January 29, 2010

My Chaffed Butt, Chamois Cream Review

There comes a day when a bicyclist discovers first hand the need for chamois cream. I have found myself in that situation. But if you are really frugal like me, you aren't eager to spend tens of dollars on a tube of something that you've never tried before.

My advice is to seek out some free samples, try what you have around the house, and ask your friends if you can try some of whatever they have. It's not a bad idea to search the Internet to see what other people say, but that wasn't terribly helpful to me since most of the reviews cover just one product: "I use product x on my tush and like it." It wasn't clear whether they tried any alternatives and why the other stuff was not as good. Cycling Coach Levi posted a great introduction to chamois and chamois butter but likewise did not give a detailed comparison of the products he mentioned. So that's what I try to do here. This is my first stab at a multi-product review.

For those of you who just want me to tell you what to buy, I'll go ahead and spill the disappointing beans and say that it seems that different solutions work for different people and everyone has their favorite. You might as well stop reading here and start trying stuff. For you analytical types who are interested in the experience report, read on.

I was hoping to find a cheap solution that worked. A real value. But since my comfort on long rides is valuable to me, a product that actually works trumps cheap. My approach was to try the solutions lying around the house and those I was able to easily get free samples for. I didn't try to get samples of all options. I've been told to try Assos and Boudreaux's Butt Paste and Nubütte but I haven't gotten any.

 Graphic Details. Some of the following may not be suitable for young children or anyone else.

I've tried Paceline Chamois Butt'r and thought it worked fine. I had picked up a Paceline
sample at a BRAG Spring Tune-Up ride. Like many of the solutions, it's feels yucky in your shorts. Or, it does for a short time. Once it warms up and soaks in you forget about it. I don't remember its scent, which is a good thing. It's a little thicker than hand lotion, as are all of the products reviewed here.

Back in August I rode with some friends from Smyrna to Anniston, a 96 mile bike ride. My fanny faired none too well. I forgot to apply chamois cream before the ride and had a badly chaffed behind by the 60 mile point. That's about where we stopped for lunch and Bob O'Neal let me use some of his Bag Balm. Didn't seem to help, but perhaps it was too late. It also didn't smell good, but then what should I expect out of a product to rub on your rump?

The planned return trip  from Anniston back to Smyrna was the next day, so I was glad to see the Walmart next to our hotel. I didn't expect them to have any cycling specific solution to my suffering, but they did have Udderly Smooth Udder Cream. I slathered it on my hindquarters but the second day of riding was more painful than the prior. I believe the damage was already done so I can't say for sure if the cream would have prevented the problem the first day. The pain persisted for three days after.

The Udderly Smooth Udder Cream is cool and very slippery. It feels colder than most when you apply it to your posterior. It smells a little like sun block or cold cream. It's smell is mild, which is a plus for me since I am sensitive to smells. Perfumes and mediciney smells clog my sinuses and make my eyes itch.

In September I tried Balmex Diaper Rash Cream for the MS 150 on the 60  and 100 mile routes. The Balmex worked fairly well, but not perfectly. I still had hot-spots and felt the need to reapply it often. Balmex is thicker, stickier and feels drier than the Udder Cream and all of the other products here. It's very difficult to wash off your hands, something to consider on a long ride where the you may not have good hand washing opportunities. Balmex has a mediciney smell; an unmistakable diaper rash ointment aroma.

I had some Desitin Creamy diaper rash ointment on hand but chose to not try it. It is just about as thick as the Balmex and, after the Udder incident, I wanted something thick. Balmex and Desitin are waterproof, which is great on your bum but that makes it difficult to wash off your hands. Desitin has a more mild smell than Balmex. Perhaps the main reason I chose Balmex that time is that Desitin and Aquaphor and many other products you likely have lying around your house contain petrolatum (petroleum jelly). I've heard a few warnings about this ingredient clogging your pores, not washing out of shorts, and possibly breaking down the petroleum-based fabric in your Lycra/Spandex shorts. I don't know if any of that is true, so I recklessly perpetuate the rumor here.

The folks at Sportique heard of my plight (because I told them) and they were kind enough to send me a sympathy sample of their Century Riding Cream. I did a couple half centuries in November and December and used the Sportique, but the true test was the full century to Cedar Town for a snack and ride back. That was fantastic. A great trip, good friends and a nice meal.

On the way back we stopped for a break. I was hurting. Mainly my left knee and my buttocks. But the pain was in the gluteus maximus, the muscles in the rear, rather than a rear end rash. Nevertheless, as is the custom when stopping for a bio break, I applied a new layer of the Sportique. I'm not saying it was the Sportique, but that break gave me a second wind and I rode strong to the end. I had no rash that day or the next.

The Sportique is nice and thick. You know that wet feeling of rubbing on some hand lotion but not rubbing it in all the way? I got that feeling with the other products, but not as much with this one. Not sure if it's because it's thicker or because it has some kind of warming agent in it or something else. It doesn't feel as wet or yucky in my pants.

