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  1. #1
    Socrates Johnson AngrySaki's Avatar
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    Why not put the bike shorts padding on the seat?

    I find bicycle saddles generally uncomfortable (I also ride a recumbent to give an idea of what i mean by comfortable ). They're not horrible or anything, once I get used to my seat after the winter it's not so bad unless I stop biking for a week or so.

    On that note, a week or so ago, I didn't bike for about a week, and my butt got a bit sore earlier this week. I've been thinking about bicycle saddles & shorts for the past couple of days (and possibly changing my setup). What I can't really figure out is what the point of padded bicycle shorts are. If bicycle short padding is useful, why not just put that padding on the saddle and use simpler cycling shorts? Is it just the way the industry is or is there a real reason?

    I could see it maybe being something to do with the way the cushioning wraps around your butt and the seat, or other complicated interactions between your butt, legs and seat, but I've never heard that as a reason.
    The only other reasons I can think of are maybe moisture related, or maybe the cushioning used in shorts wouldn't last long as the top cushioning layer of the saddle.

  2. #2
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    there actually seat covers that have some sort of gel cushioning sewn in. they're usually pretty cheap both monetarily and in quality.

  3. #3
    Socrates Johnson AngrySaki's Avatar
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    Ahhh, yeah, i've seen those, and i agree they usually do look pretty cheap, and look like they'd slide around a lot. I'm mostly wondering why the "industry default" is to have padding on both the saddle and in the shorts.

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    where would you have your padding?

  5. #5
    Spring Heeled Jack E.A. Webb's Avatar
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    Cue leather saddle lessons.

  6. #6
    Tinkerer since 1980 TheBrick's Avatar
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    1. Shorts stay in the same position on your bum.

    2. Your bum does not say in the same position on your saddle.

    You need the padding to reflect the needs of your bum. More in tome places than others rather than an even covering.

    Hence due to 1. it is more sensible to put the padding on your bum.
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  7. #7
    VWVagabonds.com Losligato's Avatar
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    Chafing. As TheBrick said, the reason for tight padded shorts made from a slick material is to create minimal friction between the saddle and the short and avoid chafing between the short and your bottom.

    Those padded gel saddle covers do more harm than good in my opinion as they keep ones bottom and inner thighs from sliding on the saddle.
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  8. #8
    Senior Member BigBlueToe's Avatar
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    I've had gel saddles that worked and ones that didn't. Presently, I can't find one that works. I have a Brooks Champion Flyer on my LHT. It's the best I've found. I've put a B-17 (unsprung) on my Allez, but haven't had a chance to ride it yet. Hopefully I'll have some insight on possible differences between the two in a couple of months.

  9. #9
    Recreational Commuter
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    It isn't "padding", it's a chamois (whether it is literally made of chamois or not) and its purpose is to absorb sweat that collects where there isn't airflow to evaporate it.

    It serves to keep your skin relatively dry so that it doesn't chafe and develop nasty things growing in it. That is why it is in the shorts, rather than on the seat.
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  10. #10
    ah.... sure. kayakdiver's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kotts View Post
    It isn't "padding", it's a chamois (whether it is literally made of chamois or not) and its purpose is to absorb sweat that collects where there isn't airflow to evaporate it.

    It serves to keep your skin relatively dry so that it doesn't chafe and develop nasty things growing in it. That is why it is in the shorts, rather than on the seat.
    +1

    I ride saddles that fit. None of them are gel or squishy. Neither in the bibs or the saddle. It might take 10 tries or more to get it right. When you do
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  11. #11
    Socrates Johnson AngrySaki's Avatar
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    where would you have your padding?
    1. Shorts stay in the same position on your bum.

    2. Your bum does not say in the same position on your saddle.

    You need the padding to reflect the needs of your bum. More in tome places than others rather than an even covering.

    Hence due to 1. it is more sensible to put the padding on your bum.
    I've heard that before, but I've never been able to visualize how that works, atleast with the cycling shorts and saddle that I own. On the shorts I own, the chamois is more or less the same shape as the saddle, but larger. No matter where I sit on my saddle, it seems that for for every contact point, there is chamois/padding in between myself and the saddle.
    So in the end, i don't see what the difference would be if whatever padding was in the shorts was added onto the saddle.

    I understand/agree with having a "slick" layer of shorts, so that you don't get chafing against your skin, but that doens't seem to require a chamois.


    It isn't "padding", it's a chamois (whether it is literally made of chamois or not) and its purpose is to absorb sweat that collects where there isn't airflow to evaporate it.

    It serves to keep your skin relatively dry so that it doesn't chafe and develop nasty things growing in it. That is why it is in the shorts, rather than on the seat.
    Ok, that makes some sense. I can see how keeping dry could help with general infection type stuff, but I'm not sure i get how that would help stop chafing.



