Let’s talk about pants

The funny thing about cycling is that it’s the one occasion when virtually everyone has gone without pants.

Pants under cycling shorts and tights are a no-no.  You will experience chaffing on places that, trust me, you don’t want chaffing.  You’ll also get even more hot and sweaty – eww.

Common ailments, aside from chaffing, include knicker line spots and spots from pulled hairs where pubic hairs get trapped and ‘massaged’ by the presence of too much material in a small area or fold of the skin.  You can also get ‘salt rub’ which is where sweat dries and forms a fine surface of salt crystals on the skin, these are abrasive (like a mineral salt facial scrub, sort of) and will do a lot of damage very quickly to your skin or your girly bits.

The Dutch answer to this appears to be to wear nothing unusual, as they cycle in normal clothes all the time, and to be honest with you, and if you have a decent (and fitting) saddle it really isn’t a problem.  But I am talking about going about normal daily activities such as the school run, a shortish commute, or the shopping, then you are probably going to be fine without cyclist specific clothing, or cycling pants.  If you are hopping on and off your bike then you should be fine because you’re breaking the contact points regularly and allowing the area to rest and get some air circulating.

This is not true however when I am out for a proper cycle of any distance or duration, on either my Brompton or on my road bike.  Anything over around 10miles and I want a little extra help in the nether regions.  I’m going to apologise for my partner’s blushes and be open here: It has hampered my sex life when I don’t, because bruised or sore bits do not a lover make.

There, said it.  It’s nothing to do with general comfort, it’s about sex and the ability to pee straight afterward riding your bike.  Let me honest here, a little bruising below for 24hours doesn’t bother me, it’s par for the course, but it does rather detract from an non-sleep related early night.

So, yes, wearing padded cycling clothes is pretty much normal on my road bike.  Since I am being honest, I think women in Lycra can look cool too.  Personally, at 50 and slightly overweight, I think I looked more like a stuffed sausage than any of the models you’ll see in cycling clothing adverts, even an overstuffed sausage in fact, but I am comfortable and it just makes me go quicker so people can’t see the human spare tyre.

If you don’t want to wear cycling clobber you can get pants that are for cycling and these can go under normal clothes.  These are especially useful if your commute is a decent length or you just don’t like ‘cycling Lycra’.  I personally am a fan of the baggy short, and when away from home I have often used my walking shorts for both walking and cycling, and so I use different pants:  Breathable walking pants for normal use and short trips to the shops, and proper cycling pants for proper cycles.

My favourite cycling pants are from VeloVixen, a women’s clothing specific online retailer that also has a great Facebook group for women to discuss all aspects of cycling.  What these girls don’t know isn’t worth knowing, and what Fran of VV doesn’t know about cycling clothes isn’t worth a jot either.


I have two pairs of VV pants; these (above) are my very cycling orientated black ones which I wear under dark clothes and I have a pair of light blue ones with stars on them that I wear under jeans and lighter trousers or shorts.

One of the downsides of padded underwear/cycling shorts/whatever is that you will get a bit warm in the nether regions.  This can lead to chaffing on it’s own, including from cycling clothes that were previously fine.  I have spoken to women who suddenly find they have a problem they didn’t have before, and don’t even consider that it could simply be down to warmer weather.  I think that might be because hot weather, in Scotland, is such a rare thing.  You can also get infections and unpleasantries such as thrush, and this is where it can get quite serious.

We know that constantly warm bits are not healthy, but what can you do about it?  Prevention is definitely better than cure, so for starters, no pants under your padded cycling gear.  It isn’t rude, and if we are continuing on the theme of being open and honest about it, then I will say that it doesn’t half make having a pee in the open air easier if you have to.  We have all gone behind a bush at some point I’m sure.

I’ll tell you a funny story about that.  My friend, who shall remain nameless, and I were heading for Wales for a weekend.  We stopped in a layby with some large bushes and went our separate ways to find a private spot each.  At the point of no return we suddenly heard cheering and clapping, and it was loud male cheering, from a group at that.  We had looked all around and there were no cars or anything, but what we didn’t do was look up.  I mean, who does?  Up, on the rockface above our little pee stop were a dozen members of the armed forces abseiling down the said rockface.  My friend went redder than I have ever seen her before, and I?  Well, I waved at them.  After all, it was too late to do much else.  She has never forgiven me nor let me forget, but I still don’t know if she’s mad at me for picking that layby or waving.

It is also important to wash your cycling short/pants or tights as soon as you can after use, ideally in a technical fabric wash.  Some cycle clothes require you to hand-wash, so read the label, but most seem to be ok in the machine at 20C or 30C.  I would always go for 30C if possible, as there is more chance of it getting rid of any bacteria.  Don’t use fabric softer, it will actually ruin the fabric over time.  I, and many manufacturers, will recommend Nikwax’s Tech Wash, although I have just switched to Grangers Performance Wash because it’s cheaper.  If you’re going to do a lot of cycling then buy a big bottle, it works out a lot cheaper over all, and it will definitely prolong the life of the clothing.

If you really can’t stretch to technical fabric washes, and if you cycle every day and it really is a pain washing separately, I would stick to a non-bio.  A lot of folk will argue that a non-bio won’t get rid of bacteria, but if you can do a babies nappy in it then I can’t see why it won’t be fine.  I am sure the heat of the water has as much to do with anything else, as well as how long you leave it between wear and wash.

I would also recommend using baby wipes on your bits if you aren’t able to shower immediately.  Again, if they’re good enough for babies, they’re good enough for us girls.  This will reduce the salt on your skin from sweat, and reducing the salt reduces the potential for later chaffing and soreness.  Ideally of course, we would jump in the shower.

In the military they tell you to look after your feet and your bits.  There is a lot of experience in very dirty places behind this, and I think it’s worth considering this wisdom.  These are both areas which sweat, sweat produces salts, salts lead to soreness, soreness leads to an inability to function at your full potential. The army know what they are talking about, even if they won’t let you have a pee in peace.

So, there we have it, my thoughts on pants, no pants, and looking after your pants and pants region.  Hope you’ve found this useful, and entertaining, and I’d love to hear your thoughts, comments, and experiences.  Everyone is different and we can all learn by others misfortunes and happy experiences, so please share.

(All comments will require the Editor’s approval and will be moderated).


2 thoughts on “Let’s talk about pants

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