On a ride yesterday, I noticed a spot on my shorts where the fabric felt rough. After washing, the problem became much worse, and there are major areas of damage on both the front and back of the shorts. The following picture shows a close-up of a section of the shorts on the front near the chamois. If I look at the shorts closely, it almost seems like there are short little threads of elastic sticking out.

Close-up of shorts

I've never put the shorts in the dryer, and I'm not aware of anything I've done wrong. Is this sort of damage common? Are there any mistakes in care or handling that are likely to have caused this, or is it a manufacturing defect?

  • These answers have all been very helpful. I had guessed that wear would appear as thinning, and I didn't realize that normal wear can look like this. Since the wear happened so quickly, I contacted the manufacturer, who has offered to replace the shorts under warranty.
    – amcnabb
    Jun 6, 2012 at 19:59

3 Answers 3


These look like normal wearing patterns of cycling shorts, unfortunately.

My last 3 shorts (last five or six years) had to be put away because they became "transparent" right in the regions where they COULDN'T be transparent, even though they were still pretty much rideable. But it was very unconvenient to go inside convenience stores, for example.

I noticed this has a lot to do with which parts undergo friction with the skin, and stretching/unstretching during regular use. I suspect some chemical reactions from sweat and other skin substances might be involved. Probably the washing procedure might influence the speed or visibility of the process.

As a final observation, in general the highest the quality ones (as perceived at purchase time) tend to last much longer before the transparency effect ensues.

Anyway, you probably need new shorts.

Hope this helps.

  • 1
    Yeah, I started an answer saying the same thing: this looks like what I see on shorts that are wearing out. The lycra degrades or something and the fabric becomes sheer. Depending on where the worn-out patches are, they might be usable with a very long shirt over them... Jun 6, 2012 at 4:39
  • It seems a little odd that normal wear would progress so rapidly--the shorts seemed perfectly normal two rides ago. But I think I'm convinced that it really is normal wear.
    – amcnabb
    Jun 6, 2012 at 13:42
  • @amcnabb I think the problem might already been there, but sometimes we just notice things when they are already too big (like cracks on the crank arms, for example :oP ). Jun 6, 2012 at 14:41

I suspect that some of the fibers in the fabric have broken with use, and the washing causes the broken fibers to slip out of the fabric and "show themselves". This happens in areas of high friction or where there's a lot of "scrunching/unscrunching" as you pedal.

  • This explanation is very interesting and sounds plausible. Is there a good way to minimize scrunching/unscrunching?
    – amcnabb
    Jun 5, 2012 at 20:16
  • @amcnabb Absolutely! Do you use chamois cremes? Jun 5, 2012 at 21:01
  • 1
    I've noticed my bibs lasting longer/showing less wear by using gentle cycle on washer and using higher quality detergent. A rough cycle through the washing machine can really do a number on spandex and other artificial materials.
    – Ken Hiatt
    Jun 5, 2012 at 21:51
  • @user973810, I'm curious how chamois cream would help, especially since the "scrunching/unscrunching" seems to be more along the side of the butt and near where the front of the leg meets the chamois.
    – amcnabb
    Jun 5, 2012 at 21:59
  • @amcnabb -- I think it's mostly an inherent problem. There's friction and the "scrunching/unscrunching", and it's inevitable. Chamois cream will help a little, and of course make sure there's nothing rough/abrasive that you're rubbing against as you ride. (Check the edges of your saddle, eg.) Jun 6, 2012 at 0:30

I've experienced wear on some of my cycling shorts before and after a while I traced it back to the velcro strap on my saddle bag. It was rubbing on the inside of my leg when i would pedal and wearing out a patch on my shorts.

I don't know of any chamois creams that would cause that type of damage. Do you purchase quality or budget cycling shorts? I've certainly worn through cheap shorts pretty fast after only a few washings (i always wash cold and never dry).

  • I'd say they're medium-low budget shorts. Not quite low enough for me to expect them to wear out so quickly.
    – amcnabb
    Jun 5, 2012 at 22:02
  • yeah, that definitely seems weird. Perhaps bring them back to the retailer and see if there is some manufacturers defect? Where, exactly, is this unusual wear?
    – Tha Riddla
    Jun 6, 2012 at 14:32
  • Mostly "along the side of the butt and near where the front of the leg meets the chamois." There is basically no wear on the chamois portion of the shorts.
    – amcnabb
    Jun 6, 2012 at 16:20

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