No too long ago, if you wanted to make your cycling more comfortable by wearing bicycle shorts, you had to purchase tight-fitting Lycra models. While these offer excellent comfort, some people feel uncomfortable in shorts that appear painted on.
Fortunately for modest cyclists everywhere, this drawback has led to a new type of cycling short called a "baggy," which features all the function and comfort of Lycra shorts while offering the casual fit and earth tones of hiking and walking shorts. Baggies are a great alternative to Lycra shorts and very practical for mountain bikers, tourists and commuters who spend as much time off the bike as on.
When you're strolling around or at work in these shorts, most people won't even realize you're in your biking gear. Plus, these shorts offer the features of regular pants such as pockets, adjustability and comfort. Naturally, they're loaded with features to enhance your cycling, too. In this article we explain what to look for when shopping for and trying on baggies to ensure that you make the best buy.
Guidelines For Buying Baggies
Baggies offer sweet styling plus serious-cycling function
Baggy shorts are also called double shorts because they have padded bike shorts or briefs inside. This is why, though they look carefree on the outside, they're really high-function pedaling pants with comfort to spare on the inside. Baggies retail at price points from $45 to $140 depending on fabric, features and construction.
Technical Features To Consider
One major difference between baggies is the type of liner used. These range from padded underwear to full 8-panel padded bike shorts with leg grippers. Some manufacturers even make removable/detachable liners so you can "adjust" your short for both on- and off-bike use. Most liners are made of mesh or a technical fabric that wicks moisture and breathes.
Liners typically include pads (sometimes called a chamois; say: "shammy"), too. This is sewn into the crotch of the short to add a little softness, eliminate chafing, wick moisture and prevent bacteria growth. The way that the pad is sewn into the liner varies substantially among manufacturers. So, when looking at baggies, make sure the pad adds comfort and doesn't bunch or chafe. If it doesn't feel comfortable, it's probably not right for your anatomy and you should try on a different short.
Most technical baggies have a gusseted crotch to eliminate seams that may snag as you move forward and back on the seat. This gusseted panel is usually made of a Cordura nylon or stretch Spandura nylon for added durability and ease of movement.
Waistbands vary substantially. Most have a drawstring or belt to keep the baggy from slipping down when you're in your riding position. You'll also find stretch Spandura or Lycra panels in the backs of the shorts at the waistbands, too, to allow the short to move with you without binding or slipping down.
The more technical baggies allow adjusting the legs, which prevents the pants from catching air, branches, etc. Stretch panels in the legs or the gusseted crotch panel allow the legs to fit snugly without binding.
Pocket design has a lot to do with the style of the baggy, so pick one that offers the look you prefer. Pockets come in handy, too, for securing car keys and cash while riding. Pocket closures include Velcro, zippers, buttons or flaps.
There are baggies with flies and those without. Which is best is up to you. A fly adds convenience for men but many riders do fine without.
Look at the sewing and construction to gauge how well the shorts will hold up to the wear and tear of regular use. See if there are bar-tac reinforcements (horizontal stitching) at pockets and seams that take a lot of stress. Make sure the seams are sewn well to take the abuse of riding through branches and brush.
Remember that cycling shorts are made to be worn without underwear. The pad inside the shorts fights bacteria so the shorts are actually more sanitary when worn alone. Equally important, when you wear underwear with your cycling shorts, you end up sitting on the seams in the underwear, which can cause numbness, chafing and pain -- the very things the baggy is trying to eliminate! And, the extra clothing prevents the baggy's cooling feature's from working, which means you're hotter and sweatier.
When you come in to try on shorts, be sure to assume the cycling position, too, so you can feel how the different baggies will fit when you're on the bike. And when you've got them on, move around a good bit to see if they provide enough freedom of movement for your riding style. If you have any questions at all, be sure to ask!