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  1. #1
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    Anyone tour WITHOUT padded shorts?

    I use a Brooks B17 on my commuting bike every day - very comfortable, no numbness etc etc. On the bike I'm preparing for a 35-day rough track tour, I thought I'd install a Brooks Flyer (with some springs at the back) to alleviate some of the back-end jolts, and I went out for the first long ride on it yesterday (about 60 miles). Jeez - after half way, I just couldn't get comfortable in that saddle at all, but I think it's more to do with the padded shorts than the saddle. On my commuting rides and short days out on the B17, if anything doesn't feel right I can jiggle around on the saddle, or stretch a leg, and everything falls into its comfortable place. Yesterday, in fairly extreme discomfort, I was kung-fu kicking all over the place trying to rearrange my sweaty underpants, but it felt like I was totally locked into the uncomfortable configuration.

    So, obviously I'll switch the B17 onto my new bike, but I'm also wondering about the possibility of touring bareback, so to speak. Without padding. Anyone done that?

  2. #2
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    I just came back from a 3 week tour in Georgian Republic. I had one padded short with me and 2 pairs of lycra underwear. So I was wearing the padded short only every third day or so. I also use a B17.
    Before starting with the tour, many bikers around me said that I should definetely wear padded shorts all the time. But actually, I only had discomfort (and some irritation caused by sweat) while wearing those padded shorts.
    By using regular lycra underwear (and the thin nylon pants I wear over it) , the B17 is wicking most of the sweat and keeping down parts cool. So when your Brooks is well broken in, I think padded shorts are not a necessity, and even can cause problems. To enjoy the advantage and comfort of leather saddles, I think one should put as less layers as possible between the body and the saddle.
    And in case of irritation, using rosemary oil on the irritated area helped me a lot. It hurts on the first few minutes but within some hours, a protecting layer appears there over the scar.

  3. #3
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    I second everything Cadamaki said. Leave the chamois at home and have fun.

  4. #4
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    We didn't have any problems with our shorts until we hit SE Asia and started sweating like crazy. Now we both break out in a rash on our legs where the elastic legs of the shorts are and also under our bum cheeks. Too much info, I know!! I think the shorts just trap so much sweat that it's not great for the skin.... we've been riding 'bareback' the last few days and using lots of baby powder and that's helped a lot. No problems without the shorts, except on very long days when our butts do get a bit sore towards the end of the day but maybe they would be sore anyway.
    We blog about bike touring, with reviews, tips and cycle touring podcasts at Travelling Two

  5. #5
    Senior Member carkmouch's Avatar
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    I wear normal underwear and gym shorts mostly, plus I have a brooks flyer that is breaking in so in all it's fairly comfortable.

    Anyone like to use MTN bike shorts for touring? I'm thinking about getting a pair soon.

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    Thanks for the encouraging replies so far!

    Carkmouch - it was MTB shorts (baggies with sewn-in lycra/padded inserts) that I was using yesterday, and I think the design added to the problems. The loose layer over the top of the lycra made it very difficult to get hold of the padded bit and 'adjust' it. I had to get off the bike and stick my hand right up the trouser-leg or down from the waist to make even the slightest change to the way it fitted.

    I think I might not bother taking them on the tour. I'll opt for comfortable 'normal' trousers and shorts and try to use them as much as possible, but pack a pair of padded underpants which I can use if absolutely necessary.

  7. #7
    cyclopath vik's Avatar
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    I wear normal underwear. I haven't put on a pair of bike shorts in months. You'll need to find a comfortable saddle naturally and some underwear with minimal seams where you sit on the saddle. If you get some lightweight synthetic travel underwear you'll be able to wash and dry them easily every day you use them.
    safe riding - Vik
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  8. #8
    Member mochapants's Avatar
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    I ride a lot in very humid conditions. Padding or anything under the shorts are too hot for me. I keep the shorts baggy (no padding) and let the headwinds keep everything cool and dry.

    The Brooks should take care of any need for padding.

