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?


  1. Nice multi-product review, Andrew. Like you mentioned, I don't have anything other than personal anecdotes but I noticed that once I bought a higher quality bib with a top line chamois, I haven't needed the paste.

    Also, bag balm is the bomb, but for after the ride, not during. If you get a day where you are chaffed, put some of this on the area before you go to bed and you will be in great shape in the morning (depending on how serious the injury was). My favorite comes in a tube and is called Corona. This is the first thing that goes on after a the bibs come off following a century. You can get it at most Tack stores.

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  3. OA Performance Products makes a low priced chamois cream called SMOOTH RIDE. You can find it at www.unconmed.com

  4. Sweat drops on noses and warm lobster mittens
    Black chili clinchers and racer's fast cadenz
    Specialized Tarmac with compact chainrings
    These are a few of my favorite creams

  5. If you're ever on the hunt for a different chamois cream, I'm going to test out one called Enzo's Buttonhole. What I like is that it's cycling-specific, but it doesn't have the price tag of something like Assos. (I haven't used it yet but the smell is great!)