A few posts back I wrote about hotspots and saddle sores, a rather common malady found in the sport of cycling. Saddle sores and hotspots are basically a friction caused skin ailment found around the buttocks, inner thighs, perineum and other private bits south of the border on cyclists. The formation of hotspots are greatly reduced by choosing the right seat, a proper bike set up, a good pair of well fitting cycling shorts, and correct posture, but even with all these safeguards, a lot of friction, moisture, heat, pain etc can still develop from the extended time on the saddle. There is one more weapon in our arsenal to combat these malady’s, the oddly named chamois cream.
Chamois cream is a thick cream or ointment that is applied to the padded insert of cycling shorts or directly on to the body parts that come in contact with the saddle, drastically eliminating friction and the formation of hotspots.
Until the invention of spandex in the 1960s, cycling shorts were made of wool. As the wool itself didn’t have much stretch, cycling shorts were constructed with multiple panels of fabric to improve fit and prevent the material bunching up while riding. While the multiple panels provided greater movement it’s construction required multiple seams, particularly in the base of the shorts. To overcome the discomfort that this caused, cycling shorts incorporated a smooth leather pad that reinforced the crotch and seat area and provided a comfortable, durable, and form-fitting surface to sit on. Cyclists needed to use chamois cream to keep the leather pads in their shorts soft and comfortable particularly after multiple uses and washings.
Today’s high tech cycling shorts and pads are made of specialized synthetic materials no longer requiring conditioning creams, yet chamois cream still remains an indispensable tool to help reduce friction.
The actual use and recommendation of chamois cream varies greatly among cyclists. Many swear by it’s use, while others have never had a need for it. I originally belonged to the latter camp. My current bike setup and use of quality cycling shorts has always provided me with comfort and protection while on my rides. Sure I would get a sore butt from time to time, but that was just due to breaking in the saddle, not hotspots, that is until recently. With my ever increasing time in the saddle and the relentless heat and humidity of the Florida summer, I experienced my first hotspot right on a sit bone. A week long break from cycling pretty much allowed it to heal, but it’s formation made me reexamine the benefits of “butt cream”.
I jumped online for some quick research and found an amazing number of products with some very unique names including, Udderly Smooth, DZ Nuts, DZ Bliss, Friction Freedom, Hoo-Ha Ride Gel, Bag Balm, Butt Butter, Button Hole…I couldn’t make these names up even if I tried…and the two dominant brands, Assos and Chamois Butt’r. The ingredients of the products varied wildly, from all natural and safe enough to eat (why on earth would anyone want to eat butt cream) to some pretty wild chemical concoctions. The basic product split was between Eurostyle creams and American creams. The Eurostyle creams have a strong medicinal like odor and produce a tingling like sensation by incorporating menthol and witch hazel, while the American creams are virtually orderless and tingle free.
Not really wanting to feel a buzz in my naughty bits while cycling (I smile enough while riding), I decided to experiment with the American style creams. I chose Chamois Butt’r from Paceline Products. It’s made specifically for cyclists, well established, highly recommended and is widely available at any LBS. I also liked that it came in a tube versus a jar and that you can purchase small packages to carry with you on rides…just in case you have to lube up some more.
I used the Chamois Butt’r on today’s ride in conjunction with a brand new pair of shorts from Pearl Izumi, as well as a new, extremely bright yellow jersey. Instead of slathering the pad with the cream as many chamois cream users recommend, I went with the “apply where needed” approach, rubbing the cream directly onto myself (I’ll spare the details of exactly where, after all, this is a family blog). The use of the cream was immediately apparent right from the start of the ride, and became more noticeable as the ride progressed, particularly from the lack of smaller discomforts and “occasional adjustments” I would normally make during a ride. I’m sure if the ride had been longer than 30 miles, i would have appreciated the creme even more.
So am I convert? Do I now prefer to ride lubed, or as a female cyclist friend of mine says “riding juicy”. The answer is sort of. I definitely see the benefit of chamois cream on longer rides (more than 2 hours in the saddle) as well as on hot summer days, or even if you get caught in the rain. Cycling shorts are so good now days that a shorter ride really doesn’t merit the use creams, as well as cold weather riding, as you do not sweat much at all. But the bottom line is, using it will only help and not hurt. It’s really not messy to use, and it doesn’t stain your shorts or make washing them any more difficult. It’s not all that expensive to use (yes, some products such as Assos are rather costly), but if the option is a few more bucks per month vs hotspots on your butt, definitely get the cream. I know I’ll be lubing up for anything over two hours, regardless of the temperature.
Today’s ride was a well lubed 30 mile ride to Three Oaks Park and back again. Although it was another typical middle of summer, melt in the sun day here in Florida, the combination of the new kit and the Chamois Butt’r kept me cool and comfortable. I’ll comment on the new kits I bought in a future post. In the mean time, here are the numbers…
Route: Three Oaks Park
Ride Time: 2:02:55
Stopped Time: 43:56
Distance: 31.89 miles
Average: 15.57 miles/h
Fastest Speed: 24.26 miles/h
Ascent: 101 feet
Descent: 26 feet