Who wants to run a marathon in a diaper? That’s what you’re potentially doing if you wear bike shorts to run an Ironman.

The debate rages on about using bike shorts versus triathlon-specific shorts for triathlons. Sure, you have some extra padding for a 112-mile bike ride, but that extra padding takes extra time to dry out after the swim and any sweat from the bike ride will collect in that pad as well, so when you hit the run you’ll be contending with jelly legs AND diaper rash.

– Extra padding
– Specifically designed for biking
– More comfort over 112-mile bike bide
– Good grip for non-slip on legs
– Durable

– Extra padding collects extra moisture
– Extra padding can cause extra chaffing even when dry
– Not designed for running and swimming
– Advantage of comfort diminishes when bike distance is shorter
– Too much grip for non-slip when running  

– Designed with all three sports in mind
– Reduced padding allows for easier running and swimming
– Less chaffing on runs
– Less fluid retention in pad

– Less padding and comfort for longer bike rides
– Shorter than bike shorts, may ride up leg more
– Thinner materials may result in lesser product life

As you can see, each has a plus and a minus. Bike shorts are a great tool for long training rides to save your rump, but if you don’t train in clothes you will race in, you may be in for a rude surprise when you exit T2 and realize you had less padding for 112 miles. Ouch.

Consider using bike shorts for the winter training rides. Most of us have to relegate ourselves to the basement spinning on the trainer and need all the help we can get to get through hours of riding nowhere. A sore backside adds to the despair of riding a trainer all winter. Some triathlon shorts are a little more delicate and riding for hours a week can deteriorate them and result in spending more money to keep up your tri short supply, or you’re riding in threadbare shorts exposing your assets. Take into account the harsh chemicals in pools as well and avoid using tri shorts while training in pools.

In summary, you can survive triathlons in bike shorts. But, if you are getting more competitive and challenging yourself with larger distances, triathlon-specific shorts are the way to go. You won’t fight extra padding on the swim, and you may sacrifice some comfort on the bike, but it will pay for itself over the run when you aren’t fighting a diaper and chafing your way to the finish line.