Frost-Bike 2013 and winter road cycling tips

When I first moved to St Louis, I was fortunate to work in the lab with a graduate student who also loved cycling and was always up for doing stuff outside. I was excited to see what a big(ger) city had to offer for training, but also really pumped  to get to meet a new group of people and learn from them. I tagged along for a meeting at Cafe Ventana where a bunch of outgoing women in spandex and wool seemed to literally buzz around the room, high fiving and hugging and basking in the general camaraderie that ensued. This was Team Revolution, a group of women of all ages who get together to ride their bikes and share, learn, and advance to sport of women in cycling. We rolled out for a 2hr ride in below-freezing weather and meandered around St Louis City in a beautiful double-breasted line for all to see (no pun intended).

Yesterday, we met up again at Cafe Ventana to kick off the first official Frost-Bike ride of 2013. This year, the ride is split up into three groups, with the “A” group (e.g. racers) rolling out at 10am for a 2hr ride, the “B” group rolling out at 11am (e.g. mid-pack) for a 1 hr ride, and the “C” leaving at the same time as B but going a little easier (e.g. cruisers). Some of us caffeinated beforehand, others just socialized and caught up with friends they haven’t seen since cyclocross season or before… and a little before 11am, we got bundled up, took a photo, and then rolled out.

Team Rev gathering pre-ride at Cafe Ventana Frost Bike does a great job of teaching “road ride etiquette” using the full submersion technique. As an experienced road cyclist, I am sometimes caught off-guard when riding with others who either don’t know the rules of the road or don’t care to follow them. Team Rev strives to educate women riders in being responsible self-motorists, and when I ride with women from Team Rev, I feel safe and comfortable on my bike. It doesn’t hurt to have 30 women riding two-abreast on a road to draw attention, either, and makes riding safer (especially if everyone, cyclists and motorists included, are following the law).

The other thing I find extraordinary about Team Rev is their encouragement of women in the sport. I never feel like I am not welcome, and I never feel like others are competing with me to be better and faster cyclists. On Frost Bike rides, the goal is to have fun, socialize, and get out when the weather would otherwise keep you inside on a trainer. Want to ride hard? Don’t come to the Frost Bike rides (at least, don’t ride with the B and C groups). These groups are no drop rides (I am not sure about the A group since I didn’t ride with them, but plan to next week), and if the group gets strung out, the ride leader slows us down to regroup. There are occasionally Team Rev-ers riding up and down the string of riders to update the leader about the status of the rear pack. There is never any racing to cross intersections if the light is about to turn yellow; the ride leader will stop and wait for the rest of the group and just wait out the light. This is important when planning a ride for Frost Bike; you have to dress the part.

Headed into Forest Park with the lead of the B group

Headed into Forest Park with the lead of the B group

The entire group gathering post-ride for some beignets and coffee

The entire group gathering post-ride for some warmth, beignets and coffee

So how do you prepare for winter riding? Here is a list of general rules to follow when prepping to brave the conditions:

