Guest Article: Saddle Sore Galore or Taint Misbehavin’

Chamois leather
Chamois leather

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.

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56 Replies to “Guest Article: Saddle Sore Galore or Taint Misbehavin’”

  1. 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..

  2. 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 -).

  3. @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!

  4. @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.

  5. 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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