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Is There A Difference Between Running And Cycling Compression Tights?

I have been doing more running than cycling recently because it fits better with my schedule at the moment – it takes me 30 minutes plus shower rather than one and a half hours, plus shower – and whilst I am not about to jack in the cycling completely, with the shorter days it’s just going to work out better.

And yet, despite the move to running for a while, I still need a bit more warmth than I would get in simple running shorts.  About a week ago I donned a beany-hat and gloves.  The only gloves I could find were my 9 year old son’s which he wasn’t impressed with, but they have worked out really well because they’re slightly small, which means my wrists stay a bit cooler.  Yep, weird, but I like warm hands, warm shoulders, warm body…and cool wrists and forearms!

At the moment I have a Marks and Spencer’s long sleeved lycra t-shirt.  Though I made a mistake of buying a medium, and I have just discovered that I have lost so much weight I am now counted as a small –wahoo!  Still, that tee with a walking jumper on top is about right.  Though when I get paid from work next week I am ordering in a compression nike core long sleeved tee-shirt!  Nice and warm.

Then over the last week as the temperature plummeted from the mild 9 degrees Celsius to just over 3, I decided that under the knee length shorts I would wear my cycling tights.  I was a bit worried it would look weird, but I didn’t get any strange looks.  What a relief!  I also had on the hat and gloves and top layers I mentioned above.  I was warm and toasty, it was very nice.  And I found as well that my chest didn’t hurt, which is something I used to experience on cold days years ago when I tried, and failed, to run.

I had heard about compression tights previously, and one of my guest posters wrote about them and it got me interested in seeing if it would be worth buying a pair.  They would perhaps keep me a bit warmer than my Canondale tights,  support my dodgy knee a bit better, and look more the part (see below about the whit 2XU markings!)

First thing was though that I wanted to get some for the best compression tights which I could use for both cycling and running.  And I couldn’t find the answer anywhere.  Should I go for compression running tights, or compression cycling tights, or was there no difference?

I won’t go into details here about how compression clothing actually works apart from saying  that it encourages blood flow in the right direction, which aids recovery, apparently, and (for runners at any rate) decreases vibration fatigue.  It left me with two types of mens compression tights which looked great on paper, and according to my cycling magazine looked perfect.  These two were  2XU Compression Elite Tights; and Skins RY400 long tights.

There are others available for less money.  Both of my examples were above the £60 mark.  Is there much difference between the two?  Well the 2XU ‘apparently’ have skinny ankles, but when I asked at Wiggle they said that they hadn’t had any complaints on this score.   The RY400 generally get a better review, but not by much.

For my money I prefer the 2XU compression tights.  The reason being, shallow as I am, that the white stripes make them look a lot less like ladies’ pantyhose, as my American readers would call them!

So, back to my original question, is there a difference between running and cycling compression tights? No.  They are the same thing.  If you are going to wear them cycling make sure that if you are wearing them under your shorts the stitching is flat lock (the best tights have this) since chaffing will be a real issue, especially if you go commando, which is what you should be doing cycling.  If you decide to wear them over the top there isn’t quite so much an issue.  The other thing to note is when you wear them.  Some people feel that the thermal versions are too hot to wear on runs and rides, though I would think that this was the point!  Oh well…Many people actually don’t wear them when they exercise, but put them on when they get home.  Personally I would rather get the off and have a shower.

My only other concern now is actually how to wear them!  I want to really wear a pair of shorts over the top because whilst lycra looks great on the bike, I feel a bit stupid (and colder!) running around, literally, in what looks like my underwear. Compression tights, running or cycling, don’t look good without some sort of outerwear on a bloke my age…

Last question, are running tights good for cyclists?  Again, there isn’t a huge amount of difference between the two.  You need to wear proper cycling shorts though, otherwise that seat is still going to feel painful!

Got an idea of shorts that I should wear?  Leave a comment to a product or your website!

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