If you’ve ever searched for padded shorts online, you’ll find a wide array of briefs that mostly resemble a corrugated diaper. Most padded shorts seem well suited if you plan to crash at the Red Bull Rampage, but are impractical for every day use on local trails. I have been searching for a liner that does not have a lot of bulk, but offers protection if I land on my hips or sacrum. The G-Form Pro_B Bike compression shorts seem like a good compromise. Most importantly, their low profile design means you’ll be more likely to grab them for your everyday rides.
I currently own and use the G-Form elbow pads for similar reasons: they’re light enough that I’ll throw them in my pack to put on for rocky descents (I don’t wear them on long climbs when it’s hot), but not so bulky that I’ll leave them behind if weight or space is an issue. They work for most of the terrain I ride, except for downhill bike parks.
The G-Form shorts fit mostly true to size. However, if you have large quads and hamstrings like I do, I recommend considering a size larger (which I did) because fabric in the legs may be too tight and uncomfortable during pedally sections. I prefer a loose fit, however, so as it always with items like this, it is best to try them on before committing to them.
Aside from the padding, the most important feature in clothing like this is the chamois, which is this case is minimalist but comfortable. The chamois doesn’t seem to be designed for long days in the saddle, but is also low profile, which has the benefit of not feeling like you are wearing a diaper. I did two, 3-hour rides in one day with these on, and did not have a problem with chafing or saddle soreness.
The fabric held up well for multiple consecutive rides as well: I once had to wear them for 4 rides in Arizona/Utah without washing them, and they didn’t smell. That, my friends, is impressive.
The overall construction seems durable and built to last, but I would caution anyone from wearing these without baggy shorts over them. Although the pads provide protection and will stand up to abuse, the stretchable lycra will not. Besides, wearing baggy shorts is preferable if you are looking into pads like this anyway: just having the extra layer of fabric over your liner can reduce some injuries like road rash, and wearing skin-tight clothing on technical trails is not very “enduro.” 🙂
I tested these shorts on some of the Southwest’s most formidable trails: Porcupine Rim and Capt Ahab in Moab; Hangover in Sedona; Gooseberry Mesa in Hurricane; 18 Road, Kokopelli, and Lunch Loops in Fruita/Grand Junction. I also tested them extensively in the Colorado spring on local Front Range trails with temperate conditions with temps ranging from the 50s to the mid-80s F. I did not have the chance to test them at downhill bike parks, but fully intend to when they open later in the summer.
As I mentioned, they are low profile, and slide easily under a regular pair of baggy shorts. They were noticeable only when I initially put them on, but I completely forgot that I was wearing them during the rides. Even on long climbs, they were unobtrusive enough to go unnoticed–something I would not expect to find with a more stalwart pair of padded shorts.
I did notice that after a few rides on warmer days, the outside of my thighs were hot and sticky (because the gel padding is not breathable), but it did not bother me during the ride. After a few rides this did not become noticeable to me at all… and I was always happy to have them. However, I expect that on a really hot day, particularly in a climate with higher humidity (like Florida), this would be much more noticeable and probably uncomfortable due to the lack of air flow. Nevertheless, it was only over the lateral thighs and sacrum, and the rest of the short breathed as well as any other black piece of lycra.
While testing these I did not take a lot of hard falls, a fortunate event given the caliber of singletrack I subjected them too. I did try/fail to ride a wall ride on Gooseberry Mesa and fell on my hip. Twas but a flesh wound, really, but I noticed 3-4 days later I had bruising on that thigh except where the pads were. Kudos to G-Form. It made me realize that that silly fall, which made me laugh as I hopped back up and kept going, probably wold have really hurt without those padded shorts.
As an aside: my G-Form elbow pads have been great: an overall flexible gel that hardens on impact, and from the looks of my elbow pads, they’ve saved me from more than one ER visit… in fact, they are pretty rough looking after a few falls.
The caution I would give riders who are shopping for a padded short: every type of padding has its limitation. In this case, the gel padding does what it is designed to do–get hard when it strikes something. The downside to this, versus an actual foam pad, is that it has very little compliance. By that I mean it hardens quickly, and although it disperses force evenly, it may not be as comfortable as thick padding. The other downside I’ve already mentioned: gel form padding is not breathable like foam, so heat transfer may be an issue. The advantage of gel form padding is that it is flexible, hardens on impact, provides equal or greater protection than foam, and is low profile.
The only thing I didn’t like about these shorts is the lack of protection. These shorts only have protection on the lateral thighs/hips, and part of the sacrum. There are some small patches of padding on the lower lateral thighs that seem virtually worthless. My ideal short would incorporate this exact design, but the sacral pad would be twice as large, and there would be multiple, small patches of padding on the anterior and lateral thigh (increased protection but maintain ventilation). These shorts are far better than nothing, but lack some key areas that are prone to injury when most riders go down, like the true tailbone, or coccyx (which is very painful to break, and requires months to heal). On the flipside, if there was more padding, they would be heavier, hotter, and probably more noticeable to wear… it all depends on what you are looking for.
Overall, however, I am happy with these shorts and will be using them on most, if not all, of my rides that involve drops, rolls, rock gardens, and speed. I plan to purchase a second pair, as these could easily replace my regular liners for most of my rides. Breaking a hip or femoral head is one of the most dangerous injuries in mountain biking, and it is reassuring to have an extra level of protection. If you are looking for a short that is well suited for most rides, and you abstain from pro-level jumps and exposure, this is most likely the best padded short for most riders.
Thanks to G-Form for providing the Pro-B shorts for review!