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  1. #1
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    How long should a pair of bike shorts last?

    Bit of background here - I don't have a car, I ride my bike as my primary transportation mode and ride every day. For my commute, I mostly wear J&G cycle shorts, with long pants over them when it is cold. When doing recreational rides, I like the Pearl Izumi 'Attack' bike shorts, and I have several pairs of them (6 or 7). When washing them, I run them on gentle cycle, warm water, and air dry. This morning I grabbed a pair of the PI Attack shorts, and as I put them on, I could hear all of the elastic in the waistband breaking - and sure enough, there was no stretch left in the waistband. Some of my PI attack shorts are probably 8 years old, others are only a couple of years old, I don't really know which are which.

    These shorts have been worn a lot, and I have certainly gotten my money's worth out of them, but it made me curious - how long should I expect a pair of shorts to last?

  2. #2
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    My shorts generally last about 2 years in decent shape ... then they become trainer shorts, for indoor use only, for a couple years after that.

    I might get 3 years out of them if I'm not riding too much.

  3. #3
    Starting over CraigB's Avatar
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    I have pairs that have lasted 25 years. Not all are that old - they range from 25 to 1 year old. But none of them, regardless of age, have worn out like you're describing.
    Craig in Indy

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    Senior Member BlazingPedals's Avatar
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    Your symptoms sound like rubber degradation, possibly caused by ozone exposure. My shorts rarely last more than 4 years, between crashes, snags, or other mishaps, they rarely get a chance to wear out. The normal wear-out mode seems to be getting so thin that they aren't decent to wear in public anymore.

    Although I have several pairs of tights, which I don't wear nearly as often, which are 8-10 years old.

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    the J&G touring short should be the longevity standard, they seem to last the longest, both on and off the bike. The pair i'm wearing right now are my utility shorts - wear them year around like regular sport shorts, sleep in them, etc. - probably 300 wearings in the year i've had this pair - no sign any wear. Have a couple pair for cycling, both at least five years old & still going strong.
    ride long & prosper

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    You're probably already aware, but don't ever use chlorine bleach on anything with an elastic, or rubberized coating.
    Some people are like a Slinky ... not really good for anything, but you still can't help but smile when you shove them down the stairs.

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    Pearl Izumi products...I've seen nothing that's worth a crap. I had a pair of Pearl Izumi short I bought in two years ago. By the time mid summer last year came around you could see right through them. I've never had that happen to cycling shorts before. The black 'coating' was flaking right off the shorts. I bought a pair of Pearl Izumi tights at the start of last winter. By the end of the winter one side of the butt was ripping out. After a few days wearing them this winter both sides of the butt were ripping out. I replaced them. Last winter I bought a Pearl Izumi booties and it didn't take long at all before the zippers blew out. I've had no luck with Pearl Izumi products. I don't buy anything Pearl Izumi anymore.

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    Senior Member Looigi's Avatar
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    I haven't bought PI shorts 6 or 7 years now but have some PI shorts over 12 years old that are still in OK shape. Machine wash and dry, no bleach, but I do use borax or oxyclean. I have quite a few pair of shorts/bibs and rotate through them so tend not to put a heck of a lot of wear on any one pair.

  9. #9
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sauerwald View Post
    Bit of background here - I don't have a car, I ride my bike as my primary transportation mode and ride every day. For my commute, I mostly wear J&G cycle shorts, with long pants over them when it is cold. When doing recreational rides, I like the Pearl Izumi 'Attack' bike shorts, and I have several pairs of them (6 or 7). When washing them, I run them on gentle cycle, warm water, and air dry. This morning I grabbed a pair of the PI Attack shorts, and as I put them on, I could hear all of the elastic in the waistband breaking - and sure enough, there was no stretch left in the waistband. Some of my PI attack shorts are probably 8 years old, others are only a couple of years old, I don't really know which are which.

