To cream… Or not to cream? It’s a question many cyclists ask. But what’s the right answer? Our friends from the Global Cycling Network are here to ponder and pontificate.
Before answering this burning, often taboo question that still leaves many riders scratching their heads, here’s a look at the history of the humble chamois cream, put on this earth to soothe, protect, and stop the chafing of the delicate nether regions.
Prior to the introduction of the chamois, legend has it that riders often placed a steak in between their soft parts and woolly shorts to soothe and prevent chafing. A steak which they’d eat later in the day, after it had been tenderized. (Yuck…)
Incredibly, padded inserts in cycling shorts didn’t come about until the early 1940s when they were made of real sheep’s leather. It was lovely and soft at first, but when washed and dried, became hard and abrasive. Not the ideal interface for the vulnerable under carriage. Hence the need for something to soften the touch and dried leather.
Voila! Chamois cream was born, in the simple form of a softening balm or cream which was applied directly to the chamois itself. And it wasn’t long before this became a pre-race ritual for most riders.
In the early 1980s, new chamois were developed, which quickly became very popular. And in turn, new chamois cream was also created. But rather than to soften the toughened leather, it was to reduce irritation on the skin and reduce chafing. Over the last decade, shorts, and indeed chamois technology, has come a very long way.
The fit is far better. The chamois are contoured and ergonomic, and many are also anti-bacterial. And also, they don’t dry out once they’ve been washed. Which begs the question, do we need chamois cream at all?
GCN asked that question to viewers and pros. Among 11 professional riders, two said yes, they use chamois cream all the time. Three said no, don’t use it at all. And six said they didn’t use it in training but did use it in racing. And from a Twitter poll, of which GCN had just over 5,000 votes, 45% never use it at all, 24% said they use it every time, and 31% said sometimes.