Chamois leather

Guest Article: Saddle Sore Galore or Taint Misbehavin’

Guest Article: Saddle Sore Galore or Taint Misbehavin’

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Chamois leather used in cycling shorts looked like this only once, before the first washing. After that one had to slather cream onto it to attempt to restore it to its former soft smoothness, which was impossible. I have written a reverence article on chamois cream and I vowed then to never google “saddle sore images” again, hence a beautiful image of chamois leather. @optimiste remembers this nice smooth leather and all that comes after it.

Your in Cycling, Gianni

Although Looking Fantastic is de rigueur for all Velominati, it is not about adopting a certain style as would a poseur. Rather, it is a byproduct of continually pursuing and applying previously unimaginable doses of The V. The Rules are a guide along this path, but they are not The V, and will not by themselves make one Look Fantastic. Essentially, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.

The same can be said for one’s cycling shorts (or bib shorts, which I prefer). In my formative years, I was fortunate enough to be mentored in all things cycling by a friend’s older brother, who ALWAYS looked fantastic, and is still the benchmark I use in that regard. When I donned my first pair of cycling shorts (made of natural materials, before they were considered retro), he was quick to advise me on how to stop embarrassing myself. His advice was akin to the 1980 Calvin Klein Jeans commercial featuring Brooke Shields: “You wanna know what comes between me and my chamois?  Nothing.” I got the point and ditched the underpants/briefs/tighty-whities (which I believe were also made of natural materials).

Nearly thirty-five years later, that advice has served me well. In fact, last season was the first time I ever developed a saddle sore. Looking back, I can trace its occurrence to simultaneously acquiring new bib shorts and a new saddle shape at the start of the season. At first, I thought I was experiencing muscle pain in the groinish area, but stretching didn’t help a bit.

Next, I used a mirror to examine the area in question, which I must say was not at all pleasant. It was clear I had developed a subcutaneous cyst, on the verge of erupting. In all my years of cycling, I had never really used chamois cream with any regularity, but soon became a product tester of just about every brand out there. I wish I could say the Assos stuff was inordinately expensive (so I could quip they should call it Assos for Asses), but it wasn’t. DZ Nuts cost more per ounce and the camphor often made me wonder if I was inadvertently applying embrocation cream to my nether region. Chamois Butt’r was half the cost and seemed to provide some relief, so I slathered it on by the handful. But as with the others, the saddle sore remained.

It was mid-season by now, so taking an extended break from riding was not an option. The greatest relief came by following a teammate’s advice he had received from a former pro he used to ride with.

Teammate: “After every ride, get out of your shorts ASAP and either shower or use baby wipes to clean the undercarriage.”

Me: “No problem.”

Teammate: “Go commando (naked) at bedtime to let things air dry.”

Me: “Awesome!”

Teammate: “And most importantly, after showering, apply copious amounts of Gold Bond Extra Strength Medicated Body Powder (the one in the green bottle).”

Me: “Isn’t that for old or sweaty people?”

Full disclosure: I have no financial interest in this product or its manufacturer, just that it’s awesome.

In less than two weeks, the saddle sore relented; however on rides longer than 120 kilometers, I would still feel a twinge of discomfort return. It wasn’t until early spring this year, while inspecting my bib shorts, when I noticed an unusual wear spot on the edge of the chamois. The chamois turned out to be slightly smaller than my previous one, and it seems I not only dress left, but also ride a bit left in the saddle as well. Purchasing new bibs wasn’t an immediate option, so I pushed the saddle back a touch and removed the chamois edge from the equation. Complete relief at last.

I use chamois cream (of various brands) regularly now, but in far less quantities. I am thinking of buying stock in Gold Bond. And since I’m not constantly bothered by the pain of a saddle sore, I can focus on applying The V, as I willingly enter the pain cave, in my continuing pursuit of Looking Fantastic from the inside-out.

// Accessories and Gear // Riding Ugly

  1. A former pro put me onto Am-o-Lin baby cream. Soothes and protects.

    http://bayer.com.au/scripts/pages/en/bayerrsquos_products/index.php?aktion=details&id=375&l1=&l2=

  2. @Ccos Great scene.

