When I started biking, I had no idea about equipment or accessories. A lot of that stuff looked the same to me, so I looked first at price when considering a purchase. I was familiar with Nashbar, the online catalog bike store, and made several purchases from them early on. One purchase was for two pairs of their bike shorts, the Nashbar Essential short, a six-panel basic model, and the “Fusion Splice” short (who comes up with these names?), an eight-panel short for five dollars more that features a splash of color down the leg.
They seemed fine. The fit was okay, and I really had no issues with them, except…well, except that my butt started complaining just a few miles into a ride. I had to periodically lift off the saddle to give it a rest. Didn’t think much about it, because it seemed lots of cyclists complained about sore bottoms. And besides, I thought the problem wasn’t the shorts, but the saddle.
But two weeks ago, when I bailed out of a 52-mile ride at 37 miles, not only had I bonked, but I was really hurting down below. In fact, when I got home, I discovered a saddle sore — my first one ever.
My wife and I hit the LBS the next day. Besides stocking up on energy foods and drink mix, I checked out the shorts. I was looking for one thing, and one thing only — padding. I bought the pair with the biggest pad (or chamois, if you insist) in the store. The comparison is striking.
The basic, thin pad in the Nashbar Essential shorts.
The pad in the Pearl Izumi “Race” shorts.
The next morning, I went out for a ride, and wore the new shorts. They’re by Pearl Izumi, and seem to be called the “Race” model, judging by the label on the price tag. Not only is the pad huge, it’s augmented in key areas with extra padding.
For the first time since I can’t remember, my butt was not one of my riding issues. They felt great. Not only was the new pad a revelation, but the fabric in the legs compressed better than the Nashbar shorts, which seemed to give the thighs a little extra pep. I’m a fan.
At $89 a pair, I’m not going to run out and buy two more. The Nashbar shorts will stay among my riding gear, but I’ll only wear them for rides of an hour or less. The Pearls will be my regular weekend ride apparel. Your heard it from the Bike Noob: “A happy butt makes for a happy ride.”