Instant Expert: Your Chamois

We clear up a few of the misunderstood elements of your cycling shorts.

Joe Lindsey |

We clear up a few of the misunderstood elements of your cycling shorts. – By Joe Lindsey

Image by Michael Robertson
Image by Michael Robertson


[box]Myth A chamois is little more than extra cushioning between you and your saddle.[/box]Reality Assuming you wear it correctly – i.e., without underwear – a chamois pad not only supports your sit bones, but also prevents chafing by transferring moisture away from your body and moving with you on the seat so your skin doesn’t rub.

[box]Myth The thicker the pad, the better.[/box]Reality Your ideal chamois thickness depends on how you sit on the bike. Prefer an upright position? Look for a multi-thickness pad with extra rear cushioning. If you ride more stretched out, try a pad with even thickness and multi-density foam. Bear in mind that your needs may change over time.

[box]Myth Chamois pads are made from leather.[/box] Reality Before DuPont invented Coolmax in 1986, most cycling inserts were indeed made from animal skin. Riders used chamois cream to keep the leather supple. Today’s synthetic pads don’t require conditioning, but some cyclists use cream to prevent saddle sores (see ‘Chamois Cream 101’).

Men’s: Usually longer in front, with extra shaping or grooves to relieve pressure on the perineum.
Women’s:To cushion wider-spaced sit bones, the thickest sections of padding are spaced farther apart.

Label Lingo

Anatomic or 3D: A chamois that is shaped according to the rider’s anatomy, rather than sewn in flat.
Anti-microbial: The pad is made with materials such as silver ions and bacteriostatic carbon to fend off germs
Four-way stretch: The chamois moves in all directions with the shorts to help prevent bunching and binding.
Moisture wicking: Uses technical synthetic fabrics to speed moisture transfer away from the body and keep you dry. Multi-density: The foam in the padding is denser in certain places, usually under the sit bones.
Multi-thickness: Made with variable amounts of padding – thicker under the sit bones and slimmer in the sensitive perineal region.

READ MORE ON: bike advice chamois clothing

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