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Cycling shorts - gel vs chamois?

Old 07-16-22, 03:33 PM
  #1  
geepondy
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Cycling shorts - gel vs chamois?

This year I've been biking more than many and have done a few two hour 30 plus mile rides and my butt is getting sore! I have been wearing the Chinese Sponeed gel shorts and thought they were ok, certainly a good value at less than $40 a pair but now I'm wondering if I should do better. Several years ago (decades), I used to buy the Performance bike chamois shorts and recall they were ok but my butt (and body) was much younger than. I have a Specialized Roubaix and the seat is supposedly rated very well and I'm not interested in changing that. Any shorts recommendations to try next or thoughts on gel vs chamois?


Also, are you supposed to sit back on the saddle so that your sit bones are definitely on the rear wide part of the saddle or should I be sitting more forward?
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Old 07-16-22, 03:41 PM
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I've never ridden in chamois. My bikes have Brooks B17 saddles. I hear you don't want to talk saddles so I won't. I ride in Baleaf padded shorts ($20-$30) and have no issues with a sore butt. I do know that it takes some mileage for my rear to "toughen up" every spring after a winter reduction in miles. If you are unsure of your position on the saddle, you might benefit from a professional bike fit at your local shop.
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Old 07-16-22, 03:55 PM
  #3  
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Maybe you just need to ride more and spend more time in the saddle and condition your butt. I doubt that there is much difference between chamois and gel. Some people can ride ride for many hours without bike shorts because their butts are well conditioned from spending time in the saddle.
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Old 07-16-22, 04:02 PM
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Originally Posted by geepondy View Post
This year I've been biking more than many and have done a few two hour 30 plus mile rides and my butt is getting sore! I have been wearing the Chinese Sponeed gel shorts and thought they were ok, certainly a good value at less than $40 a pair but now I'm wondering if I should do better. Several years ago (decades), I used to buy the Performance bike chamois shorts and recall they were ok but my butt (and body) was much younger than. I have a Specialized Roubaix and the seat is supposedly rated very well and I'm not interested in changing that. Any shorts recommendations to try next or thoughts on gel vs chamois?


Also, are you supposed to sit back on the saddle so that your sit bones are definitely on the rear wide part of the saddle or should I be sitting more forward?
I'm not a big fan of gel as padding, particularly for saddles/chamois. As I see it, foam compresses, while gel acts more like a liquid, and if you compress it in one place it will expand in another. They sell it with the idea that it distributes the load, but my experience has been that it distributed the pressure from my sit bones to my perineum. Sure, my butt was comfy, but my junk was numb from the pressure on the perineum!

The shorts I prefer don't have a very thick pad, but I set up my saddle very carefully so that I naturally sit at the back of it most of the time AND the angle is such that I don't slide forward or back.

Regarding the saddle, if it doesn't work for your sit bone width, flexibility, and riding style then the high rating is meaningless. BUT it shouldn't be the first thing you change. Get the position right first, then fiddle with the saddle, but realize you may never find a way to make it work.
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Old 07-16-22, 04:26 PM
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Originally Posted by geepondy View Post
Also, are you supposed to sit back on the saddle so that your sit bones are definitely on the rear wide part of the saddle or should I be sitting more forward?
It's best to not sit in on spot on the saddle, but to move around often. Scott forward for a while, then scoot back. Also, get out of the saddle every few minutes, if even for just a few seconds.
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Old 07-16-22, 04:35 PM
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I have to say that for me every ride is different. Some days I am great and some days there is no relief. I recently bought a lovely gravel bike. The saddle looked great(we are talking about a $3000 bike here and Canyon did not cheap out on the saddle) It didn't work for me and I spent plenty of time tweaking my fit. So, I looked through my saddle bin and found a Nashbar road saddle that I bought almost 20 years ago for about $18 and thought "why not?". Much better. To be fair I have been using the second $18 saddle on another road bike for years so there was no big risk. Anyway, I was able to trade that saddle from my Canyon to my son for a very nice saddle that didn't work for him, but it works fine for me. So now my new bike doesn't have an $18 Bike Nashbar saddle any more but I have a spare for my other bike that has a very worn one
About shorts, I have many pairs of very high end shorts and bibs. Some days they are fine, other days not so much

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Old 07-16-22, 05:17 PM
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Solid advice in posts #4-6. I don't do gel. Shorts have to work for me. I've had shorts that work in all price ranges and ones that didn't over the same range. It's well worth going and trying them on if you have such bike shops.

Seats - the biggie. They have to work for YOU! Rating mean zero. Two decades ago I switched from the best of one of Italy's seat producers to another line's cheapest last year seat. Huge breakthrough! (I eventually ended back on the high end Italian company's seats, but ones it did for another label under a completely different concept.)
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Old 07-16-22, 05:31 PM
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When your butt get's sore, stand up on the pedals and squeeze your cheeks together to get the blood moving.
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Old 07-16-22, 10:07 PM
  #9  
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Try using chamois creme. It can help a lot. Other than that there's no substitute for trying various shorts. You can't go by others' recommendations.

