When it comes to mountain bike fashion, looking good isn’t as much about style as it is about having the proper attire for the day’s riding conditions. Besides being the envy of your riding posse, dressing for the weather will keep you comfortable and allow you to ride a little bit faster and maybe a lot longer.
Mountain bike clothing and accessories have made tremendous strides in recent years with selection, function, and aesthetics. Baggy or tight, subtle or bright, there’s a full array of goods on the market for every taste in style, every body type, every discipline of mountain biking, and a majority of what Mother Nature throws at us.
The chamois is, arguably, the most important part of any riding outfit. Since it is the only cushion that comes between your bike seat and your...well... sensitive parts, it can play a major role in how you feel about your ride. In order to get the most out of any chamois, you’ll want to make sure your shorts, or liner shorts, fit properly. A comfortably snug fitting short will minimize the friction on your skin that causes irritation.
While chamois comfort isn’t always about the price, there is often a correlation. Mutli-density foams, anti-microbial treatments, and anatomic designs, are typically more costly, but can lend themselves to improved feel and durability. Keep in mind, all chamois will wear out over time as the foam degrades, but the better stuff lasts longer and feels better. It’s one place you should treat yourself.
For real comfort, try bib shorts. Even if you typically wear baggy shorts over some sort of liner or under short, you can reap the benefits of bibs. With more women’s bibs on the market every year, this goes for the ladies, too.
A waistband can lend itself to discomfort over the length of a ride as it digs into your abdomen. When you throw a baggy short over a liner short, it can be even more irritating. Since bib shorts don’t have a waistband, it’s almost like you’re not wearing shorts!
As your friends can attest, plumber’s crack is never nice to get stuck behind, and the sensation of your shorts falling down can be distracting, if not frustrating and occasionally dangerous. Since bib shorts are held up with the straps that go over your shoulders, their tendency to ride low is almost zero.
From a riding performance standpoint, bibs are superior in nearly every way. Unfortunately, they lack some of the on/off convenience that a standard bike short would offer. Mountain bikers with small bladders beware.