chamois cream

Reverence: Chamois Cream

Reverence: Chamois Cream

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Pull up a seat around the fire, Old Gianni is going to tell you a story about lube… hey kids, come back here! It’s really just a story about cycling chamois really being made from chamois. There, I knew that would bring you back. Who doesn’t use chamois cream? I’m a little surprised to find a lot of cyclists don’t. Us guys don’t talk about our asses enough so this subject rarely comes up. I don’t climb well for my weight and I’m not peaking in two months and I still use some chamois cream on rides of any decent length.

Back in the days of wool shorts and leather chamois, your brand new Italian shorts had a chamois as soft and buttery as the leather seat of a Ferrari. Yet after the first wash it was a crinkled stiff mess that needed a cream just to smooth it out enough to be rideable. The cream I was familiar with was akin to Bagbalm: a honey colored, thick translucent goo which had to be massaged into the leather. It also gave it enough lubricity to prevent hot spots. Every ride would be followed by a shorts washing then drying and the dried chamois got more goo and massage than your legs.  It was a minor pain but one could assume it to be a ritual every roadie did, save Lord Eddy who had Mrs Merckx do it. Did I mention padding hadn’t been invented yet? Just thin leather and the black wool (and eventually thin lycra) it was sewn to.

Lycra replaced wool before synthetic chamois replaced real leather, the synthetic looked similar but behaved better after washing. I stopped using chamois cream because it was no longer really chamois and the need to un-crinkle the thing was gone.  Different synthetics came and went, even a polar fleece pad by Avocet, but a cream would just disappear into it, a waste. Synthetic chamois improved bit by bit, our Concor seats were still miserable and the idea of padding actually came into fashion which may have made Concor seats better, but barely. Regardless of saddle, for me the limiting factor for the 100k plus rides was the discomfort of just sitting on the bike.

I don’t remember when the dim bulb went on in my dim brain, but somehow it dawned on me that the pros were still slathering their shorts up with abandon. I would be interested to know how much a team goes through in the Tour; I reckon kilos of it. The preparation and lubing of the cyclist’s most sensitive contact point with the bike is nothing to be taken lightly for a pro. If you really want to get ‘core, try DZ’s procedure on staying right.

For the uninitiated, I put a large aliquot of the cream about where my sit bones contact the chamois and then press the chamois together to spread it. Apply it where you need it.  Sure it feels a bit clammy when the bibs are engaged but that passes. A long way into a ride you notice the warmed cream has produced a near zero friction coefficient ‘down there’, all is well and one’s attention can be spent on other things like staying in the saddle and laying down a little V. I always put my creamed-up bibs on at home even if I’m heading for the car to get to a ride. Years ago a Tour racer pulled over for a serious call of nature which required shorts lowering and removal. In the ensuing re-shorting, sand from his shoe contaminated the creamed-up chamois and miles later his Tour was over. My point is this; putting on bibs in the car, outside the car, in the bushes are all bad. Your sand-free bedroom is better.

Have the new chamois pads made the creams redundant? I don’t want to find out the hard way. Certainly if you are doing this for a living you are doing your best to avoid saddle sores and blisters and the creams are still the one true way.

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// Accessories and Gear // Nostalgia // Reverence // Tradition

  1. Thanks for the post. I have not been much of a user, but after last weekends ride and my subsequent request for suggestions, I see my prayers have been answered. Now if only I had a V Pint to drink my Saison Dupont in I would be completely content.

  2. @michael, @Omar
    Bottom line is this: butt butter amounts to little more than a lubricant; I don’t use it much myself, but the argument that you shouldn’t need it is completely missing the point. The times I do use it, I notice the increased comfort, especially on long rides.

    No matter what the fit, size, etc of your ass, saddle, or bike, lubrication reduces friction. Period. The more you ride does not, in fact, insulate you from this – on the contrary it increases your risk of having problems like saddle sores. You move your legs more, and, given the complexity of the crotch and the organism in general, nothing beats lubrication when it comes to reducing wear on moving parts.

    The right bib fit might reduce the need for it, but doesn’t remove basic physics from the equation.

    On a side note, as consumers we do have more choice than the pros, but many consumer products even labeled as “top of the line” or “what the pros wear” is not actually the same stuff. Take, for example, the V-Bibs; the aero Race bibs by Castelli that you find in stores have a lower cost pad in them to cut inventory costs and lift profitability of the products. The V-Bibs are the only bibs I’m aware of that consumers can buy that have the same pad in them that is issued to the Pros.

  3. @frank
    Well I agree with you somewhat, but you didn’t necessarily disagree with me. There’s a fine line between riding too little and having crotch problems, riding just enough to not have crotch problems and riding enough to have them, I’ve been on all 3 sides of it.

    Basic friction from legs moving generally causes chafing where the legs meet the torso, but not saddle sores, these will go away with more riding or chamois cream. Pressure mixed with the rocking motion and heat, friction, hygiene, perinum physiology is what causes saddle sores. Saddle sores are generally subcutaneous irritations of what looks like follicles on the skin ‘down there’. I don’t know if any cream or not will help or prevent these as it may be better to let your skin breath as much as possible. Having said all that, I have no idea what my point was.

  4. @john – Aaron and Mary from Winston’s Brand definitely mail order. That stuff is awesome and I find myself not needing as much Cobble Cream as Butt’r. The Butt’r seemed to break down… and with the sunflower oil and tea tree oil in the Cobble Cream, it’s antibacterial and stays put nicely.

    If any Velominatus order, make sure and tell ‘em I sent ya. I highly recommend their CX Warm embro for rides sub-50 degrees.

