I’ve cycled thousands of miles wearing cycling shorts. For some of them I wore just the bike shorts, for others, I wore something over the top.
And today, I’m going to answer this common question: “should you wear other clothes over your bike shorts while cycling?”
You can wear cycling shorts underneath pants, shorts, jeans, tights, a skirt, or a wetsuit. However, wearing clothes over cycling shorts can increase the risk of your clothes getting caught in the chain, gears, etc. And it also increases the risk of chafing and discomfort, especially for longer rides.
So yes, you can wear other clothes over bike shorts, but it’s often not ideal. To help you make the decision for your unique situation, we’re going to dig deeper into the following topics:
Wearing Clothes Over Bike Shorts (Overview)
You can wear cycling shorts under pretty much anything, but wearing other clothes over bike shorts can trap moisture when you sweat or make it difficult to move your legs. As a result, it’s going to be more comfortable (especially if you’re riding long distances) to not wear anything over your bike shorts.
But, when you get off your bike, you may want to have something to pull-on over your cycling shorts.
Cycling shorts are meant to provide comfort while riding and they’re not designed for going out to coffee or shopping. Consider the hygiene. Do you want to sit down in the same chair as someone who has been sweating all day on a bike and didn’t think to change out of the cycling shorts or put on something over the top?
In addition, many bicyclists prefer walking into a store or restaurant wearing something other than padded bike shorts. There are a number of reasons for this, including modesty, and the utility of pants pockets!
So, it never hurts to bring regular shorts or other clothing along to slide over the padded shorts for when you are off your bike and want to blend in with others. Then, when it’s time to get back on the bike, you can always take the outer layer back off, so that you’re down to just the bike shorts again.
Let’s take a look at some of the more commonly asked clothing questions when bike shorts are involved.
Can You Wear Cycling Shorts Under Pants / Jeans?
You can wear cycling shorts under pants, but it’s not ideal. Pants are prone to getting caught in the chain, gears, or pedals. This can be a safety risk, and it can also ruin a nice pair of jeans. In addition, jeans are bulky and have tough seams, which can cause chafing and discomfort while cycling.
You’d probably be fine for a very short ride around town, but for longer rides, you really shouldn’t wear pants over cycling shorts.
As an alternative, you could pack jeans and change when you reach your destination.
Or, if you want to wear jeans for a short bike ride to the store or to and from work, you might want to consider wearing padded underwear between your skin and the pants instead. And, no worries! It’s amazing how the padded underwear does not look bulky underneath clothing.
Padded underwear provides similar comfort to padded bike shorts, but tends to be more see-through. They will usually be labeled as underwear, chamois, briefs, or liner. So, you will quickly see that they are meant to be worn as underwear and not as outerwear shorts. If you opt to wear padded undies, do not wear them with padded shorts.
Can You Wear Cycling Shorts Under Regular Shorts?
You can definitely wear cycling shorts under regular shorts, and synthetic athletic shorts are fairly comfortable for short-to-medium distance rides. However, any kind of non-cycling shorts will cause extra friction, especially along the seams. Bulky cargo or jean shorts would be the most uncomfortable type of shorts for long rides.
If you want to wear shorts, then the most comfortable option would be baggy shorts with removable padded inserts that are designed for cycling. Those are going to be more comfortable than stuffing (non-cycling) shorts over top of padded cycling shorts.
Wearing baggy shorts with removable padded inserts is great for multi-day bike rides since you can remove the padding after a ride and insert fresh ones the next day while keeping the outer baggies on for a couple of more rides. Doing so saves room in the backpack while maintaining good hygiene.
Can You Wear Cycling Shorts Under (or Over) Tights?
Before giving a direct answer to this question, it’s important to note that we are talking about cycling tights here, not normal tights. Now, that we’ve clarified, the answer is yes.
You can wear cycling shorts under bicycle tights, but never wear padded shorts over those tights. The main reason tights should not be worn under the cycling shorts is because they add an extra layer that is going to bunch up in uncomfortable areas on your undercarriage and make the chamois less effective.
This could also cause for some painful chafing.
When the fabric bunches up while you are riding, it will rub against your skin in a very sensitive area and cause chafing, saddle sores, and a lot of pain. Nothing should come between you with any other piece of clothing besides the padding in the bike shorts.
Also, on a side note, if you wear your tights over your bike shorts, you don’t have to wash them as often.
A serious rider would never wear tights under their padded shorts. If you’ve watched a Tour de France or any other bicycle race, you may have noticed that the riders sometimes look as though they are wearing their tights underneath their shorts. But, what you are seeing are leg warmers that snugly fit underneath the hem of the bike shorts.
Can You Wear Cycling Shorts Under a Dress or Skirt?
