Why you need chamois cream, how to apply it, and where to buy it


Chamois cream, and the application of, is something of a taboo subject. You don’t even get many experienced racers talking about it in an open and honest way. But as you cycle more and more, you may find the need to use some. Question is, what the hell are you meant to do with it?

In your desire to find out more, you may have caught the eye of someone applying it. Before awkwardly averting your gaze. Do you apply it to the pad (what used to be made of chamois leather, hence the name) in your shorts? Your under-carriage? Both? What is it, and how does it help? Do you actually need it?

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 tenderised 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-short 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?

What is chamois cream?

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.

Why use chamois cream?

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.

Is chamois cream for you?

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!

How to apply chamois cream

Apply to yourself around the contact and chafe points of the saddle or, if you prefer, mirror these points on the chamois. If you find that one or the other isn’t enough, don’t be afraid to apply the chamois cream to both chamois and yourself. How much is up to you — the more you apply the less likely to get sore, but don’t go mad!

Whatever you choose, ensure you wash your shorts post ride to avoid any build-up. The other key piece of advice to avoid sores is to change out of your shorts as soon as you have finished your ride. Even if you don’t have access to a shower you should put clean, dry clothes on. Sitting around in a damp chamois is as bad for your skin as a long ride with no cream.

Don’t get it wrong!

Finally ensure you don’t mix your chamois cream up with your leg warm up rub. You may laugh, but it has happened to many a cyclist over the years and still does today. If you start to feel a fiery feeling downstairs, get home quick!

triple whammy chamois cream

Recommended chamois creams

Assos Chamois Cream £13.99 www.yellow-limited.com

Paceline Chamois Butt’r Original £12.99 www.2pure.com

Morgan Blue Chamois Cream Soft (200cc) £10.95 www.windwave.co.uk

Sportique Century Riding Cream £14.99 www.saddleback.co.uk

Dznuts Chamois Cream £18 www.paligap.cc 

Udderly Smooth Chamois Cream £9.99 udderlysmooth.co.uk

Elite Ozone Protect Cream Chamois £16.99 www.elite-ozone.com

Got any more questions about chamois cream? Ask in the comments below — your embarrassing question might help other cyclists!

  • skelto99

    Get a saddle that fits, wash and dry your barse before you ride, lube yourself up with your lubricant of choice, wash and dry your barse after your ride = comfort. Simples.

  • Nono_Yobiz

    I ride over 300km a week, and around here summer is consistently over 35- C. The only time I needed chamois cream was when using team shorts with a bad moisture retaining pad on rides over 100km. And even then I don’t think it did much. Getting rid of the shorts solved the problem.

  • centhar

    I don’t use any cream. If you do, then get proper fitting attire, wash it after every ride and sort out your fit!

  • Ian Robathan

    Vaseline is my choice, works fine and never seen a negative from it

  • Johan Larsson

    Pure petroleum jelly/Vaseline works very, very well too, but it will
    probably miscolor your pants and maybe the saddle too (especially
    leather saddles). But that can happen with dedicated chamois creams as

  • Topcover

    A pot of chamois cream has to be the best product to buy someone just getting into riding. It’s one of the few cycling related items that’s neither fit, nor bike, nor riding-type specific, and the lucky recipient with think well of you every time they use it, and especially when they forget. If they don’t know what it’s for when you give it to them, you’ve just spared them an uncomfortable education.

  • Derek Biggerstaff

    Thought not.

  • Ryan Wakenshaw

    Why? You sending me cheap cream :s

  • Derek Biggerstaff

    Would you care to post your address here?

  • Steve

    Sudocrem works for me, much cheaper than any of the above products, and you can get a handy ‘travel’ sized tube for re-application during especially long/hot rides!

  • Ryan Wakenshaw

    Stop being a fanny…

  • Derek Biggerstaff

    Anyone who buys any of the above must have money to burn. They’re no better than nappy cream or cheap hand cream. Just like Cycling Weekly to put the interests of advertisers before those of readers.