If you’re just getting into cycling, you may have all sorts of questions, such as, “Can you use a mountain bike on the road?” or “What size road bike do you need?” Another popular one is, “How much water should you bring?” Then, of course, there’s that all-important question: Can you wear tights under cycling shorts?
You can wear tights under cycling shorts, but that’s not technically the “correct” way to wear them. Because cycling shorts have a built-in chamois, you should wear them directly against your skin. Then, you pull on your tights over your shorts for added warmth, comfort, and skin protection.
In this article, I’ll talk more about the proper way to pair tights with cycling shorts. Then, I’ll give you the exception to that rule. We’ll also discuss a few other cycling fashion tips to make your ride as smooth and as comfortable as possible.
Can You Wear Tights Under Cycling Shorts?
One of the best things about life is that you can do pretty much anything you want to do, however, and whenever you want to do it.
Nevertheless, just because you can do something doesn’t always mean you should, and as most professional cyclists will tell you, wearing tights beneath your cycling shorts is one of those things you shouldn’t do.
You shouldn’t wear tights under your cycling shorts because the shorts are specifically designed to be worn against your skin like underwear. That’s why they contain the built-in pad (chamois) that adds extra cushion for your bottom and groin area. Adding tights beneath them can cause saddle sores.
Many cyclists don’t wear tights at all.
There are, of course, always those few people who like to do their own thing and wear their tights beneath their shorts. However, if you want to minimize your chances of saddle sores, rashes, and other uncomfortable inconveniences, it’s best to wear your tights over your cycling shorts.
Plus, you don’t want to be labeled a “Fred,” as one user on the Roadbike Review forums points out.
The Exception to the Rule
As with most hard and fast rules in life, there’s always that one exception. In this case, the exception comes in the form of tights with built-in chamois pads. Some tights, like the Sponeed cycling tights from Amazon.com, come with a chamois already built into them.
If you’re wearing these types of tights, you’ll wear them directly against your skin.
There’s no reason to wear cycling shorts. However, if you want to wear regular shorts over them, you can. Even then, you’re running the risk of “Fredding,” though, so proceed with caution.
Professional Cyclists Wear Cycling Shorts on Top of Their Tights
So, I’ve just dedicated several paragraphs to tell you why you shouldn’t wear your shorts on top of your tights. However, you may have seen professional cyclists doing precisely that.
But appearances can be deceiving.
If you jump to the four-minute mark in this Youtube video, you’ll see that what you thought were shorts on top of tights were probably just shorts with leg warmers:
As I mentioned before, you will find the odd person who likes to go against the norm and wear their tights beneath their shorts. However, most of the time, if you see someone doing this, you’re probably seeing a person in shorts and leg warmers.
The Benefits of Padded Cycling Shorts
After all this talk about cycling shorts with their padded chamois, you may be wondering why you even need them. You’re just riding a bike, after all. Kids have been doing that for decades without special clothes.
Why should you invest in cycling shorts?
The truth is that if you’re just riding your bike down the road to grandma’s house like most kids, you don’t need cycling shorts. A quick trip on the bike now and then isn’t likely to cause you any problems, and as a result, you don’t need any particular clothes or equipment to make those rides.
However, if you’re going to be spending a significant amount of time on a bike, you’ll want to invest in a decent pair (or three) of padded cycling shorts.
Let’s look at a few reasons why.
Padded cycling shorts provide cyclists with a ton of great benefits, but aside from all that, they’re just comfortable! It doesn’t matter how much you love biking – and I love biking – sitting on that tiny bike seat all day gets painful on your bum.
The chamois in the shorts, however, adds extra padding in all the right places, meaning you can sit and ride in relative comfort and ease.
They Wick Sweat
Like any physical activity, biking is demanding, and if you do it long enough, you’re going to start to sweat.
More often than not, you’ll start sweating in places you really don’t want to sweat. Regular pants, shorts, and bottoms aren’t breathable or sweat-wicking. They just hold your sweat in them, up against your skin.
Not only is it gross, but it’s also not good for you.
