The pad is the most important part of a pair of cycling bib shorts. The main job of bib shorts is to support the foam pad between body and saddle. It’s often called an insert or chamois, on account of early bib shorts using a real leather pad made from chamois goat skin. Yes, really. You used to have to treat it with chamois cream to keep it soft. These days they are mostly made from synthetic materials.
When buying your first pair of bib shorts, remember that most of the money goes into the pad. In theory, the more you spend on a pair of shorts, the better the pad. In practice, this isn’t always the case, so it pays to do your homework carefully. The road.cc bib shorts review archive is the perfect place to start. https://road.cc/category/review-section/clothing/shorts-34s
The pad is shaped to conform to the body and provide padding where you make contact with the saddle. The most important areas are where the sit bones make contact with the saddle. Cheaper shorts might have a single-thickness pad, while the more expensive pads use variable levels of foam thickness and density to keep the pad thinner where you don’t need much cushioning, and thicker where you do need it. Such pads are generally more comfortable as a result.
Look for a pad with an antibacterial finish for hygiene. Some pads have channels or perforations to wick away sweat and encourage the movement of air; there’s nothing more uncomfortable than a soggy pad.
The pad should feel reasonably soft and have some flex to it, so it shapes to your body. It needs to sit flush with your curves. The better pads we’ve tested tend to feel like they’re not there at all.
Manufacturers are now aiming shorts at different riding types, so it’s possible to choose more padding for endurance riding and slimmer pads for shorter rides or racing.
Pads come in men’s and women’s versions, with shapes to suit the different anatomies. No two pads are the same. They can vary in thickness, shape and other factors, so the best thing is to try them on before you buy.
Just like saddles, what works for one person won’t necessarily work for another. We’re all different shapes, and your weight and riding style can influence the type of pad that will work best for you.