Chamois, Schmammy

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I have three simple questions, and I’d like you to answer them honestly.

  1. When you ride, do you wear bike shorts with a chamois?
  2. Did you ride with a chamois when you were a kid?
  3. What’s changed?

Of course, I have a pretty good idea of what’s changed.

  • Your saddle’s gotten smaller: That 12g sliver of carbon you sit on just isn’t that comfortable.
  • You’ve gotten bigger, so you’ve got more weight pressing your butt against the saddle.
  • You ride longer, and so are on your bike long enough to get sore.
  • You’ve gotten older, and notice things like an achy, sore butt more than when you were a kid.

Here’s the thing, though. I think there’s a fourth reason we’re all riding with chamoises (or whatever the plural of “chamois” is — I’m sure someone will help me out here): We’re wearing chamoises because we’re suckers.

The Case Against the Chamois
I’ve been buying bike shorts with a chamois ever since I started riding seriously. And since I’m generally comfortable on my bike, that chamois must be doing its job, right?

Or is it possible that because I’m wearing a chamois, my butt has simply never been toughened against the saddle? That I’ve never developed the hiney-calluses that would identify me as a truly hardcore cyclist?

I wouldn’t be asking this series of deep, meaningful questions if wearing shorts with a chamois was a pleasant experience. But it’s not. You know it’s not. Here are the chamois side-effects I am aware of:

  • They make you look dumb. Wearing a chamois makes you look like you’re taking measures to combat your incontinence problem. Which is fine, I suppose, if you’re actually combatting an incontinence problem. But I’m not. As far as you know.
  • They make you look even dumber than that. Under the proper circumstances, a chamois can give you a funky cameltoe look. Even if you’re a man. Especially if you’re a man. Ick.
  • Once you’re off the bike, there’s nothing grosser-feeling in the whole world. You know what feels nastier than a soggy-with-sweat chamois as that sogginess turns cold? Nothing at all, that’s what.
  • They are perfect for colonizing bacteria, fungi, and other gross things. Anyone who’s ever left a chamois on for more than fifteen minutes after a ride knows the consequences. New strains of bacteria, that’s what. I am convinced that the end of the human race will have its humble origins in a chamois that a cyclist left on for just a little too long.

Seriously, When Do You Need a Chamois?
Now, I’m not so naive as to say that a chamois is unnecessary in every situation. However, I do think that I at least have been wearing shorts with a chamois when completely unwarranted. Here are some typical rides and my new assessment of whether they require a chamois:

  • Commute into work: My ride into work lasts 1:05. I don’t need a chamois for a ride that short.
  • Singlespeed ride: You’re off the saddle so often, you don’t need a chamois for the singlespeed ever.
  • Three hour training ride: You need a chamois for the first half of the year, then need to transition away from the chamois.
  • Endurance ride (5+ hours): Yeah, you can use a chamois. Pansy.

It’s time to question the chamois. Time to toughen up our butts and feel the bike the way it was meant to be felt — without the falsity of an insulating pad.

Who’s with me?

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