  • Dress in layers: Generally, you can never be too warm, but you want to make sure that your layers are not bulky and that you’ll be able to move without restrictions. If you wear six layers of Icebreaker wool and find yourself overheating 15min into the ride, you can always take some clothes off. However, if you don’t come prepared, you can never add more unless you are friends with someone who is overdressed. It’s always a good idea to dress warmer than you think you will need to, because on a bike, rolling at 20miles per hour, appendages can get a bit colder than if you are just standing at a stoplight. Under all your layers, wear your standard cycling gear (whether its cycling bibs, shorts, or capris). Then, put your layers on over top of this. Don’t forget a nice wool or synthetic hat under your helmet. There are wind blocking liners for helmets, too, that work great! Pro tip: You want to make sure your core and head stay warm and don’t leak all your heat!
  • Protect yourself from the wind (and sun): A general wind-breaker jacket usually works wonders, but there are a lot of other things that can help protect you from the wind, too. Your face can often be forgotten when prepping to head outside for a winter ride, so bring with you a balaclava or neck wraps (Buffs are fantastic for winter riding because they are adaptable to your needs!). You basically want to make sure that any skin that is exposed can be covered. Another great (and necessary) winter riding item are shoe covers; These block the wind from peaking into your shoes and freezing your toes, which are usually the first things to get cold and the most difficult things to warm back up. If you normally have cold toes in general, you can stash a toe warmer packet in between your shoes and cover to add that extra warmth (its like having a miniature space heater for your feet). Avoid putting these warmer packets right next to your skin because they can get pretty darn hot. If you have any exposed skin, make sure to put some sunscreen on so you don’t get a sunburn; plus add a little moisturizer to help keep your skin from drying out and cracking from the wind.
  • Invest in wool: Wool makes for amazing layering. It’s thin but keeps you warm, and it generally lasts a lot longer (and doesn’t end up smelling nearly as bad) as synthetic material. My favorite brand is Icebreaker, and they make a lot of cycling-specific items. Don’t forget the wool socks, too. If its snowy or sleety, wool is even that much better because it helps to keep you warm even when it gets wet.
  • Invest in great gloves: Having cold hands on a group ride sucks. You want to make sure you have dexterity (i.e., mobility of your fingers), but also maintain warmth and comfort. Having some sort of wind-blocking function is fantastic, too. Finding gloves that do all of these things is difficult, though. Sometimes, it’s worth doubling up on gloves; getting a nice pair of wind-blocking gloves that are not-so-warm (in a slightly big size) but have grippy palms and fingers… and coupling them with a warm, snuggly (and thin) pair of liner gloves to wear underneath. Look for Windstopper materials, too. Unfortunately, women will probably have better luck finding a great winter glove by looking in the men’s gloves section as opposed to women-specific gloves because there are more options; you’ll just have to account for men’s gloves being sized larger. I like lobster mitts (Toko, Swix, and Pearl Izumi make great ones!), and have heard great things about Gore Bike Wear make a great pair of windproof winter cycling gloves. If you have an exceptionally terrible time keeping your hands warm, there are things like bar mitts that can be fitted to your bike and provide neoprene-weather-resistance (although they take getting used to).
  • Protect your eyes: When its cold, my eyes tend to water a lot, so I always make sure I take extra-coverage sunglasses on winter rides to keep the cold wind from hitting my eyes. I’ve seen some riders rocking ski goggles too, which would be great if you’re heading out on a snowy or sleaty day. Also, its not just exposure to the elements to be concerned about; sometimes we don’t think we need sunglasses to block UV rays because its cloudy and overcast. But reflection from snow can also impair our vision, and its always a good idea to have some UV protection for our eyes when riding in the winter.
  • Wear something with big pockets to stash your extras: Whether you are over-dressing and need to stash some layers or you aren’t sure if you’ll need those extra pair of arm warmers, its always convenient to have a cycling jersey on to stash the extra stuff.  Stash some of these things on all your winter rides: hand/toe warmers (in case of emergency), packets of nut butter (in case of a bonk), extra liner gloves.
  • Bring fluids: You will feel like you don’t need to drink, that you are not sweating and that you are doing just fine, but the truth is, if you are going out for more than an hour, you’re probably going to want something to drink. If its exceptionally cold, fill your bottle with warm water, get an insulated bottle, or mix in electrolytes (Nuun or sports drink) to prevent your  water from freezing solid.

It’s race season!

This weekend, I enjoyed one of my favorite things: racing. I soaked it up in nearly all its forms. I raced, I spectated, I sherpa’d. I had a few firsts, too- my first ever road bike race (well, two, actually…) and a first place finish.

