According to legend, racers in the days before chamois would use steak to help prevent sores, then eat it that night after it had been tenderized during the ride. Thankfully, the birth of the padded ‘chammy’ insert meant that riders could leave the beef at home. Even so, riders quickly discovered that washing the shorts repeatedly would lead to a hardening of the pad, thus requiring a cream to soften the otherwise leathery chamois.
Happily, cycling shorts technology has come a long way since then and arguably could eliminate the need for any cream. Near-on perfect fabrics and fit limit friction, materials disperse moisture and chamois are washable without any stiffening. So why do we still buy it?
Chamois cream is an anti-bacterial, viscous substance that helps eliminate friction between skin and clothing, and therefore the chafing that can occur during a ride. It comes in a number of forms including balms, creams and even powder.
Cyclists use chamois cream for prevention of saddle sores or, even worse, something that can leave you off the bike for several days and require medical attention: an abscess.
The idea is to minimise friction and keep bacterial build-up at bay, therefore prevent any nasties. If you’d forgotten to apply and get sore after your ride, some saddle sore creams act as a cure to help alleviate the pain, put a stop to any further problems and help prevent infection.
In a word: yes. Riding every now and then shouldn’t cause too much discomfort down below, but once you start riding everyday and taking on longer rides, you’ll need to consider applying some cream.
First-time training campers usually fall foul of painful saddle sores, because cycling consistently over a week, especially in hot weather, is a big step up from what most riders are used to.
Simply apply chamois cream before each ride and you’ll avoid having to miss a day on the bike!