  9. #9
    www.Click-Stand.com tomn's Avatar
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    This year is the first time that I started riding without padded cycling shorts. My friend talked me into it. I think that the key is wool underwear! Thin Merlino (?) wool boxers such as those from Smartwool. They wick away the dampness.

    Tom
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  10. #10
    Slow Rider bwgride's Avatar
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    I too no longer use bicycle-padded undershorts. Like others have written, the padding becomes damp and the shorts quickly become uncomfortable to me. So far my favorite underwear are these ExOfficio boxer briefs:

    http://www.exofficio.com/product_det...1-d82704f5a219

    These are good on and off the bike for me. I also have ExOfficio boxers (not briefs), which I find very good too for biking, but less useful for long hikes/walks since sweat with skin to skin contact chaffs me over time.

    REI also has nice boxer-briefs, but not quite as comfortable as the ExOfficio version.

    Under Armour Short Boxerjock is also good feeling underwear that works well for biking, but they are tighter than other brands, at least on me, and they do create discomfort over longer periods.

    I very nice benefit of each of the models noted above is that they can be washed by hand in a shower or under a faucet and dry quickly, especially in sunlight.

    For shorts over the underwear, I use swim trunks or any comfortable shorts made from nylon or polyester type material that dries fast (good for washing in the evening and wear the next day, although typically they don't dry completely until a few hours in the sun).

  11. #11
    Senior Member lighthorse's Avatar
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    al,
    I use standard cycling shorts for touring so I have no experience with other options. My only comment would be that whatever you choose, make your choice early and do a lot of riding with the new stuff before you depart on tour. Nothing worse than riding a few days and discovering that one piece of your equipment is not going to work.
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  12. #12
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    Another option, triathlon shorts. They've got a chamois, but no padding, and are meant to dry quickly.

  13. #13
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Al Downie View Post
    but I'm also wondering about the possibility of touring bareback, so to speak. Without padding. Anyone done that?
    Personally I wouldn't be too likely to consider it. I have found my Pearl Izumi Ultrasensor shorts to be so comfortable, especially in extremely hot weather, that I am unlikely to try anything else any time soon. I found them to be especially quick drying and also comfortable when damp or wet.

    I have never found reason to be self conscious about bike shorts. I have generally been well received by the local folks where ever I ride. I figure that I want to be identified as a cyclist and I won't be dressed like the locals in any case. That said all of my touring is in the rural US, so I don't know what taboos might apply in other countries.

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    Quote Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
    That said all of my touring is in the rural US, so I don't know what taboos might apply in other countries.
    Most guidebooks to the region which I've read so far do stress the need to dress in a conservative manner to avoid offending the locals. 'Women should wear long trousers and not show shoulders', for example, and I'm pretty sure if that kind of thing offends them, they'd probably take a dim view of me in a lycra bib! In fact even I take a dim view of me in a lycra bib...

  15. #15
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    Icebreaker Merino wool underwear, and shorts. Through in a Brooks saddle and that is my plan for my next trip (which will be long). I don't really believe that padded shorts do a whole lot, even before my brooks saddle, I only wore padded short every two or three days.

    Merino Wool Underwear is amazing (I cannot stress this fact enough, Merino wool shirt and sweaters are amazing too).

  16. #16
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    Where are you going? It's interesting, in Iran for example men can get away with lycra shorts no problem on the bike. Even my Iranian friends wear them for tours. Women, okay not so much.... here in SE Asia we noticed that we never saw men in Thailand with their shirts off but here in Cambodia we see it all the time in the villages. They wander up and down the roads very often in just a sarong that barely comes down to mid-thigh! I can't imagine bike gear would offend them, although I would certainly change before going into a wat and as soon as I got off the bike. The women in Cambodia are generally much more conservative though. I picked up some long GAP trousers in Phnom Penh for $3 and they're great, come down to below the knees.
    We blog about bike touring, with reviews, tips and cycle touring podcasts at Travelling Two

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Al Downie View Post
    I use a Brooks B17 on my commuting bike every day - very comfortable, no numbness etc etc. On the bike I'm preparing for a 35-day rough track tour, I thought I'd install a Brooks Flyer (with some springs at the back) to alleviate some of the back-end jolts, and I went out for the first long ride on it yesterday (about 60 miles). Jeez - after half way, I just couldn't get comfortable in that saddle at all, but I think it's more to do with the padded shorts than the saddle. On my commuting rides and short days out on the B17, if anything doesn't feel right I can jiggle around on the saddle, or stretch a leg, and everything falls into its comfortable place. Yesterday, in fairly extreme discomfort, I was kung-fu kicking all over the place trying to rearrange my sweaty underpants, but it felt like I was totally locked into the uncomfortable configuration.