Saturday was a perfect day, both weather-wise and prep-wise. I could not stop reminding myself how much of a good idea it was to do the time trial and the crit at the Tour of Hermann. My friend, Annie, and I showed up about an hour before the TT was to begin, and as I pulled out my race wheels, I realized that I hadn’t swapped cassettes. So, I either had to go race-wheel-less or find someone with a chain whip. Luckily, I was able to get the bike assembled, race wheels and all, with the help of Annie and a nearby racer who had a bunch of tools. As I arrived at the start corral, I realized that my rear tire was a little low. A man in a leopard-print robe and oxford shoes recognized that I was clueless, probably because of the look of panic on my face and the fact that my race number was upside down. He offered to fix my number, and asked if I needed anything else- realizing that the first group of TT starters would be delayed, I asked him if he knew if there was a bike pump around. He scurried off, and came back shortly with a pump from the guys from Mesa Bikes. He pumped up my tire, and soon thereafter it was time to line up. I thanked him, and felt relaxed- calm- and was excited to get going.

I was nervous to do the clipped-in start. I thought for sure I could handle it, but I chickened out in the end. I started, clipped in, and hurried off to chase down the others in front of me.

Only I had a hard time catching those in front of me. Turns out, in road racing, time trialists that are spread out by 30sec are hard to catch. And, top that with the fact that there were quite a bit of Cat1-2-3 racers in the time trial at the Tour of Hermann, and I soon realized that I was not really the one to be chasing. I was passed within the first few miles by a few speedy guys, but I just kept my head down and my feet pedaling fast. I tried to climb the hills with a lot of power, telling myself that I didn’t really have to do the crit if my legs felt too tired afterward…

I hammered away, and rocketed down the hills. Finally, I saw a girl who had started 1min in front of me. Interestingly enough, on the uphills, I’d gain ground on her, but in the downhills she’d lengthen our gap. But, she was on a road bike, and I had my Plasma. The laws of physics were against me. My bike was heavier, more aero, and had bigger gears. Whatever.

The TT was 14mi, and I was glad when I was nearing the finish. My legs were burning, but it felt good, and I felt good. I felt strong. I felt redlined. I had no idea where I finished after I crossed the line- Annie and I disassembled our bikes and headed onward to the Crit.

Crits are insane. This crit was especially insane. The course was 1.2mi, and finished in a very steep uphill. It was not what I expected, but I didn’t really know what to expect. The Women’s Cat 3-4 were the first group to go, and we were in for 7laps. There weren’t many of us, but we were all tough.

After a few laps, the groups spread out. I did a bit of riding on my own. I tried to work with other women. I would yell “Let’s go get ’em” or “Come on, stay on my wheel!” as I’d go by. I was absolutely digging the opportunities to pass and get passed. I would pull up to a girl and try to get her to go with me. Because the field was so small, I think there was little room for attacking. The one large pack (of only 4-5 women) that pulled away at the beginning fell apart by lap 5. I started to gain on the women one by one. Every time I’d finish a lap, the announcer would say my name and tell everyone that I was his darkhorse and that this weekend’s races were my first road races ever. He then announced, to everyone, that I had won the time trial. The announcer, turns out, was the leopard-printed dude that helped me before the TT. In the end, I came across the line in 4th, having pulled away from the pack but not quite catching the third place woman. But, for my first crit against some really tough women, I was stoked.

And I had to make sure the announcer was right.

Had I really won the TT?

Heck yeah! For women’s Cat 3-4, I was 1st. And, my time was the 3rd fastest on the day for women across categories, only parts of a second out of 2nd. That was cool.

Road racing is hard. There’s strategy, and there’s grit. All in all, I think I am hooked. The crit was not nearly as scary as I thought it would be, but it was a lot more tough. Oofta!

After the race, Annie and I had a german-fare lunch and tasted some wine at the Stone Hill Winery (which is where the crit took place). We watched some of the mens races and part of the Women1-2-3 crit, and then took off for home. My friend Kenny G was to be coming to town to race the Go! St Louis half marathon the next day. I met up with him and his friends at the WashU track meet, and we then had a delicious pre-race dinner of spaghetti at my apartment.

