Sketchy Shorts

I was doing some laps on the nearby Veloway recently, when I ran into the president of our neighborhood cycling club. We rode together for a bit, and then he said, “You know, when I got my white bike shorts, everybody was quick to tell me how bad they looked. I’m going to do you the same favor. You need new shorts.”

But my shorts aren’t white. Turns out, that’s not what concerned him.

The shorts I was wearing that day are a black pair of Pearl Izumis that I’ve had for probably four years or so. They’re pretty good shorts. What he was pointing out (that I already knew) was some discoloration on one of the legs. It shows up as a whiteish blotch, and resembles salt stains more than anything else. The discoloration doesn’t affect the performance of the shorts, which are still in fine condition, even after all these years and miles.

It might be a bit tough to see the stain-like marks, but they're there.
It might be a bit tough to see the stain-like marks, but they’re there. I find that moving around, changing your viewing angle, will help see them.

But it does make the shorts look ugly. I know that. That’s why I ride them only on my neighborhood rides, when I intend to ride by myself. Meeting him this day was a fluke.

Frankly, I have wondered what causes that? My wife has a pair of PI shorts, and it’s really bad on hers.

The problem is a lot more obvious on my wife's shorts, because it's a lot worse. (Click to embiggen.)
The problem is a lot more obvious on my wife’s shorts, because it’s a lot worse. I think I’ll be getting her a new pair soon. (Click to embiggen.)

I have a hunch that it goes back to when we were new bikers. When we washed the shorts, we would also toss them in the dryer to dry. Of course, we had the dryer on the lowest setting. Later, when we read that bike shorts should be air dried, we started doing that, and they haven’t been in the dryer since.

By the way, the problem seems to be confined to Pearl Izumi products. I also own shorts by Sugoi, Nashbar, and Castelli, and none of them have had this problem. The Nashbar shorts have been around even longer than the PIs, and are still the same shiny black color they were when they arrived in the mail years ago.

Can any wiser, more experienced riders suggest what causes this problem?


  1. says

    My issue with my PI shorts is that the black seems to fade out where it’s most exposed to the sun. Had a friend joke that a pair were becoming kind of thread-bare, and actually they were still pretty new. The black has noticeably faded on the back, however, giving them that appearance. I’ve had it happen on a couple pairs.

  2. Kathleen says

    The white places are where the elastic is failing. If you hold the shorts up in a strong light, those spots are “see through” and if it is really bad, you can see the fabric puckering because of the elastic failure. I would also venture a guess that the leg elastic is beginning to go and the padding is no longer smooth. It also happens on lycra swimsuits. Washing shorts promptly to remove sweat seems to help as well as air drying. Your club president is right, its time to retire the shorts.

    • says

      Kathleen is correct, the line is a transitional area where the orientation of the fibers is changing, an inflection point to us geeks

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