Personally, I find that if im riding over 30 minutes or so, which is basically all of my recreational road riding, I tend to be hesitant to not apply a liberal dose of chamois creme in order to keep everything comfortable. In fact the only sub 30 minute rides bianchista participates in are daily commutes of 7 miles and the occasional pootle to the local supermarket for supplies. Its not worth my time applying chamois creme for these types of rides, as the very reasons I like to apply such cremes don't really occur when cycling such a short distance. However, come the weekend, or more often than not in my line of work, the 'midweek days off', my riding hours range from a quick 60 minute blast around the park to a good old long (and slow) 4-5 hours slogging around the lanes of Surrey.
Its on these such rides I apply cremes, basically as things get hotter and inevitably, sweatier down there (hmmm not a particularly pleasant thought), I find I'm more prone to those troublesome chafes and rubs, that if left neglected, will have one wincing in pain come those final horrific miles. As a girl, we obviously have things to attend to in the chamois area, and whatever a gals preferred method of grooming, be it waxing, shaving or whatever, regrowth can be painful if neglected on those long days in the saddle. My preferred method is applying a little to the areas of the chamois that will be in contact with the area where my legs join my torso, and also applying a layer directly onto the skin in this 'chafe-attracting' zone!
I tested out the different creams since the beginning of the year, in a variety of conditions. I found they all suited different types of riding situations. Below is my attempt at guiding what may be the right cream for you....
Sportique 'Century Riding Cream' - £12.56 at Wiggle
I very much liked the viscosity of the century riding cream. It felt like once applied it might actually last a few hours, and not just dissolve in the heat. The easy application squeezy tube meant that just the right amount can be squeezed out and applied either straight to your . The only off-putting thing I found about Sportique's offering was the strong smell. It had a weirdly medicinal whiff to it, I certainly noticed it when wearing it, and became a bit paranoid colleagues would on the way down to the basement showers at work!
All the ingredients are natural, and its also recommended for both guys and gals. I trhink this would be my go-to creme for those very long hot days on the bike.... and priced competitively at under £13, the value is pretty great when I think about how long my tube has been in my supply cupboard.
Paceline 'Chamois Butt'r' - 70p at Slane Cycles
One of the lads I ride with regularly handed me a couple of these uber practical 9ml mini sachets of the hilariously named "Chamois Butt'r". A stateside product, its available in a squeezy large tube similar to the Sportique creme, but personally, I declare my love for the mini sachets. I keep a couple in my locker at Getty, for those pre or post shift rides in the park, where I'm riding between 1-2 hours. The thickness is good, probably just a little thinner in consistency than the century riding creme, making it ideal for the aforementioned type of riding. It didn't feel greasy and was easily washed off with a hot shower. I used the regular formula, but I believe its also available in a mentholy-tinglefest 'Euro Style' version. I have to say, as a female, its quite a delicate area and the last thing I look for in a cream is a menthol feeling. Id recommend the regular formula for ladies.
Udderly Smooth Chamois Cream - £6.37 at Wiggle
The most budget priced of all the tubs, I had a pot of this at the beginning of the year to test. I have to say, although it was very plain and delicate.... my gosh it failed to last for any significant amount of time! Perhaps due to its very natural ingredients, it was more akin to a thick moisturiser, and tended to either be absorbed incredibly quickly into my skin or dissolve altogether. It lacked that 'barrier' effect I personally look for in such a product. Id say if a rider had particularly sensitive skin this might indeed be worth a punt, as it does feel incredibly soft due to copious amounts of Shea butter contained within, but other than that, its not going to provide day long protection compared with some of the other formulas on offer.
Sportsbalm Chamois Cream - £9.99 at CRC
I didn't really rate this cream, for a few reasons. The first being the container it comes in, the depth of the container coupled with the thin opening would make it annoyingly hard for those without a tiny hand to get their fingers in for those last few dollops. I found the consistency was a ever so slightly too thin for all day rides, and upon riding a day wearing it, I thought it melted away a little quickly for my liking. However, on the plus side..... one of its main ingredients is Tea Tree Oil, a perfect antibacterial ingredient for those who are unlucky enough to be prone to the occasional saddle sore. It should provide a little relief in the area, and is undoubtedly better for it than a plain shea-butter based cream. Something to bear in mind.
Rapha Chamois Cream - £15 at Rapha
The most recent of potions on test, the exquisitely packaged Rapha chamois cream (although interestingly enough - not the most expensive on test, rapha-bashers bear that in mind!) is up for consideration next. Arriving in a very kitsch little tin complete with Ventoux printed paraphernalia, this cream looked very cute out on display upon my bathroom shelf. The smell was very nice indeed, and it had a very natural feel to it, due in no small part i'm sure to an ingredient list of things such as Lavender, Rosemary and Juniper Berries. There was definitely a small 'menthol' type sensation prevalent once i had pedalled a few strokes, but it wasn't too overbearing. The price-point will put some off, and whilst it was a nice cream for up-to around 2 hours' worth of riding, I needed something a little thicker for the all day ventures. Its consistency was somewhere in-between the Sportsbalm and the Paceline offerings.
Assos Chamois Creme - £10.50 at Parker International
I think the Assos creme is a big hit with the male contingent due to its exciting menthol tingle. As a girl I was really put off my this sensation... it felt odd, odd, odd! The thickness of the cream lends itself to medium length rides... maybe I have just been spoilt with the century riding creme, but this just didn't have that viscosity. A very acquired taste (for the tingle fans only id say!) I wouldn't have thought this would be an ideal product for the ladies out there.... Although again like the Sportsbalm, it does have anti-bacterial protection, ideal for irritations and skin breaks.
Elite Ozone Chamois Creme - £16.99 at Evans Cycles
The most expensive cream on test, I helped myself to quite a few of the sachets of this when helping out on the Elite stand at a trade show. Again this cream bills itself as 'unisex' so wont contain that menthol type cooling found on some others on test. It also boasts the dubious sounding 'Ozonized Sunflower oil' which..... lets be honest, wouldn't sound out of place in Heston Blumnthals deep fat fryer. Joking aside, I was quite impressed with this cream, it felt natural and was odourless, and wasn't absorbed quite as rapidly as the Udderly Smooth brand. It can also be used after riding, applying a small amount to any site that may have been irritated during the day. Its expensive for what is it, and the only plus point I can give it over the Sportique brand is that it doesn't smell.