The Black Shorts: The Review That Reveals All

The Black Shorts: The Review That Reveals All

Looking for a budget pair of cycling shorts? So was I. Here are some early thoughts on the Black Shorts brought to you by the Black Bibs people.

Black Shorts At a Glance

  • Decent price of $40.
  • The chamois reminds me of an old pair of Castellis I had 15 years ago.
  • The Black Shorts seem a bit itchy at first, with a more relaxed fit than my Assos and Bontrager shorts.
  • The first ride was OK, some chafing but nothing terrible. 
  • Time will tell. Watch for updates!

I’ve needed new bike shorts for a long time. Like, months.

Since the pandemic started, I’ve rendered a pair of Louis Garneaus and Primal Wears completely useless. There’s an ancient set of Pearl Izumi shorts around that not even a masochist would ride in, along with a pair of Fox baggies that I just don’t like at all.

So really, I only have two go-to pairs of shorts, which are made by Assos and Bontrager. Both are pricey – about $130 each.

My wife, who also rides and understands the value of good gear, discovered that these are pretty much the only shorts I wear. She low-key lectured me about not having enough shorts and not practicing what I preach about not being a cheapskate.

Enter the Black Shorts, made by the Black Bib people.

Huh? The Black Shorts?

It’s hard for me to buy bike shorts. I hate ordering shorts without seeing them unless they’re a brand I’m familiar with. But COVID has created quite a crunch for anything cycling related. And too many of my local stores focus too much on baggy stuff.

black shorts cheap bike shorts
How much more black could they be? The answer is none. None more black.

I did some online homework to find brands I hadn’t heard of before to see what’s new. I found the Black Shorts in some listicle. I ignored any article that mentioned the crotch-grater horror that is Bellwether (aka Ballwither) or Canari — you’re seriously better off riding in a Borat mankini.

The price seemed worth a shot, so I ordered a pair and waited. A few days later, they were here and ready to ride.

Are the Black Shorts Any Good?

So to a guy who relies on $130 shorts, can a $40 short be any good?

Well, the first impressions are that they’re OK. I’m planning to update this post as I continue riding the Black Shorts.

But let’s at least give a snapshot of where we are right now.

First, Here’s How I Ride

I split my time between an all-road bike and a singlespeed mountain bike. I rarely ride less than 30 miles, and I logged more than 3,600 miles in 2020.

I do the occasional long event or race, when COVID isn’t screwing the works up.

In the summer, I’ll use some sort of chamois cream to protect my goolies. Those long road rides and hot weather are a prescription for chapping your choad!

Back in Black Shorts

My first impression of the Black Shorts is that they looked a lot like Castellis I rode about 15 years ago, minus the graphics. That’s not a bad thing.

The chamois appears to be a decent quality, but nothing to stand against my Bontrager or Assos shorts. Definitely better than the Fox chamois, though.

When I put the Black Shorts on for my first ride, the material felt a bit prickly, almost a bit wooly. The sensation went away after a few moments, fortunately (I really, really, really hate wool).

A good pair of bike shorts shouldn’t impede your …

They felt a little less constricting around the meat whistle than my other shorts. The cuffs at the bottom of each leg are smaller, as is the waistband. The overall effect was that their fit is either more relaxed, or the material is stretchier.

My First Ride

I figured a quick 30-miler would give me an idea about these shorts.

For the most part of the ride, I forgot about them. That’s a pretty solid vote of confidence if it holds up.

It didn’t.

black shorts cheap bike shorts
The all-red chamois is the Black Shorts. Pink is Assos, gray and red is Bontrager.

By the end of the 30 miles, my undercarriage felt a bit more like I’d ridden at least 60 miles. There were definitely some abrasions forming, especially on the left side right where the leg turns into the crotch.

I also noticed that, when I first put the Black Shorts on, the chamois was much less flexible than the ones in my other shorts. There seemed to be a ridge right along the center that was a bit proctological for my tastes.

I still think these are a better low-budget short that many. I’m going to keep trying these, both with and without chamois cream to see how they hold up.

I’ll be back with my evaluation of whether YOU should buy the Black Shorts.


3 Awesome Things People do to Mountain Bikes – Part 1

Use Simple Green instead of WD40 to get your chain and cassette clean!
Use Simple Green, t-shirts and brushes to get your chain and cassette clean!

Awhile ago, I posted 6 Horrible Things People Do to Mountain Bikes. Let’s flip it the the positive side – here are some awesome things people do to and for their bikes. This list is for new folks -- most longtime riders probably know this stuff. But if they’ve forgotten and it refreshes their memory, so much the better.

Add your thoughts in the comments, including your experience with these tips or what I missed. I plan to do a future post -- "XXX More Awesome Things People do to Their Bikes." If I include your tip, I’ll credit you and link to your blog or the site of your choice.