    Part of the reason I'm being so critical of bike shorts is that I've recently (past couple of years) gone through a giant hassle of finding cycling shoes that don't make my feet hurt like crazy. All the conventional/bike shop wisdom didn't really help (besides make my pockets lighter), so I'm purposefully trying to challenge what I don't totally understand. Also, I rode without cycling shorts for years, until someone bought me a pair. It's just an impression, but I don't remember riding with basketball shorts to be any more uncomfortable than the cycling shorts i'm riding with now.

  12. #12
    aka Phil Jungels Wanderer's Avatar
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    And, having "padded" bike shorts, puts all of the sheer forces between the seat and the outside of the shorts. The chamois stays fairly stuck to you, to keep the "rubbing" to a minimum. Try to avoid "gel", as it seems to "bunch up" and just cause problems at other spots.

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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kotts View Post
    It isn't "padding", it's a chamois (whether it is literally made of chamois or not) and its purpose is to absorb sweat that collects where there isn't airflow to evaporate it.

    It serves to keep your skin relatively dry so that it doesn't chafe and develop nasty things growing in it. That is why it is in the shorts, rather than on the seat.
    Thank you. This has been my contention for some time. The difference between low-end and high-end bike shorts is often the quality of the chamois and it's fitness to perform exactly as you described it. I've never understood the purpose of gel shorts.

    It's also critical to carefully wash the shorts after every ride. The last thing you need is stuff growing in the warm moist chamois environment.

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    Won't a chamois become fully saturated with sweat long before the end of a full day of touring? The chamois dries more slowly than the wool/lycra of the shorts so it could end up keeping your nether regions more moist for longer periods than with chamois-free shorts.

    My opinion has been that many modern road saddles are designed with minimal padding to make padded cycling shorts a near-necessity. Other saddles keep the padding on the seat and are often considered less comfortable (ignoring individual variablity for a moment). I contend that this is because 1. Riding a padded saddle with padded shorts results in too much padding a pressure on soft tissues. 2. Many riders start out on those padded saddles wearing non-cycling cotton underwear and baggy shorts, creating all sorts of rubbing and moisture issues. Fewer riders have ever tried riding a decent padded saddle in non-padded cycling shorts.

    I use a 30$ saddle with a decent amount of padding: Velo Pronto-Z1. It's starting to wear out after 20k miles and I'm definitely buying another.
    It works well with cycling shorts but I've found it really shines when paired with something like a speedo jammer:
    or triathlon bottom with a minimal chamois (worked great in my half-ironman):
    Last edited by Enthusiast; 06-08-09 at 01:33 PM.

  16. #16
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    There are plenty of moderately padded seats that you can ride without cycling shorts.

    For instance, I stlll ride my old Stumpjumper with an Avocet saddle. The original is a little shot(after 20 some years), but I never have and never will wear cycling shorts while riding it.

    On my road bike, I used to use bib shorts, and the whole nine yards with Time pedals and on and on. Then I was unable to ride for a few years. When I started back. . . my first thought was to ditch the clipless, go with large platform pedals and tennis shoes, and ride in my favorite shorts(not cycling ones). I switched to a wider and moderately padded saddle(Lookin MOD), and I enjoy riding more than ever. Sure, sometimes sweat runs down my legs. . . but so what. . . it beats wearing what is essentially an adult diaper.

    I say ride in whatever you like. . . padded seats ... unpadded seats . . . regular shorts or diaper shorts . . it's all good.

  17. #17
    Senior Member Neil G.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AngrySaki View Post
    Also, I rode without cycling shorts for years, until someone bought me a pair. It's just an impression, but I don't remember riding with basketball shorts to be any more uncomfortable than the cycling shorts i'm riding with now.
    Then you'll probably be fine going back to non-padded/chamois'ed shorts.

    I've done all my touring in Andiamo Skins (unpadded lycra underwear) under baggy shorts, on a Brooks B-17. Never had a problem. In fact, the only time I ever got a sore was one day when I decided to wear padded shorts just because I thought maybe I should. Maybe that was just a weird coincidence, but since I had no real reason to go padded, I switched right back to unpadded the next day and have never looked back.

    So yeah, feel free to ditch the chamois, it'll save you money, packing space, and apparently washing effort, since it sounds like you have to keep those things meticulously clean. I've gone for a week or more with the same pair of shorts on my skin (literally: riding 80 miles per day, hiking, sleeping, with no showers) and had no issues.

    Certainly there must be some people, who, due to body shape or chemistry, require chamois'ed shorts, but that doesn't mean everyone does. I'd say the default position should be to go without them, and then only try 'em out if you discover that you really need them.

    I've wondered the same thing as you: why take all the padding off a seat (as in a Brooks) only to put it back inside your shorts? But the "it's to keep you dry, not keep you padded" explanation makes sense if sweat is leading to some problems.

    Neil

  18. #18
    eternalvoyage
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    Quote Originally Posted by AngrySaki View Post
    I find bicycle saddles generally uncomfortable (I also ride a recumbent to give an idea of what i mean by comfortable ). They're not horrible or anything, once I get used to my seat after the winter it's not so bad unless I stop biking for a week or so.

