Is it time to replace my bike shorts?

Knowing when to invest in new shorts can improve cycling comfort and save you from embarrassment.

image of cyclists riding on bike path

When to Replace

According to Reddit user AllezAllezAllezAllez, the right time to replace bib shorts is “6 months to a year after people on my wheel start to complain.”

Don’t be this rider.

Don’t subject the entire group ride to a crackin’ view of the “Grand Canyon” just because you can’t be bothered to replace your old bibs. By the time your shorts have gone translucent, they have already begun to deteriorate in numerous other ways – most certainly affecting performance and comfort. So, do yourself a favor and get a fresh pair before the dreaded crack appears.

image of gravel cyclist riding with worn out bib pants and a peach emoji added to cover the bad view

Why Do Shorts Wear Out?

Nearly all bike shorts and bib shorts are constructed from elastane fabric – also known as Spandex or Lycra. Designed to provide comfortable stretch while retaining shape and form, elastane is perfect for tight fitting cycling garments; however, over time, it loses its constitution. This process can be exacerbated by several factors including time in the sun, washing method, and the nature of the riding you do. Riding in the rain or mud will also impact the life of the fabric. To get the most out of your shorts, check out our post on how to properly wash your cycling kit.

Due to the delicate nature of elastane shorts, many mountain bikers opt to wear a padded liner short underneath a more durable baggy outer layer. This helps mitigate scrapes and tears from trailside hazards like rocks and branches.

Signs of Wear

Obviously, worn out elastane can provide your riding buddies with an intimate and undesirable view; additionally, it can be a major factor in comfort. As the fabric stretches, the fit becomes loose and no longer compressive in the right places. The chamois will begin to move while riding, leading to discomfort and even saddle sores. The leg grippers will expand – leading to the shorts sliding up while you ride.

In addition to elastane fatigue, your chamois pad will compress over time – losing its wicking properties and compliance. To keep your chamois plush for as long as possible, use non-petroleum chamois cream and wash your shorts after every ride. When your chamois stops feeling snug or begins to change in density, it is time to consider replacing your shorts.

image of cyclist wearing bib shorts standing over bike

How Long Do Shorts Last?

Depending on the type and volume of riding, you can expect to get at least a couple years out of your shorts. Most estimates range from 200 to 400 hours of saddle time before shorts should be replaced – so, if you ride a lot, you may need a new pair every year. In general, more expensive shorts are made of higher quality fabrics and will last a little longer than budget models. Many experienced cyclists will choose to spend extra on their shorts and save elsewhere because they know how much comfort can be gained from a good chamois.

image of woman riding a bike wearing Performance Ultra V2 Bib Shorts

If you’re looking to upgrade, check out the Performance Ultra V2 Shorts & Bibs for that sweet spot between premium comfort and value.

At Performance Bicycle we stock a wide range of shorts and bibs in sizes and styles for all cyclists: