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  1. #1
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    LD w/o Padded Bike Shorts?

    Anybody ride 50+, centuries, etc. without padded lycra? I have never ridden with padded shorts, don't necessarily care for them, and no desire to wear lycra. Just some things I don't like to share with the general public.

    I do ride with wicking under armor draws under some athletic shorts and have a Brooks B17 saddle that I am still breaking in, but plenty comfortable as is. As of now, I only ride ~20-25 miles, but I am looking to take the next step and want to work up to century form. So, how common is it to rode without padding and the like over long distances?
    '09 Salsa El Mariachi

  2. #2
    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    I'm sure that at least one wag will say they do. That doesn't mean it's a good idea.

    If you don't like the lycra look, get a pair of baggy bike shorts.

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    It was very common prior to the 1960s. European randonneurs of the time apparently had no problem with it for events up to and including PBP.

    I personally enjoy wearing riding clothes than don't scream "cyclist!" when I'm at the coffee shop or market or whatever, so have given up the lycra shorts and "tropical-insect-in-heat" jerseys in favor of the same stuff (mostly REI, North Face, etc.) I wear while hiking. The one exception is that I do wear padded cycling "underwear" under my shorts. The downside with that is that I haven't found any "underwear" style shorts that come with top quality chamois. The obvious solution is just to buy high quality bike shorts and wear them underneath the hiking shorts. I just haven't gotten around to it yet...

  4. #4
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    I know two riders who have completed PBP in street clothes in recent years, no knicks or cycling undershorts. Not surprisingly, they are both British. No doubt there are several others who prefer street clothes but the vast majority use Lycra knicks while a few prefer MTB baggies.

    I stick with Lycra for rides over 200 km (200 km in street clothes isn't ideal for me but not particularly bad). Try it and see how it goes.

  5. #5
    littlecircles bmike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bacciagalupe View Post
    I'm sure that at least one wag will say they do. That doesn't mean it's a good idea.

    If you don't like the lycra look, get a pair of baggy bike shorts.
    wag, must be me.
    i switch it up depending on what type of ride i'm doing.
    30-40-50 miles in street clothes.
    centuries in street clothes.

    basically hiking / backpacking shorts with thin / breathable boxer briefs, occassionally wear a 'padded' baggy pair of MTB / touring shorts.

    and i ride plenty in my ibex bibs, knicks, etc. - depending on temps, ride lengths, etc.

    brooks b17 or swallow for me.

  6. #6
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    I've done a 100/Century, two 80 mile and several 60 mile trips without padding..........and it's not the best of ideas. I'm not into the lycra look, but I did discover the padded liner variety that you can put under whatever you're wearing and I'm going to get some ASAP. For me, after about 30 miles is where things start to get uncomfortable. A buddy of mine also suggested just buying the regular tight shorts and wearing them under.

  7. #7
    Senior Member johnknappcc's Avatar
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    I must be the second wag.

    Last ride on Sunday was a double metric (200k) and I wear normal gym shorts, and a relatively tight t-shirt. Works for me, and I never have pain in any of the "bits". The gym shorts do have an integrated underwear thing (almost like swim trunks), and I have a B-17N (Swallowized/Chopped).

    In fact the only things that are ever sore at the end of a long ride are my legs (and that is to be expected).

    Oh, also, I don't use any cream, I don't have issues chafing or the like.

    I'm doing a double century next month and I'll be wearing the same thing. It's not that I'm opposed to Lyrca, and I'm thinking about getting a Jersey for the pockets, but I'm perfectly comfortable without. However, I think bike fit and saddle, will determine the individuals need for that. It took me two months to dial-in my fit.

  8. #8
    The Site Administrator: Currently at home recovering from a couple of strokes,please contact my assistnt admins for forum issues Tom Stormcrowe's Avatar
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    Tinker Juarez does RAAM with unpadded shorts. He's a true Iron arse, I would say.
    on light duty due to illness; please contact my assistants for forum issues. They are Siu Blue Wind, or CbadRider or the other 3 star folk. I am currently at home recovering from a couple of strokes. I am making good progress, happily.