A Bicycling Magazine review says it smells like cinnamon. I wish! It smells like a medicine cabinet. It has two of my least favorite scents, eucalyptus and wintergreen. It smells like some kind of combination of those and the other 40 ingredients. That wouldn't be so bad if it was just on my derrière, but it's impossible to wash the smell off your fingers.

Sportique claims antifungal and antimicrobial ingredients. Assos claims to prevent bacterial and fungal infections. I saw no such claims for the other products.

So there you have it. I've come to think the chamois specific products have the edge, but I'd like to give Udderly Smooth another shot. If smell is not an issue for you, I'd recommend the Sportique. If it is, give Paceline a try. 

Question for you:
If you have tried more than one chamois cream, what have you tried and why is one better than the other?

January 20, 2010

No More Weak Commitments

The core members of any church do most of the work. They are dependable, faithful and visible to the nominating committee. They serve in many areas. They can become overwhelmed and become less effective. They begin to drop the ball.

Yet we on the nominating committee or in positions of leadership in the church are also afraid to ask for a real commitment from those that aren’t yet in the core. We bring in lots of workers to staff the Nursery, Children’s Church, or what have you with the promise that “It’s only one hour per month.” Then we wonder why workers don’t show up for duty. None of them feel important or committed. And of course it's a burden to coordinate many workers.

There are likely people serving in your Nursery that would like to own another ministry like Children's Church or the special needs ministry but will not sign up because they already serve in the Nursery.

Why do we do this to ourselves? We should have our core church members serve in fewer places but increase their commitment to those areas in which they serve. We should have the rest of our members do likewise. No more weak commitments.

Tell me what you do. How do you solve this? Do you limit the number of roles a person can play?

January 19, 2010

Job one and Job two

Reading Job earlier this week was scary. The first two chapters tell of God being proud of Job (Joeb), a man of great integrity. But Satan, the adversary and accuser, tells God that Job honors God only because of Job's great wealth and material blessings. God then allows Satan to strike down Job's wealth and children, but Job continued to honor God.

So the accuser tries again by saying Job will curse God if you take away his health. God allows Satan to strike Job "with terrible boils from head to foot. Job scraped his skin with a piece of broken pottery as he sat among the ashes." Ugh! But Job remained faithful to God.

Put your name in for Job's when you read that passage. Frightening. I commented about this on FaceBook and a friend replied "But the ending is good. :-)" Yeah, but the process to get there was painful. Job's family, wealth and blessings are restored more abundantly than before, but what a devastating trial to have to go through.

Through the process Job and his friends learn a few things about God. One take-away for me from Job's story is that when you improve your walk with Christ you become a target for Satan. God allows certain things to happen to you so that the Glory of God can be shown through you, as was the case with Job. Yes, I know, I should want to be part in glorifying God. But how much am I willing to sacrifice to do so? Will I still praise God like Job when I lose my job in a down economy? I will, but is my health and my family next to be stricken? If so, how will I respond then?

Another take-away is that God uses adversity to correct and purify his followers, to make us stronger. I do want to become closer to God so I pray that He will remove any unwholesome thing from my life. But do I love God so much that I'm willing to go through even a fraction of Job's trials if that's what it takes? When I ponder this, my prayers are filled with conflict and fear.

At least I have peace in knowing that these trials are temporary and that through my belief in Christ I and my family have eternal life.

January 9, 2010

Cold Weather Cycling

Let me encourage all you fair-weather riders to get out there and ride. Don't let the cold scare you off. With a little know-how and a few simple layers, you can ride comfortably in cold weather. See, I've done the research for you. I've braved the chill and learned from a few mistakes. And so I present to you what I wear in cold weather.

You will, of course, want to make adjustments for differences in your metabolism and in whatever clothing you have.

I at times still have second thoughts before going out in the winter, but once I get out there I'm always glad that I did. Give me your feedback so I can improve this, particularly if you can fill in the blanks below 22 degrees.

temperature< 22ºF22º - 29ºF29º - 36ºF36º - 40ºF40º - 45ºF46º - 52ºF52º - 56ºF56º - 62ºF62º - 65ºF65º+temperature
shoe cover booties booties booties booties booties booties booties toe warmers toe warmers shoe cover
feet warmest wool socks & 2 chemical toe warmers warmest wool socks & 2 chemical toe warmers warmest wool socks & chemical toe warmers warmest wool socks & chemical toe warmers warmest wool socks warmest wool socks warm socks good socks good socks good socksfeet
legs 2 layers: tights & outer-wear 2 layers tights & windstopper underpants tights tights tights shorts &
knee warmers
shorts &
knee warmers
shorts shortslegs
torso 4 layers 4 layers 3 layers 3 layers 3 layers 2 layers 2 layers 2 layers 2 layers 1 layertorso
arms 3 layers 2 or 3 layers 2 layers 2 layers 2 layers 1 layer 1 layer optional arms
wind breaker jacket, outer shell, microfleece or ?? vest with mesh back vest with mesh back vest with mesh back optional wind breaker
hands lobster mitts, liners & chemical warmers lobster mitts, liners & chemical warmers lobster mitts, liners & chemical warmers lobster mitts winter gloves full fingered full fingered finger-less gloves finger-less gloves finger-less gloveshands
head 2 balaclavas? 2 layers: balaclava & winter skull cap (beanie) 2 layers: balaclava & winter skull cap balaclava ⇐either⇒ winter skull cap ⇐either⇒ light skull cap light skull cap summer skull cap for sweat head
eyes ? glasses (always) glasses glasses glasses glasses glasses glasses glasses glasseseyes

This chart works equally well if riding at dark with little wind, or in the daytime with 5-10 MPH winds. If it's windier or cloudier than normal, I'll go with the extra warm options or I'll shift one column to the left.

