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Touring: how to keep bike shorts dry?

Old 09-13-18, 04:11 PM
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Touring: how to keep bike shorts dry?

I just finished my longest tour so far: 5 days and 4 nights, with camping in at night. It rained, A LOT, but I managed to keep my stuff mostly dry. One thing I couldn't figure out was my biking shorts. I alternated between two pairs of Santic bike shorts. My rain gear worked well, but my shorts were wet from sweat. One night I had a lean to, but hanging the shorts out didn't help much since the air was so moist. Another day it was not raining, so I strapped a pair of my shorts on top of my gear and let them air dry inside out. Which worked well, although I'll admit it did look a bit... unseemly. By the end, they were both moist and had a good amount of odor.

What to other folks do? Do other brand shorts stay more dry / dry much faster? Do you use baby powder or something? Do you not use biking shorts? Or do you just make do with moist smelly shorts?
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Old 09-13-18, 04:44 PM
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I used cycling shorts when I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail many years back. I slept with them. The heat that is given off by the body when inside the sleeping bag helps to dry things out...especially if you are on a short 4-5 day trip you shouldn't have much else to deal with. Now when i ride I just mostly deal with it. I don't have a sense of taste or smell and don't really care what other people think. I will ride in the same pair shorts two days in a row then rinse them out in a sink and let them air dry on the rack the next two days while wearing the other pair of shorts. I will only go into a laundrymat once per week and then I dont bother using any detergent on the clothes. I just wash in them in plain water. I still do sleep with both the shorts and jersey on...again to help it dry out overnight from sweating during the day.

Probably won't work for you but figured I would chime in.
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Old 09-13-18, 04:58 PM
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I rinse as soon as I am done for the night. Let dry till morning. Still wet in morning? Hang them on my panniers. Dy by end of day (assuming it is not raining ).
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Old 09-13-18, 05:24 PM
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Originally Posted by bikenh
I used cycling shorts when I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail many years back. I slept with them. The heat that is given off by the body when inside the sleeping bag helps to dry things out...especially if you are on a short 4-5 day trip you shouldn't have much else to deal with. Now when i ride I just mostly deal with it. I don't have a sense of taste or smell and don't really care what other people think. I will ride in the same pair shorts two days in a row then rinse them out in a sink and let them air dry on the rack the next two days while wearing the other pair of shorts. I will only go into a laundrymat once per week and then I dont bother using any detergent on the clothes. I just wash in them in plain water. I still do sleep with both the shorts and jersey on...again to help it dry out overnight from sweating during the day.

Probably won't work for you but figured I would chime in.
You mean the padded cycling shorts? I think if I wore them at night they'd just get even slightly sweatier and smellier. I did like taking them off at night, I wore a pair of bathing trunks. But I guess I was doing the right thing - of trying to let them dry overnight and on the panniers during the day. It just rained 90% of the time so that didn't work well. And I forgot to mention that I did try to wash a pair once, I suppose it helped with the smell some, but obviously added to the moisture.

I know: I just wont go touring in the rain. That is the best option
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Old 09-13-18, 05:48 PM
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That "smell" is a sign of trouble. You need to properly rinse your shorts at night or you could be i for a world of hurt.
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Old 09-13-18, 07:30 PM
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SA, the two bike shorts system is the best system. As you say, if its raining all the time and the air is really damp, its going to be an issue for drying, but "generally" this doesnt happen that often on summer tours, but heck, it can.
Over the years, the things Ive found that helps is
-arriving at end of day not too late, set uptent and right away hit the shower and wash bike clothes in shower with me.
-getting as much water out of your bike shorts is a big big factor in drying time. Obvious squeezing as much as can, and then I let them hang on a hook or whatever while i was myself, gets more water running down to lowest part, which i can squeeze out more--then, using my towel, a quick dry cmaping one, I do the "roll and step on" technique to get as much water out of the chammy as possible, and this technique really does get more water out.
I find with my camp towel, I can do my bike shorts and jersey, and still easily dry myself enough--again, usually in warm temps so not a huge deal if i am still a bit damp.
-finding a sunny/air moving spot to properly hand your clothes (ie, not bunched up) and getting as much sun, air to do the drying. Often everything will be dry before bedtime--but I know, not the case in your rainy trip.
-if at a campground, Ill sometimes take a chance and leave stuff hanging somewhere "safe", inside behind something, or if I dont feel comfortable , then inside my tent on a string i have permantly setup in the upper part of the tent. it might be dry in morning, or not, and then you do the "stick it under a bungee"on the rear rack routine.
Depending on how damp, you can put them on and if its dry out, they will dry out with moving air of riding, or not., but thats why you have your spare pair.

