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Why Wear Compression in Cycling?

By Tina Bernstein

Tightly fitted bike shorts have become so popular that their style has influenced casual fashion. They are now often worn by people who don't even own a bike. For cycling activities indoors and out, compression shorts improve comfort, reduce abrasions and might help blood flow for faster recovery. For this reason it's now possible to obtain compression sleeves, tops, socks and undergarments, in addition to shorts.

Keep Muscles Warm

Because compression garments lie snug against your skin, they don't allow air flow to cool the surface. The surface capillaries don't need to expand as much to warm your skin, leaving more blood flowing to the muscles. This keeps the muscles nice and warm. If you're wearing wearing compression garments on a hot day, you will need to guard against overheating.

Reduce Chafing Abrasions

Because the compression garment does not have any loose material to rub against your skin, any moving parts will not have abrasions, made especially painful with salts from perspiration. This occurs mainly at the joints of the hip and shoulder, but can also happen when your legs move against the bike frame or seat. Men and women can experience nipple chafe, so a compression exercise top is a good option if you are prone to this problem.


Several studies sponsored by the Australian Institute of Sport have examined the effects of compression on endurance. The theory is compressing muscles also squeezes the veins, increasing their blood pressure and thereby speeding return of blood to the lungs for oxygenation. Results have been mixed, but athletes report an improved perceived rate of exertion while wearing compression garments.

Keep Things In Place

Anatomical areas of loose skin and adipose tissue are held in place by compression garments. Lean, trained athletes still have areas of the body that move in response to cycling motion. For men, it's the testes; for women, the breasts. Many male cyclists wear compression undergarments instead of a jock strap, preferring their comfort and look. Female athletes have had athletic bras for a long time, but those with smaller breasts may find enough support in a compression top without the discomfort of underwires or bra straps.

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