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I'm trying to replace a worn-out pair of cycling shorts that has been discontinued, and am having a hard time recognizing a feature that seems pretty important: the shape of the chamois pad.

The shorts I used to wear have a chamois pad that's subdivided into several different regions. I've always assumed all pads were like that, but the replacement shorts I ordered have a single flat pad, and it's just awful, so #TIL and now I need to figure out how to identify which shorts in the marketplace are like this.

Unfortunately, it seems like web stores universally refuse to show photographs of the pad (that's everyone from REI to Amazon, to manufacturers like Pearl Izumi who made my original shorts), so I need to know if there's terminology that captures this distinction. This answer describes them as "3-D molded," while this answer says "die-cut and formed" and calls them "panels." Wikipedia doesn't mention this aspect of cycling pads at all.

Does the marketplace in general have a common way of signaling this distinction? Or, is it a feature that's standard in but also unique to a specific kind of pad (e.g. gel-based) or shorts intended for some niche purpose (e.g. ultracycling)?

I'm looking for ways to tell that do not require me to inspect the shorts in-person. I assume the problem here is just a gap in my knowledge.

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  • Yet another bonus for brick-n-mortar stores over shopping online. Granted, I realize that not everyone has a LBS that's really "local", but...
    – FreeMan
    May 23, 2022 at 16:31

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Unfortunately the problem is not a gap in your knowledge.

When buying from online stores the process can be extremely hit or miss. Sometimes theres no image. Sometimes there is an image but it doesnt tell the whole story. Some manufacturers achieve this 'panel' effect purely with variable foam thickness and density in what looks to be a flat pad.

Ultimately, it's a bit of a case of trial and error. When you find shorts that you like buy 3 pairs because it will push the next trial and error phase further into the future.

I can however offer one interesting tip on finding out information about the pad. Clothing manufacturers often have a separate page for the chamois to explain/market whatever technology/features they have. So using your example of Pearl Izumi, I went to their web store and selected some 'pro' shorts which told me they had a 'levitate pro' chamois. I then did a quick google search for 'levitate pro chamois' and found this page: https://www.pearlizumi.com/pages/levitate-chamois - from that page you can click the link for the 'pro' range and finally have a picture of a levitate pro chamois.

This pattern of information repeats with other manufacturers such as Endura: https://design.endurasport.com/pads/ or Castelli: https://www.castelli-cycling.com/US/en/explore/seat-pads (the discover more links go to videos of each chamois)

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