We take an honest look at these functional essentials of any mountain biker's wardrobe. Both have their place and each a great alternative to brighten up your cycling wardrobe.
You would have seen the lycra clan, mostly flying past with great legs on your tv screens at every EPIC or XCO race. They are all about speed and efficiency. We tend to associate the lycra with road cycling, bad suntans from the thigh down, racing snakes and the padding we have learnt to love and appreciate. Then, on your Saturday morning ride at your local bike park a group of girl’s wizz past. Something is different. They have baggies on. They look like they are far more comfortable and relaxed and you can almost feel their energy is fun and spontaneous. They look the part. Comfortable and sporty. Pretty relaxed but still shredding those trails with skill and precision.Now you are confused…what gear should I be wearing? How come I don’t have a pair of baggies in my cycling wardrobe?
How do they differ?
Baggy shorts are cycling shorts that look like regular shorts on the outside, but are designed for cycling. Some have a thin chamois lining already fitted on the inside This lining can range from polyester fabric to full eight-panel, form-fitting cycling shorts beneath the baggier outside shorts. Others are designed to be worn with a separate liner short underneath.
Baggies tend to provide a more casual look when riding those fun trails with your friends. My personal preference is for chamios-lined baggy shorts. Chamois , known as lycra shorts are more form fitting and tight. They reduce wind resistance which in return increase aerodynamic efficiency. They also protect the skin against the repetitive friction of the legs against the bicycle seat or frame. Some chamois draw sweat away from the skin and so keep you cool during the longer rides.We chatted to Iliska about the baggy and chamois debate. Iliska is a skilled mountain biker with some great knowledge and insight into both.
" What I like about baggies is the fact they are basically dual purpose for me in that you don’t need to change from tight singular purpose cycling shorts into casual clothes when you want to quickly go to the shops or mall but yet have all of the benefits of wearing a chamois.Another bonus that I have personally experienced is the fact that baggies definitely hold up better in crashes, I've had my fair share of those but I seem to lose more chamois through damage than baggies. I would say the thing that I love the most about my baggies are the pockets. I am fond of keeping things simple, thus easy access to necessities during a ride is such a treat. For example your protein bars, energy gels etc. lets face it you don’t always want to ride with a camel back to store all those things in, especially when it’s a longer ride on a hot day. I normally take out my baggies for those fun rides where its just to go out and enjoy the trails and the views; where time isn't a factor and I don’t feel the need to change afterwards.
Like I said there is definitely a place for both and what I like about the tighter lycra fit is the fact that they are cooler and a little bit more flexible. I normally use my chamois when I'm doing a race and need some aerodynamics on my side.Lycra is designed to stretch with the body for ultimate drag-free performance. A good pair of chamois is a winner for long, seated, 'pedally' rides and I'll continue to wear them as there are some days where you want to at least look fast standing in the starting shoot. In the cycling world they tend to label the riders either left or right with left being the more XC (crosscountry) riders and the right being the more relaxed face adrenaline junkies like the enduro and downhill riders.The left side of the spectrum ; the XC (crosscountry) riders still tend to wear lycra, while the right side of the spectrum; the down hill and enduro riders wear baggies, They also say wearing lycra is unfashionable. I used to work for a cycling store in the sales department and found that most people especially the ladies when starting out with MTB buy lycra shorts, even bibs (cycling shorts that are held up by a bib instead of an elastic waistband). I'm not particularly fond of these mainly because as ladies we cant really just get undress anywhere when nature calls and with a bib short its a lot more complicated.
I think the reason why ladies go for these bib shorts is because that’s all they are used to seeing on TV, the media tends to cover either road, marathon and or XC races where all of them prefer chamois. However in saying this I have also found that the ladies have shifted their focus to baggies and that’s why you see so many more baggy options for ladies out there. If you are starting out and might be a bit shy and don’t feel that the tighter lycra shorts really complement your body, you will feel much more comfortable in baggy shorts. Like everyone always says the better you look and feel in yourself the more confident you are. Make sure you are comfortable.I must say I have a favorite and that most definitely my baggies take the cake. I feel much more confident on the technical terrain and they make me feel more like a real mountain biker. Lately I will more than often take them out to do a race. I rode the Sani 2 C in my baggies and felt fantastic.Make sure you try on all options, you will find the right one for you."