The next day, I dropped Kenny G off at the race and then grabbed a cup of coffee to prep myself as the world’s best spectator. It was hot, and I felt bad for the racers. I also felt relieved to not be racing that day.

After Kenny finished (he was 44th overall!), we sat on a bench under a tree for a bit while we waited for his friends to finish the full marathon. The day got more miserable, as temps rose and the breeze never really picked up. Apparently, marathoners were asked to turn around at the half marathon turnaround if they weren’t there by a certain time, and quite a few runners went to the med tent.

I’m super-stoked that Kenny and his friends could come down to race. It was great to be a spectator, and I am really excited about living in a bigger city where races are more frequent and I have more opportunity to watch and cheer and volunteer. Spectating is tiring, though- I had to take a nap after standing around all day!

Beginner Triathletes: How to pick the best bike for you

My Facebook News Feed is full of friends talking about how they’re setting up transition/pumping their tires/putting on their wetsuit for the last time of 2010. The end of the racing season is upon us, and although I have one more race left on my calendar this year, I’m pretty much ready to put my feet up (with a glass of scotch in hand) and relax for a while.

One of my friends is particularly interested in the end-of-the-season deals that she can get from her local bike shop. See, she doesn’t have a bike, but she’s been itching for one for a while. Right now is probably the best time to buy a new bike, because of course, bike shops are looking to dump their extra stock of 2010 bikes so that when spring rolls around they have a full room of flashy 2011 models. And dump they will. My LBS is having a sale this weekend, and all their bikes are on sale for one amazing discount or another.

Anyway, her questions about what bike is best for her got me thinking about how I got into cycling, why I chose the bike(s) I did, and why it was important (for good and bad reasons). So, I thought I’d put together a little help list of different things to consider when purchasing a new bike:

What different kinds of bikes are there?

I’m going to first establish four different categories of bikes, but I’m definitely aware that there are bikes that overlap some of these categories. For simplicity sake, we have:


For the sake of focusing on an athlete interested in racing road triathlons (not XTerra, off-road triathlons), I’m going to focus on Road and Triathlon specific bikes.

Which one should I get?

Road bikes are great if you want to go for long fitness rides with friends, rally for a fast pace lines, and ride for a long time. Triathlon bikes are great for people who like to (obviously) race triathlons in races where drafting is illegal, and for those that like to ride their bike for a long time (say, 100 miles?) by themselves.

Ok, but really, which one should I get?

Really, it depends on what you want to do. Want to do century rides with your friends? I’d recommend a road bike. Want to race an Ironman? You might want to invest in a triathlon bike.

Ok, so I want to get into triathlons, but I don’t have a bike. Which kind of bike should I get?

This is an easy question to ask, with a complicated answer.

Point 1: Bike companies make triathlon bikes for a reason. Technically, many of the fancy schmancy bikes you see pro athletes riding are time trial (TT) bikes. The TT geometry is different than the regular road bike geometry- the angle of the seat post on a TT bike is steeper, the weight of the rider is more forward, and the control is a little different. The TT bike allows the cyclist to apply more consistent power over a longer distance. The farther forward you are, the more power you can generate (in general; there are “extremes” to every example). Reduced frontal area, from using the aerobars, promotes better aerodynamics (o rly? nooo way!). Integrated aerobars are going to make a bike faster than if it had the clip-on kind, but essentially, reducing that frontal area can help take up to 4minutes of a 40km time trial (or more?).

Counterpoint 1: Just because there are TT bikes, does not mean you have to have one in order to race triathlon. In fact, it may not be practical to have a TT bike in many of the shorter triathlons. If the triathlon is draft-legal (ITU races usually are), then having a TT bike is pointless. Plus, if the course is hilly, (depending on your riding style and comfort on the bike), a road bike might give you a faster split. The forward geometry of a TT bike makes climbing more difficult than the upright position of a road bike.