as noted, keeping your bike shorts properly washed is pretty darn important, and until you have the experience of having a saddle sore that usually is caused from unclean chammy, or at least made worse by unwashed shorts, you wont believe the importance of keeping you clean and your shorts.

the advantage of those quick dry camp towels is that they too dry quickly, and once you get better at finding sunnny, warmer , windier spots to hang stuff, using a clothes peg or two to keep them being bunched up, this will go a long way to faster drying and thats about the best you can do--but really, this all works pretty well and usually its not rainy for many days in a row (hopefully, depending on where you are and when, and sometimes some bad luck comes into play, and then there aint much you can do there can you?
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Old 09-13-18, 08:50 PM
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Padded bike shorts can dry slowly, in super-damp weather (like this summer in eastern US) it might work better to forgo padding & use cycling undies with non-padded spandex or loose outer shorts.

BTW recent Tour de France had a segment about Sky team's dedicated laundry bus: they learned that using same dryer for multiple riders can spread saddle-sore bugs so each rider has his own dryer. However since they can't use bleach etc, they still can't ensure that one's own clothes are sterile. Sky has reported $30 million+ budget, I wonder if the star riders don't simply wear a new pair daily during TdF?
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Old 09-14-18, 03:41 AM
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I've hung my padded cycling shorts on the top of the tent, under the fly.

I've also draped them over the pannier I have in the vestibule of the tent.

If you stay in a campground, there's a chance there's a hand dryer in the toilet block ... or a dryer in the laundry room.
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Old 09-14-18, 05:54 AM
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I do a variation on the daily wash cycle. I wash in the afternoon, rain or shine, and put them on wet to hopefully dry with body heat. If they don't dry due to humidity, that's okay, at least they're clean.

One camping trick I use, rather than wear them wet to bed, I put them under the thin foam pad I use. They, and my shirt and socks, will usually dry under there. If not, it's a little difficult to put on wet clothes in the morning, but that feeling only lasts a minute or two until they warm up. Wearing them wet at night can be okay in dry conditions in a well-ventilated shelter, but as a rule I keep wet clothing out of my sleeping bag or quilt.

I only carry one pair, so the daily wash is important. I agree, you don't want the smell. It's not just disagreeable, it can lead to conditions that can affect your trip, or worse, your health.
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Old 09-14-18, 09:02 AM
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Two ideas:

1. Add another pair of shorts to your load. If it's raining too much to dry clothes, spend every third night in a motel, and spread shorts and gloves out to dry in the room. Everything else can go into a drier.

2. A you suggest, ride where it doesn't rain every day. Padded bike shorts can be strapped to your rack while riding, and generally dry in a couple hours (flip the shorts over after the first hour).
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Old 09-14-18, 09:16 AM
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$0.75 at the local laundromat is money well spent.

(I use this time to hit on queen size single moms)

Last edited by boomhauer; 09-14-18 at 09:26 AM.
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Old 09-14-18, 07:54 PM
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I have never toured with less than 3 riding shorts. Never had a problem with wet shorts either.
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Old 09-14-18, 08:59 PM
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My wife and I experienced 35 days of rain on one tour. Keeping bike clothing dry was an issue. We use Ortlieb panniers so the rest of our gear was dry. I've taken only 2 pairs of shorts for tours up to 3 months long. I'm not sure how may bike shorts my wife takes, but I think she also takes only 2 pair.