  3. Fantastic writing, given it’s such a grim topic.  I think this will probably resonate with a great many of us. I’ve recently been needing to use anti-septic cream due to a similar, but less “close to erupting” sore. Careful when you buy new shorts folks!

  4. @unversio

    Verifying the promise of Castelli’s Progetto X2 tomorrow “” 184km STV ready.

    The X2 is good but I’ve found that they can be prone to coming unstitched where the two sections join to create at a hole through which your bits can get pinched by the saddle.

    245km last weekend was not a good time to find that my two year old v-bibs have finally given up any pretence at cushioning. It was also surprising how little evidence there was of Butt’r after that distance despite having applied enough before the start to make one feel slightly odd.

    @frank please get the V-Kit procurement issues ironed out, I need to restock!

  5. This wonder medication appears to be a US-only thing.

    Not sure what the equivalent would be here – looking at the the contents something like Sudocrem but that’s an ointment not a powder.

    I have been relatively blessed with an absence of saddle issues, and hope to continue this way inshallah.

    But my training buddy Tim suffers badly. He is an occasional lurker on these pages so I’m sure he won’t mind my revealing his crotchal discomfort to the world. He appears to have tried every cream known to man, even going so far as precribed medication and has also sought bike fits and new saddles.

    Like you Optimiste this is also a recent occurrence after years of blemish-free riding so it is something of a mystery. It’s even forced him to cut down on his riding – he’s planning a holiday with riding in Italy and is trying to balance doing enough to be able to enjoy it against doing so much he arrives in a severely damaged state.

  6. Optimiste must be sentient. Only this week I have developed a sore and nasty lump along the left hand seam of the barse. The VMH (who is a fully trained nurse and used to seeing nasty bits) inspected this morning, told me to man up and slap some sudacrem on it.  I’ve never felt a need for chamois cream in the past, though did subscribe to the post ride wipe and talc regime. I remember during my MTB racing years having to see the doc for an embarrasing itch, to be told I had the crotch equivalent of atheletes foot. Fungal cream to the groin area can be a pre-bedtime passion killer!

  7. @VeloJello My VHM is also medically trained and for this I will be forever thankful. Just over a year ago I developed a hard painful saddle sore which refused to go away. After a couple of inspections (far above and beyond the call of duty) she pulled a 20mm wee ginger ingrown hair out of it, a dab of Sudacrem and a couple of days later I was back on the bike pain free and whistling a happy tune. Fuck knows what I would have done without her.

  8. Equal parts informative and terrifying with a third of humour thrown in for good measure!  

    Im a fan of the Assos chamois cream…cooooool and refreshing baby!!!!

  9. @eenies

    @VeloJello My VHM is also medically trained and for this I will be forever thankful. Just over a year ago I developed a hard painful saddle sore which refused to go away. After a couple of inspections (far above and beyond the call of duty) she pulled a 20mm wee ginger ingrown hair out of it, a dab of Sudacrem and a couple of days later I was back on the bike pain free and whistling a happy tune. Fuck knows what I would have done without her.

    Folks, can we PLEASE not get in to any more detail than this?!

  10. @VeloJello

    Fungal cream to the groin area can be a pre-bedtime passion killer!

    As can a volcanic proportioned about to erupt abcess/cyst

  11. @Mike_P

    @eenies

    @VeloJello My VHM is also medically trained and for this I will be forever thankful. Just over a year ago I developed a hard painful saddle sore which refused to go away. After a couple of inspections (far above and beyond the call of duty) she pulled a 20mm wee ginger ingrown hair out of it, a dab of Sudacrem and a couple of days later I was back on the bike pain free and whistling a happy tune. Fuck knows what I would have done without her.

    Folks, can we PLEASE not get in to any more detail than this?!

    This is how we can easily tell those of us who work either directly or indirectly with health care. This sort of thing is dinner table conversation.

  12. @Chris Maybe not a cyst, but something in the groin area edging to eruption gets the lady excited… Badum Tish! I’ll get my coat.

  13. @Owen Too right, this stuff is tame compared to my VMH’s usual post work over supper rant/letting off of steam.

  14. @VeloJello

    @Chris Maybe not a cyst, but something in the groin area edging to eruption gets the lady excited… Badum Tish! I’ll get my coat.

