Chamois shorts, also known as padded cycling shorts, are Lycra® shorts that feature padding for additional comfort when sitting on a bicycle saddle. They are also used by triathletes competing in the cycling leg of a triathlon. The best chamois shorts share common characteristics, such as a multi-panel design, comfortable chamois, strong seams that resist tearing, and a variety of colors or designs. To choose the best chamois shorts on the market, first make sure you know what size shorts you will need and what kind of activities you will be using the shorts for.
There are two general types of chamois shorts: bib shorts and non-bib shorts. Bib shorts are just like non-bib shorts, except they feature shoulder supports, like suspenders, that keep the shorts from shifting during riding. Bib chamois shorts are usually more expensive than non-bib shorts because of the extra material, but they provide additional support and comfort, making the extra cost worthwhile.
The best chamois shorts, whether bib or non-bib shorts, feature a multi-panel design. This means the shorts are made from several panels of Lycra® sewn together, rather than just two or three panels. A multi-panel design provides a better fit and helps prevent shifting during riding. While multi-panel shorts are certainly a better choice than shorts with only two or three panels, you must be sure to choose a pair of multi-panel shorts that do not have seams that will rub on sensitive areas, particularly the buttocks and inner thighs. Most of the higher end cycling chamois shorts on the market feature many seams, and some of those seams are raised seams that can cause discomfort.
The idea behind cycling shorts is to prevent chafing and discomfort, so if the chamois shorts do not fit close to the skin and have excess material, avoid those particular shorts. Loose material can cause hot spots, which can lead to blisters, saddle sores, or other types of discomfort. While some shorts feature adjustable waistbands, if they fit snugly enough, you should not need such adjustment. The shorts should fit snugly all the way around, not shifting at all when riding.
Cycling shorts come in a variety of colors and designs. Choose a color that fits your style, but keep in mind that bright, loud colors will attract more attention than subdued colors. When riding on the road, bright colors are a good choice so motorists can see you. Bright and fluorescent colors, however, may not be in style and may make you stand out in a negative way as well.