    So, obviously I'll switch the B17 onto my new bike, but I'm also wondering about the possibility of touring bareback, so to speak. Without padding. Anyone done that?
    No

  18. #18
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    We're going to Ladakh, in the Indian Himalaya - a mostly Buddhist population.

    I'm very pleased to hear from so many folk who choose to go without padded shorts - when I first mentioned it to a cyclist friend, he looked at me like I had grown a 2nd head. I'm pretty sure it's the way to go for me, and I'll try to find some merino wool underwear to clinch the deal.

    Thanks a lot,

    Al

  19. #19
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    Ah, India I know nothing about! Never tried the merino wool underwear but the socks are the business... get some of those while you're at it.
    We blog about bike touring, with reviews, tips and cycle touring podcasts at Travelling Two

  20. #20
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Al Downie View Post
    Most guidebooks to the region which I've read so far do stress the need to dress in a conservative manner to avoid offending the locals. 'Women should wear long trousers and not show shoulders', for example, and I'm pretty sure if that kind of thing offends them, they'd probably take a dim view of me in a lycra bib! In fact even I take a dim view of me in a lycra bib...
    Not sure what region you are referring to. Do you mean the rural US or somewhere else? If the US I think they are overstating that based on my experiences and those of the young ladies I traveled with last Summer. I can't say we never offended anyone, but if we did it wasn't obvious and we were warmly received pretty much everywhere we went.

  21. #21
    cyclopath vik's Avatar
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    The advantage to using regular underwear as opposed to padded bike shorts is convenience. They are easy to clean, cooler/dried than padded shorts, they work for all your travel activities not just the bike and you can use them at home even when you are not traveling. I've worn padded bike short once in 2008 and can't really see myself going back. I used to think they were essential for comfort, but I later realize I was just trying to deal with poor saddle choices. Once I bought some saddles that actually worked for me padded shorts were not necessary - in fact I find regular underwear more comfortable because it's cooler/drier and I don't feel like I'm wearing a diaper off the bike.
    safe riding - Vik
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  22. #22
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    I like shorts with a chamois, but not padding. You don't need padding when you have the right saddle and the right positioning on your bike. Personally, I don't think there's any difference between padding on the saddle or padding inside the shorts. Padding is padding, and it's a bad idea for any serious cycling, touring or otherwise.

  23. #23
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Longfemur View Post
    Padding is padding, and it's a bad idea for any serious cycling, touring or otherwise.
    That is kind of a silly statement. Pro racers are about as serious as it is possible to be. They spend a LOT of time in the saddle and from what I have observed they all wear padding in their shorts.

    There is a big difference between padding on the saddle and padding in the shorts. Padding in the shorts moves with you if you slide around on the saddle, padding in the saddle does not.

  24. #24
    Senior Member zeppinger's Avatar
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    Race cycling is an entirely different beast. Different priorities and a totally different outlook/goal. Padding is padding, but i do understand the argument about movement. However, the only reason you should move on your saddle is to change you position to a new pressure point. With padded shorts, the compressed pad just moved WITH you rather than finding new fresh, uncompressed stuff on a different part of the saddle. I dont really like wearing a diaper while I ride either... just me though, and I dont judge those you prefer them.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
    Padding in the shorts moves with you if you slide around on the saddle
    For me, that's the main problem. I find that when I lift my bum out of the saddle to find a more comfortable position, when I sit back down the pressure feels exactly the same, in exactly the same spots, because the padding is still in exactly the same place.

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