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  9. #9
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    My saddle, B17, is working out nicely so far. Much better than expected. My fit, I think needs some work, as does core strength. At the moment I can only do ~25 miles (up from ~6 miles 6-8 weeks ago). I have been doing that 4-5 days per week. My bum really isn't an issue, mostly it is my wrists, hands, and shoulders. I think that is where fit and core strength will help.

    I was wondering at what mileage the non-padded stuff comes into play as I am working towards doing a century ride down to San Diego from Orange County.
    '09 Salsa El Mariachi

  10. #10
    Uber Goober StephenH's Avatar
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    I've never used bike shorts (but don't ride PBP, either!). But the way I look at it, bike shorts are intended to solve a problem, and if you don't have the problem, you don't need the solution. And if you do have the problem, you wouldn't be asking the question.
    "be careful this rando stuff is addictive and dan's the 'pusher'."

  11. #11
    Senior Member johnknappcc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by divtag View Post
    My saddle, B17, is working out nicely so far. Much better than expected. My fit, I think needs some work, as does core strength. At the moment I can only do ~25 miles (up from ~6 miles 6-8 weeks ago). I have been doing that 4-5 days per week. My bum really isn't an issue, mostly it is my wrists, hands, and shoulders. I think that is where fit and core strength will help.

    I was wondering at what mileage the non-padded stuff comes into play as I am working towards doing a century ride down to San Diego from Orange County.
    The B17 is great, but it is difficult to get the adjustment just right. I ended up moving the nose up about three "clicks" from level on a laprade microadjust seatpost. This puts the nose noticeably higher than the back but since it is leather and somewhat flexible it forms a little hammock for the sit parts. Don't get discouraged, and don't be afraid to experiment. It took about 350 miles of tiny adjustments to get it just right.

    I was having the same hand/wrist numbness and pain, and the nose up eliminated it with some careful adjustment to a new stem (longer and a little higher 85mm-100mm). It took a while to dial in both saddle and stem properly, but now I can go forever on my bike.

    As for padded stuff vs non-padded, as StephenH said, if you don't have an issue, you probably won't need them. To some degree, it might be best to find the perfect fit with regular clothes, since padding might mask potential fit problems that might not be immediately apparent until later in a ride when the padding might be less effective. With non-padded clothes I could easily spend an entire day in the saddle (and I do frequently), others maybe not. Experiment and see what works for you.

  12. #12
    Lone Star Tex_Arcana's Avatar
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    Don't wear bike shorts. Rode my first ( and so far only) century wearing an old comfortable and faded pair of cargo shorts (with stuff in the pockets).

    I have one of those prototype b-17 Imperials.
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  13. #13
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    I would never ride long distance without them... but im sure it could be done.

    Sometimes when im just riding around town and want to go in stores i just wear a regular pair of shorts over the bike shorts... that way i look 'normal'

    I'd advise you to look into some sort of padding... but if you dont want to, thats up to you.

  14. #14
    Randomhead
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    now I'm not only depressed that I don't have a decent VO2 number, I also have to be depressed that my butt is sensitive enough that I have to wear lycra.

    If I wore street clothes for more than about 30 miles, they'd come back with embarrassing blood stains at the crotch. Learned that lesson 35 years ago.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
    now I'm not only depressed that I don't have a decent VO2 number, I also have to be depressed that my butt is sensitive enough that I have to wear lycra.

    If I wore street clothes for more than about 30 miles, they'd come back with embarrassing blood stains at the crotch. Learned that lesson 35 years ago.
    More than we needed to know.

    Maybe I haven't had any issues because I am only doing 20-25 miles a ride. I guess I will find out in the next couple of months as I slow add distance.
    '09 Salsa El Mariachi

  16. #16
    Senior Member johnknappcc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
    now I'm not only depressed that I don't have a decent VO2 number, I also have to be depressed that my butt is sensitive enough that I have to wear lycra.