    Did you get the Lantern Rouge for shit VSP picks or shit jokes?

  15. @VeloJello Grew up in a family of doctors and have thus a warped idea of what should and should not pass the filter.

  16. @Chris

    @VeloJello

    @Chris Maybe not a cyst, but something in the groin area edging to eruption gets the lady excited… Badum Tish! I’ll get my coat.

    Did you get the Lantern Rouge for shit VSP picks or shit jokes?

    Yes?

  17. @Mike_P

    @eenies

    @VeloJello My VHM is also medically trained and for this I will be forever thankful. Just over a year ago I developed a hard painful saddle sore which refused to go away. After a couple of inspections (far above and beyond the call of duty) she pulled a 20mm wee ginger ingrown hair out of it, a dab of Sudacrem and a couple of days later I was back on the bike pain free and whistling a happy tune. Fuck knows what I would have done without her.

    Folks, can we PLEASE not get in to any more detail than this?!

    Keeping the “entire” area shaved reduces an amount of friction that makes all the difference. Think of it as taking the Chewbacca liner out of your bibs for a change.

  18. For me, if I get one, some 10 percent benzoyl peroxide cream does the trick. It’s in  acne cream and  can get rid of mine in two days.

    (Don’t even ask about the acne cream bit)

  19. @Mike_P

    Fantastic writing, given it’s such a grim topic. I think this will probably resonate with a great many of us. I’ve recently been needing to use anti-septic cream due to a similar, but less “close to erupting” sore. Careful when you buy new shorts folks!

    Sage advice. I don’t recall who posted it here first, but I found this video helpful.

  20. @unversi

    Keeping the “entire” area shaved reduces an amount of friction that makes all the difference. Think of it as taking the Chewbacca liner out of your bibs for a change.

    Yes I agree with that – not shaved as that increases the risk of ingrowing hairs, but trimmed short.

    and to add to the OP go commando whenever possible. If I’m wearing shorts or anything loose it’s free underneath.

  21. @Chris Ha ha. Both.

  22. @Chris

    @VeloJello

    @Chris Maybe not a cyst, but something in the groin area edging to eruption gets the lady excited… Badum Tish! I’ll get my coat.

    Did you get the Lantern Rouge for shit VSP picks or shit jokes?

    Both. It’s an art unto itself.

    @ChrisO

    @unversi

    Keeping the “entire” area shaved reduces an amount of friction that makes all the difference. Think of it as taking the Chewbacca liner out of your bibs for a change.

    Yes I agree with that – not shaved as that increases the risk of ingrowing hairs, but trimmed short.

    and to add to the OP go commando whenever possible. If I’m wearing shorts or anything loose it’s free underneath.

    Definitely good advice. Swing easy and air it.

  23. @unversio

    Keeping the “entire” area shaved reduces an amount of friction that makes all the difference. Think of it as taking the Chewbacca liner out of your bibs for a change

    à la Belgium style

  24. @unversio

     “Chewbacca liner”

    That is both disturbing and brilliant.

    @ChrisO

    @unversi

    Keeping the “entire” area shaved reduces an amount of friction that makes all the difference. Think of it as taking the Chewbacca liner out of your bibs for a change.

    Yes I agree with that – not shaved as that increases the risk of ingrowing hairs, but trimmed short.

    and to add to the OP go commando whenever possible. If I’m wearing shorts or anything loose it’s free underneath.

    Ingrown hairs was my concern as well.  I’ll have to try the trim, since I am part Wookiee.

  25. @sthilzy

    A former pro put me onto Am-o-Lin baby cream. Soothes and protects.

    http://bayer.com.au/scripts/pages/en/bayerrsquos_products/index.php?aktion=details&id=375&l1=&l2=

    Is there a difference between diaper rash cream and chamois cream?

    @Owen

    @VeloJello Grew up in a family of doctors and have thus a warped idea of what should and should not pass the filter.

    Why filter anything… This is a safe space, mostly.