  5. I’m a big fan of Assos creme. (I’m a sucker for the tingle of witch hazel in the morning.) Tried a few other brands – not sufficiently viscous, too oily, too hard to get off of your fingers after application, no with hazel – but have always come back to Assos. I thought we only rode as a thinly disguised cover for our creme habit (or is that just me?).

  6. I love slapping a bit of lube around the ol’ back door. But that’s another story. Chamois cream… right. I use it on occasion, not all the time, but for longer rides I’ll use Keywin, locally made from lanolin and inexpensive. Can even use it on your nipples. The V-bibs don’t seem to need it so far, they are pretty damn awesome, I must say.

  7. @Brett
    Lot of preparation going into Bretto’s rides, not much proof of any actual riding…

  8. @minion
    Yeah well I haven’t seen you on any of my rides lately, road or mountain. And isn’t that your track bike hanging up in the shop, the one you tried to put a 1:1/8 fork into a 1″ head tube?

  9. @Omar
    You are right on both counts. Bibs and saddles are subjective personal choices, if I didn’t like my Castelli V kit I’d invest in some Assos. Still, I’m wearing what Thor wears so I’m feeling good about that. This new Castelli is much better than the old Castelli, something happened there. I’d like to try a dozen saddles, I think Competitive Cyclist has that service, it would be interesting.

    And yes, most pros are stuck with the sponsors saddles and clothing and bikes. But their service course must have every stem, crank, and handlebar option a person might hope for, but I hear you on that too.

    Yes please, get data in San Diego.

  10. I bought a cheap pair of bike shorts from MEC a few years back. The chamois was thin and none too comfy so I went to the auto store and bought a real chamois, grabbed my moms sewing machine, and sewed the real cloth over the MEC pad. Man did that ever turn a mediocre pair of shorts into some nice, choad caressing package slippers. After 7 years and thousands of miles the sew job finally gave out this year. No worries, my V bibs had arrived and I’ve worn nothing better. But I do miss the feel of well oiled natural chamois sometimes.

  11. I must have an ass of steel (Hey, there’s something for the resume), I’ve never used chamois cream in 25+ years of riding. Sure, I can tell the difference between a cheap pair of shorts and a quality pair – no doubt – but, no need for slathering goop into ‘em.

    My favorite shorts? Older style Descente Pro bib shorts. I’m screwed though, since I’ve wasted the few pairs I have and can’t find exact replacements. I keep lookin’ though.

    Back in the ’80s, I did many long mountain bike rides wearing jeans – yes, jeans with tighty whities under ‘em. Maybe that permanently conditioned my ass for all future rides.

  12. Maybe wearing your bibs inside out is the answer.

  13. Hailing form the barnyard, I naturally go to the local feed & seed for my ointments. Bag Balm contains lanolin, ergo, a hint of antibacterial quality. It is also non-soluble in water. Good for a wet ride, not so good if you are trying to wash that shit out of your shorts. However, Bag Balm also contains petroleum jelly, and thus not quite compatible with synthetic fibers. I noted accelerated shorts wear, like threadbare (read: transparent) in the upper ass region. I also feel it led to accelerated degradation of the synthetic leather covering of my saddle, and perhaps the urethane foam within, as well. I found Udderly Smooth to be the next best thing.

  14. @Dan O,

    I have a pair of large Descente bibs from the early 2000s that I got for free from the shop I worked in at the time, I’ve worn them a maybe 600 miles, but they still look basically new and I religiously use baby wipes. If these are the bibs you are looking for and really want them, I’d trade you for something comparable.

  15. @Michael

    I wear medium, actually purchased two pairs of large at bike show a few years ago – too big. Sold ‘em as new to a riding a pal.

    I appricate the offer – but used shorts? Ack!

  16. Don’t use it myself, even on long rides (100k+) … lucky I guess (or unlucky, if I’m reading Brett and Cyclops correctly?) Like anything else, some folks need it, some folks don’t, too many variables to draw any conclusions as to why… Probably better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. If I ever need it, I know who to ask.

  17. @Cyclops
    The list of Rule Breakages in there is too long to even get into…

  18. @frank

    Yep, that scene is ripe for a Cognoscenti killing spree… it’s kind of beautiful in it’s own horrific way, tho. Kind of a Rules “Guernica”…

  19. @sgt
    You can FEEL the anti-V emanating from that space. If this were Star Wars, Yoda would be very leery of that room. The inside-out bibs is the worst. @Cyclops, where the fuck did you find that?

  20. @frank

    A friend of mine took it at an event this weekend.

  21. @Cyclops,@frank
    That fucking photo is sick. When will it dawn on that poor guy what he’s done? Hopefully before the ride not after it. And there is an eager beaver behind him in line with his camel Back, all loaded up and ready to sign in.

    @foghorn leghorn
    I say, I say, I say, it’s nice to see you on the site…udderly smooth eh? I’ll keep that in mind.

  22. @Marko
    What happened to your avatar? Working on the bat-wing avatar? re: chamois from autoparts store, that is a cheap yankee move I would have attempted but I would have fucked up the sewing. Not easy that. I’m impressed for both reasons. Maybe you were the first person ever to enjoy real chamois with padding?

  23. Back in the day we used Noxema. It was cheap and it worked. When you were in a race tha was the smell of the peloton!
    Now days Bag Balm is the cheapest alternative to the Boutique brands like assos!

  24. For years I used Body Glide or DZ Nuts. Recently I have discovered (thanks to my LBS) Button Hole chamois cream and am having very good luck with it. Goes on well, stays around decently for long rides. No complaints. About $20 for 8oz.

    -Dinan

  25. @Dinan Thanx

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