Oh, and yes, you might need a different saddle in spite of it being well reviewed. I'd ask: well reviewed by whose butt?
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Old 07-16-22, 10:17 PM
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Every one of us is constructed differently. There are certain saddles and certain shorts that I can't ride for more than 2 hours. Aerotech design shorts were my salvation. I use those and a Cobb Randee saddle, and my butt doesn't complain nearly as much.
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Old 07-16-22, 10:21 PM
  #11  
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The amount of padding means very little. A good quality chamois makes a world of difference. Butt soreness depends on 2 factors: The saddle (fit) and friction.
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Old 07-16-22, 10:24 PM
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After 50 miles a standard chamois just doesn’t cut it and my sit bones start talking to me. For the first time I tried an expensive short with gel inserts and it has made an amazing difference.
BTW I have two pair of the regular Sponeed shorts and they work fine for 45 or so miles.

I have been through a ton of saddles in the last two years and could start a saddle shop at this rate. I finally found a Selle Italia with a good cutout which works but was outrageously expensive.

Best of luck since being in pain is no fun,
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Old 07-16-22, 11:06 PM
  #13  
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tried 'gel' shorts a few times... always a fail. the thickness of the gel was too much and became irritating after an hr or 2...
biggest issue was the gel area became significantly hotter than with a med thick 'chamois' - and the extra heat makes everything more irritated.
don't use chamois cream, haven't for at least 45+ years.
I find an important consideration is to have well more than one pair of shorts/bibs. Using one pair just assures they're gonna wear out faster and also tempt you to wear them more often between washing.
I wash more often, on delicate cycle with woollite or similar mild detergent, and dry on low air.
I also have a big variety of shorts/bibs for use depending on the riding conditions, light weight for warm/hot conditions, medium for very varying conditions and thicker material for cool/cold conditions.
you don't have to sell the ranch to get decent shorts/bibs, but generally you will find that there is a level at which the short quality jumps substantially. If you get budget shorts, use them for the shorter rides, when the issues might not develop as often. Get some better stuff for the longer rides/longer saddle time.
saddles, so many choices... I can ride many different brands, models and many fit me fine. The big deal for me is to get the proper width - 140 min, 145 max (in mm.) a fairly flat front to back profile and not too rounded from side to side. I have classic shapes, center channel, and center cutout styles, all work well. Minimal to no saddleback turnup allows me to move around just a bit.
Usually movement is less than 1 cm fore or aft, and that's enough to distribute pressure to slightly different places for short periods, especially when the hammer is down and I have to 'get on the rivet'.
I'm relatively light weight for my size, not thin, but on the leaner side. So I don;t have some of the considerations a larger rider might have.
I tend to have some degree of torso forward lean in my on-bike posture, rarely/almost never getting close to 'upright'; so the weight and pressure is usually always directly on the sitzbones.

Same considerations for lots of socks, jerseys, gloves.
Given the amount of time I spend in the saddle - I get my money's worth out of every piece (except the gel shorts, which were given away after an honest attempt to 'like' them...)
Ride On
Yuri

EDIT: same comments for wind/weather vest and shells, leg & knee warmers, and arm warmers /coolers, and especially for base layer tops (a key element in my kit assortment)

Last edited by cyclezen; 07-16-22 at 11:13 PM.
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Old 07-16-22, 11:24 PM
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Originally Posted by Paul Barnard View Post
Every one of us is constructed differently. There are certain saddles and certain shorts that I can't ride for more than 2 hours. Aerotech design shorts were my salvation. I use those and a Cobb Randee saddle, and my butt doesn't complain nearly as much.
Agree on the Aerotech Shorts - the Pro short (not their most expensive, but good fabric, great chamois (for me - not heavily padded) and good fit/construction - honest sizing (Med IS 32-34)
A few pair of these have always been in my short selection for 15 yrs...
Can't comment on any of the other shorts or bibs or any of their tops...
no comment on the saddle - have never tried that design.
Ride On
Yuri
EDIT: If anyone decides to place an order - I have, in the past, gotten free shipping by entering "shippingisfree" into the coupon/code box.

Last edited by cyclezen; 07-16-22 at 11:28 PM.
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Old 07-16-22, 11:49 PM
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I’m still in Karrimor running shorts from my tri days - seems to work for me. My saddle position depends on where I am on the drop bars, sometimes back and sometimes forward.
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Old 07-17-22, 01:49 AM
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Get your butt off the saddle a lot more often during rides.

You can do this when coasting downhill. Extend one leg down on the pedal, drop the heel on that leg, and then straighten the leg just enough to lift the butt 1 cm off the saddle, and then squeeze the top tube with your thighs or knees to maintain downhill stability. Don't go higher than 1 cm or loose too much stability and create too much drag on downhill. You can either put your hands in the hoods or drops, your choice.

