This Is Your Crotch on Spinning

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Why aren't New York City's spinning-obsessed wearing padded bike shorts, asks Ashley McCullough. The former pro cyclist tests four pairs in search of maximum protection.

spin class is tough on your crotch

Given that I’ve spent more than 15,000 hours in the saddle as a pro cyclist and know the true, visceral meaning of the word “chafe,” I tend to defer to the “more is better” philosophy when it comes to protecting my crotch.

So I was stunned to learn that New York City’s spinning-obsessed aren’t defending theirs by wearing bike shorts lined with a chamois. Even though classes are just 45 minutes on average, I still hear a ton of complaining about sore sitz bones and numb you-know-whats.

Splits59 Dusty Bike Pants
Splits59 Dusty Bike Pants are stocked at Flywheel and are chamois-free

How much crotch protection could you possibly require?

To find out, I embarked on a study involving four different pairs of shorts—three with a chamois (pronounced shammy) and one without, while attending classes at Flywheel Sports’ Flatiron location.

The list of contenders—ranging from no chamois to most padded: Splits59 Dusty Capris, Zoot Trifit Shorts, Athleta Spin Shorts, and Pearl Izumi Women’s Speed Shorts.

I started with the Splits59 bareback model, which sell for $86 (at Jack Rabbit Sports, on the Upper East Side) and clipped into my bike with a digital power meter readout. The class pumped in time with our extremely fit instructor Grant and the high-decibel music.

I got to the end of that first class and thought: wow, I don’t feel chafed, abraded, unnaturally smashed, or otherwise uncomfortable at all. I sunk my finger into the bike seat and found that there’s about a half inch of gel just under the surface.

At the next two classes, I wore the two minimal-chamois–stuffed shorts, the Zoot Trifit ($65) and the Athleta Spin Shorts ($54). I noticed almost no difference between those two AND the Splits59 pair. (Although I did ride my commuter bike to class each time and the two pairs with the chamois helped on the ride over.)

Zoot TriFit Shorts
Zoot shorts, made for triathletes, have a mini-chamois for going from bike to run

I had high hopes for the most-padded pair by Pearl Izumi (sold at Jack Rabbit Sports for $65), given that I’ve worn their cycling clothing for years. But the fully built-up chamois was just too much on top of Flywheel’s saddle. (Think: Sitting on marshmallow Peeps.) My verdict is that the Pearl Izumi’s are best for outdoor cycling, and my sleek saddle of 200 grams.

The takeaway: Check out the saddles on your spin gym bikes. If they feel really mushy, they’re gel saddles and you can probably ride them naked if you have to. But on a regular, rock-hard bike saddle, closer to the ones at Soul Cycle and Equinox, your crotch and sitz bones will thank you if you give them a little bit of a chamois. —Ashley McCullough

Ashley McculloughAshley McCullough is a former professional cyclist who has recently channeled her hyperactivity disorder into rock climbing, ice climbing, snowboarding, and cyclocross. A sometimes contributor to Velonews and, she makes her real living as a copywriter for the women’s sportswear brand Athleta.

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