Can You Wear Jeans Over Cycling Shorts? Making your ride as comfortable as possible


Many new cyclists are surprised to hear that they are not supposed to wear any underwear under their cycling shorts. More often than not, the next question that follows is “am I allowed to wear anything over the top of my shorts then?”. After seeing this question pop up on forums too many times, I thought it was time for a clear guide on wearing jeans over your cycling shorts. So, can you wear jeans over your cycling shorts? And if so, what is the best way to do it?

You can wear clothes such as jeans over your cycling shorts, and in fact, many people do this regularly to stay warm, protect themselves while cycling, or protect their cycling shorts. When it comes to cycling with jeans, the best options are jeans that are loose-fitting and have a “diamond gusset” design.

So we’ve established that cycling with jeans over your cycling shorts is definitely possible, but why would you want to wear jeans over your shorts? Is it worth buying cycling-specific jeans and what are the best steps to take to make cycling with jeans as comfortable as possible?

Can you wear jeans over your cycling shorts?

The simple answer to this is yes. When it comes to cycling shorts the only thing you need to make sure of is that there is nothing between your skin and the chamois (the padded part of the cycling shorts). While it is not suggested that you wear any clothes under your cycling shorts, wearing clothes over the top is just fine!

In fact, many mountain bikers wear clothes over their cycling shorts. Be that padded shorts, jeans, or other pants. In mountain biking, these come in very useful as they provide extra padding and protection as you cycle.

One of the most common pieces of clothing people ask if they can use wear over their cycling shorts is jeans. People tend to revert to jeans when looking for clothing they can wear over their shorts as they are commonly lying around the house and are suitable for most different situations once you get off the bike.

There are however a few specific considerations to take when wearing jeans with cycling shorts.

Why would you wear jeans over your cycling shorts?

So we’ve established wearing jeans over your cycling shorts is possible, but why would you?

First of all, jeans or pants over your cycling shorts are a great way of staying warm. Often in colder months, I will use a pair of trousers over the top of my shorts to add extra insulation, and this would work well with jeans too!

In certain types of riding, jeans would also provide extra protection for both you and your cycling shorts. In mountain biking specifically, clothing on top of your cycling shorts is common to provide extra padding if you are all off of the bike and to protect the cycling shorts from thorns or rocks as you are cycling.

Wearing jeans or pants while cycling can also be very helpful while commuting or cycling around town. Jeans are much more versatile than cycling shorts when it comes to where you can wear them. I for one would prefer to walk into work in a pair of trousers rather than exposing the office to my cycling shorts.

One factor to consider when cycling with jeans over your cycling bib is the weather conditions. Cycling shorts are made from lightweight material that dries quickly, jeans are not. Getting caught in the rain with jeans on can seriously impact the rest of your day if you don’t have a spare change of clothes.

Which type of jeans should I wear over cycling shorts?

When choosing a pair of jeans to wear over your cycling shorts, it is important to look for a few key features.

First of all, you want to ensure the jeans aren’t too tight around your knee or thigh. Limiting your movement in this area can limit your pedaling and make your cycle much harder.

When looking for a pair of jeans to wear cycling, the next key area to look at is their durability. In my personal experience, jeans tend to wear away at the crotch area first. This is because the denim material is not designed for prolonged rubbing like your cycling shorts are.

I’ve seen many commuters recommend using iron-on denim patches (such as these found on amazon) to reinforce the crotch area for more prolonged riding. If you plan to use these I would suggest using them as soon as you see any signs of wear in the area in question.

The final area to look at when choosing a pair of jeans for cycling is their design. Normal jeans or trousers have four seams that meet in a cross shape around the crotch, while this works well for normal uses, it results in a lot of extra fabric at the center of the cross. This is where a lot of your weight will be centered and can become uncomfortable over long rides.

Instead of this traditional style of jeans for cycling, take a look at jeans with a diamond gusset. Jeans with this shape of material around the crotch are much more comfortable and as such as often found in motorcycle or bike-specific jeans.

Four Seem Crotch
Diamond Gusset Crotch

While I have just advised that you look for a feature found on jeans made specifically for cycling. I would like to make it clear I would not recommend cycling-specific jeans in general. In my experience, they are not worth the extra money and often do not last much longer than normal jeans.

A good trick I have found is by using my climbing jeans! Climbing jeans are good as they are designed for increased flexibility, are durable, and have extra room for larger things. If you are looking to use a pair of climbing jeans I would suggest this pair from prAna found on amazon.

If you are happy with any pair of pants or trousers and you do not need them to be jeans specifically. Another pair I have seen recommended is this pair of “motion” pants for North Face. I have often seen these used by cyclists who commute to and from work as they can fit in with more of a “smart casual” dress code.

How to wear jeans when cycling?

When wearing jeans with cycling shorts there are a few key steps to take to ensure you have the most comfortable ride.

First of all, you need to watch out for chain marks on your jeans. I’ve gone through countless pairs of jeans as the oil and grease from the chain can leave a “chain tattoo” on the jeans themselves. The best way to stop this is to take care when carrying or pushing the bike (this is often the time I find that I get the most marks from oil).

When you are actually cycling make sure to roll up the right leg of your jeans. This stops it from catching in the gears and stops the grime from rubbing off on the jeans.

Another step you can take is to look into using cycling underwear rather than cycling shorts. These are designed to be used with clothes over the top and so come with a smaller chamois (area of padding) that works better under clothing. If you are looking for a pair of cycling underwear take a look at this pair by Gore on Amazon.

Can you wear shorts over your cycling shorts?

When it comes to wearing a normal pair of shorts over your cycling shorts, the answer is much simpler. Riding with shorts over the top of your cycling shorts is a great option as it can offer many of the benefits that jeans will provide (without as many of the negatives).

Many riders including myself will wear a pair of shorts over cycling shorts, be that in cold weather or on particularly rough rides where the extra layer of protection can save the more expensive cycling shorts underneath.

Not only this but wearing a pair of shorts over the top of your cycling shorts can make jumping off the bike to restock or grab a bite for lunch a little less revealing.

When looking for a pair of shorts to wear over your cycling shorts, I would suggest looking for a lightweight, breathable material that is not too tight.

Overall

Wearing clothes such as jeans over your cycling shorts is definitely a good option. While I personally wouldn’t wear any extra layers on top of my shorts for my weekend cycle, when it comes to commuting in the week, they can make a great versatile option.

However, it is important to make sure you pick a pair of jeans that is well suited for cycling and take a few steps to ensure they do not get damaged or in the way of your cycling.

Mark Holmes

30-year-old doctor with an interest in cycling, bikepacking, and statistics.

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