Many cyclists do not wear underwear at all, as cycling shorts are tight and padded, and underwear worn underneath the shorts will only bunch up and cause discomfort. People who are not comfortable wearing tight cycling shorts may want to consider purchasing cycling underwear, which can be worn comfortably underneath baggy shorts. Cycling underwear should be adequately padded, comfortable, and lightweight; underwear that is breathable will make the cycling trip even more enjoyable, as the drier the skin stays, the less likely it is to chafe or otherwise become irritated.
Choose cycling underwear that fits snugly. This underwear should fit even more snugly than normal underwear, though it should not be uncomfortably tight. The tighter the underwear, the less chance there will be of excessive movement that can lead to chafing. The waistband should be tight enough to keep the cycling underwear in position at all times, and the legs should feature tight hems that will prevent excess movement. Fewer seams on the underwear means less chance of chafing, though some underwear with several panels will have more seams; this is done to promote a tighter fit. Make sure the seams are not excessively large or rough to prevent irritation.
The most important part of any cycling underwear is the padding. The padding should be thick enough that it provides support while sitting on the bike saddle, but not so thick and large that it interferes with normal leg movement. If the padding is too thick upon purchase, don't worry too much, as the padding will often compact after several uses. Some padding is made to be antibacterial; these underwear options will be more expensive, but it is well worth the investment as the padding will prevent bacteria build-up that can be potentially harmful.
The cycling underwear should be exceptionally breathable. Synthetic fabrics are often used because they are specifically designed to wick moisture away from the skin, keeping it dry and comfortable. Moisture building up on the skin can lead to chafing and hot spots, which will only worsen over the course of a bicycle ride. Synthetic materials will keep the skin dry and comfortable, but remember that synthetic materials tend to capture a significant amount of body odor, which means the underwear may smell quite bad by the end of a ride. Wash the underwear frequently, and choose materials that will withstand frequent washing in a washing machine.
@browncoat - Well, you can get straps so that, if you want to wear trousers for example, they can be strapped to your legs and won't get caught in the bike gears.
What I don't like about cycling gear is that it is almost always synthetic and it just doesn't feel that comfortable to me. I much prefer natural fibers, although I don't know if that's a mental thing or if they really do feel better.
You can get cycling underwear in natural fibers (although they are usually blends of natural and synthetic) but they are really expensive. I think it's worth it though, and at least they usually last a long time.
@pleonasm - Oh, but if you use a gel seat cover AND padded underwear it's double the comfort.
I really just don't like having to sit on a hard seat for hours on end. I always come off it feeling like I've been kicked in the butt by a horse or something.
So I'll take whatever padding I can find. I still feel sore if I go for more than a few hours, but it's not quite as bad.
And I quite like the cycle shorts. I don't think people think twice about them now, since there are so many keen cyclists around. And they just make it easier to stay safe. Whenever I try to use anything else, it always seems one pedal away from getting caught in the gears.
Instead of getting padded underwear you might want to consider getting padding for the saddle of your bike.
Personally I don't like the padded clothing, either the shorts or the underwear, because no matter what I do it tends to rub and feels uncomfortable to me on long rides.
Plus, I have to confess I feel a bit foolish with it on.
I find a good compromise is to use a gel seat cover to provide some cushioning. And then I just use normal underwear made with natural materials so it breathes.
You might also want to think about using wicking underwear, but I've never bothered with that and it's been fine with me.
To each his own though. You have to find what works best for you.
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