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How to Wash Cycling Bib Shorts

If you are a new rider and have just bought brand new cycling bib shorts, you may wonder how you can care for them and extend their service life. Don’t worry; this guide has covered all the questions.

In this guide, we will share some tips related to washing and drying.

First, how to wash cycling bib shorts

You have 2 broad options. For maximum life extension, nothing can beat a classic Hand Wash. However, not everyone has the time and energy for that. The next best thing is a Machine Wash.

A: Hand wash your bib shorts correctly

It is acceptable to wash your bib shorts by hand, if not so frequently. So we share those tips for better care.

Step 1: Soak your bib shorts in a sink

Turn your bib shorts inside out and put them into a sink. Throw on some detergent or even body soap, which is mild with no softener, chlorine, or anything harsh). Then fill up the sink with cold water. Squeeze and massage the bib cycling shorts until the water foams up, and it feels soapy. Let the shorts soak there for 15 minutes.

Soaking in cold, soapy water is critical. This solution kills bacteria in a rapid time. How it does this is fascinating and involves the interaction between soap molecules and the bacteria cell membrane.

We recommend a 15-minute soak because this gives time for your bib bike shorts to be properly saturated and de-funked. After testing, it proves that the benefit of soaking for more than 15 minutes is negligible. So please don’t waste your time doing it. Please avoid mixing colours when you soak as well.

Step 2: Rinse your bib shorts under the shower

It is best done while you’re showering. You save water this way. Turn on your shower and use cold water.

With the running shower, let the water hit your soapy bib shorts and rinse the soap away. Massage and squeeze the water and soap out until it no longer feels soapy. Let clean water re-saturate the shorts, and squeeze out the water. Repeat this until you’re satisfied that it is clean.

You can also run your shorts under a tap, but this wastes water.

how to wash cycling bib shorts

B: How to correctly wash your shorts by machine

If you want to wash your bib shorts by machine, it is also good and please do not worry. Because washing machine technology has come a long way in the last 10 years, there’s no reason to be afraid of using it.

We must admit that you cannot expect the same life expectancy from your shorts if you machine washes them rather than hand washing using the above technique. On average, hand-washed bibs last about 15-16 months and machine-washed ones last about 12-13 months. It is up to you to decide whether that additional 3-month life (approximately) is worth the extra effort. Some customers may squeeze more life out of their shorts, and some less. It depends on the amount of riding you do.

But please remember that do not toss your sweaty bib shorts into a laundry bag and leave it before running your washing machine because your bib shorts will rot. Sweat-soaked lycra is a perfect habitat for bacteria. Bacteria will feed on the sweat minerals and excrete acid, damaging your lycra. Your lycra will deteriorate and can become translucent.

If you don’t plan on washing your bib shorts right away, rinse out the sweat at least and let it dry somewhere.

Step 1: Turn your bib shorts inside out & put them into a washbag.

Turn bib shorts inside out before washing.

Turn your short bib inside out. It will expose the pad and ensures it gets cleaned thoroughly.

Use a washbag when your machine washes your bib short.

It would be best if you used a wash bag. Get one that has a smooth interior and is not abrasive to the touch. No excuses not to use a washbag! Washing your bib short without a washbag will expose it to the metal drum of your washing machine and other clothing. It is not good because an exposed zipper and a velcro strap can potentially shred your expensive bib shorts.

Step 2: Setup your washing machine. Use the “Delicates” setting.

If your machine is old and doesn’t have a delicate setting, I’m afraid I cannot guarantee that machine washing will not damage your bib short. The “Delicates” setting on my Samsung washing machine drops the water temperature, does 2 Rinse cycles and spins the clothing at 400 rpm. It takes a total of 36 minutes.

Your bib shorts will come out slightly wet, and you will need to squeeze out the excess water. If you washed on a full load, please note that most of your other clothing will not be as dry as you’d like.

I usually run my washing machine on a delicate cycle along with 2 sets of cycling kit and my running and swimming kit. It’s a reasonably large-ish load.

Second, how to Dry your shorts

Drying your bib shorts is a straightforward process. All you need to do is hand-squeeze out excess water and hang it indoors to air-dry.

Do not spin dry the bib short in your washing machine**. Do not aggressively wring the water out; it isn’t a dishcloth. And please do not tumble dry it in a dryer. The bib shorts lycra is made of nylon. Nylon is fantastic to the touch and is challenging. It isn’t good at handling heat, unfortunately, and will melt.

**EDIT: If your machine washes your bib shorts using a delicate setting, that wash cycle will have a dry spin phase. It is fine. However, avoid running a dedicated spin dry cycle (not part of a standard wash cycle). These tend to run at very high RPMs and could damage lycra. For example, the spin cycle rpm on my machine during the delicate wash setting is 400rpm (this is fine). The dedicated spin dry cycle runs at 1200 rpm (not good).

I hope this guide was practical and that you learnt something new or re-affirmed some good care habits you have developed after years of riding. My bib shorts are the most expensive items in my wardrobe and the item that gets used the most. It probably is for you as well. For this reason, we all should give our bib shorts some extra TLC.

Comments are welcomed. If you have any helpful personal tips about caring for bib shorts, please leave them in the comment section below.

If you don’t plan on washing your bib shorts right away, rinse out the sweat at least and let it dry somewhere.

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