Presented by Scott’s Bicycle Centre, Cleveland, TN.
How to Pick the Right Chamois
Spending hours, days, weeks to find the right bike to suit your riding style, then getting fitted to your new steed according to your size and preferences is like going to your lingerie store of choice and being measured & fit to the perfect bra – it’s truly a life-changing experience. What if, though, you go through all the trouble to make sure you’re riding a perfectly-fitted bike only to find that you’ve neglected to properly consider the chamois (sham’-ee… we’re not French here) under your rump. I mean, who really wants blisters… there?! Of course there are other factors at play here – using a chamois cream, finding the right saddle size, etc – but choosing a chamois that also suits your riding style and frequency will give you a leg-up on the anti-chafe campaign. So how do you do that?
What is a chamois?
The chamois is basically the “butt pad” in your shorts.
Why does it matter?
Chamois help protect the areas that really need protecting. Your crotch houses some sensitive parts and many nerve areas. Helping relieve pressure or soften the load will help you last longer in the saddle. For men, this is especially important for future child-bearing activities. Use with a chamois cream to reduce friction and chafing.
How do I pick the right one for me?
Lots of manufacturers make lots of different chamois. You will probably come to “love” a certain brand or chamois. You may also “outgrow” or “outride” your current chamois. Luckily, a lot of manufacturers simply organize their levels with names like Solstice, Race, Race Lite (RL), and RXL (Bontrager) or Select, Elite, P.R.O. (Pearl Izumi) for your shopping pleasure.
1. Your first step in shopping for a chamois should be to look at the price tag. YOU DO NOT WANT A CHAMOIS CHEAPER THAN $50. You’ll need to trust me on this one. Cheap chamois exist, but they are not worth the price break. They are stiff, bulky, usually crawl up your butt, and wear out ultra fast.
2. Next, turn the short(s) inside-out to expose the chamois.
Take a look at the shorts above. These are made by the same manufacturer (Bontrager). The short on the left (Solstice) offers 3 main zones of padding with “flex” points in between each zone. You want your chamois to be flexible and move with you, thus cutting down on friction. The short on the right (Race) has a smoother fabric, more contouring, 6 different padding zones, each with “flex” points in between them, making this chamois far more flexible. Can you guess which one is of higher quality? If you guessed the Race short (on the right), you’re correct! Chamois construction (and short price) increases from here – using better fabrics and materials, cushier, lighter padding, and a more tailored fit for the “wow” factor.
3. Try them on. Try on each and every short you can afford. Maybe even a couple that are just out of your price range. It’s amazing how easily the decision is made once the short is on your skin. We are looking for a tight fit – not squeezing out your innards, but not bunchy and certainly not baggy. For us gals, if we can still “jiggle” freely in the shorts, they’re too big. If you’re a little self-conscious about the way you look in spandex, look for shorts that have a wide, flattering band around the waist and legs. This will be more comfortable in the long run.
4. Consider your riding. Are you hucking jumps and dropping rocks, speeding fast downhill on technical terrain? Perhaps you need to consider a baggy short with a chamois liner instead of a basic spandex lycra model for more body protection. Are you riding less than 3 hours per week (and less than 10 miles per ride)? A $50 short will work for you. Are you riding more than 3 hours per week (or more than 15 miles/2 hours per ride)? Your booty won’t forgive you for settling for a baseline chamois. You need to upgrade to at least a $75-$90 chamois. Are you wanting to buy 1 or 2 chamois shorts for the long haul, not wanting to replace them every 6 months – year? Your starting price should be $100 – these are going to provide you with the best materials and construction for the least amount of money over time.
5. What about compression? There’s no denying compression shorts feel great. Compression shorts fit much tighter, but help increase blood flow through your muscles, thus helping minimize fatigue and recovery time. If you can afford it, go for it, but it isn’t a necessity.
The “Bottom” Line: (see what I did there?!) Balancing need and budget is tough, but you need to find the chamois that’s best for you given the above considerations. If you’re confused, ask someone at your bike shop for help. Better to have someone’s professional opinion rather than making an expensive and potentially painful guess. Use chamois cream with your chamois shorts to help reduce friction. Always go commando in your chamois shorts. Wash your chamois after every ride and hang them to dry. And most importantly, look good… because we know cycling is 90% lookin’ good.
Love, The Women at Scott’s Bikes