    If I wore street clothes for more than about 30 miles, they'd come back with embarrassing blood stains at the crotch. Learned that lesson 35 years ago.
    OVERSHARE j/k, some people need them, some people don't. I would just suggest you HTFU! j/k again.

  17. #17
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    i was just like you... i resisted the spandex.

    Once i finally gave in, it was so nice and comfy on a long ride! And yes 20-25 miles doesnt tell that much. Besides, is your seat padded well? also another factor

    On my mountain bike, sometimes i wear bike shorts, other times just regular shorts. But that seat has some padding on it. Road bike... I always wear the bike shorts.

  18. #18
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    No my seat isn't padded. I have a Brooks B17.
    '09 Salsa El Mariachi

  19. #19
    Senior Member Richard Cranium's Avatar
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    As a commuter, I've ridden thousands of miles in street clothes.

    And I've often ended up on all day rides in normal shorts and underwear as well. As long as you can keep yourself dry, and you stand often during your rides, I guess you do whatever.

    But a better idea is to wear a light weight, but comfortable bike short under the "less revealing" shorts of choice. Both problems solved.

  20. #20
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    I have been riding brevets for the last 2 years, and do not use padded bike shorts. I agree with the poster who said that padded shorts are a solution to a problem, and not everyone has the problem.

    The 2 problems that bike specific shorts try to address is soreness and chafing. In my opinion, if you have soreness on your ishial bones, or (especially) your coccyx, this is a saddle/fit problem, and will not be fixed by clothing. See other threads in this forum for endless discussion about the best saddles etc. I use a brooks b17, as do many long distance riders. Fitting is key, and adjustments of even 1-2 mm higher, forward, back, or tilt make a huge difference.

    Chafing is caused by friction, and bike shorts try to minimize this by moving with the leg rather than sliding against the thigh. Another factor for chafing is heat/moisture--most find that moisture promotes chafing. Thus many bike shorts brag about the wicking properties of their fabric etc.

    I use lightweight merino wool (smartwool brand) boxer/brief underwear, and use rivindell's biking shorts (simple nylon short without seams at the crotch). The underwear wicks well and the legs move with the thigh rather than rubbing. The shorts are loose, and promote ventilation without rubbing. I think the wool fabric is helpful. I don't use butt creams etc.

    This approach is obviously not for everyone--most long-distance riders do indeed use tight bike shorts, with or without some sort of butt cream. It works for me, though. I've ridden 3 brevet series (200/300/400/600K) in the past 18 months, and finished the Shenendoah 1200K last month without a rash or soreness. Last year I did try one 300K in tight bike shorts, and got my only rash/chafing of the year.

    Bottom line--saddle and bike fit are number one priority. Clothing is secondary.

    Good luck with the rides!

  21. #21
    Senior Member yeamac's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Cranium View Post
    But a better idea is to wear a light weight, but comfortable bike short under the "less revealing" shorts of choice. Both problems solved.
    If one is looking to hide the lycra look, the problem with most men's cycling shorts is they have an inseam much longer than non-cycling shorts.

  22. #22
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    I use a Brooks B17 and like tight lycra shorts. Since the mid-1990's I'd taken the advantage of padded shorts as a given, but last year I started wearing unpadded compression shorts on shorter rides and found that on rides up to about 30 miles I was more comfortable with them than I was with padded shorts. I didn't need the padding, and it just got in the way. I thought I was atypical, but I see now that I'm not alone. On longer rides I've not tried the unpadded route, but instead have used lycra shorts with pads on the thinner side, and that approach has worked well.

    Try a longer ride without padding, but take along a pair of padded shorts to swap or put on over the unpadded shorts if you feel a problem start to develop. The only way you'll know what's best for you is to try it yourself.

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