Point 2: Having a TT bike can make training on your own a bit easier. If you don’t have anyone’s wheel to hang on to for a long ride, then a TT bike can help make it less painful and make the ride go by faster because you will likely be going faster. On a TT bike, you’re aerodynamic, you’re more forward, and you are (likely) not a huge sail for the wind to grab.

Counterpoint 2: If you do have people to train with, then having a TT bike when you first start out is often a terribly stressful experience, for you and the people you ride with. Not only are TT bikes more difficult to control than road bikes, they can also be quite intimidating. If you ride with others in a paceline, having TT bike can be absolute disaster if you ride in aero position. And, if you are going to ride on the pursuit bars the whole time, why even have a TT bike? Even if you don’t have anyone to train with, the first several rides can be full of anxiety on a TT bike; remember, its not the Huffy you learned on.

Point 3: TT bikes look really bad ass. I mean, seriously, look at this photo:

Amanda Lovato's new Kestrel 4000LTD

Seriously. Bad. Ass.

Counterpoint 3: Ok, do you really have $6,000 to drop on your first bike? Maybe. But probably not. And to be fair, you could spend the same amount of money on a road bike as you do on a TT bike. And, you can find cheap TT bikes out there, but you can usually find cheap(er) road bikes.

Point 4: The forward position of a TT bike makes for an easier transition to the run in triathlon, partly because it encourages your hips to open up more than if you were in a similar position on your road bike. If you were to try the same position on a road bike, that has a less-steep seat tube angle, you might end up hitting your knees to your chest or pinching off the blood supply to your legs.

Counterpoint 4: Riding with other people, on road bikes, can help to improve bike handling skills. Playing the green sign game* is more fun when you are not alone, and a road bike is more suitable for such a game. Road bikes typically offer more get-up-and-go mobility, making it easier to start a dead-sprint than if you were on a TT bike. Road bikes are also more responsive in cornering and braking, making them a bit safer for the beginner than the TT bike.

So, when it comes to getting a TT bike or a road bike, it really depends on what you’re looking to do- what you are hoping to get out of the bike (and the sport).  Is there anything wrong with riding a road bike in an Ironman? Absolutely not. I got passed at IMoo by a dude on a road bike. Are you going to win the Tour de France with only a TT bike? Have fun on Alpe d’Huez with that one.

If you are a beginner and have rarely ridden a road bike before (or have only ever had limited amounts of rides on a friend’s bike), then it is in your best interest to start with a road bike. Not only will it help make you more comfortable on the roads, it will also be beneficial to have in the long run. Most elite triathletes will tell you that having only one bike is nonsense. Plus, having a road bike can encourage you to try more daring things that you might be more hesitant to try if you only had a TT bike (like, say, climb up and over a mountain pass!).

If you are looking to get a faster bike, you could upgrade to either a race-geometry road bike or a TT bike. If you don’t want to invest a lot of money in a brand-new setup, upgrade components. Move your saddle forward, add some clip-ons, get lighter/stiffer parts (crankset, deraillers). If you find that you are riding all the time in your clip-ons, then you might as well…

Go all in. Get a TT bike. Just don’t live up to the triathlete stereotype: work on your bike handling skills!

No matter who you are, though, you should:

  • Have your bike professionally fitted (not just “adjusted” by the shop you bought it from; really, technically, professionally fitted by a FIST certified professional).
  • Learn basic bike maintenance (like how to lube your chain, for example, or fix a flat)
  • Have fun!

from Pinkbike: something you really shouldn't do with a road or TT bike

*The green sign game is my least favorite cycling game, where the first person to see a green road sign springs ahead and then everyone else has to chase them; first person to pass the sign “wins”- what, exactly, i am not sure – and then you do it all over again the next time you see a green sign.

Eye candy

A few posts ago, I blogged about my solo ride through the Keweenaw. Looking at that post made me want to run to the living room and caress my gorgeous steed. Yes, I know. I’m talking about my bike.

