Group test: Padded pants
Group test: Padded pants
Handy for commuters, bikepackers, tourers, and mountain bikers, padded pants provide extra saddle comfort without the not-always-flattering look of clingy lycra. They’re great if you’re self conscious about your shape and also for off-the-bike situations where lycra looks a little odd.
You can wear padded pants under normal clothes, including dresses and skirts, as well as under baggy cycling shorts. They’re less obtrusive than wearing lycra shorts underneath (especially bib shorts) and they pack smaller when not worn.
Often made from blended fabrics, padded pants wick away sweat where that job is most important for pH balance. The key issue with them is the padding itself. Too much and you may as well be wearing your usual chamois. Too little and your bum won’t thank you for it.
This test is of padded pants for women. There are men’s versions of all of them except the VeloVixen pants, although the Altura Tempo Undershorts for men are a very different style.
These high-stretch boxers have substantial padding; I could happily ride 40 miles off-road in them with the help of some chamois cream before my sit bones ached. You could team them with baggy shorts or trousers for off-road rides, or a loose dress or skirt. I wore mine under some ‘fashion’ cycle shorts and they felt comfortable but a little bulky. The pants have a fastwicking antibacterial finish, which is good news for hot days. Sizes: XS-XL. The biggest size fitted my size 16/18 frame comfortably.
Comfy shorts with substantial padding for longer rides
These cotton-rich undies have medium-thickness padding, which I found comfortable for up to around 25-30 miles of off-road riding. They’ve got more of a ‘short’ cut than the Endura boxers, which makes them feel more like underwear and thus not so noticeable underneath jogging bottoms, shorts, leggings, or a skirt. Because they’re made from 90% cotton they won’t wick sweat away as effectively as other materials so may start to feel damp on long/hot rides but will keep you fairly warm on cold days. Sizes: 8-20.
A good pair of undies for casual rides or commuting
I found the style of these knickers unflattering. They have decent yet firm gel-like padding but a very noticeable pant line, so I’d only wear them under loose garments – baggy shorts or trousers, dresses or skirts. While they’re good for commuting or leisurely rides in ‘normal’ clothes, I didn’t find them particularly comfortable for rides longer than 20 miles. They come in various designs if that’s what you want from a pair of padded undies. I didn’t feel sweaty in them thanks to the moisture-wicking polyester.
Stretchy and moisture-wicking, though an unflattering style
The most appealing of the four pairs, these actually look like knickers. They’re unnoticeable when worn, making them ideal for short-duration cycling like spin classes, as well as for situations where you want to wear normal clothes. I wouldn’t choose them for journeys longer than 15 miles, however, as the padding is not very thick. I had no VPL, which is good if you’re conscious of how they look under bottoms. They’re made from a lightweight breathable fabric, which is inconspicuous but may not be as durable.
Barely-there knickers that are ideal for shorter rides
If you’re looking for ‘true’ padded pants then the similarly priced Corinne Dennis or VeloVixen pairs will do the job for casual or short rides, giving you noticeable extra comfort. Of the two, I think the VeloVixen pants steal it: although they’re the least flattering, the material is more breathable and so won’t leave your groin damp.
The Altura pants are the least conspicuous but also provide the least amount of padding, so they’re ideal for more ‘fashion conscious’ riders who don’t feel comfortable going commando under kit for short rides.
If you’ll be out all day and don’t mind the bigger pad you can’t beat the Endura boxers, which have excellent padding from front to back and feel unnoticeable once they’re on due to the stretch in the material.
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Details: What to look for
Look for breathable fabrics, such as nylon and polyester, with some stretch in them (from a percentage of elastane/lycra). The longer the ride, the more padding you may need.
Check the size guide against your measurements. Too small and they will roll down or dig in. Too big and they will move around and cause rubbing. I found all four pants here true to size.
If you’re touring, blended fabrics that include merino wool, polyester or bamboo are quick-drying, odour-resistant, and will withstand frequent washing. I found that all pairs tested dried outdoors within a couple of hours.
Style and fit
The smaller the style of pants, the less bulky and the less conspicuous they are (if that’s what you’re looking for). The longer the padding in the front, the more comfortable the pants are for female anatomy.
Look for strong seams. While some fabric stretchiness is good, more than about 4% elastane may result in overstretching long term.