There has always been a debate whether tri-shorts and bike shorts are interchangeable. Is it acceptable to skip tri-shorts and use your trusty bike shorts for the race?
Find out in this article the advantages and disadvantages of the two triathlon gears to make sure that you’ll survive your first triathlon. Then, decide whether racing in a quick-drying, thinner chamois padding tri-shorts is better than finishing the three legs in a comfortable but extra-padded bike shorts.
Tri-shorts are similar to cycling shorts, but they are shorter, less-bulky, with a faster-wicking property. Typically, the chamois inside a pair of tri shorts is thinner and smaller to make the running section of the race more comfortable.
This type of shorts also tends to wick moisture and sweat faster than typical bike shorts. Triathlon gear brands aim to introduce products that provide comfort to triathletes because comfort is essential to a good performance, especially in long-distance races.
Besides, the more material rubbing against your skin, the more chafing will occur.
Bike shorts are probably one of the oldest and earliest gears introduced in the world of triathlon. Before, they are made of wool without the chamois or padding, but today, almost all bike shorts are made of polyester Lycra fabric.
This material fits snugly to the individual while wicking sweat and moisture from the body towards the surface of the fabric. While some bike shorts have a removable chamois, most are sewed directly on the shorts.
Padded bike shorts will boost your comfort and healthwhile on the bike making it the most important element in tri-clothing. The padding or chamois come in different sizes.
They can be thick or thin, long or short, rounded or notched in both sides, depending on the specific sport and preference of the rider.
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Core differences and similarities between the two
Now let’s dive into the core differences between the two types of shorts.
Difference in Length
There are different lengths of bike shorts on the market today including the following:
- Long shorts. Measures between 9 and 11 inches and often used in recreational, semi-pro and pro road racing.
- Medium shorts. The standard cycling shorts for training rides that measure between 6 and 8 inches long.
- Short shorts. Measures between 3 and 5 inches in length and often used in cross-training, indoor cycling, and triathlon
Considering the different lengths of bike shorts and their intended purposes, a pair of biking shorts is not the same with a pair of tri-shorts.
When choosing a tri-shorts for a specific sport or activity, the thickness of the chamois and the thinness and wicking property of the fabric is more important than the length of the shorts.
Good quality bike shorts or tri-shorts are made with panel constructions to improve fit and performance.
These panel constructions are made of fabric that is sewn tightly together to wrap and curve around the body. The more panels, the more the shorts will fit the contours of the athlete.
Bike shorts and tri shorts usually have four, six, or eight panels, but most tri-shorts have at least six panels.
The best tri-shorts are constructed with eight panels that are flexible enough to survive the three legs of the race: swimming, biking, and running.
When choosing bike shorts or tri-shorts, always look at the construction, fabric performance, and the grade of the chamois. If you want to do few training rides, you can use tri-shorts and get used to it.
However, it is always recommended to train in bike shorts and race in tri-shorts because nothing can replace the comfort of a tri-short while running.
And if you are serious about triathlons, investing in at least one good pair of tri-shorts are the way to go. Although you will sacrifice some comfort on the bike, it will pay off over the run on your way to the finish line.