Junk and junk management is an important part of any man’s life and even more critical when bicycle touring. Wander Wheels eschew padded bicycle shorts at all costs. Without the ability to thoroughly clean the shorts every day, the pads become breeding grounds for little bacterial beasties waiting to unleash chemical warfare upon the nether regions.
The additional padding of bicycle shorts is also unnecessary because our Brooks B67 (♂) and B67 S (♀) saddles are so comfortable. It seems counter intuitive that a hard leather saddle is more comfortable than a padded saddle. After a short break-in period, the leather conforms to the body and provides a comfortable sitting surface.
For anything other than short jaunts around town, heavily padded or gel saddles will eventually put pressure on all your stuff — like a balloon conforming to your hand when pressed. Plus, gels and foam pads break down fairly quickly on tour.
I prefer merino wool underwear for some specific reasons:
- The wool has natural antibacterial properties, avoiding the reek factor of cotton and especially synthetic materials. Translation: less funky junk.
- Merino wool is so soft. Scratching your junk in public, unless you are a professional ball player in the process of a game, is usually frowned upon.
- Merino wool does a great job of regulating body temperature. Like Goldilocks said, “Not too hot (sweaty – bad / salty – not so bad), not too cold (Aghh! shrinkage)”
While wool underwear is great in theory, the construction, specifically placement of the seams, can can cause problems when biking. Having a seam run between your sit bones and the saddle can cause painful chaffing, and that is not Wander Wheels approved.
Unable to find a good source of information on this subject, Wander Wheels has chosen to create this exposé, airing out our dirty laundry to illuminate a subject where the sun does not usually shine. To ensure complete (lack of) coverage, I decided to go commando for all photographs and writing.
Yes, that image is now burned in your mind.
Smartwool Microweight Boxer Brief. This loose fitting boxer is great for everyday wear, running and was worn on several hiking trips prior to being included in the kit for this trip. I did not expect a high amount of durability due to the lightweight material and was not judging them on that regard. The seams naturally migrated to be under the sit bones and required constant adjustment throughout the day to avoid chaffing. These underwear were not a good choice for biking but for all other activities I had no complaints.
Smartwool Light Boxer Brief. These boxer briefs were more form fitting than their microweight brothers and seemed to move around less with pedaling. Being a heavier fabric, they were also a bit more durable. I still found the seams migrating every so often and required adjustment. I will continue to use these until they wear out but I doubt I will replace them for use on the bicycle. Being more form fitting they work better for hiking and running than the microweight versions.
Wickers Wool Blend Boxer Briefs. These were a 50/50 blend of wool and synthetic material. I had concerns that they would start smelling like synthetics, but surprisingly they held up almost as well as the 100% wool boxers. While being loose fitting like the Smartwool microweight boxers, the construction was different and the seams did not migrate to the sit bone area as much. They were about on par with the Smartwool light boxers, requiring occasional adjustment throughout the day. Like the Smartwool light boxers, they are adequate for biking but not the best. For everyday, hiking, running, etc. they work fine.
Stoic Merino Boxer Brief. These are the best of the bunch so far. The seams rarely migrated to the sit bones. They had a touch of spandex in them so they fit more like a bike short (without the pad of course). I would absolutely buy these again for biking. Wander Wheels Approved.
Ice Breaker Anatomica Brief. I have not worn briefs (a.k.a. tighty whities) since … it has been so long I can not remember when the last time I wore a pair. I purchased these recently to give them a try. I’ve only tried them out twice around town (riding less than 10 miles (16 km) ) while in Missoula. By definition, and the fact that I am not a superhero required to wear underwear on the outside of my pants, they have been out of sight. More importantly, these manties have also been out of mind on both trips. Hopefully, these will give the Stoics some stiff competition.