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.”
Shorts make a big difference! Like you I started out with the cheapest pair I could get my hands on. After a couple of long rides I realized the error of my ways! I’m built a little funny and they didn’t even hit my sit bones! So they added new “unfun” pressure points. I now have 1 set of bibs and 1 set of shorts that are much nicer, fit better and are considerably more comfortable.
Also check out performance bike every once in a while. Their higher end store brand shorts are pretty nice and can be had for <$40 a pair when they’re on sale.
I had a pair of discounted cycling shorts that has the same padding as your nashbar shorts. I thought, hey if it was originally $60 and they’re discounted to $30 it’s a deal! No wonder they were discounted. The padding is like thin paper. I ordered the Uzimi race shorts from Sun & Ski online. I also purchased a better gel seat. Why all these changes? I rode 56 miles(out of 64) before my butt and crothch hurt too much. My legs were starting to really ache too. Don’t know if I bonked, but I think new seat & shorts will help. I have the Shiner ride in 2 weeks. It’s gonna be tough.
Charles Cushman says
I really like wearing bibs because they help keep my shorts up and the padding in the proper are instead of sliding forward every time I sit down.
As far as saddles go I use a brookstone b.17 and am thinking of buying a racing model for my race bike.
Bib shorts will help *a lot* with the soreness, you get them positioned right and they just stick in place. Once you go bibs, you won’t go back. So too some basic chamois cream for longer rides. I like Chamois Butt’r, some folks like Paceline, and I’ve done alright with BodyGlide. Getting out of the wet shorts *immediately* after your ride may help too, getting the area clean & dried. If the soreness continues, consider getting a basic bike fit – more than what the typical local bikeshop guy gives for free. Hit up the local cycling listserve to find out who is really good in your area. Consensus is often wrong but it’s frequently right too. Softer seats and stuff are okay but the shape and fit of the seat matter more for most people – if the seat is shaped right then scant padding isn’t an issue, and it’s more efficient than big soft seats.
You can get decent bibs from Nashbar. Every so often they will have some decent, relatively inexpensive bibs on sale. I picked up some DeMarchi’s from Nashbar for $40 a piece a while back. They aren’t awesome like the silky Castellis I use for really long rides, but at a third the price they are fine for my typical 2-3 hour training rides, and have a simple two-piece chamois. You can skimp on socks & shades & jerseys and even helmets (so long as they meet the regulatory standards) but shorts really matter and I’ve found they are worth the money.
Just my 2c., I’ve been known to be way wrong.