I started biking about two and a half years ago. My friend, Ben, convinced me the day before to roll out on a long ride with him. He was signed up for the Copper Country Color Tour – a 50, 100, or 200K ride that cruised the leafy-tree-lined roads of the Keweenaw during peak color-change. Of course, I didn’t have a pair of padded shorts, or a road bike, so I borrowed my boyfriend’s spandex and rented a bike with clipless pedals and a pair of shoes from Downwind Sports. And, of course, we went big- signed up for the 200K – and had a sort of epic-fun day.
I discovered a lot from that one day of riding, including a passion for road riding and the way seven hours of riding can lead to an odd craving for pickles and Snickers. I also learned the importance of having a good pair of shorts and anti-chafing cream.
Known to the masses by many a name, chamois cream (or butt cream, butt lube, anti-chafe cream, butter, etc. etc) is an important staple for any newbie rider, but its also key for many riders in keeping comfortable (even when they’re on their 8000th mile of the season). Yes, you can get used to riding without chamois cream. But why not just use it and save yourself the pain and suffering? Saddle-soreness is mitigated with the use of chamois cream, and it can also provide anti-microbial and cooling effects. Besides, if reduced chafing on the inner thighs isn’t enough, chamois cream alleviates chafing on the, um, unmentionable areas, too.
I am a huge proponent of chamois cream use, but I know of a few tougher-than-nails people that don’t use it very often. If I am going out riding for more than half-hour, I am lubed up (ok, call me a wuss… I don’t care). But the truth is, I didn’t realize its importance until I started Ironman training, and I realized very quickly that comfort in my nether-regions wasn’t entirely due to having the wrong saddle or the wrong shorts. Using the right chamois cream made rides much more tolerable and now I don’t want to cry after every 100-mile ride (at least, not because of that).
Earlier in the season, I contacted practically every butt cream company I could find. The mission: to test out chamois creams and provide my readers with a thorough review, a side-by-side comparison of the biggest names in the business. The tubes and jars started rolling in, and I must admit I was a little overwhelmed. I had a lot of biking ahead of me…
Here’s how the review worked.
Step 1. Read the ingredients. Is it something I would have bought anyway?
Step 2. Look up the price on Google Shopping. Write down the lowest price equivalent (not on eBay) listed. Again, is it something I would have bought anyway?
Step 3. Try out the chamois cream on a trainer ride that lasts between 45min – 1.5hours. Note the thickness, scent, feel, etc.
Step 4. Try it out on a longer ride (at least 2hours, but more like 3-4). How did it feel?
- Wash the bike shorts in between rides.
- Use the same pair of bike shorts for each comparison (Craft Active)
- Use approximately the same amount (a dollop on the end of my index finger)
- Apply directly to skin, not chamois pad.
- If the trainer ride didn’t go well, I didn’t wear them on a long road ride
Note: I didn’t get every anti-chafe product out there, and although I have a few bottles, I’m not including the anti-chafe sprays or sticks in this review. There are some really slick (har, har) products out there, like SBR Sport’s Tri-Slide, that can be used as chamois lubes, but I wanted to (fairly) review products that were explicitly intended for the same use (that is, lubing up the crotch/chamois).
And the results? I made a table to describe each product in detail. See below for more information.
And to preface my review, I use a lot of the same words that have some weight-
Parabens – a common ingredient in chamois creams that fend off bacteria, but might be linked to breast cancer.
Chamois– (pronounced shammy) if you haven’t caught on yet, the chamois is the pad inside bike shorts that provides cushion and reduces friction between the saddle and your crotch.
Tingly– Yes, I mean tingly. Think Icy-Hot (only not *always* as strong).
My first chamois cream was Paceline Product’s Chamois Butt’r. Baberaham bought me a tube from the Bike Shop soon after I had major issues on a long ride. Although it was my first, it wasn’t my first love. Although it did the trick, I’d still complain after about two hours. Granted, it could have been because I was just a beginner biker, but at the end of rides I was not very happy. I also found it to be sticky. On longer rides, I felt like someone had put gum in my shorts. More recently, I used it on a hilly 30-mile ride, and must have missed a spot (by the way, blisters are rarely, if ever, good). Good news about Chamois Butt’r is that I can get it through my local bike shop and its not very expensive. Overall, I give this chamois cream a C.
My pops bought me a jar of Assos from Machinery Row in Madison the day before IMoo last year, mostly because I just wasn’t confident that the Chamois Butt’r would survive for 112 miles (or, rather, that I would). Assos has the reputation as one of, if not THE best chamois creams out there. I didn’t read the ingredients, but I tried it out while sitting in the hotel room to make sure I didn’t have any allergic reaction to it. I knew to expect a tingling sensation, but boy-o-boy did I experience one. It was a little exhilarating, to say the least. I really liked it, so I rolled the dice and used it on race day. I am very glad I did. For the entire 5hours and 49minutes in the saddle (not to mention the hour fifteen in the water beforehand…), the cream stayed put, and the tingling managed to keep things cool even though the temperature was busting into the 90s. The Assos cream has been my go-to cream, and I have set it as the gold standard of chamois creams in my little collection. It does contain parabens, which is a downside. And, of course, its on the more expensive side, which in part is why this awesome cream only gets an A- in my book.
