With different styles of riding come different styles of clothing - cycling shorts in particular. So how do you know what's functional, cool, and effective, or just overkill when it comes to kitting up for your next ride?
All cycling shorts feature a padded "chamois." This is absolutely essential for comfort on any decent bike ride or for anyone who rides their bike frequently.
DID YOU KNOW?: The saddles you get on any serious bicycle are minimally padded streamlined affairs which can cause a groan from those who know no better. The reason proper saddles look like devices of torture is that they are designed to be used in conjunction with padded cycling shorts. The saddles are designed to offer the least amount of contact possible so to prevent rubbing and chafing and with a good set of knicks are extremely comfortable.
1. KNICKS / SHORTS
A pair of cycling shorts that reach up to your waistline and as low as the top of your knees, if not a little higher.
BEST QUALITIES: These knicks (or shorts, depending on what part of the world you're reading from) are usually much more affordable and more versatile than other styles. Damage or replacement is easier to due to the lower cost - hence the appeal with recreational cyclists. The typical knicks you see at your local bike shop are also easier to remove which makes them perfect for commuters wanting a quick change at the other end of their journey. Also good for a quick nature break (see bib downsides!)
DOWNSIDE: The main downside of knicks is they don't go very far above your waistline. Assuming you're wearing the correct sized cycling top, you're almost guaranteed to show some skin when bent over your handlebars. Given their minimalist design, they also tend to slide down or become loose fitting over time. Movement while riding can lead to folded chamois between your legs, excess chafing, and general discomfort.
A tight waistline with basic knicks can also become uncomfortable when on the bike for long periods. Some people can't stand having pressure around their waist or abdomen - especially when everything else is also hurting after some hard efforts!
PREFERRED USE: Knicks are ideal for recreational cyclists covering short to medium distances. Commuters and mountain bike riders would also be suited to these knicks for independent reasons - ease of removal and affordability.
DID YOU KNOW?: The padding is only part of the story to why cycling shorts are a necessity. As mentioned previously, the other factor is chafing. Knicks and bib knicks are designed to be skin tight to allow maximum movement without any rubbing or chafing from the shorts themselves. They allow the most comfortable positioning on the bike possible and prevent any issues with loose clothing limiting movement.
2. BIB KNICKS / BIB SHORTS
A pair of cycling shorts very similar in design to the previously mentioned knicks, but with a major addition - a one piece lycra strapping that goes over your shoulders (much like suspenders, but ten times sexier). It's as simple as sliding your knicks on, and then putting your arms through the holes. Although generally more expensive, the quality and added comfort is definitely worth it.
BEST QUALITIES: Bib knicks tend to remain well fitted for much longer due to multiple panel construction and slightly higher quality. The knicks also cover a large portion of your lower back because the bibs make their way to your shoulders. This added coverage prevents any bum crack displays as your tight fitting top rides up your back... The best part is your bib knicks will NEVER slide down or need adjustment while you ride.
These styles relieve any abdominal pressure mentioned previously and make the bib knicks the best cycling shorts for long rides. The comfort is just miles ahead!
DOWNSIDE: There aren't many downsides that are worthy of criticism with bib knicks, however, there are a few nagging points you might come across. Firstly, good luck going to the toilet. Men, get creative. Women, get undressed. Actually, that's about it!
PREFERRED USE: Bib knicks can be used by all cyclists and usually are the preferred choice. You can either go for a full team ensemble or the more stealthy black knicks and white top. Either way, you can ride to work, trails, or on the road in one pair of very comfy bib knicks.
3. BAGGY SHORTS
A pair of normal knicks with a baggy short exterior over the top. The outer baggy shorts are removable and can be worn as just baggy shorts, or over any other pair of normal knicks or bib knicks. The shorts have pockets, although after 50 meters of riding you'll avoid using them as your house keys jingle around or your spare tube slaps your leg... every single pedal stroke!
BEST QUALITIES: The main appeal of baggy knicks is more of a casual feel when riding. Riders can walk around without their bike and not look out of place. Appearance plays a big part in the decision to wear these knicks, so you'll find trail riders, downhillers, commuters, and recreationalists alike all wearing baggy exterior knicks - or just 'baggies' for those in the know of the low-down lingo. Another quality is the durability of the outer baggies - allowing you to crash, slide, scrape, and chafe your way through the bush without shredding your lycra knicks.
DOWNSIDE: There aren't really any negatives with wearing baggies if you're off road. The only factor you would need to consider is the loose material flapping in the wind. Some would find this quite irritating, especially coming from a bib knick background. The loose material can inhibit movement at times and looks a bit out of place in a bunch with skin tight lycra roadies!
PREFERRED USE: Mountain bike riders and commuters alike would find these knicks very suited to their riding. Their casual look and durable outer material tick all the boxes for off road riding and looking normal when you arrive at work. The best part is you don't have to wash the outers every ride - you can just slide them over any other pair of knicks and hit the trails!
The best way to find what suits you, or to add to your current wardrobe, is to consult your local bike shop. They will have first-hand accounts of each of these styles and can work within your budget in mind. Address your personal needs when trying them on, and find the style that suits you the most.