Then ofc, you can also pedal out of the saddle from time to time.

Do consciously remind yourself to get a break from the saddle as often as possible. In time, this will become 2nd nature to you.
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Old 07-17-22, 02:00 AM
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When I got my first road bike (used) it came with a quality saddle but for me it was miserable. I went through a number of shorts and bibs and after 30 miles it was painful. After 40, about all I could think of was how much my @ss hurt. Got a new saddle and all was well. Not saying this is your problem, or that you shouldn't try different types of shorts and chamois, just realize you may have to swap the saddle to get relief.
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Old 07-17-22, 09:45 AM
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Never done gel shorts. Always ridden with a chamois. For me I needed to find a bib shorty/chamois that worked by my body type and then I just stuck with it. I've found Asos to be pretty good, if not expensive. But you get what you pay for, so the saying goes.
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Old 07-17-22, 09:53 AM
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I have plenty of bib shorts, bib tights, and regular shorts and leggings with chamois. I prefer bibs in both. I would give gel a try if I was having problems, but I am not. I would also give gel a try if the user feedback was solidly positive, but that does not appear to be the case. I will keep an open mind but will stick with chamois for now.

Mike
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Old 07-17-22, 10:46 AM
  #20  
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Gel shorts work good around Central Texas in the winter. That is December ta February. Any other time they are way to HOT!

Around here for old riders on old bikes chamois like loose balls in the bottom bracket rules...

Of further note I have by trail and error gotten my bikes set up well for minimal to no pain on my rides. But there are rare times when I get on my bike and from start to finish the ride is just one big pain in the ****... Ha
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Old 07-18-22, 06:30 AM
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Originally Posted by MarcusT View Post
The amount of padding means very little. A good quality chamois makes a world of difference. Butt soreness depends on 2 factors: The saddle (fit) and friction.
Well, I'd amend that to say that some chamois just don't work for some people. There's a major, reputable brand of bibs that I can't use because the chamois just doesn't work for me, it rubs me raw. Which is fine, there are many other brands that do work for me.

Personally, gel chamois did not work for me (I have a limited data set, n = 1 brand I've tried, so I'm by no means an expert). I can't say whether or not a gel chamois would work for you. You've gotten lots of good advice in this thread. I'd agree with others above that "soreness" is not a chamois/saddle/fit issue. Chafing and saddle sores could be a chamois/saddle/fit issue.

As far as where on the saddle to position your butt, as others have said they do, I shift around. I spend most of my time with my butt on a part of the saddle that supports my sit bones, though, and a smaller amount of time on a part of the saddle where my weight is on my "taint". I try to keep some portion of my weight on my legs - unless I'm spinning really fast, or going very slowly, which is why 30 min. rides with my kids when they were learning to ride their bikes were sometimes more painful than multi-hour rides on my own.
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Old 07-18-22, 06:40 AM
  #22  
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Originally Posted by MarcusT View Post
The amount of padding means very little. A good quality chamois makes a world of difference. Butt soreness depends on 2 factors: The saddle (fit) and friction.
I won't argue, but I will approach this from a different angle. I have never used shorts with thin padding that I found comfortable. Using high end Aerotech shorts with thin padding and thick padding, I find the thick substantially more comfortable. Pressure is more of an issue for me than friction. If I go for a 40 mile ride without cream, and one with cream, I won't feel any different during the ride. I may feel a little superficial friction tenderness after the ride if I don't use cream. Lastly, I have tried a number of seats with essentially no padding, and simply cannot use them. I had a fit specialist convince me to try a high end saddle with no padding. I did a 20 mile ride and ended up with bruises over my sit bones. Same bike, same shorts, same fit specialist, saddle exchanged for comfort/padded seat and no issues.
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Old 07-18-22, 06:47 AM
  #23  
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Zero padding for me, chamois liner works well. I agree it's more about conditioning and technique than clothing.

One minor complaint about padded shorts was that I had to wear those shorts every time I rode, or I'd notice the minute change in saddle height. My butt never gets sore, but my knees and ankles are pretty sensitive to that.

This sounds like discussions about footwear in hiking forums. The perfect shoe for one person feels like the box it came in for another.
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Old 07-18-22, 09:49 AM
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Thank you all for the replies. The gist I am getting is that comfort is highly personalized. What is most concerning to me is that after rides I am sometimes developing sore, tender "bumps" (trying not to be too gross) which I assume might be ingrown hairs? I think I'll try a chamois short for comparison but not too thin.
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Old 07-18-22, 12:35 PM
  #25  
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I have used both chamois and gel shorts. For me, gel shorts work the best. They don't seem to wear out as quickly and they hold their shape better. I hand wash and air dry all of my bike shorts. It doesn't matter if it 10C/50F or 38C/100F outside I still prefer the gel shorts.

Saddles. You have to find the one that best suits you. Also, if you aren't a winter rider then each spring you will have to get your butt in shape just like your legs.
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