  26. A few years back I was getting a wee spot of rubbing in my left groin.  Inspection found a skin tag that was chaffing on the saddle.  So off to my doc to find out if I should just tie it off or what.  No probs says he, we can just freeze it with a blast of nitrogen, book in on Thursday when we do those by the duty doctor.  So books in does I.  Trots in at the due time to find fist that the duty doctor that day was female, so a bit embarrassing.  Anyway I adopt the proscribed position having dropped the Jockeys and she produces what can only be described as a decent sized fire extinguisher.  At this point I became a bit concerned over the accuracy and spread of said device!  Anyway all’s well that ends well and the thing did thankfully have a controllable blast.

  27. @therealpeel  “Is there a difference between diaper rash cream and chamois cream?”

    Yes, price. That, and there are no hot chicks (Assos girl) hawking diaper cream.

  28. @Teocalli

    A few years back I was getting a wee spot of rubbing in my left groin. Inspection found a skin tag that was chaffing on the saddle. So off to my doc to find out if I should just tie it off or what. No probs says he, we can just freeze it with a blast of nitrogen, book in on Thursday when we do those by the duty doctor. So books in does I. Trots in at the due time to find fist that the duty doctor that day was female, so a bit embarrassing. Anyway I adopt the proscribed position having dropped the Jockeys and she produces what can only be described as a decent sized fire extinguisher. At this point I became a bit concerned over the accuracy and spread of said device! Anyway all’s well that ends well and the thing did thankfully have a controllable blast.

    Ouch…. Now Opsite spray post vasectomy. That REALLY stings…

  29. @unversio

    Keeping the “entire” area shaved reduces an amount of friction that makes all the difference. Think of it as taking the Chewbacca liner out of your bibs for a change.

    This. But keep that part of Rule #50 in mind about not shaving on the morning of an important race. Not so much to maintain virility, but to avoid rash. And waxing lasts a lot longer than shaving.

  30. @pistard

    @unversio

    Keeping the “entire” area shaved reduces an amount of friction that makes all the difference. Think of it as taking the Chewbacca liner out of your bibs for a change.

    This. But keep that part of Rule #50 in mind about not shaving on the morning of an important race. Not so much to maintain virility, but to avoid rash. And waxing lasts a lot longer than shaving.

    Waxing? In the crackle region?!  I’m sure the emotional scarring lasts longer too.  All that comes to mind is the chest waxing scene in “The 40 Year old Virgin”, but an order of magnitude worse. Although I’m sure if there are any Velominatas or VMHs reading this, who have also had a Kojak wax, they are likely rolling their eyes.

  31. @sthilzy

    A former pro put me onto Am-o-Lin baby cream. Soothes and protects.

    http://bayer.com.au/scripts/pages/en/bayerrsquos_products/index.php?aktion=details&id=375&l1=&l2=

    works a treat!  Not a regular sufferer, very occasionally in summer after 3+ hrs in the saddle.

    Also, while I haven’t seen just about any of you in the flesh and, assuming as cyclists/Velominati, not only do we all look fantastic whilst kitted out but also nude, I’m getting some severely disturbing mental images here folks………

  32. @therealpeel it’s a safe space. Sure. Keep telling yourself that. It’s like I say Frank Frank Frank and he has to appear.

  33. I remember the good old days, having to wash your jersey and shorts by hand in wool wash then having to wait ages for them to dry and the chamois ending up stiff as a board. on recommendation I used to rub in this cream I think called Jecovital to soften the chamois. Once you sweat a bit you’d almost pass out from the vapours.

    modern chamois beats the old days hands down.

  34. Rapha cream for mine.   Because it smells like the Alps and is made from pixie dust and fairy wings.

  35. @Rom

    I remember the good old days, having to wash your jersey and shorts by hand in wool wash then having to wait ages for them to dry and the chamois ending up stiff as a board. on recommendation I used to rub in this cream I think called Jecovital to soften the chamois. Once you sweat a bit you’d almost pass out from the vapours.

    modern chamois beats the old days hands down.

    No doubt. Modern chamois also make it infinitely easier to minimize the introduction of bacteria.  If at all possible, I wash my kit after each use – knowing it will be dry by morning.  When I can’t (as when riding to and from work in full kit), I have plenty of hangers at my desk to let everything dry out during the day.  Ideally, I’ll turn the bibs inside-out and put the chamois in direct sunlight.  It’s as good as bleach.

