Triathlon Short vs Bike Short

“What’s the difference between a tri short and a bike short?” Working for a triathlon company, I get asked this question more often than not. Three distinct items differentiate a tri and bike short: function, make-up (how the short is designed), and price.

Function: Whether or not you’re really going to need that diaper of a pad….

Bike shorts often come with the notion of having a “diaper-like” pad. This is based upon the fact that the padding (chamois) in a bike short is much thicker as well as covers a wider surface area of the short (the pad reaches higher in the front, as well as the back for more cushion support). So why would you need a thicker pad as a triathlete? Simple. If you plan on logging in some serious miles (let’s say beyond 20 or 30 mile rides) a thicker pad will eventually become a necessity. However, a biking short is just that: made for biking. A short with such a cushion would not be functional to bike and swim in.  Thus, is designed for longer training rides.

Make-up: Different design features of a tri and bike short

As previously mentioned, there’s the distinct difference of a thinner chamois in a cycling short but what else separates the two? A tri short tends to be shorter in length (a good 2-3 inches depending). Tri shorts generally range around 6” to 10”. A tri short is also designed to wick moisture, meaning they’re going to keep much drier and won’t absorb nearly as much water as a bike short. The actual shape of the chamois is designed with running in mind. Its shape moves with you while running, and doesn’t span quite as wide. The cushioning is slight, and light enough to become unnoticeable while out on the run.

Pricing: Cost differences

On average, you’re going to be looking at a slightly steeper cost for a cycling short. More material and a thicker padding usually translates to a little bit more of a cost. So when should you spend the extra cash? When a thicker chamois and longer short can’t be compromised. For the most part, you’re probably going to want to stick to tri shorts for race day, but on longer training days, it’s not worth the saddle pains.

If you’re looking for a best seller as far as cycling short for comfort reasons, check out the De Soto 400 Mile Bike Short.

Need an all around great tri short? Check out the 2XU Comp Tri Short. Get both shorts at

Happy Training.

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