What's the reason for wearing biking clothes made of Spandex (Lycra)? They sure look pretty strange.

  • 5
    Go on a long ride in gym shorts. Then go on a long ride in bike shorts the next week. Then you can answer the question yourself. Commented Sep 12, 2010 at 12:30
  • 2
    @geoffc what about goth cyclists?
    – Jay Bazuzi
    Commented Oct 25, 2010 at 22:16
  • @Jay Bazuzi Clearly Goth cyclist should ride in suits and ties.
    – geoffc
    Commented Oct 26, 2010 at 21:34

7 Answers 7


I thought spandex shorts looked weird too, until my wife bought me a pair with the padding. Now, I can't ride in regular shorts at all!

The shorts with padding help protect your sensitive groin parts, as well help keep you cooler and drier (preventing nasty sores) by wicking the moisture (sweat) away from your body. There's no binding or rubbing in the wrong areas, and all your jiggly parts are held securely in place.

And a big, important point about bike shorts - you wear them without underwear.

Jerseys also come in tight and loose fitting material - I personally prefer the loose-fitting jerseys (I'm not exactly skinny enough to wear the tight jerseys). Other than the moisture-wicking they provide, they also come in extremely visible colors, which is nice when you're out riding by yourself, especially if visibility is low.

  • 6
    They also don't bunch up anywhere.
    – Rebekah
    Commented Aug 25, 2010 at 20:09
  • I do not thinking the Spandex part is necessarily the wicking part, but since they are thinner the moisture more easily moves around.
    – geoffc
    Commented Aug 25, 2010 at 20:14
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    @Johan - clarified: I thought the shorts looked weird. My coworkers still make fun of me when I come in wearing my shorts, but they don't have much to say when I point out that my butt isn't sore after riding in because of them! Commented Aug 25, 2010 at 20:44
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    I much prefer wool over Lycra for form-fitting or loose cycling clothes. It doesn't smell even after multiple sweaty rides and breathes much better than most fabrics I've worn. Added bonus: wool garments are usually less garish and logo-bedecked. So, my answer would be there is no benefit to Lycra! Commented Aug 25, 2010 at 23:11
  • 1
    If it's padding in the shorts you want, you don't need to go with spandex. There are bike shorts you can buy that have the padding, but otherwise look like regular shorts. I suppose you can wear them without underwear, too (if you want) but I don't do that (TMI, I know). Commented Sep 11, 2010 at 22:14

There are a few good reasons for it.

  • More aerodynamic, we humans don't put out much power so every little bit helps
  • Padded shorts. You want these for anything longer than a short ride. Most shorts with pads happen to be spandex.
  • Moisture wicking
  • Read some things a few years ago about muscle fatigue when jiggling (rough road/mountain biking) is greater than if you can compress the muscles a bit so they don't move as much
  • The muscle compression thing is what Under Armour is marketing their stuff based on.
    – geoffc
    Commented Aug 25, 2010 at 20:12

If you don't like the way they look (and frankly, no man looks good in lycra shorts), you can wear a pair of lycra shorts with baggy shorts (or trousers) over the top - that way you still get all the comfort benefits with none of the style penalties.

  • There are no pockets in cycling pants, and no belt loops either. I wear old "around the house" pants on top of cycling pants.... I mean, where does a Real Man hang his leatherman when riding?
    – Criggie
    Commented Jan 7, 2016 at 23:55

Depends on whether you want respect at the LBS or every other place you go into. I'm cut-offs, T-shirts, and tennies. I like going past the dudes that spent more on their clothes than I spent on my bike. Sure, I look like a construction worker that's lost his driver's license but I don't wear 420/tie-dyed either. Misdirection and a contrarian streak. As soon as someone says 'you gotta...' I'm gone, and it is cheaper. Clothes might make THE man but they don't make a man. Go to a ski resort and look at the people coming off of the ends of the 'bunny runs', they've got all the fancy stuff. "Just do it."


Because sweaty, crumpled cotton a) chafes and b) is pretty unhygienic. Lycra ("spandex") doesn't bunch up, shifts sweat more effectively and (if padded) takes a bit of the road buzz away. I'm so used to wearing it the idea of looking strange doesn't even cross my mind.

Whatever you wear, make sure you wash it often.


The first few years of bike commuting, I was all about cotton shorts and shirts. I thought lycra looked stupid, and was a waste of money. Then I tried some lycra shorts. What a difference. My stuff didn't get chafed or squished on the 15km ride to work. I kept cooler and drier. Totally worth it. I always wear lycra bike shorts now (the padding and hold-stuff-in-place ability are essential for comfort).


For those who aren't thrilled at dropping a bunch of money on expensive lycra shorts that look weird and make you uncomfortable, there is an alternative! You can buy liners that do all that same amazing stuff (moistore wicking, bottom-padding, gonad-compressing) at a fraction of the price. For example these: Men's Cycling Liners I'm sure there are other alternatives, from other sources. These will let you keep your baggies and have 90% of the benefits of $100 lycra shorts :)

  • Liners are a good alternative, but the flapping of your baggies will become annoying on longer/more serious rides. And then there is the extra drag. Commented Dec 31, 2012 at 13:00

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