Robot’s Useless Reviews – The Chamois

It is interesting to me that the one piece of “equipment” integral to the completion of any long ride gets discussed so little, that we don’t talk about chamois (plural and singular?!?) like fine wine. “Oh, my chamois is supple and buttery,” or “This chamois is as soft as the Code of Hammurabi and redolent of spoiled peaches, too.” I can imagine pre-ride banter would be a lot more interesting if we all described our chamois before we set off. It might also go some way to explaining the performances of our slower friends.

A chamois, properly, is an “agile, goat-antelope with with short hooked horns, found in mountainous areas of Europe, from Spain to the Caucasus.” And the part of our bike shorts named after this creature comes from the feeling in your nether bits after 100 miles in the saddle, as though a small goat had been ramming your perineal acreage, as if it were somehow a chief rival for the affections of an attractive chamois during the spring rut.

I can think of few, if any, other pieces of clothing that have spawned their own accessory cottage industry. You have special detergents for chamois cleaning, special butters for the further softening and lubrication thereof. It feels important that I acknowledge that Chamois Butt’r is a commercial product, while chamois cream is a generalized term. I think the Butt’r folks are likely going to end up in the Kleenex situation, where their brand becomes the accepted term for the product. The concept of chamois buttering is just too good not to adopt as the linguistic norm.

Eurostyle tastes better on baguette.

As an aside (and a comedic call back to a previous review), I’d also like to recommend Park Blue Grease as a perfectly adequate chamois accoutrement in a pinch (pun fully intended). It is also worth mentioning that my frequent mentions of the Park Tool Company have nothing to do with any commercial interest I might have in them or friends I have there (Robots don’t have friends). I just find them, for no good reason at all, hilarious.

Back to bicycling crotch pillows.

That brings up a good point actually. Why do we persist in giving them this slightly dignified, Frenchy name, when they’re just crotch pillows? “How’s your crotch pillow feeling?” you might ask a riding companion. “Oh, it’s lumpy,” s/he might reply. That feels more honest, doesn’t it?

On the other hand, I have invented another term, “chamois cramp,” to describe my reaction to the poor cycling behavior of others. For example, if your friend insists on sitting on the front and pushing the pace, when you’d all agreed in advance that the ride would be social in nature, then s/he is giving you a real “chamois cramp.” Feel free to adopt this term and spread it to your personal veloverse. OED, here we come.

Practically speaking, here’s what I can tell you about chamois (“But Robot, what have we been doing all this time? I know. I know.). Every body is different. Sorry. Too demure. Every crotch has a unique topography, varying in base equipment, size, spacing, sensitivity, hairyness, moisture, and saddle compatibility. For anyone to tell you that a particular pair of bibs/shorts is a good choice for you without them first receiving a detailed map and description of your undercarriage is pure folly. Different horses, for different courses, and all that. My recommendation is to go to your local bike shop and try some things on. Wear underpants.

For the love of all that’s holy.

I went through a period when I was trying to ride chamoislessly, to toughen up a little, keep my riding more casual, off the cuff, but then, after my second son came into the world, I had a vasectomy. (As regular readers let out a sigh of relief upon learning that I am no longer polluting the gene pool). Let me tell you something, my arsenal of crotch pillows never earned its butter quite as comprehensively as it did post-op.

Since then, I’m a chamois man. I’d like to see that MyPillow guy hawk something as useful as a post-crotch-op bike cushion. The image of him, pajama’d and halo’d, lovingly cuddling a pair of bike shorts, is almost more than I can stand. Almost.

Listen, you and I know I’m joking, but you know how corporate lawyers are (apologies to all devoted readers who work as in-house counsel). Just to make sure the TCI legal fund is topped up and ready for defensive action, please consider subscribing today. Thanks.

Join the conversation
  1. DaveinME says

    Chamois Butt’r??? PFFT! I tried that stuff before a longish ride and it had me standing the last 10 miles home. To each his own.
    Bag Balm all the way for my undercarriage!

    What brand bibs are among your faves Robot? I’d think in discussing crotch pillows you’d have mentioned the brand of bibs said pillows come in.

    After many years and experimenting, I settled on Pearl Izumi, Voler, and Inverse.

  2. rich says

    Living in a town with 3 bike shops all stocked by the big 3 bike brands there isn’t much choice in shorts. Recommendations from friends is all we have.

  3. southcarolinamtb says

    I have a suggestion for an increase in scope here, but that might take it out of the useless category. There are a couple of comments above about brands of shorts. Can you provide some industry insight here to the number of chamois and saddle manufacturers? I have seen some references over the past dozen years or so that lead me to think that there are really only a few of each, which means someone could like 2 or 3 brands of shorts, but the chamois are essentially the same. I’ve got a few brands in my drawer, but the pads look super similar.

Leave A Reply

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More