The problem with riding a bike for more than just a short trip to the shops is that whatever you are wearing, there’s inevitably going to be some friction between your clothing and skin in the saddle area. This friction can irritate the skin and ultimately cause discomfort. Chamois cream helps prevent this.
The history of chamois cream
Back in the day, when cycling shorts were made of wool, the lucky few who had padding had to make do with the skin of real chamois (a type of mountain goat, now a protected species in the EU). People came up with a way of ensuring the leather remained supple; they treated it with a thick cream. Any benefit to the users behind was entirely incidental in these more puritanical times.
The materials that modern cycling shorts are made of are enormously more comfortable, but the friction problem, though reduced, remains ever present for those of us who ride regularly or for any significant distance.
It’s not best discussed in polite company, but there are an assortment of slightly eye-watering problems that can arise from sweat, warmth and rubbing ‘down there’. As any biologist will tell you, the environment created by exercising in tight shorts is nigh on perfect for encouraging bacteria to multiply.
Chamois creams not only reduce the friction between the skin and shorts but most also now contain anti-bacterial ingredients, and even a “cooling” element, and so help to reduce the likelihood of infections.
When I started this review I asked what the women in the Twitter universe wanted to know about chamois creams and I think two queries are worth emphasising here:
Will chamois cream not just soak through my trousers?
Designed to be used with shorts or longs, which have a padded insert, chamois cream are of limited effectiveness when there is no pad for it to soak into. If you are struggling with a sore bum and are not wearing padded shorts/underwear then getting a set is a good place to start (but first lose the normal undies – trust me on this one!).
Why can I not just use Sudocrem?
I have never found this to work as well as chamois cream because it is simply not designed for the purpose. It is a barrier cream with anti-septic properties but can block pores and is not anti-bacterial. Anti-septics can in fact encourage the growth of bacteria when used in low concentration and lose their effectiveness very quickly. I personally wouldn’t advise this, but if it works for you then count yourself lucky and don’t let me put you off!
To save repeating myself! They all smelled nice and made my bum feel pleasantly cold. It is also interesting that according to chamois cream manufacturers ladies smell of lavender. My grandma might agree but I’m not totally convinced.