Thursday, November 26, 2009

Do You Need Padded Shorts?

Scott Adams not only creates shoot-coffee-out-your-nose-funny cartoons, he makes more than his fair share of good points. The cartoon above, which I first read years ago, no longer adorns my cube wall because I managed to leave the world of work cubes behind. But this message from Scott stuck in my head, where it has whorled around with other stuff, like Lao Tzu's advice: "To attain knowledge, add things every day. To attain wisdom, remove things every day."

Years ago, when I was a kid, I rode my bike. As I upped my mileage and rode on hot, sweaty days, I learned that cotton jeans and cotton briefs had seams that bunched up and rubbed in uncomfortable places. I learned good things, useful things, about leather seats and dorky pants and chamois and Bag Balm. I rode lots of miles, long miles and if you'd asked I'd give you advice on how many pairs of cycling shorts you should bring for riding Paris-Brest-Paris (bring a couple, of slightly different styles, with the chamois seams in different spots.)

On really long rides, rides where I'd be out for days or weeks, I devised my wear one, wash one strategy. Each night I'd swap shorts and the dirty pair would be washed out and hung in a mesh bag from some spot on my bike. The next day's riding would usually dry the shorts. Usually, but not always. Chamois tend to hold onto water and on the hottest of days, salt from sweat and chamois seams would rub and well, that's what the Bag Balm was for.

Now when I'm talking about chamois here, it's not real chamois these days. It's a synthetic pad and if you hang out with cyclists you'll here all kinds of talk about which brand of shorts has the best pad and everybody has their favorites. Like saddles, it comes down to shape and different people are different. But here's something I've noticed, something I got to thinking about, something I added to that memory of an old Dilbert cartoon and the teachings of Lao Tzu: higher mileage folks tended to like shorts with a thinner pad. 


Now I figured out a few years ago that WTB saddles work really well for me. They are a good shape for my butt and for me, they have just the right amount of padding. I also like having pockets, so I tend to wear thin nylon cargo shorts or pants over my lycra shorts. But the chamois pad would tend to get hot and sweaty and on one long ride a while back the idea came to me to cut out the pad. The thinnest pad is no pad. So at camp that night I used the scissors of my Swiss Army knife to cut the pad from my cycling shorts. 

It worked.

For me.

Your mileage and butt may vary.

The next day I cut the pad from my second pair of shorts.

All my undershorts are padless these days.

My wife and kids will tell you that I still wear dorky pants. Cargo shorts or pants are dorky and most of mine are the nylon kind with legs that zip off to let them be either shorts or pants. They're dorky, but useful.

But the padded, dorky shorts? For me, they're more useful without the pad.

Keep 'em rolling,


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