But really, it’s gorgeous.

As I finagled with the bars (in hopes that they won’t let me down on my ride tomorrow) and readjusted the elbow pads (so that I could possibly be more aero, or at least more something instead from sucking), I couldn’t help by glow when I saw the beautiful lime green and blue paint and the gorgeous white saddle. The shiny top coat, the blue bar tape, and The Bike Shop sticker. The integrated cable routing and the special bottom bracket that is so beefy… (screeeeeaaach!)


But, even though I could fantasize all day about this beauty, I was longing for more. Something… something was missing.

And then this bad boy showed up at The Bike Shop.

It’s like I bought it a sexy new outfit. Not that it needed it. Seriously. I mean, really.

But you can see my point.

So now I have a single, front race wheel (still saving up for that rear one, ya know; grad student stipend and all), and I’ve got a fancy new tire to go with it. I’m even considering rocking some latex tubes.

Wow, this post just got out a little of hand.

Ridin’ solo

Last year, I had training partners to head out on a century every time I did, I had wheels to suck and others that would want to stop to pee and add to my feet-on-the-ground time. Last year, I had others to plan out the route, others that would pick the pace. Others that would share their food if I bonked or suggest stopping for a Coke at mile 50.

Sunday, I did my first century by myself. I rode solo, for nearly 100 miles, and it was the hardest ride I’ve ever done. I don’t think it would have been any less hard had there been others riding with me; I probably would not have focused as much on the paincave I was entering if someone else was riding with me though. No, riding by myself was a learning experience. I had a mechanical and had to fix it myself. I ran out of water and had to get more from the bars along the way. I had the bar stool tempting me to sit and have a margarita every time I needed another 20ounces of water, but I didn’t sit. Sometimes I didn’t even take off my helmet. I was on a mission.

I started by heading out to Lake Linden, one of the more-sketchy routes in the Keweenaw. At least, the road between Hancock and Dollar Bay is bad, as the shoulder is non-existent and the traffic is fast. I quickly got to Lake Linden and headed out towarded Dreamland. There’s just something really cool about the names of towns in the Keweenaw…

I realized about five miles past Mud Lake Road that Bootjack Road wasn’t the best road to ride a century on. I couldn’t do it anyway, since the road is only about ten miles long, but the false flat and bubbly pavement made me feel like I was riding through sludge. I had to stop and check my tires to make sure I wasn’t riding flats, because I felt like I was.

Rice Lake Road was of even less caliber quality. I made it up the first hill and quickly decided to turn back and reroute my remaining 70 miles.

The Dreamland Bar was my first aid station. I was out of EFS and Nuun already (seriously, 50ounces in 30 miles? … ) so I headed inside for a can of Coke. I needed something, because I felt dizzy, anxious, and tired. It was a little later of a start than I wanted (I left my house at 10am) so I was getting close to my normal lunch time, and I downed to packs of Justin’s honey almond butter to hold me over.

I felt better once I got on better roads. Trap Rock Valley Road is one of my favorites, but I wasn’t on it too long before I made the turn toward Gay. Unfortunately, all the work I put in trying to get up the steep hill was lost when I dropped my chain at the top. and by dropped, I mean: Slammed it between my small ring and the frame. And it was stuck. I didn’t want to yank to hard for fear of dinging up my frame or -worse- breaking my chain, and when I thought it was back on I was fooled. It fell off again, and I felt the anxiety come back. But, I finally got it back on, it stayed on, and I happily cruised all the way into Gay.

I was a little embarrassed to walk into the Gay Bar (yes, it really is called that) and be dripping with sweat, but I was out of fluid, thirsty, tired, hot, and thirsty. I was really thirsty too. I bought a large coke and grabbed the same sized cup of water, and had enough change left over for a Snickers (the original energy bar). The ice was nice, and it made my water bottle nice and cold for about five miles. By the time I got to Dollar Bay I was dry again, so I stole some water from a hose at a church (I am probably going to hell, but not for that).

