Now that’s a funny thing isn’t it!?
It’s apparently called “chammy cream” when you actually talk about it. Do people actually talk about this sort of thing? I can’t think that I’ve heard many conversations about putting cream on your bottom to cycle with which is exactly what chamois cream is for.
Ok, so let’s start off by having a quick rummage through the history of sore bottoms and cycling and find out where this funny little word “chamois” comes from and also have a look at what our cycling forefathers did before the invention of such a thing as chamois cream.
Then, most importantly I will describe my own very personal experiences with applying, wearing or using (whatever the term is) chamois cream so that you yourself can make an informed decision about it and know what to expect!
So, first of all cyclists from the dawn of time, or in fact possibly the invention of the wheel have suffered from……well what shall we call it…..having a sore bottom. There’s no doubt about it that placing the full weight of your derriere upon a small saddle for hours at a time whilst indulging in (possibly sweaty) exercise is going to cause some discomfort.
There’s a very entertaining legend about the early hard core cyclists putting a thick slice of steak between their more delicate regions and the saddle to soak up the pain. The then nicely tenderised meat was eaten upon arrival at your destination! This does sound rather implausible although I have to say that my most tender regions have felt slightly like tenderised steak on occasion so can see partly where this silly story might have originated from!
These days the chamois is the pad that is sewn into cycling shorts and tights that used to be made out of soft chamois leather. Obviously as the leather aged and was washed it lost it’s softness and suppleness and so cream was applied to try to keep the leather from drying out and to enhance the comfort of the rider.
Today chamois pads are obviously made from various types of foam and man made materials and, in a much more scientific way, soak up the vibrations between butt and saddle. However we do still use chamois cream, less to keep the chamois itself in condition but more for it’s anti friction and anti biological properties. It goes without saying that the more you spend on a pair of cycling shorts generally speaking the better the chamois pad is and the more comfortable your ride will be. In fact some manufacturers provide pads in different sizes and also in male and female fits for the ultimate in bottom comfort so you might think that the whole ancient and frankly rather odd and messy idea of using chamois cream is now a bit pointless.
So did I, but read on.
I decided to give the whole chamois cream a bit of a go on my first long sportive event. Actually I tried it on a couple of long rides in the lead up just to see how I got on and to make sure I didn’t get any strange allergic reactions. I really didn’t want to be stuck half way round a sportive in the middle of no where with a strangely burning bottom!
Putting the stuff on is weird to say the least. I tried a few different techniques but in the end decided that applying a good coating to my personal parts, in fact anywhere that was in contact with the saddle was the best way to do it. I initially tried applying it to the pad in my lycra shorts but managed to smear it all over my thighs as well as I pulled the shorts up so abandoned that technique on a second attempt!
Nothing prepares you for the grossness of having a pad full of cold cream next to you when you put the cream and shorts on for the first time. It feels like wearing a full nappy of cold goo – gross!
However, rather happily the cream soon warms up and, once on the bike you do start to realise that the stuff might actually be worth it! (Walking for a start is a bit unpleasant too between your legs!)
So, I tried it for a few 3 – 4 hour rides. I had been experiencing some mild discomfort on this length of ride previously and I have to say that the chamois cream did make a difference. It’s not a massive “wow I’m floating on air” difference but it certainly prevents the feeling of heat and friction that you get on a long ride and seems to have a long term effect. It doesn’t cushion the bumps or soften the chamois itself any further I don’t think but, at the point where skin rubs against fabric, there is a cooling and lubricating sensation.
So, yes, chamois cream does work – in my experience at least. I certainly don’t use it regularly as frankly it’s messy and I don’t need it but for longer rides it/s a great thing. I can’t imagine using it regularly for training rides though – long rides only.
Finally you do need to remember that, once your ride is over you need to change and put your shorts in the wash and wash yourself as well. Chamois cream doesn’t really soak into the skin and leaves a sticky residue that would be unhygienic to leave either on yourself or on your pad! It’s also a good idea to try the cream on a shorter ride near home before venturing out further so that if there are any problems with it you can wash it off quickly. It’s also worth checking out men’s and women’s versions as not all of the brands are appropriate for both sexes.
So, yes, chamois cream does work. Go for it! One you are over the initial grossness and on the bike, for longer rides, it’s certainly worth a try!