Once you’ve tried a chamois cream, you won’t want to go back to non-lotioned padded shorts. In case you are wondering what a “chamois” is, it’s the padding in a cycling short and is pronounced as “sham-me.”
In the olden days, cycling shorts pads were made of real chamois leather. With repeated washings this leather pad would dry out and become stiff, so a cream was used to recondition the chamois. These days, all cycling shorts have a synthetic chamois and while it technically doesn’t need a cream, your butt still does.
For years, I thought that all I needed on long rides were shorts with a good-quality, multi-density chamois. Was I wrong! After riding for a few hours in the saddle, I’d experience an uncomfortable sweaty, heat-rash butt and annoying recurring saddle sores. Why didn’t I clue in to chamois creams earlier? I guess I thought they were just for serious or competitive cyclists.
Now I know better. I’ve just spent the past six weeks testing various chamois creams. Then, this morning, I went for a ride in non-lotioned cycling shorts. My butt was not happy. Even on a just an hour-long ride, I missed that soothing feeling of the cream against my skin.
Basically, chamois creams provide a soft film of lubrication that reduces the friction between your bare butt and the chamois. Many also include anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal ingredients.
Some cyclists will swear by drug-store remedies not specifically designed for the chamois, so I tried a few of those too. Conclusion? Give me a proper chamois cream product any day.
For starters, I tried Preparation H and it helped, probably because of its anti-inflammatory ingredients, but it stinks— literally! I also tried Bag Balm. I know it’s great for cow’s udders but it didn’t help much on my nether regions, and was really greasy and sticky.
My local bike shop owner swears by Penaten medicated baby cream. He figured if it worked on his baby’s diaper rash and his butt looks as chaffed and red as his baby’s, then it was worth a try. He says it relieved the rash caused by the friction, heat and perspiration of cycling.
Women’s Cycling’s Laurel-Lea, had been using the petroleum jelly called Vaseline, but after considering the ingredients in Vaseline decided to go with Live Clean Baby Diaper Ointment, which has organic botanicals and natural emollients. She recently rode the 100 km Cycle for Sight without any bottom complaints.
Personally though, I am partial to using a real chamois cream because it has been tested repeatedly by serious and competitive cyclists. If it works for them, it should work for me.
The three products I tested all worked really well at keeping the heat rash and saddle sores at bay: Century Riding Cream, by Sportique, Chamois Butt’r by Paceline and Bliss by DZ-Nuts. There are other chamois creams on the market that probably perform great too, such as Assos chamois cream, which is used by cycling professionals.
I really liked its light non-greasy feel, and found it refreshing on my skin. It kept any sensation of friction or irritation away during a 50 km (30 mile) ride. Afterwards, there was no redness or signs of chafing. It contains shea butter and a bunch of other organic botanicals. It is free of petroleum, animal by-products, colours, harsh chemicals, and synthetic preservatives. I like that.
According to the company, this blend of botanicals not only creates a long-lasting friction-free barrier, it is also an antimicrobial and anti-fungal, and a skin conditioner. Compared to the other two products, the Century Riding Cream smelled the best and was lighter. Bonus: You can also use it on your bare feet before putting on your cycling socks to prevent chaffing and blisters.
Century comes in a tube (180 ml or 6 oz.) for around $20. Sportique also offers several other useful cycling products including a road rash balm for after a crash.
First reactions: Thicker than Sportique and has less of a scent.
I applied Chamois Butt’r to my skin; directions say you can put it on your chamois as well. It really improved my riding comfort. It kept that hot, unpleasant squirmy feeling at bay for two hours. I then re-applied it and was able to easily ride another two. A nice thing is that Chamois Butt’r comes in small packets as well as a tube. I tucked a packet into my jersey and felt confident riding longer.
Back in 2008, Chamois Butt’r added a “Euro-style” cream option. On first use, my skin was shocked by this almost-too-strong cooling effect and tingly sensation. I found it oddly disturbing. However, it works great in the role as a reapplication or for multi-day tour as it acts like a wakeup call to a tired butt.
Chamois Butt’r is a common offering in most bike shops, and is a bit cheaper: 240 ml (8 oz.) tube for about $16. Or ten 9 ml packets for $10. Like the better butters it contains lanolin, but note that it also has the controversial antimicrobial diazolidnyl urea.
First reactions: A slight tingly but not too much. The application directions are clever.
With a brand name like DZ Nuts most women would not even think of buying this as a chamois cream. Too bad. They’d be missing out on Bliss. Yep, that’s the name for the women’s product and it is certainly blissful on the butt! It contains plant-derived natural ingredients including shea butter and tea tree oil.
It feels good on the skin and seems to work just as well as the other two. It got rid of that prickly sensation when the sweat builds up in the shorts. I like the idea that it promotes healing of damaged skin and works as an anti-inflammatory.
The name came about because it was originally designed for make pro-cyclist Dave Zabriskie. However, in conjunction with the Columbia-HTC women’s professional cycling team, the company created Bliss. This “lubricious saddle glide” is not just anti-chaffing; it is also anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and wound healing. And smells nice too!
A 120 ml (4 oz.) tube of Bliss costs about $25. Pity it doesn’t come in packets for on the road.
As with everything else relating to time in the saddle, personal preferences matter most. Your skin needs, preference for botanicals over chemicals or reactions to the scent will determine which one you like. These chamois creams all made riding more comfortable and are worth their cost. I believe you can’t go wrong by covering your butt with one of these products.