  36. @Rom

    Very happy to be a pedalwan sometimes. This would be one of them.

    @Optimiste

    Must make for pretty interesting office decor!

  37. @Optimiste

    @Rom

    I remember the good old days, having to wash your jersey and shorts by hand in wool wash then having to wait ages for them to dry and the chamois ending up stiff as a board. on recommendation I used to rub in this cream I think called Jecovital to soften the chamois. Once you sweat a bit you’d almost pass out from the vapours.

    modern chamois beats the old days hands down.

    No doubt. Modern chamois also make it infinitely easier to minimize the introduction of bacteria. If at all possible, I wash my kit after each use – knowing it will be dry by morning. When I can’t (as when riding to and from work in full kit), I have plenty of hangers at my desk to let everything dry out during the day. Ideally, I’ll turn the bibs inside-out and put the chamois in direct sunlight. It’s as good as bleach.

    Indeed, indeed. Old school shorts were literally a pain in the ass. After washing, the chamois resembled a popadum. Even a large amount of cream rubbed in did little to give anything approaching comfort. And padding under the chamois? Forget it. Kids today, they just don’t know how good they have it – wash, dry and good to go.

    For modern times, I use Vitamin A&D ointment from the drugstore as chamois cream. Works a treat and cheap.

    As for vapours, a friend’s Mum used to make us some special embrocation for cold weather races. Lots of wintergreen in there!

  38. @wiscot

    @Optimiste

    @Rom

    I remember the good old days, having to wash your jersey and shorts by hand in wool wash then having to wait ages for them to dry and the chamois ending up stiff as a board. on recommendation I used to rub in this cream I think called Jecovital to soften the chamois. Once you sweat a bit you’d almost pass out from the vapours.

    modern chamois beats the old days hands down.

    No doubt. Modern chamois also make it infinitely easier to minimize the introduction of bacteria. If at all possible, I wash my kit after each use – knowing it will be dry by morning. When I can’t (as when riding to and from work in full kit), I have plenty of hangers at my desk to let everything dry out during the day. Ideally, I’ll turn the bibs inside-out and put the chamois in direct sunlight. It’s as good as bleach.

    Indeed, indeed. Old school shorts were literally a pain in the ass. After washing, the chamois resembled a popadum. Even a large amount of cream rubbed in did little to give anything approaching comfort. And padding under the chamois? Forget it. Kids today, they just don’t know how good they have it – wash, dry and good to go.

    For modern times, I use Vitamin A&D ointment from the drugstore as chamois cream. Works a treat and cheap.

    As for vapours, a friend’s Mum used to make us some special embrocation for cold weather races. Lots of wintergreen in there!

    Speaking of things your mum made, here I am centre, with arm warders knitted by me mum, circa 1982. Who said merino was the new wonder material?

  39. @Bespoke

    @Optimiste
    Must make for pretty interesting office decor!

    Yes.  I’m often asked if I also do dry cleaning.

  40. Surprising for the UK the sun has been out a while and at the weekend I was reminded of that challenge when prepping for an event at 6 am of making sure that you put on suncream, chamois cream and embrocation in the correct places and in the right order……….

  41. @Teocalli

    Surprising for the UK the sun has been out a while and at the weekend I was reminded of that challenge when prepping for an event at 6 am of making sure that you put on suncream, chamois cream and embrocation in the correct places and in the right order……….

    Ha ha. Very carefully I bet!

  42. @Owen

    @Mike_P

    @eenies

    @VeloJello My VHM is also medically trained and for this I will be forever thankful. Just over a year ago I developed a hard painful saddle sore which refused to go away. After a couple of inspections (far above and beyond the call of duty) she pulled a 20mm wee ginger ingrown hair out of it, a dab of Sudacrem and a couple of days later I was back on the bike pain free and whistling a happy tune. Fuck knows what I would have done without her.

    Folks, can we PLEASE not get in to any more detail than this?!

    This is how we can easily tell those of us who work either directly or indirectly with health care. This sort of thing is dinner table conversation.

    At least he refrained from posting pictures……oh no; I said it.