I made it almost home, practically crying as I weaved through the rough streets and fast traffic of Ripley. Nothing is more nerve wrecking than a grandma that won’t budge over the dashed yellow line (or in my case, when she does budge, but only to drift to the right of the white line). I was beat. I took the bike path home to avoid any more motorized vehicles, and when I got home I took a cold shower and drank a cold glass of milk. And I got it done.

Endurance Meg’s Chamois Cream Review

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.

*becomes less viscous after application, as it warms up to body temp
DNW = did not wear

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, 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.

A Day in Da Harbor

This weekend is special. Not just because it’s Memorial Day weekend, but also because:

  1. a friend is in town
  2. it’s one-week-until Rev3 Quassy
  3. the weather is amazing

Baberaham has been geeked all week about our friend that is now in town, because for him, that means sharing funny stories, endless hours of mountain biking, and barbecue. Yesterday, we made breakfast the best way we know how- with local groceries (including nitrite free bacon and farm fresh eggs) and a boatload of coffee. We then threw the bikes in the back of the pickup (me with my roadie and B & friend with their mountain bikes) and made the trek to Copper Harbor for some glorious outdoor fun.

With just a week before my early season A race, I wanted to get some juice flowin’ and test my legs on some hills. What better way than to venture up Brockway Mountain?

Overlooking Eagle Harbor

Brockway has some of the best views in the whole Keweenaw of Lake Superior and the surrounding landscape. The roads aren’t in fabulous condition, but that’s part of the allure. And it’s definitely argued which side is more difficult to go up.

I rolled along M26 to the south entrance of Brockway, along the shoreline that provided a cool breeze. The Lake was calm and glassy, and the occasional car that passed me was driving slow and cautiously – another reason why I love riding in the UP. I rode up the south side, because I wanted a good warmup and wanted to transition into my mile repeats (running) quickly. I was shooting to get a few climbs in, but my legs were still feeling gassed and I decided to hold back a little.

On the up, I did a lot of standing, which is an amazing feeling. I feel fast and in control, and my road bike (Jamis Xenith Race) is easy to maneuver, light, twitchy, and aggressive. I had my gearing dialed in well, and I hit it perfectly when to up shift, down shift, stand up, sit down. My front wheel didn’t leave the ground once (which for me means I wasn’t pulling on my handlebars too hard). It was a perfect climb.

The disheartening part of Brockway, especially coming from the south side, is that the climb never seems to end. Turn a bend, still going. Turn another, keeps climbing. But I was ready, mentally, to handle that and I almost felt disappointed when I got to the top. Almost. My legs were not disappointed, and my quads and hips burned.

Once I got to the top, I lollygagged for a few minutes. My legs felt alright, and I debated doing another. I was thirsty and the temperature was higher on top of the hill than at the shoreline. It was time for the descent.

Copper Harbor

Copper Harbor was fairly quiet, considering it is a holiday weekend… but I am guessing it’s much busier today with the Bike the Keweenaw festivities taking place up there. It definitely wasn’t busy enough to scare this girl-

After my mile repeats, I basked (baked?) in the sun for a bit while waiting for the boys to get back to the truck. At that point, their legs were tiring but they wanted to keep riding, so I shuttled them up to the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge where many of the IMBA Epic mountain bike trails start. Gravity was a friend yesterday.

It’s an uphill battle

I think everyone knows this by now- I live in Michigan, which is also known as the Mitten State. It’s two peninsulas jutting out into four of the five Great Lakes, the largest (Lake Superior) of whose shores I live on. Michigan is sometimes lumped into the Midwest Stereotype- aside from the Midwesterners’ accents– that it’s flat as a pancake at sea level and full of cornfields. But its not (ok, maybe some of it is).