Something that you might try that works for us is to use a camp towel to help dry your shorts. Rinse your shorts or hand wash them in sink. After the rinse hand wring them to remove as much water as you can. Lay your shorts out flat on your dry towel, and roll up the towel and shorts. Then laying the roll on the floor, step on your towel (barefoot) several times. Hang them inside your tent, or if they are not quite dry by the time you are ready to sleep; and you have a synthetic sleeping bag, you can put them in the foot of the bag. They may be a little damp in the morning but they are wearable. This technique also works well in motels, using motel towels. Then get creative and string a clothesline, and hang them.

If you are in an area where a laundromat is available put you bike clothes in a dryer. We don't usually use a clothes dryer at home for our bike clothes, but on tour we use them when they are available.

This method used to work well in motels, but since most of them have switched to LEDs it is not usually an option.


They dry better this way than laying the flat. Wet clothes can also be hung on hangers.


There were 4 of us on this trip.

Last edited by Doug64; 09-14-18 at 09:29 PM.
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Old 09-15-18, 08:04 AM
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re the "roll up and step on" technique, or to add to it--getting as much water out of the hand washed clothing is the key to how long they will take to dry, of course affected to temperature, humidity in air, exposure to sun and how you hang things (to have air moving through the article the best way, ie not bunched up)

I mentioned it before, but once I noticed how that when I hung my hand wrung out clothes on a shower curtain rod or a hook , while I washed myself, it was very noticeable how much water that I did not ring out by hand earlier, would gather down at the bottom of my clothes. So while they were still hanging, I could squeeze out a whole bunch more water, so when I would dry myself off using just part of my camp towel, most of the towel would still be dry to do the "roll and step" thing, which always surprisingly gets a fair amount of water out of the fabric, especially the chammy part of bike shorts-which are the parts slower to dry anyway.

I guess looking back at my trips over the years, and given that this is a day in, day out exercise, it became a bit of a game or a challenge to find the most efficient way of getting my clothes done quickly, and to find areas that would have the most sun and wind exposure so that they'd be as dry as possible for the given conditions.

no way around it, if its rainy and keeps being rainy, or is super humid, it can be a fighting battle and stuff may not be dry in morning, but getting as much water out of your clothes goes along way to getting stuff as dry as possible.
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Old 09-15-18, 09:59 AM
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I bring 3 pair, myself, 1 dry ready to wear the next morning...
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Old 09-15-18, 02:56 PM
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Thanks everyone for all the advice. I hadn't tried the technique of rolling the shorts in a towel and stepping on them. I certainly will next time. And I suppose it is pretty obvious that you should wring out as much moisture as possible first, but I don't know if I took the time to do so. I will be sure to in the future.
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Old 09-15-18, 05:32 PM
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If you can find some discarded newspaper along the way, layering your shorts in them will dry them quite well - at least well enough to wear. The newspaper will draw out most of the moisture.

Also, if you have an 8-foot piece of paracord, loop it through one of the legs of the shorts and whirl it around a few dozen times. All the water will fly out and the moving air will dry them rapidly.
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Old 09-15-18, 06:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Doug64
Rinse your shorts or hand wash them in sink. After the rinse hand wring them to remove as much water as you can. Lay your shorts out flat on your dry towel, and roll up the towel and shorts. Then laying the roll on the floor, step on your towel (barefoot) several times.
+1. I do this and it works great for poly/synthetic fiber clothes typical of workout/cycling gear. Even when not touring like my hotel on a business trip with my workout clothes. Worst case I'm not packing sweaty smelly clothes in my suitcase. It even gets some clothes dry enough I can put them right back on and they dry in 20 or so minutes depending on the weather. In places with a public or semi private shower, I'll just take my clothes to be "washed" in with me instead of using the sink. Hotel towels work great for squeezing the clothes dry but in their absence, I also carry one of those blue rubbery towels you dry your car with (Absorber, or ShamWow?) and it works too and they are very light.