You can wear cycling shorts under a dress or skirt. However, whatever dress or skirt you choose, make sure it isn’t too long. Otherwise, it may get caught in the gears or make pedaling challenging. Alternatively, you could take a skirt with you, and put it on over your shorts once you’ve reached your destination.
If you want to be discreet about the extra bulky padding in bike shorts, some opt for a bit of a feminine cover-up. Many women like the look and freedom of movement and airflow that a skirt or a dress provides while still enjoying the soft padding of bike shorts while cycling.
There are also some very nice cycling skorts available. The skorts combine the padding of the bike shorts with a sleek, attractive overskirt.
Can You Wear Cycling Shorts Under a Wetsuit?
You can wear cycling shorts underneath a wetsuit, but you wouldn’t ever wear a wetsuit under your bike shorts.
You may be thinking, “Why would anyone need to wear a wetsuit on a bike?” The short answer for that is most likely someone is taking part in a Triathlon event where swimming and cycling are both parts of the action. Or, maybe they live in a really rainy and wet area.
The main thing to remember is never wear anything between your bike shorts and your skin. It’s really all about comfort, so when you think about putting on “normal clothing” overtop of your bike shorts, consider a few things.
5 Reasons Not to Wear “Normal Clothes” over Bike Shorts
Now that we’ve covered several FAQs related to bike shorts, let’s dig into more details about WHY you wouldn’t want to wear other clothes over your cycling shorts.
And to be clear, we’re focusing on what you wear WHILE RIDING. Once you’ve finished your ride, you can certainly change your clothes, or put something over your bike shorts.
With that said, let’s dig into the first reason not to wear bike shorts while riding.
1. Poorly Placed Seams
Even if you wear athletic shorts over your bike shorts, which I’ve done many times, there is usually a seam that goes right down the middle. That seam will then be positioned right in the middle of your seat, where it will cause friction and rubbing, that can get uncomfortable (or even painful) over time.
You don’t have that problem with bike shorts when they’re worn solo, as they are designed to strategically place seams off the seat area.
2. Gets Caught in Pedals / Gears
If you wear clothes that are too loose, long, or baggy, then there’s a risk of getting caught in the pedals or chain of the bike. This can be dangerous if it causes an accident, but it can also just be annoying. Not to mention it can tear or stain your clothes.
3. Traps Moisture
Some clothes might trap moisture from sweat or rain up against your body. Cycling shorts are really good at managing moisture, but if you wear other clothes over them, those outside clothes could weigh you down, make you cold, or cause other moisture related issues.
4. Hinders Movement
Wearing other clothes over your bike shorts can also hinder your movement while pedaling. This is especially true for bulking clothes like jeans, which can also get caught on your pedals, chain, etc.
Cycling shorts, when used by themselves, are form-fitting and are designed to allow easy movement without causing chafing or snags.
5. Gets Stuff Dirty
Last, you probably wouldn’t want to wear your favorite pair of pants over your bike shorts, because bikes (especially the chain and gears) can get clothes dirty, snagged, or stained.
4 Ideas for “Hiding” Your Bike Shorts
Now, I realize that some folks will just want to have something to pull over their bike shorts, in order to hide the shorts and to fit in with a more casually dressed crowd.
Here are a few tips that you might want to try for concealing your cycling shorts:
- Wear a pair of “over shorts” that are designed for cycling.
- Bring extra clothes to pull on after the riding portion of the trip is done. Either slip them on over padded shorts or find a bathroom where you can change into street clothes.
- Some choose to wear a long t-shirt during warm weather and a long hoodie during colder temps.
- Others turn their cycling shorts into a fashion statement by throwing on a long blazer to cover the shorts.
Additional Tips for Wearing Bike Shorts
Finally, I wanted to close with a few extra bike short tips that I thought you might find helpful:
- Try padded underwear if you want to ride your bike to work, for instance, but cannot be seen in bike shorts all day.
- Try several styles of bike shorts on before you buy. And, yes! This is the one time you need to wear something under the shorts for sanitary purposes.
- If the waistline rolls or feels too binding, consider a pair of bib shorts. Just know that the bib straps are intended to be worn under your jersey. If you are wearing bibs properly, no one will know you are wearing them.
- If, despite the above tips, you wore a seam in the wrong place over your cycling shorts, try rubbing a specially designed cream or ointment on the inside of the chamois before putting the bike shorts back on, in order to soothe saddle sores and prevent chaffing.
- Please never wear bike shorts over another pair of bike shorts. Doubling up on the cushioning may sound good in theory, but the shorts are not made to be worn that way. Going double on the bike shorts would make your backside slip around and even slide off of the bike seat. It could also create friction that you are trying to avoid and cause worse chafing or saddle sores.
Here’s to a more comfortable ride!