Pay Attention to the Chain
A bike’s chain needs attention. It needs to stay clean and lubed. I usually clean mine with a combination of old t-shirts, toothbrushes, a Park GSC-1 gear brush and Simple Green. That lineup also lets me care for the derailleur pulley wheels and the gaps between rear cogs (I know, I’ve just gone beyond the chain -- but while you’ve got the tools out, might as well hit it all). From there, I use a decent lube. I dab a drop on each link and spin the gears while shifting for a few moments. I’ll let it all sit awhile, then come back with one of those old t-shirts to wipe the chain of excess lube.

And change the chain completely every so often. Bike shops have a tool that can tell you when the chain is starting to stretch too much. My rule of thumb: A new chain every 6 months is good for enthusiastic riders. If you’re diving in whole-hog, think about a chain every four months. It’s relatively cheap insurance – ride around with a stretched-out chain, and you just might have to change your cogs and chainrings, too. That’s ‘cause the stretched chain will cause oddball wear on those surfaces, and a new chain won’t mesh quite right with the remaining metal.

I love my WTB Vigo saddle. But you might not - try before you buy whenever possible.
I love my WTB Vigo saddle. But you might not – try before you buy whenever possible.

Dial in the Fit
Your bike might be better than you realize – you just might have to set up all wrong for your body. Manufacturers try to make bikes fit a broad range of people. But hey, we’re all individuals. Get some help from a knowledgeable shop. A fit expert might see ways to make the bike fit you, rather than make you fit the bike. That can mean a different stem or changing the length of your crankarms -- or something cheap and simple as changing your saddle height or angle by a few millimeters.

A good fit can be pricey – I’ve seen some as high as $200, without the parts. But it could make you like your bike that much better. And you’ll have some knowledge for your next bike purchase -- you might get a better deal swapping the stock parts out for different lengths/sizes at the time of purchase.

Take Care of Your Ass
Newer riders always, always, always complain about their asses being raw. It’s part of the deal. But you can make it a bit better. First, get yourself some good bike shorts. Don’t skimp – there’s a world of difference between $40 bike shorts and an $80 bike shorts. More expensive models have more panels to fit formly to your undercarriage. The padded part – aka chamois – is also nicer in the more expensive shorts. Disclosure – I’m talking about form-fitting shorts here. I know nothing about baggy shorts. I don’t roll that way.

OK, now let’s talk saddles. This is a tough proposition. There are dozens of companies making dozens of legit saddles. Each will be just right for someone, but not for everyone. Borrow your buddy’s saddle, if possible. Or see if your local shop has a loaner program.

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5 Facts About Bike Shorts

bike shorts
Now that’s a pair of bike shorts!

Bike shorts are a bone of contention with just about every new bicyclist. “Do I have to wear Spandex?” they’ll whine. “Why are they so expensive?” usually comes next. The answer to the first question is “yes, you do.” The answer to the second is “‘Cause they’re doing a hard job – supporting your miserable, stinky undercarriage!” Here are a few things that might add some detail to these short answers for the new bicyclist.

1. Yes, you really need to wear bike shorts.

They have a pad in the butt to make sitting on a bike seat more comfortable. They’re also made from materials that wick sweat away so it can evaporate. That means less heat and less chafing. You’ll be far happier than a bicyclist wearing jeans!

2. Dude, please don’t wear underwear with your bike shorts.

My brother tried taking up biking. I think he stopped after the relentless mocking I gave him when I caught him wearing tighty-whiteys under his bike shorts. If you wear undies (boxers, TWs, thongs, whatever), you defeat the wicking capability of your shorts. You will stay wet, making you feel like you’re wearing a diaper. If you’re into that sort of thing, fine!

3. I consider $80 for a pair of Castelli shorts money well spent.

But to me, throwing $35 down for some Bellwethers is like spraying my money with WD-40 and lighting it on fire. The difference in quality and fit is huge. A new bicyclist riding short distances might not notice the difference. But some experience and increased time on the saddle will reveal all.

That said, budget shorts are getting slightly better as you may notice in this review of The Black Shorts, which seem a cut above other cheap bike shorts.

4. When you’re looking for shorts, look for a few things:

The butt pad (aka chamois) should not be a big blob of foam. It should be designed to conform to your mysterious man/lady parts. Also, the shell of the shorts should be constructed from more than one big piece of material. The more panels, the better the fit. Just try on a pair of Bellwether or Canari shorts, and follow with something from Castelli, Assos or even a higher-end Pearl Izumi. You’ll know where your money is going.

5. After you’re done riding, don’t go to the coffee shop and lounge around in your bike shorts.

There’s still some moisture in there, as well as some heat. That’s a breeding ground for bacteria. Change into some regular ol’ shorts for your post-ride coffee. Sure, you won’t look like the cool bicyclist that you are, but you’ll smell and feel better. | Shop Apparel


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