  43. One of my colleagues enjoys running, and he passed on some advice to me when I first started out cycling. He used to put Cavilon barrier cream on his nipples when he ran marathons, and tried it when he went cycling too. I find it works pretty well, having only just completed my first long distance ride (170km). With Cavilon on the Kelvins and rear end I had no discomfort what so ever.

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/CavilonTM-Durable-Barrier-Cream-Tube/dp/B0047W4FFI/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1404147151&sr=8-1&keywords=cavilon

  44. I am a big fan of a product called Udderly Smooth. It is designed for cows. I figured anything that can sooth the beating those poor milk cows take would be good. Really economical too. I buy it in a tub that  will last me almost a year for about 9 bucks.   They also make a 3 oz tube which is perfect for your jeresey pocket. Just the trick fora sweaty century ride. I keep a couple of single size baby wipes in the jersey too. A quick  wipe down and reapplication will keep you rolling in comfort.

  45. For treatment I have been using Bepanthen because we have it around the house thanks to the Velomigrommie, and it has been working well. Not the Antiseptic version either, which may prove even better.

    For prevention, I use a lanolin medicated cream Lanisol I think it’s called.

    Think I’ve had trouble since changing to the Arione after my crash. Gleefully accepted gift as my previous was rooted and unable to afford another, I’m suffering from 80km on at the moment..

  46. I believe we are living in parallel universes.  I stumbled onto the same remedy just recently through trial and error (many trials and many errors!)  I would make the following additions:  Use Noxema in the shower to get all the chamois creme etc etc removed.  Follow that with an astringent (acne wash).  Then apply the Gold Bond after drying. Also, go “commando” as often and as long as possible.  Be patient.  This takes time (maybe 2 weeks + or -).

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    @wiscot

    @Optimiste

    @Rom

    I remember the good old days, having to wash your jersey and shorts by hand in wool wash then having to wait ages for them to dry and the chamois ending up stiff as a board. on recommendation I used to rub in this cream I think called Jecovital to soften the chamois. Once you sweat a bit you’d almost pass out from the vapours.

    modern chamois beats the old days hands down.

    No doubt. Modern chamois also make it infinitely easier to minimize the introduction of bacteria. If at all possible, I wash my kit after each use – knowing it will be dry by morning. When I can’t (as when riding to and from work in full kit), I have plenty of hangers at my desk to let everything dry out during the day. Ideally, I’ll turn the bibs inside-out and put the chamois in direct sunlight. It’s as good as bleach.

    Indeed, indeed. Old school shorts were literally a pain in the ass. After washing, the chamois resembled a popadum. Even a large amount of cream rubbed in did little to give anything approaching comfort. And padding under the chamois? Forget it. Kids today, they just don’t know how good they have it – wash, dry and good to go.

    For modern times, I use Vitamin A&D ointment from the drugstore as chamois cream. Works a treat and cheap.

    As for vapours, a friend’s Mum used to make us some special embrocation for cold weather races. Lots of wintergreen in there!

    Speaking of things your mum made, here I am centre, with arm warders knitted by me mum, circa 1982. Who said merino was the new wonder material?

    Great pic! Reminds me of my days as a pedalwan. Lots of acrylic, short shorts, white socks and black shoes. Bike: exposed cables, friction shifters, one bottle cage. Happy days but I sure don’t want to turn back the clock!

  48. @Vince

    I believe we are living in parallel universes. I stumbled onto the same remedy just recently through trial and error (many trials and many errors!) I would make the following additions: Use Noxema in the shower to get all the chamois creme etc etc removed. Follow that with an astringent (acne wash). Then apply the Gold Bond after drying. Also, go “commando” as often and as long as possible. Be patient. This takes time (maybe 2 weeks + or -).

    Great input, and welcome aboard.

  49. @wiscot

    Happy days but I sure don’t want to turn back the clock!

    A-Merckx to that!

  50. Great article.

    Some years ago I was given a tube of “Brave Soldier” Friction Zone. It was different than anything I had used up to that time including Assos and Chamois Butt’r and some others. I stocked up on it. I am beginning to wonder if it is still available as I am down to the last of 12 tubes. I hope so, it is really great stuff. Very little is required to protect you over a long ride.

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