Decide for yourself whether to take wind-chill into account. I used to when I was just learning to ride in the cold, then I stopped adjusting when I was in peak fitness. If you find that the prescription in the chart is a little too cold for you, a simple adjustment would be to use the forecast "feels like" temperature. I'm starting to use the "feels like" forecast more and more now that I'm a bit older (50s) and not as fit.

There's nothing really special here. I try to stay away from mentioning specific products, but I'm fond of really good, thick, wool socks such as Defeet Blaze. The idea is that you can ride in the winter with very little special gear. There is no need to go search out the product I use. With that said, let me give some explanation of some of the items in the table.
  • My booties are just neoprene booties (shoe covers) with a fleece inner liner that you can get in many different brands. Winter cycling boots are better but more expensive.
  • I mention two kinds of toe warmers. In the 30s and below, I'm talking about chemical toe warmers such as the Grabber brand. These are thin pads you stick in your shoe. They produce heat when you take them out of their wrapper. Simply wonderful. I don't care for two pairs of socks. Too thick. Use the chemical toe warmers. It's worth it.
  • In the lower 60s, however, when I mention toe warmers, I'm talking about simple, light shoe covers. Maybe they cover just the toe. Maybe they cover the whole shoe. But I'm thinking of something lighter and cooler than booties.
  • When I say "tights" I'm referring to what is probably a mid-weight tight. Mine is one of the Performance brand tights, but any brand will do.
  • "Baselayers" are great if you have them. If you don't just wear multiple regular old jerseys. I did that for a while. But I now prefer using a product actually positioned as a base layer. They are often a little thicker, maybe more snugly fitting. I have a sleeveless crew and also a long sleeve base layer. I also have some shirts designed for jogging that work well as base layers. Anything will do as long as it's not cotton.
  • My balaclava is old, plain, and thin. Nothing high-tech about it. That's why I double up with that and a Headsweat skull cap (beanie) when it is freezing. If it warms up while I'm riding, I can remove a layer. If you have something thick or high-tech, doubling up might not be necessary.
  • In this table, I used to mention hunting gloves because that's what I had lying around. The fancy lobster mitts I subsequently bought are a little better. But try to use what you have before you spend money on more stuff. A variety of gloves are useful however because sweaty hands are bad when it's cold: fingerless, full-fingered, a little warmer (lightweight winger gloves), even warmer (thick winter gloves), and as warm as you can get (lobster mitts)! Layering in a pair of very thin glove liners is a really great idea. I think mine are Arc'teryx Rho Glove Liners.
  • I found that my fingers were cold only when I didn't have the rest of me fairly well covered. If my toes are hurting, my fingers are going to have sympathy pains. If I take care of my head, my core, and my toes, my fingers will be fine. 
  • I haven't found a jacket that breathes well enough. A jacket that traps any moisture at all is going to be a real problem for you. Anyway, I haven't found that I've needed a jacket, even when the temp is down in the 20s. Just layer on the other stuff. If you already have a vest with a mesh back, that would make a great windbreaker. By all means, use it. If you don't, then slip a couple sheets of newspaper up under your outermost jersey. That worked for me for a long time.
Disclaimers: For all of this I'm assuming the pavement is dry. Also, I'm mainly a roadie. This applies to mountain biking, but I generally dress 1 column to the right when mountain biking.

Making Sunday School Work

I'm terribly interested in making Sunday School work for my church. Through these small groups we should:
  • invite people to learn about Jesus,
  • discover the great truths of the Bible and faith stories of believers, and
  • connect with each other through fellowship and ministry.
Simply doing stuff together outside of church enables all three of these things to happen. It sounds so simple. Then why is it so hard? It seems that we're all too busy. Or too spread apart. Or can't get a baby sitter. Or can't afford one. Or it's too hard to set something up. Or maybe we just don't care as much as we should... because we don't do stuff together often enough.

Don't get me wrong. My church is just fantastic. There is something going on in every age group almost every month. My friends are great. But it does take some amount of assistance to keep it going and keep it improving.

There are a couple excellent booklets you can buy for $1 each from LifeWay, but they are also free downloadable. The first is the The 3D Sunday School -- invite, discover, and connect. The sequel is I-6 Invite: A Six-Lane Strategy Toward an Inviting Sunday School. From there you can get the links for the Discover and Connect booklets.