It can cause chafing and all kinds of uncomfortable problems. Padded cycling shorts are breathable and help wick sweat away from your body. That helps cut down on instances of skin irritation and damage and helps cool you down faster.
They Help Compress Your Muscles
Anyone in the fitness world can tell you the benefits of compression clothing, and that’s what cycling shorts are. They help you ride longer and faster and keep you from tiring out so quickly. Compression clothing is also better for your muscles overall and will help keep you from feeling so drained and worn out once your ride is done.
Why Do Cyclists Wear Tights?
You may think the easiest way to keep the “tights over or under” issue straight is simply not to wear tights at all. That’s an option, of course, but there are benefits to wearing tights over your cycling shorts.
Most cyclists wear tights over their shorts for warmth in colder weather. Tights also help protect your skin against the elements and from getting burned on long rides in hot, sunny areas. They also act as another layer of compression clothing, which helps cyclists ride longer and recover faster.
If you want better leg protection but aren’t sold on the idea of tights, you can always purchase leg warmers instead. Amazon sells several brands of compression leg warmers for biking and other fitness activities that provide all the same great benefits as tights.
Two of my favorite brands of compression leg warmers include the HuiYee Sports Compression UV Long Leg Sleeves from Amazon.com because they have the non-slip down silicone wave band at the top that keeps them from rolling down my legs when I get sweaty.
I also like the GORE WEAR C3 Unisex Leg Warmers because they’re wind- and water-resistant and have a convenient zipper down the side. They also come from Amazon.com.
Cycling trousers are another option, but they’re looser. You won’t get the same compression benefits from them that you get from tights or compression leg warmers.
Do You Need To Wear Underwear Beneath Cycling Shorts?
Whether or not you should wear underwear beneath your cycling shorts is another one of those uncomfortable questions that a lot of people would like to know the answer to, but they’re much too embarrassed to ask. If you’re one of those people, you’re in luck because I’m not too embarrassed to answer.
You do not need to wear underwear beneath your cycling shorts. Cycling shorts should take the place of your underwear. Fabric from your underwear will interfere with the moisture-wicking, friction-controlling, and other benefits from the cycling shorts’ chamois.
Furthermore, cycling shorts are tight and close-fitting. Trying to squeeze a pair of underwear underneath them isn’t likely to be very comfortable for you. Like the tights, the underwear fabric can also become twisted or bunched, leading to saddle sores, rashes, and other issues.
How Do You Prevent Chafing While Cycling?
Although your cycling shorts should take the place of underwear, many cyclists still chaff while riding, especially if they’re cycling long distances.
Selecting biking shorts with a built-in chamois will help reduce chafing. Before cycling, you should also apply an anti-chafing cream to areas on your body that are prone to chafing. If the chafing persists, you may have to change riding positions or buy a new bike seat.
When it comes to anti-chafing creams, I like Cycle Booty Chamois Balm and Soothing Cream because it’s paraben-free and not tested on animals. If you aren’t fond of Cycle Booty, Amazon also sells plenty of other high-quality chafing creams and balms.
If my Cycle Booty cream is out of stock, I’ll sometimes purchase Chamois Butt’r Original Anti-Chafe Cream instead. It’s non-greasy, and I like the convenient pump because it makes it easier and less messy to apply.
Finally, UNDRBUDR Chamois Cream is another option. It’s my least favorite of the three, but it comes at a phenomenal price, so it’s hard not to take that into consideration.
Other things that can help prevent chafing include changing your shorts frequently if you’re riding for days at a time, avoiding shaving in areas that are sensitive to chafing, and taking a break from riding every few days.
Whether you’re a serious cycler or someone who’s just getting into biking, you’ll need a pair of padded cycling shorts. They make riding more comfortable, help wick away the sweat, and help keep your muscles compressed.
However, it’s important that you wear them correctly once you get them.
Just remember: Your cycling shorts always go underneath your tights, unless your tights include a chamois in them. In that case, you can skip the shorts altogether. Whatever you do, just don’t wear your tights underneath the shorts.
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