I’ll never forget the first time that I put on a pair of cycling shorts. I was 16, and a friend of mine invited me out on what would be my first real “road ride.” If a photo of my outfit that day ever surfaces, it will surely be the end of me. My friend was a solid five inches shorter than I, and yet somehow we decided it would be a great idea for me to squeeze into her tiny cycling shorts, since I would need the chamois to stay comfortable in the saddle.
While my surfing and swimming shoulders made it physically impossible to zip up any of her cycling jerseys, she had a neon yellow cycling jacket that was too big for her, so by golly I threw that on like a champ. If I had to describe what I looked like, it would have to be a neon sausage wearing a diaper. Yeah, just let that soak in for a minute.
The shorts, while way too short and tight around my quads, still managed to fit around my waist, and for reasons I still can’t explain, the chamois was so humongous on me it literally shifted back and forth with every pedal stroke. Do you want to guess how that felt after 20 miles? I was one sad little neon sausage.
I learned many things that day: long rides make you numb in places you’ve never experienced before, I was probably never going to be a champion cyclist, bees are strangely attracted to neon colors, and finally— that the bigger the chamois does not necessarily mean the more comfortable your saddle will feel.
Since then, I’ve greatly improved my cycling wardrobe. Dare I say, I am now quite the chamois connoisseur. And what I’ve learned through the years is that much like saddles, men and bikinis—the type of chamois that fits you best is a very individual thing. Ladies, we’re all shaped differently down there, and what works for one person might equal a saddle sore for another person.
The other bit of wisdom that I’ve learned regarding cycling shorts is that the way the entire piece fits is going to affect how comfortable the chamois is much more so than how much padding there might be. Any type of movement in the chamois area while you’re pedaling is generally a bad thing because it creates friction, and any type of heat and pressure is the recipe for some serious chaffing.
The De Soto Femme 400 Mile Bike Shorts are a good answer to many of these common fitting dilemmas with female bike shorts. The chamois, their popular 400 Mile Pad, is very thin for regular cycling shorts and is actually more close to the type of pads you see in tri shorts, which is designed to dry very quickly and have a much smaller profile. I’ve used these shorts on fairly long (50+ miles) rides, and not just enjoyed their comfort and quick-dry capabilities, but also the fact that when I got off my bike to grab some coffee, I didn’t feel like a 90-year-old walking around in a pair of Depends. From the back, you can easily mistake these for workout shorts with no chamois at all.
Which brings me to the next feature of these shorts: the fit. The overall material is far less stretchy than I’ve seen in many other cycling shorts. I was originally concerned that this meant they wouldn’t be comfortable, but it turned out to be quite the opposite. The patented Forza fabric is sleek and actually quite slimming. There is no thin elastic waistband or drawstring, the major change in these shorts from their 2013 model, but rather a wide 2/3 elastic band. While somewhat tough to get on, the band magically stays put once it’s there, offering a flattering fit with none of those strange lumps or weird stomach restriction you sometimes get with cycling shorts made with cheap Lycra material.
I suggest being prepared to order a size up, as the small (which I tested) runs a little small. However, these shorts are also made with De Soto’s Liftfoil material for compressive qualities, so be prepared to make sure these shorts do fit snugly around your legs, as this is kind of the point. The length of the shorts is slightly longer as well, partly because of the compression features of the fabric. Once they are on, these shorts are fantastically comfortable and flattering.
As for storage, these shorts have two smartly designed side compartment pockets on either side with enough room for some gels, keys, money and the like.
If you’ve suffered from unflattering chamois diaper syndrome on one too many rides, and are looking for cycling shorts that are actually … gasp … flattering, then I suggest giving these a try for both your longer and shorter rides.