Why Do Cyclists Wear Tight Bike Shorts?

If you are asking the question “Why do cyclists wear tight bike shorts?”, chances are you haven’t experienced the after-effects of a long-distance cycle without them. And lucky enough for you, you won’t have to after reading through this article. So well done to you for doing your research beforehand and avoiding one of the painful perils that many newbies face.

However, if you are not that new to the world of cycling and this unusual topic somehow just “came to mind” you will be glad to hear that there are some benefits of wearing tight cycling shorts, which even the fairly frequent long-distance cyclist may not realize.


Aerodynamics

One of the reasons that cycling shorts are so tight is for aerodynamics. It goes without saying that the closer something is to your body, the less air-resistance there will be, therefore allowing you to ride further, faster and with less effort.

Cyclist Wearing a Pair of Bike Shorts

If you have worn normal pants and a normal shirt while riding, you probably noticed how much your clothes flew around rather than sticking to your skin.

At this point, you probably didn’t realize how much harder you would have been working just to move forward, but if someone in tight cycling shorts (as well as a tight cycling shirt) was with you, they probably would have been going quite a bit faster while not putting in nearly as much effort.

Aerodynamics are a big part of cycling, especially for competitive cyclists, and cutting down on air resistance wherever possible is a big advantage. If you are considering riding in a more competitive sense, you might want to see where else you can cut down to have a more aerodynamic bike.

If you aren’t too serious and just want your bike to look nice, however, you can add that awesome bike rack and light you’ve had your eye on; or as many bike accessories as you can fit for that matter. It’s pretty much up to you and how serious you feel you need to be about aerodynamics.


Comfort

The main reason that cycling shorts are designed the way they are, is for comfort. Another detail you may have noticed on these shorts is the unusual padded area at the back.

Cyclist Wearing Bike Shorts and Shirt

While some bikes (such as beach cruisers) have large, padded seating; this adds unnecessary weight and size to bikes and wouldn’t work for bikes that need to be lighter and more aerodynamic (like road bikes or mountain bikes).

The comfort, therefore comes in through the very specifically designed bike shorts. The padding on the back of the shorts is positioned perfectly to rest on the seat, while remaining small and in a focused area as not to create any resistance in the wind.


Anti-chafe

The tight fit of cycling shorts means that the shorts move with your legs as they move, rather than moving separately. The Lycra fabric also provides enough stretch to the shorts so that they don’t move on your leg too much.

These two combined aspects of cycling shorts prevent bunching, which would occur in normal pants, and therefore prevent chafe, giving the rider a comfortable, pain-free ride and post-ride experience.


Breathability

On the note of Lycra fabric, if you have ever worn cotton while riding and sweating, you probably noticed that the cotton became wet and therefore caused you to feel soaked, and probably cold too. The material of bike shorts, as well as other bike clothes for that matter, is designed to be breathable.

Pair of Black Bike Shorts on Cyclist

This allows sweat to evaporate more easily than through other fabrics, keeping the experience more natural and much more beneficial for your health. This scientific phenomenon is usually referred to as “wicking”, so try to throw that word around if you are trying to impress your cyclist friends whilst explaining why you bought new cycling shorts.

You may have noticed that bike helmets also play on breathability by creating airflow through the placement of holes in various spots on the helmet. The goal for all of the breathability aspects of riding gear is to keep a rider as naturally cool as possible, while avoiding getting them too wet and/or too cold.


Muscle Compression

While some of the main reasons for the use of Lycra fabric are comfort, aerodynamics, movement, and breathability; there is the added muscle compression benefit which comes with this fabric, thanks to its tightness.

Cyclist in Bike Shorts

Muscle compression is great for a number of reasons both during a ride as well as afterwards. The main ways that muscle compression help riders are through blood flow, faster recovery, and muscle stabilisation.

Blood Flow

At the optimum level of compression, arteries dilate and blood flow is increased, meaning more oxygen and nutrients are distributed throughout the body. In addition to this, vein walls constrict slightly, increasing the velocity of the blood flow. This brings us to the next point, faster recovery.

Faster Recovery

An increase in the velocity of blood flowing through your veins allows lactic acid and deoxygenated blood to return to the heart much faster. This prevents a buildup of lactic acid, which means there will be a decrease in muscle pain, as well as will increase recovery time.

Muscle Stabilization

What compression also does, is it stabilizes the muscle by decreasing the amount of muscular vibrations that one may feel while exercising.

Model Wearing 2XU Compression Bike ShortsThis stabilization, along with the other aspects of muscle compression, helps to reduce fatigue, so you can cycle for a slightly longer period of time.


Conclusion

As you can see, there are a lot of reasons as to why cyclists wear tight bike shorts. From comfort and anti-chafe to the scientific sides of aerodynamics and muscle compression.

Sure, the shorts may look a little unusual to those who aren’t cyclists, or those who simply go on leisurely rides along the beach, but to cyclists who want to get the most out of their ride, these shorts make a massive difference.

So, to end off, if you are planning on getting the best results out of your bike and want to go on longer rides, we suggest you take a look at bike shorts and seriously consider getting yourself a pair or two.

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Why Do Cyclists Wear Tight Bike Shorts? — Bike Hacks