    These shorts have been worn a lot, and I have certainly gotten my money's worth out of them, but it made me curious - how long should I expect a pair of shorts to last?
    My newest pair of Pearl Izumi shorts are 2 years old but I have others that are up to 15 years old. I think, however, you are mistreating yours. The way you wash them is just fine but you don't have to air dry them. The polymer that is used to make the lycra actually likes heat...at least a little bit. Don't dry them on high but a medium heat setting will refresh the lycra and restore the stretch.
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  10. #10
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    My friend had a pair of capo bibs for less than a year and the thighs had stretched considerably, but fabric however was in perfect condition. It really depends on how you ride and how long you ride. You should also wash it after every sweaty rides or if it gets dirty or the materials will start to deteriorate.

  11. #11
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    they last longer hand washed and air dried..
    the dryer cooks the elastic threads in the lycra/spandex fabric.
    and the break and disappear ..

  12. #12
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
    they last longer hand washed and air dried..
    the dryer cooks the elastic threads in the lycra/spandex fabric.
    and the break and disappear ..
    Generally, the care instructions for lycra are all similar to these instructions from the Clothing Dictionary

    Laundering Lycra

    Machine washing and tumble drying are the preferred manner of laundering.

    If the other fibers in the garment are machine washable and dryable, this should be the recommended method for cleaning. The heat generated by machine drying will help recover any lost stretch that occurred during the wearing of a garment. Thorough washing, rinsing and drying in machines brings out the best in Lycra.
    Lycra is not 'rubber'. It is a different elastomer that responds well to heat treatment.
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  13. #13
    Senior Member Looigi's Avatar
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    Hand washing can be pretty brutal depending on how you do it. Front loading washers are the best IMO for laundry longevity, though not as good as agitator type washers for cleaning heavily soiled items.

    Agree there is no issue with putting cycling garments in the clothes dry at low to moderate heat. I always have. Just don't use fabric softer of any type as it really reduces wicking. It's bad for wash cloths and towels for the same reason.

    It's easy to put more wear and tear on clothing washing it than wearing it.
    Last edited by Looigi; 01-13-13 at 09:11 AM.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
    they last longer hand washed and air dried..
    the dryer cooks the elastic threads in the lycra/spandex fabric.
    and the break and disappear ..
    I've had no problems with a gentle machine wash, but agree on the air dry. Every pair of bike shorts I've had that's been through a drier has started losing elasticity. Droopy drawers are no fun to wear.

    I did a quick search and found, or Pearl Izumi's site (http://www.pearlizumi.com/publish/co...bric_care.html), "If you use a dryer be sure to use a lower/ warm heat setting (Do NOT use a commercial dryer or a "Hot" setting). This will often restore the fabric and help the water and wind repellent qualities. If in doubt, hang the clothing to dry."

    Maybe that's the heart of the problem. Commercial driers seem to have two settings, hot and blow torch, that end up cooking the fabric. Maybe it's not the lycra itself; it could be either some of the material mixed with the lycra, or the interface between the lycra and the other fabric, that doesn't like high heat.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CraigB View Post
    I have pairs that have lasted 25 years. Not all are that old - they range from 25 to 1 year old. But none of them, regardless of age, have worn out like you're describing.


    all I could say is WOW

  16. #16
    Senior Member Keith99's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lambo2124 View Post
    all I could say is WOW
    I have some plain black shorts over 20 years old.

    I've had ones with colored panels where the non-black panels 'rot' out after less than a year.
    Perish any man who suspects that these men either did or suffered anything unseemly.

  17. #17
    Senior Member woodcraft's Avatar
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    I often get in the shower wearing the sweaty, and especially muddy, bike clothes, and hand wash as I shower.

    Sometimes after mtn biking, have to be hosed off first.

    When using dryer on synthetic & delicate clothes, I set the dryer for shortish time at lower heat, then take out that stuff before drying the rest of the load.

    Have a pair of bike shorts from the early '70s- use them for climbing where the thin pad cushions the harness and sitting on the ground.
    Last edited by woodcraft; 01-17-13 at 10:54 AM.

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