    On that note, a week or so ago, I didn't bike for about a week, and my butt got a bit sore earlier this week. I've been thinking about bicycle saddles & shorts for the past couple of days (and possibly changing my setup). What I can't really figure out is what the point of padded bicycle shorts are. If bicycle short padding is useful, why not just put that padding on the saddle and use simpler cycling shorts? Is it just the way the industry is or is there a real reason?

    I could see it maybe being something to do with the way the cushioning wraps around your butt and the seat, or other complicated interactions between your butt, legs and seat, but I've never heard that as a reason.
    The only other reasons I can think of are maybe moisture related, or maybe the cushioning used in shorts wouldn't last long as the top cushioning layer of the saddle.
    Some of the more expensive shorts have better moisture wicking abilities. Also, the padding is better quality (at least this is true for some of the PI shorts).

    It might take a number of experiments to find a saddle that really agrees with you. It isn't unusual for someone to go through a dozen trial saddles before finding one that really fits. I just spoke with a woman who went through this before ending up with a Fizik Arione saddle with 100+ dollar PI shorts, plus Chamois Butt'r She does a lot of touring, and really likes this setup; but she also said that everyone is different, and finding the right saddle usually requires searching and testing.

    Some shops will let you try out a saddle for a while (a week or more), as long as you put electrical tape or something similar on the rails to protect them. These shops will let you try out various saddles until you find one you like. It might be worth finding a shop like this.

    I've cycled quite a bit in nylon running shorts. They have two layers of thin nylon between the skin and the saddle. They breathe much better than any bike shorts I have yet tried.

    I've tried out a number of saddles (I've lost track, but it's probably in the neighborhood of twenty or so). Most of them are ok for short rides, not so great for longer rides, and somewhere between miserable and impossible for multiple long days of riding in succession.

    One of the best setups I have tried is an unconventional one. It is a split saddle -- two separate parts, one for each cheek or sit bone. It took some adjustment time to get used to this arrangement. The absence of a nose makes for a counterintuitive feel at first. After a while, I actually preferred it.

    Then the company recommended the (real) sheepskin covers: two small, showercaplike sheepskins -- one for each side.

    The sheepskin material works great. It breathes and cushions at the same time. And it also seems to 'lubricate' in a way -- there is no chafing.

    If I still had the name of the company, I would give it here. It was a very small company, their products were somewhat experimental, and it was a few years ago that I dealt with them; so they may or may not still be making these saddles.

    There might be something similar that is available today, though; and there might be used ones that could be found online.

    The absence of a nose also makes for zero pressure, and much better ventilation.

    The one thing that has bothered me a bit is that the saddle can attract a lot of attention. People in cars notice it as they pass from behind; and some of them, along with other people, tend to ask various questions about it. However, there are ways to camouflage it to reduce the attention, if it is an issue.

    That saddle plus the running shorts are one of my favorite warm-weather solutions.

    ***

    Part of the solution to this whole issue may involve realizing that there are multiple solutions. A variety of different approaches can be tweaked enough to be made to work and work well.
    Last edited by Niles H.; 06-08-09 at 06:02 PM.

  19. #19
    Senior Member Gotte's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by neil g. View Post
    then you'll probably be fine going back to non-padded/chamois'ed shorts.

    I've done all my touring in andiamo skins (unpadded lycra underwear) under baggy shorts, on a brooks b-17. Never had a problem. In fact, the only time i ever got a sore was one day when i decided to wear padded shorts just because i thought maybe i should. Maybe that was just a weird coincidence, but since i had no real reason to go padded, i switched right back to unpadded the next day and have never looked back.

    So yeah, feel free to ditch the chamois, it'll save you money, packing space, and apparently washing effort, since it sounds like you have to keep those things meticulously clean. I've gone for a week or more with the same pair of shorts on my skin (literally: Riding 80 miles per day, hiking, sleeping, with no showers) and had no issues.

    Certainly there must be some people, who, due to body shape or chemistry, require chamois'ed shorts, but that doesn't mean everyone does. I'd say the default position should be to go without them, and then only try 'em out if you discover that you really need them.

    I've wondered the same thing as you: Why take all the padding off a seat (as in a brooks) only to put it back inside your shorts? But the "it's to keep you dry, not keep you padded" explanation makes sense if sweat is leading to some problems.

    Neil

    +1

  20. #20
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    Honestly, the most important padding is in your bum muscles. Don't ride much? Your bum will hurt. Ride to work every day? You'll be fine. Padded shorts improve both situations.

    You definitely have to wash your shorts every day, for the same reason you must vacuum and dust your entire house every day. Some of us are substantially less diligent, with no ill effects - though more than 5 days between washes is getting a bit much.
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  21. #21
    Senior Member crazybikerchick's Avatar
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    Excessively padded bike seats don't give enough support for your sit bones and you'll bounce inefficiently. To be comfortable without padded shorts:
    1. brooks saddle
    or
    2 (and what I opted for!) recumbent! why ride in a saddle when you can ride in a chair?

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