The Pad Makes a Difference

A short while ago, we were discussing the pros and cons of different saddles.

But I’d like to offer a different take on the comfort issue.

What about your shorts?

Different shorts have different styles of chamois pads. And in my experience, these pads perform differently on different saddles. Here’s an example.

On my Selle San Marco Ponza saddle, I could wear only my good Pearl Izumi shorts with a “Race 3D” chamois. It’s a large pad, with different thicknesses in different sections. It proved to be the most comfortable for the longest time on that saddle.

I also have a pair of Sugoi shorts with an even larger pad than the PIs.  But surprisingly, that didn’t work as well on the Ponza. I got uncomfortable a lot faster than I did with the PIs. I also have a couple of pairs of older Nashbar shorts with minimal thin padding, and found that they were to be avoided altogether.

The Pearl Izumi pad, left, and the Nashbar pad, right.

Now that I have my new WTB saddle with a squishier feel, I find it reacts differently to different shorts. The Sugois are now terrific. My favorite pair of PIs are still OK, but not as good as they were with the Ponza, and no longer as good as the Sugois. My PI bibs, which I had always considered to be an inferior pad to the shorts, even though it’s the same model pad, are now excellent.

The other morning, I rode in those old, cheap Nashbar shorts.  I’ve avoided these ever since getting the Ponza saddle. But now they’re just fine. I rode about 15 miles in a little less than an hour, and didn’t notice my bottom the entire time.

That’s not to say I’m endorsing cheap shorts with a simple thin pad over the high-priced ones.  There’s still a problem with the shorts.  The material is thin, it bunches, and doesn’t hold everything in place as well as the more expensive shorts. Still, I have to say with my new saddle, the thin pad works.

It’s kind of like getting two new pairs of shorts, since I hadn’t worn them for at least a year. The cheapies can be used for hour-long rides. I had what I call a one-hour saddle — these can be one-hour shorts.


  1. says

    Great post. Never thought about the saddle and short variables interacting with each other. I own two Pearl Izumi 3D Pros and one pair of Trek entry level short. The PIs are infinitely better. I only wear the Trek if both PIs are in the laundry.

  2. says

    The real breaking point for me generally comes around the 60 mile mark. I typically commute to work in “normal” shorts. It’s about 7 miles each way and I don’t get sore at all. But I’ve gone chamois-less for well over 20 miles and even up to 40ish when I had my Brooks B17 (I miss that saddle!)

    At the 40 mile mark I can tell if I’m wearing my Performance brand shorts vs something else. At the 60 mile mark the only pair I have that is comfy are my Sugois and everything else is like razor blades! The chamois never really seems to bother me. It’s always the stitching. Not sure what it is about the Sugois but their stitching never seems to rub me the wrong way!

    A friend once said that the dollar amount of your shorts directly correlates to the miles you want to ride in them. 40 dollars gets you 40 miles…100 bucks gets you 100 miles. I tend to agree with his findings as that’s about the price break down of all my shorts!

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