Where I live, in da UP, is quite… fun! Sure, there are no “real” mountains, nothing is really that long to climb up, but the glacial cut land near Lake Superior makes for a tough rolling bike ride if you want it to. This weekend, my buddies and I wanted to do just that. The plan was to do a 70-80 mile ride with the first 45 up some pretty tough stuff:

AJ and I rode our tri bikes, and Caleb and Karl rode their road bikes. AJ and I had a hard time keeping speed with the roadies, especially on some of the steeper climbs, but it was all well and good. My nutrition was dialed, in part because we ate a huge-ass breakfast before leaving Caleb’s (gluten free pancakes, fresh berries, bacon, potatoes, and coffee)- and also because I downed both bottles of fruit punch EFS (2scoops each) before we made it back to Caleb’s after 47miles and 2hrs40min.

It’s so difficult for me to describe how excited I am to be able to ride outside- in the UP in May- and sweat my butt off.  Sunday’s ride was hot and humid, like a sauna. The Lake Superior ice bath afterward was looking better and better with every mile.

Luckily we made a loop, and our station was at Caleb’s house. After the first 45 miles, we were able to refuel and rehydrate.

The ride wasn’t actually too hard (although my legs were saying otherwise during the first three climbs), and I felt refreshed after hitting Baltic and knowing I had a nice, easy descent to Caleb’s house.

And the extra 25 miles we added on? They were flat. I even took a free token from Karl back to Caleb’s house, because my rear wheel/brake were rubbing and grabbing when I stood to climb. Annoying. It worked out well, though, because Karl grabbed his shoes and we did a transition run (albeit a little delayed) from Caleb’s house, where he and I ran a speedy mile and a recovery mile.

And for a post-workout recovery? Ice bath in the Portage Lake (fed by Superior) and a barbecue/pontoon ride at our friends’ new house. Talk about a perfect Sunday.

One Midwesterner Stereotype that is real though: We love Pabst.

Misery Loves Company

What has six legs, six wheels, and a heckuva lot of fun? Me and two of the dudes from Flyer Cycles. Last night, I joined my friends, Tervo and AJ, on a ride of grandeur over the rollers of the Keweenaw to Misery Bay.

Misery comes in many forms, but riding the road bike masks that pretty well. I knew that riding with AJ and Tervo would be a bit more challenging for me, maybe even painful, even if they went at a leisurely pace (for them). Putting it lightly, Tervo can climb well. AJ rocks a 64×9 or something ridiculous (I’m probably exaggerating). But they’re both really great dudes to train with, and even if I’m huffing and puffing and falling off my bike, I always come back for more.

Yesterday’s ride: Roughly, 50 miles round trip. Not too long, but some decent climbs along the way. And some hilarity as well.

There were some climbs, some decents, some rumble strips, some cars, but once we got into Toivola and turned toward the Bay, the road was quiet. We could even ride three abreast for most of the way back.

Oh, yeah. There was some dirt, too.

One of the most rewarding things about biking in the Keweenaw, aside from all the rollers and cool breezes and low traffic, is the destination. Want to see a waterfall? We can do that. Want to see Lake Superior? That’s easy. Yesterday was so calm in Misery Bay that we couldn’t hardly tell where Superior started and the sky began…

We got back to town as the sun was setting. I bonked a few times, but Tervo saved my day with a few gels he stashed in his pocket. I don’t know what I was thinking not bringing along food, especially when riding with these guys. Perhaps I knew we were going to Misery Bay and wanted to make it suitable? Luckily, during one of my bonks we made plans to head to the Dorfblick Training Center after the ride to eat big-ass burgers and watch Ironman, and that brought me home.

I’m looking forward to some really nice weather, big training, and even better recovery this week.

I didn’t mean to coordinate..

… But I just realized that my new bike matches the colors on my website! Perfect.

I definitely hit the nail on the head when I chose the perfect shade of green on my site. My flashy, new Trakkers race kit makes me feel like I planned it all out in advanced.  Or did I? hmmm…