I don't currently own a pair of cycling shorts. I just wear a pair of running shorts underneath some running leggings. I'm thinking of getting my first pair of cycling shorts, but as there are so many choices available, what should I be looking for? In terms of padding, is there some type of padding that is better (more durable, more comfort) than others?
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What type of shorts?
First you need to work out what sort of cycle shorts you are looking for:
What features to look for?
Now, what are the features that you are looking for in good quality bike shorts:
A die-cut and formed chamois will generally be more comfortable than just a plain pad. This type of chamois will usually have pre-formed creases and differing levels of padding in different areas.
More "panels" will generally contour to fit your body better than fewer panels. All of my favorite shorts in the past have been 8-panel or higher. I also prefer shorts sewn with flat seams.
I personally prefer bib-style shorts, and will wear them under a tough shell if mountain biking. I find that the waist band of regular shorts tends to bunch and roll under my stomach when I bend forward at the waist.
The lycra comes in different weights or thicknesses as well. The thicker the fabric, the more support and durability, but the trade-off is more heat.
As far as personal comfort goes, you want a chamois that's thick and stiff enough to provide padding, but not so thick or stiff as to feel diaper-ish. A thick pad that you can squeeze to almost nothing with your fingers will act the same way when you sit on it.
But whatever you do, don't skimp on your shorts. Everyone will have personal preferences as to comfort. Some prefer a gel chamois over a foam one, and vice versa, but the key is to get the best shorts you can afford, and the more you pay, the more likely you are to be comfortable on the bike.
I personally prefer bib shorts over any regular shorts I've ever tried, and will probably never buy a pair of non-bibs again. I find that the bibs hold the shorts in place much better (could be because I have a bit of a gut :p) and that I don't feel myself wanting to adjust my shorts while I'm riding.
Just a small tip : be sure that the fabric is not to transparent. You don't want the person riding behind seeing things they'd rather not, especially when it's sunny this is happened to me more then once.