The Century Riding Cream by Sportique is interesting, to say the least. It’s really thick, and somewhat difficult to squeeze out of the tube, but that might be a good thing. It is a little more tough to put on, but once its there, it stays put and doesn’t leave a nasty residue behind on my chamois pad. The scent is pretty strong and spicy. It lingers, too, and I could smell it even after a few hours in the saddle. A downside to this cream: B doesn’t like when I use it because of the smell. The cream isn’t tacky or sticky, though, and I love that the ingredient list has so many things that I can recognize, including olives. Also, it tingles (which I like). I’m a fan, indeed, but I still find myself reaching for the Assos instead (maybe because its easier to apply?). I give this cream an A-.
Booty Balm is nice, but another tricky one to apply. The balm in the jar is solid, and I have to scrape to get to get it out. Like the Century cream, though, once its on, it stays put and isn’t tacky. It doesn’t transfer at all to my chamois pad, either. According to the website and rep, it’s designed to “work with the heat of your body” – and it does become much more compliant once its applied and worked in a little (otherwise, though, it can be sort of chunky if I don’t rub it in; but it doesn’t take long to rub in!). The scent is not overwhelming and quite pleasant (think lemon and summer), and there isn’t any tingling sensation (likely because its specific for women; the Ballocks cream is the men’s version). It’s a little on the expensive side, but a little goes a really long way. I give this an A- as well.
Beljum Budder is something I first became aware of because Selene Yeager talks about it in her Fit Chick section of Bicycling Magazine (My First Ironman, December 2008). I then saw it on Loopd.com, but I never did try it until Beljum sent me a tube per this review request. I was expecting it to be a step up from Chamois Butt’r, with some tingling like Assos, because it contains witch hazel. It didn’t tingle, though, but I was impressed with how smooth and silky it was. It literally sparkles, and it goes on thin without leaving a residue. It’s easy to apply, and it isn’t tacky either, so I didn’t stick to my chamois. It was moisturizing, too! The price-point is pretty pleasing. Since it’s probably ok to not ride every ride with the tingling sensation of menthol or wintergreen, this cream is pretty high on the list. I give it an A.
Dave Zabriskie’s brand, DZ Nuts, recently released a women’s specific version of their chamois cream called Bliss. The neutral scent and thick cream are pleasant to put on, and it’s nice to know that companies are taking notice of women’s needs. The cream was easy to apply and stayed put without transfering to my chamois, and I didn’t notice any hot spots after a few hours of riding. However, I wanted to reapply or wished I would have laid it on a little more thick, but I didn’t want to use too much because its so dang expensive. I think I’ll buy the regular DZ Nuts next time and leave the Bliss for women who don’t want the tingles. Bliss gets an A-.
Udderly Smooth makes a chamois cream, along with a plethora of other farm-hand products that are amazing at relubricating skin (…udder, get it?). Their line is creamy and thick, and really gets into and moisturizes dry skin. Unfortunately also loaded with parabens. The chamois cream smells like baby powder, but it stuck to my chamois (and took a few washings and scrubs by hand to get it all out). It was also a pain to get off my skin because it was a little greasy. It is, however, the most economical (and readily available) chamois cream, because its stocked at stores like CVS and costs a quarter of the price of most other chamois creams. Because of the stickiness and the parabens, Udderly Smooth Chamois Cream gets a C-.
One of my new favorite creams is Friction Freedom, which is practically the same as Assos – only without the parabens. It feels the same, smells the same, but it costs a little less and is safer. I wore this in the half at Rev3 Quassy, and it worked like a charm. My only qualm is that I needed to reapply it to my bike shorts during a 70mile ride, but that could be because I was wearing bike shorts on my tri bike… But I now reach for the big Friction Freedom tub before I reach for Assos, which is really saying something. I give it an A.
So which one do I like best? Well, that doesn’t really matter. It’s important to remember that not everyone likes the same thing, and what works for me might not work for you. The intent of this review isn’t to tell you what chamois cream to buy next, but to give you my take on the side-by-side comparisons so you can make a more educated decision next time you try a new chamois cream. So take this review for what it is, my opinion and my analysis of a wide range of products. I tried to be systematic about it, but it’s hard for me to quantitatively assess something so qualitative as the happiness of my … well you get the point.
I’d like to thank the following companies for sending me their chamois creams (and other products) for free, so that they could be included in this review: Sportique, Chomper Body, Beljum Budder, Udderly Smooth, DZNuts, and Friction Freedom. Although they sent me their creams for free, they didn’t pay me to review their products, and the text written in this post are my own thoughts and assessments.