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Ask BSG: Should I Wear Underwear Under My Bike Shorts?

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Over here at Bike Shop Girl headquarters we get many emails asking common questions on how to survive being a cyclist and a woman.  In order to get more insight from other women I will often ask if I can put the email I received up on the web for others to answer. Have a question? Ask for advice here.

Okay – I have heard this before but it has always been from male sales people.  I rode to work 3 or 4 times a week this year until the temps dropped and the snow started flying. I am having difficulty wrapping my head around the idea of putting on the same pair of shorts I wore on my 8 mile ride in the morning, to ride the same 8 miles on the way home – without underwear.  It is easy to change my underwear a couple of times a day and pull on the same pair of shorts.

There are many reasons we don’t want to wear underwear under neath our bike shorts. 1. Underwear causes chaffing with those seams rubbing every pedal stroke. 2. Cotton doesn’t breathe well and can create swamp crotch.

During the hot times of year I carry two pairs of cycle liner shorts. They look much like a boxer brief and are thinner than their spandex sister shorts.  The reason for two is that I can sweat on the way to work, and not have to put them back on.   If in a forgiving environment I often have rode to work, showered and hand washed my cycling shorts.  Leaving them to dry during the day.

Now readers, what are your thoughts?

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  1. D'Andrea
    14 Jan ’10 at 8:25 am — Reply

    This may be TMI, but the last thing i want is another layer between me and the saddle. I refresh before and after a ride w/hand sanitizer. Just don’t go overboard, can sting if you’re too generous :-)

    • Danielle
      8 Aug ’10 at 9:31 am

      My first thought was “Owwwww”!!!! Then I thought “Aww… really Owwwww”

      But after thinking for a bit, this really seems like a good idea! No, it’s not TMW, and hopefully my question won’t be either: can you delicately (gently) describe specifically where you use the hand sanitizer?

  2. Jana
    14 Jan ’10 at 10:50 am — Reply

    The purpose of bike shorts with a chamois is to avoid chafing. Wearing regular underwear with bike shorts defeats that purpose entirely, as there are all sorts of seams or edges that would be in contact between your skin and the saddle.

    I sweat when I ride a bike- even in winter- and luckily I have a workplace where I am able to hang up my shorts to dry during the day, either in a locker room, or at my desk. If I didn’t have this, I would bring a 2nd pair of shorts for the ride home.

  3. 14 Jan ’10 at 10:57 pm — Reply

    I think the ‘never wear underwear’ rule is taken too much as gospel. I have cycled around the world and almost always had underwear on under my shorts, without any problems. Saved myself a lot of laundry too! Other people I know get terrible rashes. You just have to try it out for yourself and see if it bothers you or not.

  4. Andrea
    17 Jan ’10 at 2:39 pm — Reply

    Forget underwear! I have been so sore because I was adament it was my seat position not the fact that I wore underwear. For this person I would recommend having 2 pairs.

  5. 21 Jan ’10 at 9:01 am — Reply

    If you do want to wear underwear, try a very tight, thin boy short, or something where the seams are farther down on your legs. I hate riding in underwear, but when I feel I must, that’s how I do it.

  6. Jane C.
    20 Mar ’10 at 7:49 am — Reply

    So what do you wear under at that “time of the month”?

    • Ingrid
      31 Jan ’15 at 2:31 pm

      This is my exact question! I don’t mind the no underwear on the other times of the month except during that week. I wished someone could tell me

  7. Lee
    7 Jul ’11 at 4:44 am — Reply

    I have been cycling for 20 years and have always worn cotton briefs under my shorts. I have never had a single problem. I recently switched to Under Armour mesh underwear. They are even better

  8. J Rooks
    23 Oct ’11 at 9:16 am — Reply

    I have always worn undies (though I usually avoid cotton – think wicking) under my bike shorts (without issues), and I think with all of the great athletic undies on the market these days, finding a ‘seamless’ alternative is much easier. i.e. the under armor undies mentioned in a previous post and Pategonia makes a great seamless brief for ladies. While I understand the argument(s) for riding sans panties, I can quite get past the ewww factor. I just don’t feel you can really get that chamois clean enough after repetive ‘sweatings,’ especially just by rinsing your shorts in the shower. BUT I think the most important thing is – whatever works for YOU – go with it. Everyone is different, and if your chosen method works, keep using it. If you are having issues, consider trying something different.

  9. m r
    29 Oct ’11 at 10:42 am — Reply

    what shorts can i get to help me from geting so sore down ther

  10. Al
    10 Jan ’13 at 7:34 pm — Reply

    For my two cents — I’m a 50 yr old guy with about a 100 mile a week average. Believe it or not, I have found the best to be women’s low cut satin panties to be the best. Almost like bike material with just a bit of cotton at the crotch. NO chaffing.
    When I used regular male-style briefs – chaffing almost immediately and I’ll never wear them again when I cycle.

    Make SURE to differentiate chaffing sores with “lots of miles” sores. If you ride 60 miles in one shot, expect to be sore bot NOT chaffed.


  11. Joebin
    7 Jul ’14 at 10:27 pm — Reply

    I use to wear boy briefs first the took all the sweat in but Latey I tried a thong like a Victoria secret lace thong yes you get Magee camle toe but you don’t even deal the seat is you give the camle toe to your self befor you ride and also it makes me so horney beacuse after riding I’m all wet all the way to my pants and all the guy look it’s the best felling when you masterbate while riding a bike

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