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Old 09-15-18, 06:12 PM
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Originally Posted by NoControl
If you can find some discarded newspaper along the way, layering your shorts in them will dry them quite well - at least well enough to wear. The newspaper will draw out most of the moisture.

Also, if you have an 8-foot piece of paracord, loop it through one of the legs of the shorts and whirl it around a few dozen times. All the water will fly out and the moving air will dry them rapidly.
Who reads a paper newspaper anymore?
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Old 09-15-18, 06:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Doug64

This method used to work well in motels, but since most of them have switched to LEDs it is not usually an option.


They dry better this way than laying the flat. Wet clothes can also be hung on hangers.


When I was in La Spezia, I had a little balcony off of my room. I rigged a clothes line on the balcony to dry my clothes. I looked across the street and there was mamma, hanging the wash for her family. I really felt a part of the neighborhood. Of course no self respecting Italian male would hang the wash.

Another time I was staying at a really crappy motel somewhere north of Portland, Maine. I hung my clothes on a line outside my room. The manger came over incensed demanding I take the clothes line down. I guess he was angry that my clothes line might cause his motel to be upgraded to a one star motel.
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Old 09-15-18, 07:35 PM
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Originally Posted by spinnaker
When I was in La Spezia, I had a little balcony off of my room. I rigged a clothes line on the balcony to dry my clothes. I looked across the street and there was mamma, hanging the wash for her family. I really felt a part of the neighborhood. Of course no self respecting Italian male would hang the wash.

Another time I was staying at a really crappy motel somewhere north of Portland, Maine. I hung my clothes on a line outside my room. The manger came over incensed demanding I take the clothes line down. I guess he was angry that my clothes line might cause his motel to be upgraded to a one star motel.
Hey whats that big black thing in the upper left hand corner? Might be a crt tv? OMG! Ancient technology! *huge grin*

I am a Maine native, and there is probably more scumbag hotels and rental cottages there than anywhere else on the planet. Even though the majority of my family still lives there (14 aunts/uncles on my mother's side, and 8 aunts/uncles on my father's side), I could care less about ever living there again. I was born in Bar Harbor. I'll wager that 90% of the people who live there were not even born in Maine.
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Old 09-15-18, 08:48 PM
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Dry Shorts?

Dry Shorts? In Iceland, I just remember putting wet clothes back on every day. Wet shorts, wet socks, wet shoes.
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Old 09-15-18, 10:10 PM
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Re wet socks. On a long trip I did, I had one pair of longer wool socks, and would wash them by hand as per The rest of my bike clothes. When I was at altitudes when it was cold overnight and cool in the morning, I didn't want damp socks, so I did the old soldier trick. Would dry them as much as I could in sun and air, after towel rolling, but overnight would have them on my body in my sleeping bag. Being wool, they would feel a bit weird at first, but quickly warm up and my body heat would dry them out by morning.
Works well and a plus of wool.
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Old 09-15-18, 10:13 PM
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I just wear the same regular shorts and boxers I always wear, so itís no different than other laundry. I usually wear zip-off pants if the weather will be chilly at night. Two pair of those and three pair of underwear. Wash each pair of undies and myself at the end of the day and put on the clean dry pair from two days ago. Then I tend to stop and do laundry once per week anyway, so really I only have to wear each pair hand washed once between proper wash and dry cycles. When I had 14 days of rain on one tour, weíd do laundry a couple times per week. It only adds an extra hour or so to the week and was worth it just to be wearing warm, dry clothes. It feels great when youíre riding wet for two weeks straight. Not that we were cold, but something about warm, dry clothes when itís wet and under 70 degrees feels nice.
Originally Posted by NoControl
Also, if you have an 8-foot piece of paracord, loop it through one of the legs of the shorts and whirl it around a few dozen times. All the water will fly out and the moving air will dry them rapidly.
Iíve never heard of that before. Iím definitely trying it on my next tour! Thanks!
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Old 09-16-18, 06:38 AM
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Unless there's direct sunlight, or very low relative humidity, line drying is not effective. I see people setting up lines in camp at sunset when there's going to be dew in the morning. You might even go behind in that case.
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