The more you ride, the more important having a good chamois cream becomes. Its ability to keep you comfortable, chafe-free and fight off bacteria makes it an essential part of the pre-ride ritual. But why chamois? And how has Castelli brought this classic cycling product bang up to date?
Traditionally, cycling shorts used a leather pad made from the skin of chamois mountain goats – the same kind of smooth, super-soft leather used for polishing and drying cloths. These humble leather pads, stitched into the cycling shorts of old, soaked up sweat and helped to reduce chafing. On the downside, the leather became stiff over time with repeated washing and drying – also harbouring nasty, saddle sore inducing bacteria.
Riders introduced the use of a viscous cream that would keep the leather supple, reduce the chance of sores and provide an extra layer of friction-reducing gunk. While leather pads disappeared during the 1980s, today's chamois creams – including Castelli's own Linea Pelle – stay true to that original purpose.
Castelli Linea Pelle Chamois Dry Lube is designed for modern shorts with microfibre seat pads. While these might already offer plenty of comfort – and won't dry a stiff and rough as tree bark – chamois cream is still essential for avoiding skin-on-skin chafing and unwanted bacteria, especially when riding day after day.
The cream can be applied to either the short pad or your skin. We generally find the latter is best, making sure to cover anywhere where skin might rub on skin, such as the top of the thigh. There's usually no need to slather it all over your cheeks!
Linea Pelle dries fast, leaving a layer of anti-friction and anti-fungal protection. Being drier than other creams means it doesn't attract dirt or mat hairs. It also removes the soggy, cold-nappy feel of some other chamois creams and doesn't block pores, all while retaining the benefits of tea tree oil, shea butter and aloe extracts that give a fresh antibacterial treatment to help fight infection over extended rides and tours.
If the idea of a dry chamois cream seems weird, rubbing a tiny amount between thumb and forefinger makes everything clear – it disappears almost immediately leaving a slick, clean feel. Another benefit is that you can then instantly use your smartphone without leaving greasy streaks – something impossible with other wet creams.
Two squirts of the dispenser should be enough for most people. Again, concentrate on applying this to where the skin folds or creases, where skin touches skin and the very tops of the inner thigh.
The tube has been designed to be carried in airline hand luggage and while this might seem small initially, a little Linea Pelle goes a long way. Additionally, the design means it's impossible to get cross contamination – it's a cream that you could share, not something you would do with a tub!
Like the Gabba jersey, Linea Pelle Chamois Dry Lube is another example of Castelli changing the cycling landscape. Sure, you might not think you want a dry chamois cream, but then you probably didn't think you ever wanted a water resistant aero cycling jersey, either. So what are you waiting for?
Most riders are going to be more comfortable and maintain a healthier cycling lifestyle by using chamois cream. Even those who choose Castelli's top-end Progetto X2 Air seat pad – and benefit from its two independent layers, which move against one another, reducing friction – can still make the most of the antibacterial agents that make riding day after day a pleasure rather than pain once bacteria builds up.
Even with chamois cream though, good cycling hygiene is absolutely essential. If you've got a long ride to your event, use baby wipes before you get changed; never wear underwear when cycling; and after you've crossed the line, get your shorts off and in the wash as soon as possible.
There are indeed many alternatives to cycling chamois cream, but we've not found any to match up to the good stuff, failing as they do to provide that crucial mix of lubrication and antibacterial agents. Here's our take on common chamois solutions.
Products like Savlon are great antibacterial agents but won't offer much slip-slide lubrication and are quickly absorbed, making them less than ideal for longer rides. You'll get through them quickly too.
Nappy rash cream
Products such as Sudocrem are actually astringents, which means they'll actually dry your skin out. Great for curing nappy rash – not good before a 100-mile ride.
Cocoa butter might feel nice going on and it's great for softening the skin, but isn't antibacterial or a long-lasting lubricant suitable for cycling.
Products like Vaseline are great for lubrication, but again, they aren't antibacterial. Also, if you take away the brand name, it's not exactly a herbal skin-pampering wonder.