How To Buy Cycling Tights

There comes a point when the tem­per­a­ture drops but you still want to ride. ‘Tis the sea­son then to don long tights or knick­ers to ward off the chill and extend the cycling sea­son. Read on to learn how to choose the best cycling tights so you can ride all year.

Types: Full leg length tights are the opti­mal choice for true cold weath­er or wet rid­ing. Dur­ing shoul­der sea­sons like spring or fall, knick­ers, which are cut just past the knee, are great as they pro­vide more pro­tec­tion than shorts, but will not retain heat like full-length tights. Tights with­out a chamois are also great for rides where the tem­per­a­ture may rise or drop and hav­ing the abil­i­ty to lay­er them over your oth­er tights is essential.

Mate­ri­als: Nylon span­dex, often referred to as Lycra (which is actu­al­ly a brand name), is the base mate­r­i­al for cycling tights. While stretchy and form-fit­ting, the mate­r­i­al does­n’t breathe well, so man­u­fac­tur­ers add in oth­er mate­ri­als to make their own pro­pri­etary fab­ric blends to increase wick­ing, breatha­bil­i­ty and com­fort. High­er end ver­sions may have fab­rics with fea­tures such as dim­ples for aero­dy­nam­ics or more com­pres­sion to improve cir­cu­la­tion. For a begin­ner the most impor­tant fab­ric choice is based around the weight or thick­ness of the mate­r­i­al. A lighter fab­ric will be cool­er and breathe bet­ter, while a thick­er ver­sion will be warmer and is like­ly to be more durable.

Fit: Like oth­er cycling-spe­cif­ic appar­el, the fit should be form fit­ting, but not constricting.

Chamois: Not all long tights will have a built-in chamois as some are designed to pull over cycling shorts you are already wear­ing. Most knick­ers will have one. Def­i­nite­ly do not dou­ble up on chamois. That will guar­an­tee an uncom­fort­able ride.

Once made from leather and need­ing much care and oil­ing, new chamois are made from syn­thet­ic mate­ri­als and do not need spe­cial care oth­er than read­ing the wash­ing and dry­ing instruc­tions cor­rect­ly. The chamois is a vital part of the tights as it reduces fric­tion, wicks away mois­ture, inhibits bac­te­r­i­al growth, and pro­vides cushion.

While there are many shapes, thick­ness­es and den­si­ties to be found in both men’s and wom­en’s chamois, there are three main types avail­able today: mul­ti-den­si­ty, open cell foam, open cell gel, and closed cell. Many chamois will use a com­bi­na­tion of mate­ri­als to pro­vide opti­mal com­fort and performance.
Mul­ti-den­si­ty: offers the high­est per­for­mance and com­fort on extend­ed rides.

Open cell gel: chamois offer more com­fort and cush­ion­ing but reduced breathability.
Closed cell: pro­vides com­fort on a budget.

In gen­er­al recre­ation­al rid­ers may find a larg­er, thick­er chamois more com­fort­able, while dis­tance rid­ers and rac­ers may steer toward a more stream­lined pad. In the end, regard­less of rid­ing style, per­son­al pref­er­ence is king when choos­ing a com­fort­able chamois.

Pan­els: Tra­di­tion­al thought holds that the more pan­els the bet­ter and this holds true for the most part. Bibs with 8, 10, or 12 pan­els will typ­i­cal­ly fit bet­ter than a 2 or 4‑panel pair. The caveat here is that some high-end ver­sions are uti­liz­ing new, high-tech fab­rics and will often have few­er pan­els. In some cas­es the whole short is a sin­gle unit.

Flat sewn seams will also enhance the com­fort of your tights and can be found on both more and less expen­sive garments.

Zip­per: Ankle zip­pers are more com­mon on tights meant for lay­er­ing (with­out a chamois) and make remov­ing them over shoes easier.

Whether for lay­er­ing or for stand­alone use, long tights can extend the rid­ing sea­son to year-round.