Chamois School 301

We’ve been talking about chamois a couple times here on the blog in an effort to help you choose the best option for your riding style. There are a few elements to consider when considering which PEARL iZUMi chamois to pull on for your rides. If you missed out on those posts, jump over the Chamois School 101 and Chamois School 201.

Now that you’ve committed and made a choice on P.R.O., ELITE or SELECT let’s talk about how to get the best mileage out of that important piece of gear. Much like any tool on the workbench, when used properly a chamois can save your rides and something that rhymes with grass.

Many of you folks may already know some of these tips but there are some new riders joining the party here so let’s get them up to speed on a few things, and maybe we’ll surprise a few of you more seasoned riders with some other tips.

Let’s start before you even walk out of the house or garage to grab the bike. First things first, get down to your birthday suit and ditch the undergarments. On the bike, it’s no undies, no panties, no manties. In order to get the best performance out of your chamois to eliminate chafing and maintain breathability, we gotta get everything out of the way. By getting your skin directly in contact with the super soft top sheet on all of our chamois you’ll get rid of wrinkles and irregularities that could lead to getting rubbed raw. Plus, you will allow for moisture to be wicked more effectively and efficiently from your skin which also can lead to chafing and painful riding. And there it is, go commando and be free!

Now that we have those out of the way, pull those shorts up and get jiggy with it. Put on the tunes if you need to but wiggle around, adjust some bits then get the chamois and leg grippers aligned in the right position. Sure, you might look like a track and field star at the starting blocks for a second, but getting all the fabric and your goods in the right spot now will pay off before you push a pedal.

Now here’s a curveball for some riders. Back in the day when chamois were made out of super “soft” animal skin they would dry out a bit and need some cream to soften up a bit and be compliant. We’re in the 21st century these days and we’re not using pelts to make chamois anymore. We engineer highly-technical fabrics and materials to work in a particular situation so that you don’t have to rely on something you might forget in the closet at home. Bottom line, don’t use chamois cream on a PEARL iZUMi chamois. In truth, the oils and other ingredients will actually clog up the chamois preventing it from working as designed. Meaning you will get moisture trapped between you and the top sheet which can lead to increased friction. That might lead to the need for something much different than chamois cream on your body when you get home. We don’t want you having to use ointment to heal up a wound or tell your riding buddies that our shorts are “terrible.” also, some creams may not wash out of the chamois and trap bacteria and other unpleasantries in the materials. Can you say, “Gross?” So, save some money and skip the cream when you put on your PEARL iZUMi bibs, shorts or tights. Now kit up with the rest of your gear and let’s roll!

That was a pretty sweet ride, today wasn’t it? Can’t wait to get back out there soon, so let’s take care of that highly engineered pair of stretchy pants. If you’re not going to wash your kit right away, don’t ball it up and toss it into the hamper. Let that Bad Larry hang out to dry a bit. The sweat and moisture need to dry out so if it gets balled up and sits to fester it’ll make for quite the aromatic experience. Once the gear is dry you can pitch it into the pile and take care of it with other synthetics when the time is right.

It’s laundry day!! When you go to clean up that favorite kit, turn that pair of bibs/shorts/tights inside out so the chamois is staring at you like an evil twin. This way the chamois will get the most powerful cleaning and rinse instead of hiding inside from the water and soap. Before you go pouring that random detergent you grabbed on sale at the store, we recommend you invest in a particular type of detergent for all of your technical fabrics. Look for a detergent that has zero fragrances and is in the “sensitive skin” end of the spectrum. The best out there is something along the lines of a technical detergent like Nathan Sport Wash, but other common brands make options like Tide’s “Gentle and Free.” Adding a bonus rinse is always good but not as necessary when using one of these purer detergents. Any soaps that use fragrances and other additives can actually bond to the bacteria and grime that you left in your gear and may not come out, making it smell not so fresh and so clean. We all have a jersey that stinks a bit more than the others, admit it.

After your machine chimes that the cycle is done, be sure to pull out those bibs/shorts/tights and hang them up to drip dry. Heating up the materials that make up the chamois will accelerate the breakdown of the foams as fast as a three-time World Champion in the final 300 meters. So, make room in the closet or on the shower rod to hang those chamois up nice and proud like your third-grade art project. Some PEARL iZUMi jerseys, jackets and even shell shorts are designed to be dried in the dryer on low heat. The heat will reactivate the DWR coatings to maintain water resistance. Be sure to check the interior label for washing care for each piece. If you’re like me and cut it out already and don’t remember what to do, hop on over to PEARLiZUMi.com and if the item is still available you can click on the Care Guides button below the size options. Oh, and make sure everything is dry before you put those suckers back on for the next ride. Don’t want to be adding more moisture to the party. We’ve already talked about that rubbing you the wrong way.

A common question we get here at HQ is, “When do I replace a pair of shorts?” The honest answer is, it depends. No, not those kinds of Depends. But there certainly is a “life” to the foams that are used in chamois. They will eventually break down and make an impact, literally, on you and your rides. When you notice that it takes less and less time for the comfort level to vanish on your longer rides, it’s time. That being said, we see folks out there in classic black PEARL iZUMi shorts that have to be at least a decade or two old and still riding around. We do take pride in how long our gear will last, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a decline in those materials making them less effective in the needs of a cyclist. You might be gaining some breathability with those heavily worn shorts but you’re losing compression and support in a negative trade-off. More often than not, the chamois will lose its luster before the rest of the materials on your bibs/shorts/tights.

Chamois care recap: skip the skivvies; dance like nobody’s watching; save the creams for the massage table; ride like a champ; let the funk dry out; flip it inside out; wash it all away; hang ’em high and dry. Repeat often.

#endureandenjoy365

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Josh is a recovering photojournalist with a donut addiction that is only kept in check by cycling and trail running. He is continually blown away by the ability to be a part of the industry that encourages a passion for bikes. He is also an advocate for his trail running wife and others recovering from traumatic brain injuries (TBI). #becausebikes and #traillife is dirty good fun.

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7 thoughts on “Chamois School 301

  1. Interesting. I don’t know if I can go without my undies. I’m not a size 00, I’m on the larger end of the spectrum. Seems like too much exposure not sure the tights are thick enough so I’m not advertising to the world about my new found freedom.

  2. Thank you, for publishing this guide.
    I have well over 35 years of mountain-bike and some road riding experience. Ride almost daily and ride with cream. i do it, out of fear of chafing (old school) stopping me from riding. I’m going to take your advise, and try it without….. I’M SCARED ;-I
    As your files may reflect, I have used your bibs for many-many years and love them. The improvements are fantastic….

    1. Thanks for the read and feedback, Lindal. It may seem counter-intuitive on the chamois cream, but I’ve been riding the last 15 years on synthetic chamois and only used cream twice. And it wasn’t really all that helpful. Enjoy the ride!

  3. All my shorts are pearl izumi and I’ve never had to use chamois cream. Yay. What are your thoughts on using a little vinegar with the detergent to help with smells.

    1. Thanks for sharing, Susan! As for the vinegar, we haven’t resorted to that just yet we know that it works on some instances with other fabrics or even appliances. Let us know if you find any good results. Enjoy the ride.

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